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I was in Taipei, Taiwan last week to check out the latest trends in cycling at the 2010 Taipei Cycle Show. This was my second trip to the show, and many of the trends I noticed last year seemed to be intensifying this year.
Urban, Road and MTB Bikes: The race for ultimate high technology continues, with a variety of ultralight carbon TT bikes in wild shapes, full Dura Ace electronic shifting and integrated stems/handlebars that flowed seamlessly into the frame. The Asian style trend of "more is more" included bold colors and graphics, bikes with gold/brass trim and components, brightly colored colored anodized parts, and even a bike with a frame entirely wrapped in hand-stiched leather! Overall in Asia there seems to be increasing interest in road bikes over MTBs. Many MTBs are now being sold standard with slick tires, and the big money is spent on lightweight hardtails in carbon and titanium.
Folding Bikes and Mini-Velos: Folding and small-wheeled bikes dominated much of the show, and I believe this is the fastest growing segment in Asia. No longer an just an entry-level concept necessitated by the typical micro-apartment dweller, minis are becoming increasingly high-end fashion statements. Dura Ace/SRAM Red components and carbon frames are starting to appear more common, and the performance compromises are diminishing between minis and full-size road bikes. I had a chance to test-ride a high-end folding bike from Speed One and came away very impressed at its light weight, speed and handling.
Electric Bikes: Another fast-growing segment I've been interested in for quite awhile, there seems to be diverging trends between those that merely apply electric components to traditional bikes, and those that are cohesive, integrated transportation devices. The more innovative examples are coming mostly from Europe, where electric bikes are the fastest growing segment. One of the standouts of the show was db0 by Robrady design. The bike folds along a single hinge with integrated carrying handle, and the battery is housed within the hinge itself. I also had a chance to test ride this one. The Ultra Motor A2B and GoCycle are other excellent examples of well-integrated European designs. Most of the Asian ebikes followed the traditional route, simply applying components with little regard for aesthetics.
Weird and Wonderful: I'm always on the lookout for inventive new ideas in alternative transportation, and Taipei is the place to go for creative minds looking to get their ideas into production. There were quite a few attempts at the leaning trike concept, and several bikes with alternative drive systems. There were also quite a few stepper-type bikes with lever driven wheels. I got to test ride a few of these interesting vehicles, and I plan to talk more about them on future blog posts.
Components and Accessories: The number one trend is colored anodizing...Anodized everything! Another trend was leather, and lots of it. I think it's stemming from the recent resurgence in the popularity of Brooks saddles, but it's growing to include all kinds of bags, grips, accessories, and even entire frames wrapped in leather! In my mind it goes against the whole eco-friendly message, but to Asians it might appeal to their greater appreciation for the display of wealth and status.
Overall, Taipei is the manufacturer's show, and this is where people come to find new production opportunities. Much of what's there is unbranded, generic commodity products that buyers come to apply their logos and place their orders. You'd be amazed at some of the big name brands that come and buy from these guys. It takes awhile to find the really innovative, stand-out products. I'm told that Interbike is more about the brands, and I'm going to try to make it later this year.