Fluoro on fluoro

Fluoro has been doing the rounds for a while now and, to be honest, we thought we’d be stepping back from the nu wave rave by now. But no. Far from being retired to the back of the wardrobe or sent off to the paint shop for a respray, fluoro is going from strength to strength.

While the safety-conscious will always ensure fluoro’s existence, it’s enthusiasm from the super brands that is keeping the neon trend at the forefront of the colour charts.

We’ve seen various colour options – from just plain fluoro yellow to Specialized’s neon red – and the new phenomenon is these colours being featured on their own, not merely as flashes and strips. By our reckoning, Castelli kicked it all off; their fluoro designs have been doing the rounds for years now – a refresh is long overdue. If we were gambling types, we’d stake our Christmas bonus on 2014 being all about the neon clash.

Whether it’s a hint of fluoro green on a hi-viz orange bike or fluoro yellow and neon red in a camo combo, as long as it clashes and slightly hurts your eyes and brain, it’s going to be hot and bang on trend. And if you don’t like it, then, well, you’re probably just not fashionable enough.

Assos base layer ‘system’

Once upon a time, if you rode a bike, you probably owned a cycling-specific jersey and – if you were lucky – a pair of padded shorts. If you were really lucky, you also proudly owned a pair of woollen tracksters with elasticated rainbow ankles (for when the weather turned bad) to match your boil-in-the-bag, non-sport-specific raincoat and your ski gloves, borrowed from your mum.

Oh, how things have changed. Till now, being brand and colour coordinated was sufficient to see you accepted, even on Home Counties club runs. Alas, not for much longer. The ante has been upped with the introduction of ‘clothing systems’. Assos kicked it off with its ‘Climarange’, and has now taken things a stage further with the Skinfoil, a collection of seven base layers covering the full spectrum of riding climates from 39ºC to -10ºC.

It’s doubtful that the club run fashion police will be carrying out correct base layer attire spot checks any time soon. And, thankfully, Assos’s system is unlikely to be mirrored by other brands. That said, these new clothing systems do seem to be creeping into our wardrobes. And there is something to be said for the availability of items that complement each other and work in harmony to create the perfect body temperature regulating outfit… provided, of course, the claims are based on fact, not just marketing hype.

UCI reforms

Bike industry folk are a cynical lot. As soon as a new cycling invention or innovation arrives, there’s a large dollop of scepticism, and a whole host of conspiracy theories from the anti-change lobbyists, usually along the lines of: “It’s only been developed to get people to buy more/sell more” and “if it was that good, the pros would be using it,” – depending on what side of the consumer/retailer fence the naysayer sits.

This scepticism has been valid in many instances, partly thanks to a rather archaic governing body holding back developments in the pro peloton. Thankfully, times are changing.

It had seemed that only cold, hard cash could dictate the direction of cycling development, but the recent change at the top of the UCI gives us faith that significant reform may spread throughout the organisation. Among these reforms, we can expect to see the first serious shake-up of the ancient equipment rules and regulations.

Whether minimum weights will be lowered or disc wheels finally permitted is anyone’s guess. But one thing’s for sure: the industry bods we speak to all feel a lot more confident that these will be decisions based on merit and with the progression of the sport in mind – and not just as a means to line the fat cats’ purses.

Tubeless rims/tyres

Having existed, officially, since 2006 (thanks to Shimano and Hutchinson) the road tubeless market is a slow-burner, to put it mildly. But demand from the mountain bike world has kept tubeless firmly on the agenda for many rim and tyre manufacturers.

Over the past couple of years, tubeless designs for the road bike market have been steadily gaining momentum, in terms of their feasibility, resulting in a handful of tubeless rim and tyre options being made available to purchase.

With more on offer, consumer confidence has also started to grow and, as with any emerging market, it would only take a little more growth for everyone to jump on the bandwagon and offer even more options to the consumer.

The jury’s still out as to whether 2014 will be the tipping point for mass tubeless conversion, but it’s safe to say that more will come as factory standard on full bike builds as tube-free tech infiltrates the mainstream market.

As soon as swanky tubeless upgrade wheelsets become available, the second-hand market will take off and then, before you know it, we’ll all be converts.

Aero everything

Having become one of the biggest marketing buzzwords this decade, ‘aero’ is impossible to escape from. Not that it’s a bad thing – who wouldn’t want to be more aerodynamic and able to ride faster for the same effort?

Whether it’s tubing and frame shapes or rim profiles, everyone is claiming to have an aero this or that, so it’s hard to see where the next few watts are going to be squeezed from – until you refocus your attention away from the bike…

Clothing has been advancing technically at a steady rate of knots over the past few years: everything from wind and waterproofing through to sweat wicking and body cooling. While producing slippery clothing has been on the agenda for some time, it’s not yet been a major selling point for the mass-market manufacturers.

It’s possible that Fabian Cancellara’s attempt at the Hour record will kick off the clothing step change. There’s enough money behind the venture, and he’s already supported by one of the most advanced clothing brands out there. Also, the fastidious and methodical build-up to the next Olympics will begin at the end of 2014, once more placing a microscopic lens over Team GB.

With industry specialist Chris Boardman having left, former Jaguar F1 boss Tony Purnell has come in to take on the challenge of making the British team faster still.

This article originally appeared in the December 19 2013 issue of Cycling Weekly magazine.

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