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Ringing the Changes

Eurobike 2014 was all about gear changes, with a lot of fat tyres for fun. I went to the demo day, which gave me the chance to really try out some new technology. There was a long road circuit, some off road trails through the woods and a rudimentary "pump track" which all gave me a lot of fun.

Fat tyres were everywhere, and I mean FAT! I rode the Surly Ice Cream Truck which is described on their web site as "frisky and limber". To me it steered like a small tanker but it did seem to have the ability to create trails where none previously existed. ICE had their record breaking South Pole conquering machine to ride around. Rode surprisingly well!

I got the opportunity to ride the kind of thing I never get near, like super-light full suspension mountain bikes, but mainly I was there to try out the stuff we expect to be selling for the next few years.

Pinion Gears: my self imposed task was to ride a few bikes with the Pinion gearbox. It's mounted onto the bottom bracket - you need a special frame - which puts the weight in a more balanced position than a gear hub, and the range and steps are really impressive, but I needed to find out how it worked in real world conditions. As well as the 18 speed, which is designed for trekking bikes and has been around for a few years, there is now a 12 speed for mountain bikers and two 9 speeds, a close ratio and a wide ratio. I rode a 12 speed on a carbon bike which weighed as much a bag of cheesy wotsits, and almost immediately forgot I was supposed to be testing the gears. The changes are instant, the steps are close and regular and it seems to work well even under full load. Combined with its sealed construction and central positioning it seems like an ideal system for off road bikes and long distance machines. Its crying out for a decent chaincase though. Tout Terrain are offering the 18 speed on several models and the 9 speed on a new commuting bike, the Via Veneto XPress.

Rohloff Shifters: these are a Tout Terrain spin-off product; the Cinq5 ShiftR. If you havn't worked it out yet, the clever bit is inside the click box, which has a ratchet like a Shimano Rapidfire. The paddles on the handlebars waggle back and forth, right for up, left for down, and the clickbox ratchets the gears up and down. Its really simple and smooth to use, and makes Rohloff gears and drop handlebars a sensible option at last.

Nu Vinci: For some reason these have not yet caught on, but they appear to be quite amazing. A continuously variable transmission system operated by a twist grip. Its simple and it works. There is now also an electronic system called "harmony" which sets the gear ratio according to your cadence. Frankly this messes with your brain, but would be ideal for many commuter and utility bikes. It naturally starts in a low gear as as you pedal, you go faster, without your cadence changing. Its incredible! Probably only available on e-bikes though.

SRAM G8 hub gear: a bit of a disapointment. If you're a fan of Shimano, as I am, you won't be impressed with this, it's just a bit too clunky.

Star of the show for me was HP Velotechnik's Scorpion Plus. OK, a trike designed for people with mobility problems will never hit the cool buttons but to me it represents a massive and tangible benefit to human kind.  So many people are going to benefit from this machine with improved health, mobility and independence, I was really inspired. I took two of them for extended test rides, both with the GoSwiss power assist, one with the standard seat and 26" back wheel and the other with the extra high seat and the 20" back wheel. I couldn't decide which one I liked most! More pictures here. My ambition now is to live long enough to need one. For now I am sticking to extremely low bikes that you have to crawl backwards into.

If you want to know how boring the rest of the show was, check out the website. Racing bikes are lighter and have more gears apparently.

Its bed time now. More pictures tomorrow.