Taipei Cycle Show 2017

The Taipei Cycle Show 2017 celebrated its 30th anniversary, and will be the last one in its present/previous form. From next year onwards, Asia’s largest bicycle trade show will be moved to the autumn months of October and November, leaving a year and a half to wait until the 2018 edition.

The reason for the switch in dates is for Taipei Cycle to remain relevant, as the new schedule should be more favourable in the OE business cycle. How much this will affect Taiwan’s position as the leading worldwide exporter of bike imports has yet to be seen. For now, it retains the top podium as the source of imported bikes in 15 countries.

For 2017, Taiwan has a lot riding on Taipei Cycle after a tough year for the industry. The event comes against a backdrop of an annual 26 percent fall in bicycle export volume for the 2016 fiscal year, and a 22 percent drop in export value. Even giants like Shimano, whose sales constitute half of the global bicycle component market, reported a 17 percent year-on-year drop in bicycle related sales. In terms of visitor numbers, organisers TAITRA confirmed a seven percent overall increase for this year, with international buyers from 97 countries showing a five percent rise.

Like the previous years, Taipei Cycle 2017 was a business-to-business trade show, with many bicycle and component makers waiting to officially launch new products at the Eurobike and Interbike events instead. However, with more than 1,000 exhibitors occupying over 3,000 booths, it was still possible to spot new offerings from a range of manufacturers, giving a hint of the trends in the coming year. There were a number of clear directions the cycling world will see further developments in.

Gravel grinders

One of the main features in Taipei was the sheer number of what has been labelled as gravel bikes, for want of a better name. Still a hotly contested category, riders worldwide are still debating the usage of the bikes themselves, thanks to the successful marriage of road bike and mountain bike features. Regardless of what they are called; gravel bikes, adventure bikes, all-road or all-terrain, there appears to be no hard and fast rule to this new variant of bikes that are making their way into the market.

In Taipei, more than a dozen of these bikes were featured, but leading the way is surprise Design & Innovation winner, the Ranger G80 from Taiwanese Apro tech. The bike is one of the 57 winners this year, boasting “an extremely efficient” 80mm front and rear suspension, utilising X-Fusion shocks in the rear, and a suspension fork in front.

For the rest of the pack though, suspension has yet to become a regular feature, with one or two rivals utilising front suspension only. As many industry watchers predicted, full suspension systems will be one of the items on the list to look out for come Eurobike in Germany, and dropper seatposts.

Of course, with the demand for these expedition-ready adventure bikes, comes the need for wider or oversized tyres capable of tackling a wider variety of conditions of the unpaved variety. With demand comes supply, and a number of tyre makers have responded to the booming gravel bike market accordingly. And with riders increasingly heading off the beaten path, the need for fuss-free, flat resistant tyres has obviously become greater. EVA foam-based tyres were also on show in Taipei, for both adventure bikes and the commuter segment as well

Going electric

This was obviously one of the main trends that was highly expected to continue in cycling, like the steady and unstoppable march of a conquering army expanding the e-bike empire. Just like the constant debate over which cycling discipline is the most superior, there is no subject as controversial and divisive as electric assist two wheelers. For the cyclists who strive to always ride farther and faster, the e-bikes assault are a constant annoyance.

At the Cinelli booth, I run into Guinness World Record holder for the fastest woman to tour the world by bike, Paola Gianotti. She is vehemently against the idea, unless you are the purely occasional recreational cyclist, tagging along with a stronger rider, or are in your golden years.

“For training? I don’t like it, you are cheating. You must suffer if you want to cycle. Yes, yes I love the pain,” she laughs. Cinelli Vice President Fabio Aghito however, is more accommodating, adopting a don’t-knock-it-till-you’ve-tried-it approach. “Even for training you can do more distance, more heights,” he insists.

“Last summer I tried an e-mountain bike and I was dead after a few hours. It’s not like a scooter, you still have to pedal. It is a new way of riding, it’s like someone giving you just a little bit of help, that is all.”

Regardless, the e-bike market is huge, with many different brands utilising different makes on their new models, from either Yamaha, Shimano, Bosch, Brose, Panasonic, Continental, MPF and many more.

Shimano’s STEPS E8000 for mountain bike use was also a prominent feature at their booth in Taipei, perhaps even more so than their new Dura-ace offering. In general, the e-MTB models took centre stage, in line with the off-road trend that has also contributed to the gravel or adventure bike market.

Coming alongside these are the more urban oriented variety, with folding bike makers also jumping onto the electric bandwagon. Bafang in particular has launched two hub motors for e-folding bikes, further fuelling the trend.

So important is this new category of bicycles, that the issue of e-bike R&D has taken up a place of honour in the itinerary for the inaugural Bike To the Future forum. The next step, is the race for manufacturers to shave off as many pounds as they can, while maintaining a certain amount of ride hours with a single charge. Love it or hate it, e-bikes appear set to remain a permanent part of the cycling landscape for many years to come.

Training with Technology

With the great advances made in the digital age, it’s only natural for the cycling world to follow suit. Indoor trainers have already been linked up to virtual reality, but now the bigger push is to see how technologies can be utilised in real conditions.

One of the clear highlights of this direction is the Shimano Dura-ace R9100, first announced last year, but has now been fully tested and was on display at the booth. The company’s first integrated power meter is neatly integrated into the chainset, promising to furnish cyclists with real-time data as they ride.

A similar offering is Rotor’s dual-sided 2INPower, which goes one step further in tracking independent left and right leg power. Utilised with their Q-ring, the accompanying software ensures that a rider can process the information to ensure the best position of the crankset for optimum performance. But the real question when it comes to new tech is how complicated will it be for the end-user?

Rotor Asia Pacific Area Manager Daniel Orloski, who walks us through the explanation, says it should be fairly accessible. “That’s why we have software engineers working on this,” he explains. “So the cyclists themselves can use it.” With a departure from the traditional round chainrings, the accompanying tech allows the user to ensure product advancement translates to better performance without a coach or trainer to decipher the data.

Another great example of how software is changing how cyclists train is Argon’s new smart bike technology first unveiled last year, which tells a cyclist how aerodynamic he or she is without the use of a wind tunnel.

“It will allow riders to understand and comprehend all the data that is available to them, from the power they’re putting out to being able to measure their drag,” says Argon 18 International Sales Director, Jeff Hammond. “It’s the bike and the rider in real world conditions, that’s where you can really understand how to improve your performance.”

As the power meter market grows, FSA is also in the ring with its Powerbox system, which combines FSA cranks and chainrings with the spider-based power meter from Germany’s Power2Max. The system allows riders to change their chainrings without having to recalibrate the system.

Also worth a mention is the tiny Arofly power meter produced by TBS Group, a discreet addition fitted to a bike’s tyre valves. The device is based on aeronautic technology, calculating changes in tyre pressure that are fed into a mobile phone app to measure power output.

Besides performance, technology is also being utilised to ensure better safety, as more cyclists battle for shared used of roads. The new Cat Eye Rapid X2 Kinetic has a built-in accelerometer that automatically switches to a constant burst mode when it senses a sudden change in speed.

The Lumos helmet meanwhile has incorporated a similar technology to detect a slowdown, with a rear light turning bright angry red, functioning like a car’s brake light.

The future of Taipei Cycle

Besides the changes in the dates from next year onwards, I’ll harbour a guess that the new Demo days will be a feature that many industry players and media members will be looking forward to. After all, you wouldn’t buy a car without testing it first, would you?

The English language forum that discusses many crucial issues affecting the future of cycling was also a nice addition, attracting some 300 cycling experts. I do hope that both will be maintained in future editions of the trade event.

Overall, the Taipei Cycle show was a colossal sensory overload for anyone who loves cycling and the nifty equipment and gadgets that come with it. One could say that the few days the event is held is simply not enough to cover the entire thing.