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Las Vegas, USA, October 4-8, 2004
It's the wheel thing
One of the factors allowing the substantial reduction in bike weights over the last few years has been lighter and lighter wheels and once again we're looking at our friends in the carbon fiber industry as the source of a lot of those weight savings. But low weight isn't the only thing that's going on in the world of hoops, as this year's show demonstrated.
If you can use aerospace materials to make a wheel lighter, then you can also use them to give you the leeway to add function without adding too much weight. That seems to be the thinking at CycleOps where the latest version of the PowerTap hub uses carbon fiber to save weight so you can have power-measuring functions without paying a big weight penalty.
In the 'pure gram count' space, Germany's Lightweight wheels are now available in the US through Javelin and Airo International. Lightweight has gone from being a tiny operation to now being owned by a larger composites company and production capacity has increased accordingly, so it's now possible to get these super-exotic, all-carbon wheels without making a trip to Europe.
One of the most interesting prototypes of the whole show was Shimano's Dura-Ace tubeless wheel. Shimano is working with several tyre makers on this project, with the object of the exercise being to produce a road wheel that has the resistance to impact punctures of mountain bike tubeless set-ups or tubulars. Michelin and Hutchinson are both known to be working on the rubber side of the combination, and there are whispers of 'tubeless-ready' wheels from Bontrager. Shimano also announced new ten-speed wheels at the Ultegra level to go with the new 10-speed Ultegra group.
Finally, back in County Light-and-aero, HED introduced versions of its H3 and Alps wheels with all-carbon rims, saving weight over previous incarnations.