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 2 of our conversation with cycling industry veteran Murray Washburn, Global Director of Product Marketing for Cannondale Bicycles, who discusses bike weights and the value of sponsoring the Cannondale Pro Cycling ProTour team. Read part 1 here.
On how low road bike weight can go:
For years I was like I think we are there [at the lightest possible point] and every year bikes would get a little lighter. So I may be shooting myself in the foot by saying this, but I do feel like we are approaching the theoretical limits of our current materials technologies. We have refined and pared down and optimized things to the point where any significant gains are going to come more from new materials technology than figuring out better ways to use existing materials.
But I also think there is a point where going much lighter doesn’t gain you a lot. There may be people that disagree, but I think it is not always better to go lighter. I do think there are opportunities for optimizing shapes to provide better performance in certain areas. So within given weights there are still ways to optimize through stiffness. I think that is an imprecisely understood science by many in terms the way a frame reacts to different loads through its load cycle. They really have different effects on a bikes performance – simply maximizing stiffness is not always the best.
On the value of sponsoring a ProTour team:
It’s very important both from direct interaction and feedback, as well as internal pressure. When we went to the new EVO from the existing Super Six, there was some subtle resistance from some of the guys on the team because they really liked the Super Six and had won some grand tours on it. It was a very traditional feeling bike, very stiff and had that perception of speed and road feel, something they were used to.
So when we introduced the EVO, because of the way the frame was designed and the way it absorbs road impact, the initial impression was that this isn’t as meaty and explosive as before. But after working with them and saying here is the theory behind it and here is why it feels the way it feels, here is how it makes you more efficient and here is how it makes you faster, they came around.
Watching [Ivan] Basso start to descend better because of the way the bike tracks through corners, and watching guys sprinting better because of how the rear responds under power, those things help us push ourselves to deliver tangible performance benefits to these guys and knowing that they are the reason that we are doing it and we have to take it to them and they have to be able to see and feel the difference. That is what drives us to improve. You cant do anything for just marketing reason because they wont have the confidence in it. It has to be legitimate and real in order to pass muster with our harshest critics.
On the exciting growth of cycling:
I think one of the cooler things that is happening right now is how for more and more people cycling is becoming part of their everyday life. Heretofore it has always been sort of a niche sport where people are super passionate about it. But now it seems that it is becoming this accepted fun and cool activity. People are either doing it with their families, or planning vacations around it. You see this explosion in high end cycling tours, where people are choosing to do that instead of going to the beach or playing golf. That shift of social acceptance and the way people are thinking about their leisure time is to me very encouraging and cool. It’s like the $8000 road bike is replacing the Harley Davidson.