Magnesium was an interesting developent at last years Taipei show, this year there was an avalanche of demo products made from the wonder superlight material. By next year, there will be a whole host of mass-market magnesium products as Taiwanese producers aim to differentiate themselves from cheaper competition from Indonesian, Indian, Mexican and Polish factories.
More on magnesium in a minute, first here are some of the other show highlights:
KMC displayed an 18K gold chain, the X21, produced in a limited edition of 20 000, as well as a maintenance-free, self-lubing stainless steel chain for single-speed commuting bikes. (KMC also announced it would be opening a new factory near Ho Chi Min City, one of many Taiwanese companies expected to invest in Vietnam this year).
SRAM introduced its Smart Bar handlebar and stem system. This is SRAMs trekking/comfort bike offering, aiming to simplify gear changing for newcomers to cycling.
NEARLY THERE (AGAIN)
Theyve been at it since the late 70s and introduce an improved version every three or four years but, finally, Browning looks close to having a tried-and-tested marketable gear changing system, the Browning 4-speed computerized transmission system. This automatic
transmission system was on the Lee Chi stand who are manufacturing the Browning unit. The rear transmission can be used in automatic or manual mode and changes gear even under full pedal load. Operated by an electric push-button (for manual use) or on a fully
computerized basis, the unit learns the rider's preferences. The system is planned to go into full-scale production from October this year, with an OEM price of US$150.
HYDRAULIC DISC BRAKE
Hayes of America previewed their new entry-level Hayes Hydraulic Disc Brake
System. This 425 gram system is "for cross country racing and offers the best possible
modulation," says the company, who have ben producing brakes for manufacturers such as Harley Davidson for 50 years.
NOT MADE IN TAIWAN
At its getting to know us better meeting (previewed on this website) COLIPED unveilved its new Made in Europe logo. COLIPED represents 180+ European cycle and bike parts manufacturers. As well as sporting the Euro colours of blue and gold the new logo includes the country of origin of the bike or part.
As a category theyve still to set the market alight but developments in electic bike technology is coming on apace and perhaps by next year the batteries will have slimmed down enough to make electric-assist cycles a force to be reckoned with. Giant is ahead of the game, producing electric bikes for Ford and Renault as well as its own-brand machines, which this year benefitted from better styling.
Giant are also at the forefront of trying to popularise folding bikes, making it a mainstream product category rather than an interesting niche one. The MR-4 is a folding road-style bike produced specifically for the Japanese market but which could be rolled out worldwide next year. The Halfway has a Mike Burrows style monobalde fork and is easy to fold. At 21.5 pounds its also pretty light. It was previewed at last years show but was given much greater prominence this year with a bigger market penetration expected of it.
The tyres marketed first by the likes of Green Tyre plc are finally being given performance characteristics by the big tyre brands. Both IRC and Maxxis were making big noises at Taipei about their tubeless MTB tyres. Both are expecting to be specced as Original Equipment on many top-end bikes for 2001 with the real rush starting in 2002. And not just for downhill bikes (for which IRC already has a tyre and rim combination). Cross country MTBs would benefit from the flat-free potential of solid tyres, as would the millions of bikes sat, unused, in sheds around the world thanks to punctures.
The Maxxis range runs on normal rims. A road tyre is in development.
BACK TO MAGNESIUM...
First there was Kirk Precision. An idea ahead of its time (shame about the cracked frames). Then ATB Sales saw the Whyte and bought in their magnesium frames from Euroland. Now, its the turn of the Taiwanese. They are planning to turn a cottage industry into the next big thing. Magnesium frames can be up to 30 percent lighter than cro-mo or alu frames.
The Taipei show saw cranks, rims, frames and just about everything else made from magnesium. Given half a chance, the Taiwanese would make helmets from the stuff.
Magnesium is notoriously difficult to work its flammable for a starrt and its not always possible to cast an aluminium design in magnesium (although Deetz Design and Development had a few demo cast magnesium pieces on their stand). Magnesium cannot be cold-worked, is susceptible to corrosion and is hard to machine. That hasnt stopped the Taiwanese, though, so start to gen up on magnesium now because it will be on everyones lips in a a few months. Do some swotting on www.magnesium.org, the website of Josh Deetz, of Deetz Design and Development, the person who pushed Taiwanese frame builders to get savvy with aluminium in the 1980s. Deetz is also the sales agent for Magnesium Electron, a manufacturer of magnesium alloys.
(Snippet from info-dense www.magnesium.org: "Magnesium (Mg) is a silvery white metal that is similar in appearance to aluminum but weighs one-third less. With a density of only 1.738 grams per cubic centimetre, it is the lightest structural metal known").
Shimano is expected to introduce magnesium components at next year's Taipei show. The Japanese company already produces magnesium parts for fishing tackle.
Yoshizo Shimano, president of Shimano, said at the Taipei show that Taiwan would remain important for the worldwide cycle industry despite much production shifting to new
production bases such as China and Vietnam. "Only Taiwan possesses the
advanced research and development capabilities to meet the demanding needs of the world's consumers," he said.
Shimano said he was worried about the rising power of 'third generation' production bases, and the consequent over supply and the destruction of prices. He expressed hope that Taiwan
"can assist in the recovery of the market through its earnest commitment and intelligent efforts."