Interbike 2015: A Mixed Bag gravel grinder Interbike 2015
Tools of the trade.

Last week I attended the annual Interbike trade show in Las Vegas. Even though this was definitely not my first rodeo, I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of products on display. As such, it’s taken a little longer than usual to compose my thoughts on all the new bikes and gear, as well as the show itself. So in no particular order, here are the highlights–and lowlights–of this year’s Interbike show.

I spoke to a lot of people about this, and I’ve read what others have written about the subject. As a 50-something male, however, anything I write would be meaningless compared to this article by Surly’s Christina Julian. Let’s hope that the 2016 show is free of controversy, and instead, celebrates the freedom that bicycles bring to everyone.

Tires: fat, tubeless, light–pick two
The good news here is that more and more companies are offering gravel-friendly tires. The not-so-good news is that some of those tires are simply bigger versions of their existing ‘cross tires, or scaled-down versions of their mtb models. Manufacturers seem reluctant to offer supple, high-volume tires with traditional road tread patterns. That said, I did see some very interesting tires from Clement, Maxxis, and Schwalbe, and hope to review them when samples become available. Tubeless options are becoming a bit less scarce, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

Price-Conscious Completes
High-spec bikes (and their correspondingly high prices) usually get all the attention, but I saw several companies–including ChargeGT, and Jamis–showing well-equipped bikes retailing for under $1000. Yes, a grand is a lot of money, but bikes touting aluminum frames, carbon forks, and disc brakes would have retailed for hundreds more only a year or two ago. Look for GRAVELBIKE’s review of the $990 GT Grade Alloy Sora and $1209 Marin Gestalt 2 bikes in the coming months. gravel grinder Charge Plug Interbike 2015
The nicely appointed Charge Plug 2 retails for $999.99.

SRAM may have announced their wireless RED eTap components two weeks prior, but that didn’t stop the electronic group from earning Interbike’s best-in-show honors in the road category. In a move that surprised many (including yours truly), eTap forgoes the company’s popular DoubleTap paradigm in favor of a new, advanced shifting logic. Inspired by race car paddle shifters, tapping the right lever moves the chain to a harder gear, and tapping the left lever shifts to an easier gear. To shift the front derailleur, the rider taps both levers at the same time. While it may sound confusing at first, it’s actually quite intuitive once you start using the system. There’s currently no WiFLi option available, but I wouldn’t be surprised if SRAM already has a version under test that’s compatible with wide-range cassettes.

SRAM eTap and Nemo
SRAM displayed a RED eTap derailleur in a fish tank to illustrate how the unit was unaffected by water. The derailleur functioned just fine, and the fish seemed unfazed by the proceedings.

The Return of Hi-Viz
Now, some will say that it never left, but hi-viz clothing and accessories are back and bigger than ever. Pearl Izumi may have introduced their screaming-yellow jacket 25 years ago, but their new BioViz™ garments raise the bar for visibility. BioViz utilizes a combination of true fluorescent colors for daytime visibility and strategically placed reflective markers for optimal nighttime performance. Louis Garneau took a slightly different approach with their RTR (Reclaim The Road) line. The company’s new Blink RTR jacket combines hi-viz colors, reflective-printed inserts, and glow-in-the-dark elements for even more visibility. The hi-viz trend doesn’t stop at your feet, either. Nearly every shoe manufacturer now offers road and MTB models in hi-viz colorways, with Giro taking it one step further (bad pun intended) by offering two shoes with fully reflective uppers.

Everybody’s Got Baggage
Like many products in the bicycle industry, bikepacking bags came about because someone wanted a better mousetrap, or in this case, a better bike bag. Now, nearly every bag manufactuer (big or small) has jumped on the bikepack bag bandwagon (say that three times fast). That hasn’t stopped OGs like Revelate Designs from dropping new, revolutionary products such as the Wampak hydration pack or adding air purge valves to their seat packs. Bikepacking-style bags may be all the rage, but the traditional rack-and-pannier combo is anything but dead. Arkel, Blackburn, Lone PeakOrtlieb, Thule, and Vaude all had a wide range of panniers on display.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer my endless questions, talk shop, and commiserate about the high cost of convention center food. See you all next year!

6 thoughts on “Interbike 2015: A Mixed Bag

  1. Am I missing something with regards to the tyre situation? The only gravel roads I can find to ride in Utah definitely feel best with scaled down mountain tyres like the Nano 40 or the Vee X-C-X. Slicks and file treads just don’t cut it for me, not cos I’m awesome, but probably cos I’m not. Maybe I just need to get sicker and grow some better handling skills. I do agree that there needs to be more wide road tyres like the LGG, but for road riding; 28mm seems skinny to most of my customers. Especially out on the county roads.

    1. On hardpack dirt roads, file/herringbone treads are usually all you need. The key is to run the pressure really low, and opt for the widest tire that’ll fit. For example, I run 38mm Compass Barlow Pass tires on 25mm rims at 28/38, and they work well on dirt roads. But, if there’s a lot of loose, kitty litter-style gravel (or sharp rocks), I’ll run something with beefier tread or sturdier sidewalls.

      1. I am jealous of those conditions! We have lots of loose, sharp gravel intermingled with small boulders the drunk families in side-by-sides expose when they’re gettin’ some on the way back to the gigantic pickup after an afternoon of shootin’. Every once in a while, you can find a forest of aspen with some organic magic dirt, but that’s kinda rare. Tubeless, extra sealant (29+ amounts), knobbly, and burly is the only way here. Also, goatheads, which mean tubeless and burly, too, also.

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