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Interbike Demo East Reflections, Part 1
By Christopher Fauske
Date: 10/11/2009
Interbike Demo East Reflections, Part 1

Demo East Reflections, Part 1
The benefits of being a smaller bike manufacturer.

Demo East is arranged by Interbike to offer retailers, dealers, and the public who might have had neither the time nor the money to make it out to Las Vegas the chance to visit Providence, RI, instead and take a look in more intimate surroundings at some of what will be new for 2010.

Sometimes the weather cooperates. Some days the wind blows flat across Roger Williams Park. Or it rains. Or both. Whatever the weather, the weekend also brings races 4 and 5 of the Verge New England Cyclocross Series.

The concourse at Roger Williams Park on a good day.

Photo © 2009 John Vogel

Demo East, now in its second year, saw a variety of vendors. But one of the most remarkable, and telling, attributes of the show is the large crowd of riders hanging around the sites of the big vendors, while visitors to the smaller manufacturers have the opportunity for long chats and extensive explanations of what’s new.

A down economy and an overwhelming interest in the big names might suggest tough times ahead for those looking to preserve choice and variety in cycling. Not so, say those with a niche they’ve identified and intend to fill. Or those who believe they have the opportunity to stand out from a field where there is a converging standard of bike design, design which one manufacturer describes as bikes with “a down tube that looks like a 2 by 4.” And this comment came from a technical director of one of the companies now offering such a bike.

The big news is that we have signed AG2R for 2010.

Stop by the Kuota stall, however, and you get a completely different story and lots of conversation. “First,” says Dominique Fortin, technical advisor of Kuota's North American operation, based just outside Montréal, “the big news is that we have signed AG2R for 2010.” In 2009, European continental team Agritubel and US continental team OUCH, presented by Maxxis, were the two largest teams riding Kuotas. Brice Feillu did the brand proud, winning stage 7 of Le Tour. In the U.S., OUCH, which will be United Health Care in 2010, had a strong year, but signing a Pro Tour team might be a game changer for the Italian manufacturer which takes its name from the Lombardian dialect’s word for “summit.”

Kuota offers a massive BB junction for lateral stiffness.

Photo © 2009 John Vogel

The North American supplier is hoping the AG2R deal will help re-shape its customers’ sense of Kuota’s range. “We’re at about 30 percent of capacity in North America,” says Patrice Lemieux. “New England has been very hard in the recession, and California almost dead,” but “we’re mainly a road brand, though we’re known as a tri bike manufacturer in the U.S.” so there is room for growth. For the first time, Kuota North America sold as many road bikes as tri bikes last year. There is a new marketing campaign coming in January 2010 and the brand is “really looking for growth,” says Lemieux.

Technical changes for next year include Shimano’s Di2 wireless shifter that is completely integrated. The forward braze-on has the motor inside. “The motor is so strong,” says Fortin, “you need a strong mount. Ours is riveted into the carbon. It’s the same fiber, the same fork [as the 2009 model]; only the frame has been re-worked to run all the cables inside” for a really clean bike line.

AG2R will be relying on the KOM in 2010, a “pure climber’s bike,” says Fortin. “The rear end is super short. The chain stays are only 402mm and the top tubes are 1cm longer. The front fork rake is 48mm. It’s a very open bike. The rear responds as soon as you go up, but when you go down you have a responsive front.”

KOM’tight tolerances allow for shorter chain stays.

Photo © 2009 John Vogel

Both Fortin and Lemieux are keen to draw attention to Kuota’s "Kuota Optimized Shape Management" concept, which means “a larger bike will have more material for stiffness than a smaller bike. A smaller bike will ride the same as a larger one,” says Fortin. And that might be why United Health’s riders will not exclusively be on either the KULT road bike, designed for those not interested only in climbing, or on the KOM; rather, the various riders will have a choice of bike. Both AG2R and United Health will also have the Kuuen-K time trial bike to call on.

Kuota’s TT Kueen-K, with recessed brakes.

Photo © 2009 John Vogel

As we talked some more, Fortin and LeMieux began to wax lyrical about summer 2010 and the two road races coming to the province of Québec, part of the UCI calendar, on the 10th and 12th of September, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and then the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal. It is, they hope, the first step en route to a UCI-sanctioned, top quality stage race through their province. Québec, they point out, has the size and the variety of terrain, including some impressive climbs, to make a stage race an interesting proposition. And, they promise, they can help draw some of the biggest names in North American cycling as well as Tour de France stage winner Feillu and the AG2R squad.


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