IFMA: from squishy balls to £1000 wheel jigs

It's Day Two for Peter Eland on trade show duty in Germany
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Well, the feet are aching and the voice is sore. Yes, that's the consequence of a day tramping the aisles at IFMA. There's been plenty to see.

First off I wandered down into the 'big stands' hall I described yesterday, with low expectations of anything much interesting. Huge areas devoted to Veloring, ZEG and the other buying groups were no-go, and the stands of Pantherwerke (massed ranks of mostly low-end MTBs), Hercules (all sorts of conventional bikes) and the like failed to impress. Then, a nice surprise at the Kynast stand.

Kynast have for years been the (usually anonymous) frame manufacturers for a host of German brands, and have a formidable manufacturing capability. But there weren't the gleaming ranks of bare frames I'd have expected on their stand: instead, a range of adult (upright) tricycles and a semi-recumbent town bike similar to the Riese und Mueller Equinox (tested in Velo Vision issue 2). Starting off in German to the guy on the stand, it was a nice surprise for him to turn out to be another Brit, Bob Siddens. He explained that Kynast were seeing the writing on the wall for European manufacture: as soon as the anti-dumping regulations (imposing heavy duties on imported frames) are removed (he reckoned four or five years), Kynast just wouldn't be seriously competitive. So, they're looking for a new direction...hence the own-brand range. Not just the trike (which caught my eye, and is aimed I guess at elderly or disabled riders) but also an electric-assist load bike looking for post office customers, and a few neat children's machines. I can't see a few lines like this replacing thir huge contracting work, but I guess it's a start.

Moving on, and the obligatory concept bike was provided by (of all people) Bianchi, who had come up with an actually almost practical design for a town bike, incorporating luggage, weatherproofing and lights etc in a futuristic nicely-styled structure. A prototype (in a glass case) was on display, but may or may not have been rideable...

That was about it in the first hall, so I moved up one level, to what I characterised yesterday as the 'Far East' area. This turned out to be a bit of a misnomer: suppliers from Eastern Europe had a significant presence among the ranks of OEM parts suppliers. Factories in Poland and Slovakia caught my eye with big displays. No-name forks, cranks, brakes, chains and the like were all over, along with plenty of shiny alu frames...and a few German companies looking a bit forlorn in the middle.

The OEM stuff petered out towards the far end of the hall, and I started running into interesting stands again. Busch und Mueller, purveyors of high-end lighting, had a few new interesting bits and pieces: 12V lighting systems with super-efficient dynamos (promised for ages, actually available sometime next year) and a dinky very lightweight red LED light system which could be attached into the vents of any helmet, giving some nice high-up visibility.

All of the other big lighting manufacturers were nearby: Cateye, Hella, FER and a few others...

Then came the inventor's area, with as expected some fairly strange stuff. First, a stand offering pneumatic saddles with a difference: the 'ride-ball' is just that, a plastic high-pressure ball you sit on. It felt very squishy and comfy on a short test ride. The inventor refreshingly admitted it's not great for longer rides...

Next up, a folding recumbent trike I'd seen before...then two professional stands from recumbent manufacturers Arved Klutz Liegeraeder (Germany) and Optima Ligfietsen (Holland). Behind those, a new even longer version of the Long John load bike, from some guys also building some nice tandems.

But my favourite stand was the one exhibiting a wheel centring jig to die for: they must be clockmakers in the day job. This was a massive, beautifully-machined bit of kit for the wheelbuilding fetishist, all polished brass and dinky details. Massive dials (with the mechanisms self-built and patented) would make for no-eyestrain truing. But the strain comes with the price: getting on for 1000 pounds, and that's just the basic version!

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