Eurobike Report via Field Correspondent Bill McCready

As he did last year, founder and president of Santana Cycles, Bill McCready, offered readers of the Tandem@Hobbes list a bit of a teaser on Eurobike & Santana’s displays in a posting back on Sept 3rd:

An invitation from Bill at Santana.

If you are in Europe this weekend I hope you get a chance to visit Eurobike.

Whereas the Interbike show in Las Vegas  (two weeks from now) remains a “trade only” show, tomorrow Eurobike will again be open to the public.

Eurobike, which is by far the largest bicycle show in the world, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. All the biggies are here for the party, including Tour de France winner Cadel Evans. Eurobike is held next door to Friedrichshafen International Airport (FDH). Friedrichshafen is on the German shore of Lake Constance, an Alpine Lake so large that its shoreline also includes Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Today was clear enough to allow a view of the Alps.

Santana has had a booth at Eurobike since the very first show. Two years ago we showed the first Shimano-approved tandem with their Di2 electronic shifting. Last year we showed a 29er with Rohloff internal gearing and dual “carbon” drive belts—the very first Gates-approved tandem completely without chains. This year we are debuting a bike with NuVinci shifting (wide range with an infinite number of interim gear ratios). It too uses a pair of Gates Carbon-Drive belts for “unchained” performance. 

We are also showing our new multi-shape frame couplers—which reduce the weight of a travel tandem by more than a pound. Of the 7 tandems on display in our booth (A6-207), three have couplers, two have Gates belts, and three have Viatek’s carbon-bilaminate damping (a road-bike suspension system that decreases the weight of the frame).

About 10 minutes after he made the previous posting to Hobbes, Bill sent us a friendly note in which he offered to be our field correspondent on the ground in Friedrichshafen, Germany.  Despite several attempts to connect via phone while Bill was at the show that ended with a lovely German woman’s voice telling me that they were unable to complete my call — can you say cell-phone overload — we finally chatted for about 80 minutes this past Tuesday.

What follows are some of the highlights of our discussions, but you can also do some additional research and see many large photo galleries from the show at the following on-line resources:

Anyway, getting back to Eurobike, as Bill noted it is the largest bicycle trade show in the world with nearly 4x the number of journalists in attendance vs. Interbike and 1.7x as many trade-show visitors + another 22,000 public visitors on the last day of the show, meaning that total show attendance is over 2.5x that of Interbike.

As for  highlights, sadly there wasn’t much there that was new in terms of tandems and tandem cycling.  We’ll touch on a few tandem-related things as we go through the report as well as some of Santana’s show highlights a bit later in the report, but here’s what caught Bill’s attention.

Electric Assist Bikes: HOT, HOT, HOT….

As it was last year, this year Electric-Assist bike remain the hot new product in Europe.  Word on the street is, electric bike sales now represent about 1/2 of the total annual dollar-sales volume with over a million units sold.  Bosch now has 43 dealers, Shimano continues to refine their offerings and just about every bicycle manufacturer has added electric-assist bikes to their product line in Europe. Some of the notable players are Panasonic and SmartCar who is offering up its own Ebike.

We had the good fortune to meet and spend some time with an entrepreneur from Colorado — Chuck Ankeny — and his wife Laura who co-owns Pete’s Electric Bikes at Santana’s Chattanooga Rally this past May.  Chuck anticipated the market and has been a huge advocate of the Ebikes for some time and really opened my eyes to their attraction, e.g., being able to commute to work by bike without arriving at work in need of a shower!  Think about it… being able to cruise along at 18 mph on the flat or uphill without breaking a sweat.  Hmmmm.  Let that settle-in for a moment.

As for possible tandem applications, Bill wasn’t sure if there really is a market out there for a tandem EBike but if one develops Santana will definitely consider it.

Internally Geared / Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) Rear hubs:

You may recall that Santana debuted its first chainless tandem at last year’s Eurobike: a one-off Santana tandem with a Gates CarbonDrive sync drive and a Rohloff Speedhub mated to a Gates CarbonDrive drive system.  Santana has continued to investigate and develop tandems around the Rohloff hub, but has also spent quite a bit of development energy on the NuVinci N360 Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) hubs.  The NuVinci seems to have great potential for EBike applications and also seems to address some of the feedback that early Rohloff hub adopters have provided to Santana. Santana is also working with Shimano’s newer internally geared hubs as they now offer versions that are finally suitable and durable enough for use on tandems.

Electronic Shifting:

Shimano still owns the electronic shifting market and will be offering an Ultegra-level system at a slightly lower cost point than the very successful DuraAce Di2.  You can learn a bit more about the Ultegra Di2 HERE. As for the much hoped DuraAce Di2 Triple is still not a current offering from Shimano, but Shimano’s engineers have spent a lot of time talking with Santana to gather feedback on the Di2-equipped Santana tandems but have not shared any time tables for when the triple might be available… only that it will be offered at some point.  Santana has eagerly volunteered to partner with Shimano USA to beta-test the Di2 triple on their tandems.  More to follow, we just don’t know when.

As far as Campagnolo’s much-anticipated entry into the electronic shifting market, while Campy had a system on display at the show it appears to be something that the general public won’t get their hands on for a while.  Campy reps at the show thought that pro team bikes might begin to use the new 11-speed Campy electronic system at next year’s Giro d’Italia, but that was about all that was shared.

Tapered Headsets:

Tapered headsets aren’t new, they’ve been offered for several years.  However, what’s new is a move by a number of builders to move to the same 1.25″ (1 1/4″) upper headset bearing that Santana has been using since the early 90’s instead of a 1.125″ (1 1/8″) mated to a 1.5″ (1 1/2″) lower bearing.

Power Meters:

Power meters continue to be the hot new product for cyclists who are looking for the next edge in training.  The much-anticipated Garmin Vector system was of interest to Bill because it would be one of the first easy-to-install systems that would allow captain’s and stokers to collect data on their individual power output.  March 2012 appears to be when it “might” come on the market with a US MSRP around $1,500 per unit.  So, yeah… about $3k for your tandem.

What’s New At Santana:

In addition to some of the things already mentioned, the folks at Santana continue to tweak, refine and develop new products with their business partners that either respond to customer-requested capabilities or things that Santana sees as either opportunities to improve their current products or to adopt new technology ahead of consumer demand.  Then again, they sometimes “pass” on certain mainstream cycling trends that just don’t seem to make a lot of sense, e.g., the current move towards highly stylized carbon frames that incorporate various shaping techniques with sometimes questionable added-value beyond market differentiation, i.e., magic shapes that promise to delivery “big improvements” in performance that are typically lost on all but the most elite cyclists.

So, what you won’t see coming from Santana any time soon is any type of shift away from the proven performance of round and ovalized tubesets.

What you will see are:

  • The aforementioned internally geared hubs with the option of dual belt drives.
  • A new all-carbon 47mm wide stoker wing bar
  • A new woodman stoker stem
  • New and improved seat posts
  • New crank & BB system
  • Continued use of Vyatek’s vibration dampening carbon-bilaminate tubing
  • New carbon forks
  • Expanded use of Santana’s patented ‘Z-Coupler’

The new Z-Couplers are perhaps one of the more interesting offerings and something that Bill shared with us back in May. As a reminder, the Z-Coupler (aka, Invisible Coupler) was introduced by Santana in 2002 as a way of allowing them to use their preferred oval boom tube on their travel tandems instead of a pair of smaller boom tubes with S&S couplings, as was used on their travel (aka, Stowaway) tandems from 1995 – 2002.

After being awarded a patent on the original Z-Coupler, Santana first offered their oval couplers on their titanium frames, then developed a model for their steel frames a year later, and finally offered them for their aluminum travel tandems. Since being introduced, Santana reports that they’ve not had any consumer problems with the design and, in fact, customers would sometimes ask us Santana didn’t use the nearly invisible Z-coupler on their round tubes vs. the threaded S&S couplers.

Two years ago, Santana found itself with enough spare engineering and machine time to develop prototypes.  Now that the development and testing is complete and a new patent application has been submitted, Santana has released its round Z-Coupler and put it into production on their Team-level tandem models: over time, the couplers will be adopted on other models. Santana describes the coupler as being lighter, sleeker, easier to use where assembly and dis-assembly only requires the use of a standard allen key.

As far as future development and applications, the design has already been proven to work with aluminum and they are now exploring non-metallic materials.  It’s also noteworthy that the Z-Coupler design is one that can be used with tubing shapes other than ovals and have positioned themselves to license the design for use by single-bike builders who want to offer competitive tri- and road-racing frames that will be easier to transport.

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About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eccentric, but whose aren't?
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4 Responses to Eurobike Report via Field Correspondent Bill McCready

  1. Pete Templin says:

    Good stuff. Interesting commentary on power meters regarding the Garmin announcement – it’s certainly not the first system for independent captain/stoker metering. Technically, it’s been possible with Quarq and DaVinci for perhaps four years, probably also with SRM and DaVinci with custom-drilled cranks even longer than that.

  2. TG says:

    Sorry, I left out the all-important “…easy to install…” system. Fixed.

  3. Chris White says:

    One more component shown at Eurobike this year that is interesting for tandem riders is the drop-bar compatible grip-shift for Rohloff hubs. Previously, the only Rohloff shifter available needed bars with a smaller diameter than road bars; you could just about fit it to the end of a drop bar or on a separate min-bar, but the new shifter by Gilles Berthoud gives a much more elegant solution. See a report with photos here:

    http://road.cc/content/news/43047-more-eurobike-goodness-gilles-berthoud-deda-reynolds-tubes-hope-cateye-more

    Not on display at Eurobike, but due for release at around the same time, are the new external bracket tandme crankset from Shimano (model numbers R601 and R603). Being Ultegra-level, they are reasonably lightweight, but their main problem is the proprietary chainring designs and BCD. For more info, see this thread:

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php/751659-New-Shimano-Ultegra-level-Tandem-Cranks

  4. Mark Owings says:

    Interesting about the shifter by Gilles Berthoud. My own experience (just finished our first tour with it a month ago) with the bar-end shifter for the Rohloff on our tandem is that it works just fine and is easy to reach, but the gear indicator is out on the side, out of sight, when the cables are lined up for best shifting. The GB shifter would, of course, take care of that, but would get in the way of my electronic goodies – specifically the computer and GPS units that ride on the bar tops on either side of the stem. For what I see in those photos you linked, I will stay with the bar-end shifter. But thanks for the interesting link and info.

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