Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a series of interviews RoadBikeReview.com is conducting with various thought leaders in the cycling industry. The mission is to discover what trends and technological developments they think will drive the two-wheeled world in 2013.
First up, part one of a two-part Q&A with Mavic Communication Manager Zack Vestal, who brings the unique perspective of being a U.S.-based employee working for a distinctly European company. Prior to coming on board with Mavic in 2010, Vestal spent two years as the technical editor for VeloNews magazine. Before that he was team manager for the Trek-Volkswagen mountain bike squad. And way back when, he was an aspiring domestic pro road racer. Read part two here.
Vestal can still get up a hill faster than most, as witnessed by his 6th place overall Strava time (among 1,122) on Boulder, Colorado’s menacing Super Flagstaff climb segment. Among those behind him in the standings are pro racers Tim Johnson, Timmy Duggan and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski.
General thoughts on the year to come:
The bike industry seems to be so fickle at the moment. Right now it seems very accepting of change, almost casting about for what is the next big thing. That’s a big switch from before, where for the longest time it was very resistant to change. Look at mountain bikes. It took a decade for the 29er thing to catch on. But once it caught on, it spread like wild fire and now that door is blown open with 650b being the next big thing.
It’s not quite as clear on the road bike side. Change could come in the form of wider wheels, wider tires, disc brakes, different geometry, we’ll see. Mavic is trying to figure that out ourselves, what that next big thing is.
Photo: An Alliance Gravel Grinder Road bike with long reach caliper brakes to allow big tires.
On the advent of gravel road riding bikes:
Right now you see gravel road riding getting a ton of attention in the media. And that could be the next big thing. It’s a great outlet for road riders because all the sudden you have opened up new terrain. You have opened a new frontier of roads to ride if you have equipment that is up to the task.
Exactly how that will change bike technology is a tough question, though. In some ways you would think that a cyclocross bike would be the ready made solution. But I also think we’ll see a new crop of road bikes that offer more relaxed road geometry, a little more tire clearance, plus lower bottom brackets and longer wheel bases than what’s on ’cross bikes. That means you’ll have a bike that is a little less agile but a little more stable.
But again the real question is, while gravel riding seems to be super popular in the media right now, is it really going to catch on as a product segment? That’s something everyone in the industry is trying to figure out. Is it a real trend, or something the industry is trying to create from within?
On the fragmentation of bicycle types:
This is actually something that I think is going to change this year. What you’ll see is some measure of re-centering. Again, look at mountain bikes as an example. During the last 15 years, it’s gone from 1-2 types of bikes doing everything in the mid-90s, to an incredibly fragmented marketplace where you have hardtails, full suspension, different degrees of travel, different wheel sizes, singlespeeds. It’s hard to keep track of how many different segments we have?
But now, there is this exploding trend toward enduro style riding and racing where you have one bike that can do everything, a bike that lands in the middle of that fragmentation, a bike that most people will ride most of the time.
I wont be surprised if we see the same thing on the road side. First we had this huge fragmentation where you have super light road bikes, then aero road bikes, then relaxed geometry road bikes, then cyclocross, and now gravel and disc. I wonder if there wont be some kind of convergence. Look at Specialized for instance. They do great stuff, but they have a relaxed geometry road bike, an aero road, a road racing bike, and a cross bike. Among those four you’d think you could merge that in some way, create more versatility.
Of course some people will always want to specialize, and maybe they own more than one road bike to suit that. But I also think the vast majority would actually prefer one bike that could do everything.