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Tech features

Taiwan hits the road

The 2002 Taipei Bike show

By Tim Maloney, (temporarily displaced) European editor

The hall
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Unlike previous years, when mass-produced low-end product predominated, the 2002 Taipei International Cycle Show featured a new level of quality and innovation, especially in the road bike sector from Taiwan bike makers. The Taiwan cycle industry has taken a page from makers of high-tech products and shortened the product development curve and improved the quality dramatically. Slick-looking, smooth TIG welded frames with carbon fiber parts were all over the place, as were trick carbon fiber forks and parts. But Taipei is an industry show in all regards, with Taiwanese frame builders and parts makers showing their new wares, which will later end up on bikes and in store showcases worldwide under various well-known brand names.

Trigon's shaped top tube
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This year's Taipei show saw some Taiwanese manufacturers showing road frames of a never before seen level of quality in construction and finish, perhaps even rivalling Italian product for the first time. Indeed, well known Italian and American bike marketeers were shopping for next year's models that will undoubtedly be on show in Milano and Las Vegas in the Fall.

Oval fork
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Morgan Nicol, founder of Ritchey International has branched out in a new direction, founding Oval, dedicated to producing top end components like the new carbon fiber aerodynamic fork, created and patented by Lance Armstrong's go-fast guru John Cobb. Look for the Oval aero fork to make its first appearance in this years Tour De France and be available at retail later this year. Oval also has nice new bars and stems.

Giant's imminent TCR carbon
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Giant is just rolling out their TCR Compact Carbon Fiber frame as used by the ONCE-Eroski team. Developed and built in Taiwan, this wicked-looking TCR carbon fiber sports FSA carbon fiber cranks and superlight wheels with carbon fiber rims. Giant should be shipping the TCR Compact carbon fiber this spring.

FSA carbon stem
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Speaking of FSA, big Tim Campen, Full Speed Ahead's USA sales and marketing manager showed cyclingnews.com the new K-Force Lite carbon fiber road stem. 120 grams with carbon fiber and CNC 7000 series aluminium and titanium hardware, this will eventually mate with a K-Force Lite carbon fiber road handlebar. Plus, FSA is especially proud of their peloton presence this year with the French Bonjour squad, but their top quality product is 100 percent Taiwan made.

Trigon's tidy stays & BB
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Trigon carbon fiber had the most advanced array of carbon fiber products at the Taipei show. The new trend coming to high end road bikes for 2003 will be the next generation of carbon fiber bikes, where shaped "obllix" carbon fiber tubes are bonded to aluminium sub assemblies like integrated head-tube and seat tube and lug mated to a "monobox" bottom bracket. This offers the light weight and comfort of carbon fiber, with the stiffness of aluminium in key areas like head tube and bottom bracket. Trigon also offers forks, seatposts, stems, handlebars and cranks in carbon fiber.

Amazing brushwork
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Monie Gaba showed us a beautiful array of hand-painted frames available through Fritz Jou. "These are all hand-decorated in China by artisans who usually paint high end pottery." Cost is not inexpensive but not prohibitive, according to Gaba.

Grams: not many
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Massive headset and hub maker Chin Haur had some trick stuff among their more pedestrian offerings: a 68 gram front hub from American Classic and a one-piece, CNC-machined cassette body in lightweight aluminium that weighs 100 grams!

But Taipei is truly the global bike show and American firm SRAM took the occasion to tell the industry about upcoming plans for their new acquisition RockShox. SRAM President Stan Day explained that "we've been discussing this (purchase) for five years… now we will have combined annual sales of $160m million, number two parts supplier in the industry behind Shimano ($900 million annual sales)."

Carbon, carbon everywhere
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After an impassioned pitch on behalf of the Bikes Belong lobbying effort in the USA, Day spoke of the coming benefits of combining SRAM and RockShox. "We'll have some financial synergies and a greater critical mass by combining the two companies, with single sales point for bike companiess for drivetrain, suspension and brake systems. We'll offer improved product development via increased emphasis on engineering." SRAM will further announce plans around the beginning of June after the integration of RockShox is completed, but industry insiders were unanimous in the opinion that the marriage of parts powerhouse SRAM and suspension leaders Rock Shox will be a boon for industry and consumers alike.

Even Time Sport made it to Taipei from their base in France, where sales chief Alain Descroix told cyclingnews of the impending launch of their Impact pedals on the world market, to be available mid-May. "We have created a new website, www.timeimpact.com to launch our new product." Descroix Explained that for example, the Impact Titanium, weighing in at 240g / pair would cost about $250 in the US. "The Impact has 31 sq/cm of surface area, 16 percent more than our previous model and a bioposition of 7.7mm between the pedal axle center and the ball of the foot."

Once again, a quest for dynamic innovation and an ever increasing search for quality products has propelled the Taiwan bike industry to new heights, a trend that looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.


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