Matt Skinner, editor of What Mountain Bike, examines the fine tuning that bike brands have been making since Eurobike...

OFF THE RADAR: Form and function for 2010

The general consensus after Eurobike was that there was no show stopping-bike or technology headed our way for 2010; that no one product was looking to hog the limelight of the red carpet with collagen lips and an inflated ego. In terms of progress, it would appear – on the face of it – that there’s been none. But looking deeper, a rich seam of necessary and, to be honest, much welcomed fine polishing has been going on.

From aesthetic overhauls to small but significant tweaks, Eurobike was awash with brands displaying the efforts of their tinkering and of co-operation between bike and component brands to offer cohesive colour matching to further catch the eye of riders.

Felt has revamped its aesthetics with new stickers, colours, and is integrating logos between the seat tube and the rocker link on its Virtue line. Genesis has virtually relaunched itself with a complete overhaul of its aesthetics, logos and brand identity and has adopted the vogue of non-standard logo and decal placement that Charge truly popularised. Crank Brothers is now working with SRAM to offer colour matching with SRAM’s new colour options on its
groupsets, to provide as thorough a collars and cuffs colour choice to riders as possible. And the big boys – always savvy of the entire package – have also moved things on.

But can this merely be said to be form over function, or just marketing? Well, both. Certainly making your bike look as attractive and as eye pleasing as possible is no bad thing – just as it’s true of bike shops that they aim to be as welcoming and as invigorating an environment as possible for buyers – and this is marketing in the most direct sense.

However, in some important instances, this focus on the detail has allowed product managers and engineers to turn their attention from trying to come up with revolutionary new suspension platforms, for instance, to nailing the minutiae of bikes people actually buy and ride.

For example, Specialized’s new 9mm QR hub shell on its top end Roval wheelset has been design-integrated with the drop outs of its Future Shock fork –so much so that Specialized claim that it’s as stiff a design as using a QR15 bolt through. Proof, if ever it were needed, that clever design doesn’t have to be industrial. It can be refined. Beauty can benefit the function.

Just as you take the first bite of food with your eyes, you take the first ride with them too. Aesthetics, as much as we’d like to play their importance down, are an integral part of what we humans thrive on. From the colour of hair to the pallor of the skin, they contribute greatly to our decision making process and the same is true of bikes.

However, as fashionable as it is to be unfashionable, there’s a fine line between ‘of the moment’ and being so ‘yesterday, daahling.’ Every bike brand gets this.
Those that have always displayed aesthetic savvy have fine-tuned things further or taken it to the next level with true form/function integration.

Those that didn’t previously, have certainly taken it to heart for 2010.

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