Editor’s Note: This is the next installment in a series of interviews RoadBikeReview.com is conducting with various thought leader’s in the cycling industry. The mission is to discover what trends and technological developments they think will drive the two-wheeled world in 2013.
Here we present part 1 of our conversation with cycling industry veteran Murray Washburn, Global Director of Product Marketing for Cannondale Bicycles. Among Washburn’s most compelling thoughts are the inevitability of disc-brake road bikes and the end of the front derailleur as we know it. Check back soon for part 2, where Washburn discusses how low road bike weights can go. Read part 2 here.
General thoughts on the year to come:
Disc-brake road bikes and gravel road bikes are two of the things that pop into my mind. I think everyone agrees that discs are kind of inevitable. There is a reason why they are used so prevalently in mountain biking and so prevalently in every car and motorcycle in the world. It’s just a matter of getting all the cycling manufacturers on board and getting all the standards dealt with.
Cannondale’s current position on disc road:
Our engineers have been playing around with lots of things. For instance something just as simple as the mounting interface for the caliper. That’s not the first thing that comes to mind for most people. Most people think about the mechanics of the hydraulics and all the rest of that.
When you think about trying to create an interface in a way that does not limit an engineer’s ability to expand on frame designs and also still allow for the interchangeability and compatibility that you need for a component manufacturer to commit to a standard. You can see why it hasn’t been as simple as just grab a disc brake and slap it on a road bike and presto.
I do think it is inevitable. It’s coming. It needs to get to hydraulic. Cable actuated brakes are good. But you really realize the full benefits of disc brakes when you go hydraulic, just in terms of the immediacy and the controlled modulation of the power.
On Gravel Road bikes:
It always cracks me up when the way people have been riding for ages suddenly becomes something “new.” I think everyone who has ridden a road bike for any period of time knows that one of the great joys of road riding is to hit the road less traveled. It’s more representative of how more people truly ride than the pure race focus. You may think road bikes and think ProTour guys with full tem kit and serious balls-to-the-wall race action, but the reality is that most people’s riding is going out by yourself or with friends and riding as much for the experience of being on the bike and exploring and pushing yourself, than clocking heart rate or whatever. It’s great that is being given a name and being supported in the press as being something cool, but it’s not really a new thing.
One the technological change gravel road bikes could bring:
I think that one of the cool things about the industry is that it does have so many different permutations. It is one of the things that keeps us dynamic as an industry is having these little things that pop up at random. It is usually driven by these small passionate people who are doing it for the love, and if they can sell 10 bikes that’s great. You see it with fat bikes in mountain biking. It’s really cool, but it wont ever be a major category.
So do I think Gravel Road is going to become a major sub-category where we are going to have aero, road race, comfort, and gravel road adventure bike? Probably not. What I think you will see is some platforms that are spec’d a little differently to support that sort of riding. The major genres are more sportive oriented bikes, slightly longer wheel base, slightly more upright position, slightly larger tires, and they will also do well on gravel. It will be high performance bikes for non-racer types.
On innovations Washburn would like to see:
I think you will continue to see a push towards the integration of things and that may mean different things for different categories. I feel like the era of creating frames and just hanging other people’s parts on them and having that be a bike is probably still going to be around for a while. But eventually I think the industry will evolve toward a more automotive model where you are really creating a complete package, an entire system that is designed to work together optimally. The ideal end goal for an engineer is to have complete control and really be able to optimize it.
On how does that complete integration happens:
It really is complete systems. You design frames, wheels, tires, all that. You design it to maximize the effectiveness of each part within a system. That will obviously be a huge paradigm and thought shift for the industry. But how many people when they buy a nice road bike, do they change the wheels? Not many. They buy the bike and ride it. So if you can design a package where everything is optimized to work together right from the beginning, and there were some significant advantages to doing so, that is something that will be good for the consumer.
On what technology he’d like to see go away:
I’d love to see front derailleurs go away. We are already seeing it on the mountain bike side. It will be really interesting to see if anyone can come up with a viable alternative. There are a lot of smart people out there, and there is a lot of stuff happening with new materials and electronics. It will be interesting to see if there are some alternatives. I mean, I don’t see why you couldn’t have a 1×11 on the road in some instances. If you look at the issues that most people have on their road bikes, very few shifting problems come from the rear. Most are in the front. Why not eliminate that if you can?