Modern cycling is an empire built largely on the backs of doped-out athletes and affluent aging men. It's made up of warring fiefdoms, their fortunes always shifting, each with its own symbols, slang, and proprietary tools. And the bike show is a circus, where cycling's barons show off their swagger and their latest war-machines.
For the rest of us, cycling's peasantry, there's tumblers of cyclist juice and power bar crumbs, as well as a few bikes that we might actually afford – and want – to ride. This is my report from last weekend's Montreal bike show.
The trendy stuff
The trioBike mono cargo bike was a big draw, constantly doing the rounds in the exhibition's test riding area. It's a reversed tricycle design, with a cargo bucket, disk brakes, and an eight-speed internally geared hub. It uses an interesting steering mechanism, which slightly tilts the frame in the direction of the turn. This is supposed to lessen the risk of two-wheeling the trike when cornering at speed.
I took it for a spin and it immediately put a smile on my face. It made me want human cargo of my own to schlep around. The ride felt so stable, it made me want to pull out my smartphone and start texting. Its turning radius was a bit large and required some prior planning, but I found I could nudge the steering by leaning into a turn. The internal hub shifted very crisply; it felt like a car's transmission, the only thing missing being a reverse gear. (Price: $3,200)
On the other hand, the Mercedes-made Smart eBike – a 57-lb battery-powered behemoth with a 60-mile range – was a mere curiosity tucked into a corner, among generic Trek bikes. In North America, its 350-watt motor is speed-limited to 20 mph. It'll also set you back about $3,500 and you'll need to visit a Mercedes dealership to buy one, or to have it serviced.
When your tires are four inches wide and there's barely any air in them, you can ride over sand and hard-packed snow: say hello to the Kona Wo fatbike, a trending cycle style that's making the local news. (There are even
people certified nuts riding them in the Arctic.)
Thighlights (I bet you won't see this on Jezebel.)
Beardy bikesplainers, representing the local bike coop scene.
Here is a future Guru Photon frame, made from carbon fibre tubes bonded together with two-part epoxy. One epoxy reagent, the white stuff where the tubes join, has already been applied; the builder is now wrapping the second reagent, in the form of black tape, around the bottom bracket shell. When all the joints are thusly wrapped, the frame will be baked in an oven, which will cure the epoxy.
The bike porn
The Cervélo P5 is a bike-like object for time trials, highly optimized to squeeze out every last bit of performance – as well as every last penny – out of those who ride them: triathloners.
Ostensibly made for racing on rough cross country trails, the fate of cyclocross bikes such as this is to be ridden once and then tucked away in a garage for 30 years, only to resurface as vintage fetish objects for our future hipster hellspawn.
I have like zero knowledge of this stuff, but here's how bikes like these are meant to be used. I'm waiting for my 3-D printed replacement bones to come in before getting on a downhill bike, though.
The trioBike mono, duh, but first you need to get the money. And the power. And the woman—to share it with.
In the meantime, there's these. They may not be flashy or super-light, but for the kind of cycling common people do, I found these two bikes by Linus were the best of the show.
The whole hep world in Toronto's West Queen West rides internally geared Linus bikes like this one. Made out of steel, fendered, and sensibly geared at 46 x 20 – giving you three gears at 45, 60 and 80 gear inches respectively – a classy ride like this can meet your year-round urban transportation needs. $675 may be a small chunk of change, but to commute by bike reliably you'll need to invest as much money as you would in a used car.
This is not a fixed-gear bike – that trend peaked in mid-2011 – but it does draw on their simplicity and design. It's a single-speed with coaster brake, meaning that you pedal backwards to apply the rear brake. Kickback brakes may not be as sexy as disk brakes, but they're reliable and enclosed. You'll want to add a front brake, though, or this bike would turn into an unstoppable death-trap were the chain to snap. At $465, though, it costs less than the wheels on any of the bikes above.
[Lead image: Detail shot of a Marinoni 40th anniversary special edition lugged steel frame, hand-built by Giuseppe "Pepe" Marinoni himself in Montreal; photography by Broke in Mile End]