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Monday, March 23, 2015

Taipei Cycle 2015: Where did all the love go?

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Taipei Cycle 2015 has closed its doors, the booths tucked back into the dusty corner of a warehouse and the bleary-eyed industry cogs with their suitcases packed for the next round of glad-handing niceties. The 2016 product year has already started arriving from the future to tell the cycling press what we all need to be lighter, stiffer, more efficient, more aero or simply better looking.

Last week I did my own part to shuffle the carpets between the stacks of products and glassy-eyed brand managers to see what the story of Taipei Cycle 2015 might be.

There were some good products. There were some great products. There were some really great people doing their best to edge their brands a little bit closer to the center of the cycling industry universe... and there were those who were just looking for a date to the dance.

I was asked repeatedly what I thought the story of the show might be. There was a certain desperation in the question from brand managers, and attendees alike. I would venture to say, out of the risk of having completely misread the show, but within the question lies the answer. 

My first impression was that the Big Bike had arrived from America wrapped in bacon to rule the day. Everyone had their fat bikes on display. 

If 2013 was the year of the disc brake, and last year was... who knows what... maybe more of the same. Then this year was really the year the fire went out. 

Maybe it was because it was the last day of the show, but in speaking with a few exhibitors from a wide cross section of the industry exhibitors and journalists I may have stumbled onto the theme of the show. 

Like a marriage that has gone on a bit too long, it felt like the exhibitors and attendees were simply going through the motions of Taipei Cycle for the sake of habit or for the sake of the children... and very possibly for the thrill and excitement of stepping out after hours.

Taichung Bike Week in the Fall is where all the action happens and the future of cycling is cast. Taipei Cycle serves merely to restate what will be available at the retail level before Eurobike and Interbike. Shanghai comes at the beginning of May, so the production end needn't represent. Taipei is the incredible shrinking trade show and everybody knows it. Yet, everybody still puts on their best face to let the industry know they are fine. Some deals are still made and some great products are still on display. But the overall feeling is that there were better places people may have rather been or greater causes they may have rather dedicated themselves to, than merely showing up because Taipei Cycle is still there. 

It is sad to watch the love light go out of your local bike expo, but I wonder just how long it can continue without a serious marriage encounter. Taipei Cycle is headed for Heartbreak Hotel. 

Some takeaways:  

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There were countless reconfigurations of carbon frames and every flavor.. to the point of completely losing any flavour altogether. They wash over the senses and are soon forgotten. Keith had his lineup ready. 

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I briefly swung by Rikulau, a custom metal frame designer that works in league with Ora to put out some nice frames. They were sporting an updated design.

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Several tool makers were there to flaunt their wares. Lezyne has rapidly grown into a major force. I just wish they could engineer another 40min. of power into my headlight.

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There were booths dedicated to bottle specialists.

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Fancy graphics adorned every type of component imaginable as cycling, individualism and vanity are all close neighbors.

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I had a great time chatting up Rob at the Pro-Lite booth over a coffee as he pumped the new line-up.

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This frame that looks like it was rigged from broom handles is actually a rosewood bicycle frame that its makers claim to be stiffer than bamboo. The adhesive work was a bit haphazard, but they had some guts.

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Steel made an appearance, but the year of the fixie has come and gone. That was something that was very apparent.

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Some of the big booths were taken out of mothballs. Others scaled down.

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A few famous faces made appearances. 

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I was happy to stop by the Sheng Yang booth to see if William Ko was around, but they just had the usual display of retail products.

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Birzman was introducing one of the few necessary additions to the cycling toolkit in this day and age with a saddlebag torque tool that can play nice with carbon tubing. It is so easy to over torque CF and compromise a good tube when doing adjustments out on the road. This may be a useful solution.

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Taokas, the frame built for the Asian physique has grown in stature. Their name is a very proud reference to Ta-chia's history as a home to indigenous Taokas speaking peoples.

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I was also pleased to see how Tern has been growing in its partnerships and product lines. I met with Tern representatives Eric Mah and Dwight ruling to take a look at some new products. Dwight pulled me around back to look at his own Tern commuter, freshly packed up with road grime. It is a usable bike that can be easily broken down and configured to fight through the roads of Taipei.

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Industrial and graphic design were major players on the day. They do a lot for any brand these days. 

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A Wall of Voodoo.

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The Fat Bikes. 

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A booth that may be compensating for something....

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Then there were all the little things.... The decals, pads, screws, spokes, nipples, hangars and doodads that round out a complete bike.

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When Ora comes out with a Titanium Fat Bike mold, you know the phenomenon is at its zenith. 

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Disc brakes were in abundance. 

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BLK TEC. Wheels made their Taipei Cycle debut after a long road to production.

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Primavera had their redesigned Festino on display among other selections. I always love to visit with these folks. They only source their tubing locally. 

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A peek at some nipples. 

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The bike company everyone runs from. Maybe they hope the name will be contagious. 

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I couldn't help but feel an awkward embarrassment for the companies that shamelessly take their styling cues from established companies like Specialized and Trek. 

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Lots of tubes to mix and match for the frame of your choosing. 

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Then there was lots of phone scanning and looking bored. 

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High up in the rafters I saw Rocky Huang with his Tya branded steel bikes

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By noon on the second day the cracks in the artifice appear as exhibitors break down and make a dash for the exits. 

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I can't help but ponder what the future of our Taipei Cycle might be. But it can't keep going like it has. This is not a knock on some of the great people and companies represented, but the show needs to find a new spark. 

It is still a lock for next year as the show will coincide with a Velo-City Conference, but beyond that the future is uncertain. There may be new challenges and also new opportunities for Taipei Cycle in the future... just about the time the products from this year's Taichung Bike Week come to market. 

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4 comments:

  1. Are there many people who bike on fat bikes in Taiwan? They are becoming slowly popular here in the Canadian prairies because of our snow and ice (except for this year. Quite warm.).

    Or do many at least use studded tires. I can't imagine a lot of Tawainese live in the mountain top areas..

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  2. Taiwan is too warm and steep. They are sll for export.

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  3. Thanks for the comments Andrew on Pro-Lite. We were actually flat out until 3 30pm on the Saturday. I always go with zero expectations and always come away a happy bunny.TBW as you know is getting bigger and I have been very busy securing the future of the event with some announcements to be made soon hopefully. Dont get me started on that awful event last week in Shanghai, drinking sessions and breweries come to mind.

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