It was famously said, “It’s not about the bike” but, friends, I am here to say otherwise. There is perhaps no other activity where the relationship between participant and equipment is so vital and as intimate than cycling. We are not only hoping to transfer the total energy from our body to the machine we are also hoping to do so while maintaining comfort across numerous bodily contact points. Moreover, this machine should appeal to our senses with the expression of speed and efficiency seen in our mind’s eye and the feeling of agility even as we first hold it on the sales floor. The bike isn’t a partner so much as it is an extension of one’s self. Sorry, Tex, it will always be about the bicycle and that’s ok because there are very few inventions as capable and as noble as the bicycle.
Arguments abound on either side of the modern technological developments to this simple machine but we’ll leave those heated debates for the beer tent. For now, here’s a look at a few road/gravel bike trends we believe are worth a try (or at least a test ride) in 2021.
Before we even begin let’s talk about availability. 2020 saw an endless stream of news stories about the rise in popularity of cycling during the pandemic and the resulting shortage of bicycles in stores nationwide. While all outdoor gear was in short supply, no other item captured as much attention in the news as bikes did. Many of the shops and brands we spoke with for this story tell us that supplies are limited through the summer and, in many cases, much of the spring delivery is already pre-sold. So here’s our advice, be in close contact with your favorite bike shop if you want something new this year. Like, call them right now and see what availability is. And most important, do not get rid of what you have until a new one is in hand.
Dropper Posts. Yes, dropper posts for road bikes. You don’t need to be a ripping mountain biker to want this option on your bike; getting that saddle out of the way has lots of benefits even out on the road. Lowering the saddle has been proven in mountain biking to give riders more control and safety on descents by allowing the rider to get low and back on the bike and all controlled from the handlebar without having to stop to make the adjustment. Numerous drop bar models are available and many modern frames have integrated cable routing and compatibility for a clean look. The great Eddy Merckx famously stopped during races, (ahem, he was usually quite far ahead), to make saddle height adjustments to suit how his body felt and get the just-right performance feel from the bike. If you sometimes feel like Eddy felt, a dropper post makes this change instantaneous and on the move. Also, as overall bike weights get lower, the ability to add more features comes at less of a penalty than ever before and this is an upgrade that just may deliver results far beyond any extra grams.
But you know what’s really great – dropping your saddle at a stop light and getting your unclipped foot flat on the ground while remaining comfortably situated on the saddle and ready to go. No more tip-toe, sewing-machine leg waiting for the light to cycle and turn green. So, if not for your road or gravel bike just yet, a dropper post is a great addition to your commuter bike.
Road bikes are rooted in tradition and nowhere has this been seen more staunchly than handlebar design. The traditional curved bend has been largely unchanged for decades though in recent years we’ve seen a variety of rises, sweeps, flares, and alternate bends that have caught our eye. Too often we think we don’t want or need these new designs until we finally try them. And once we do it’s that how-did-I-ride-without-this-all-these-years moment. Flat top sections, flared out bends, and widths that would have your bike fitter from 10 years ago, well, throwing fits, are great upgrades even for bikes that only see pavement. It’s funny how accustomed we can become to wrist and arm pain not to mention missing out on more stability and control in the name of convention. Looking for a quick and affordable 2021 upgrade to an existing bike? New bars just might be the hands-on solution to bigger, better miles in the new year.
Casual clothing. There’s good reason behind the design and construction of traditional cycling apparel and for many days in the saddle it’s the correct choice. But thanks to material advancements and the rise of athleisure design we’ve seen all sorts of apparel styles that work great on the bike while looking cool and casual away from it. Technology and design from mountain bike shorts have been capably redrawn for road and gravel. A casual look feels nice but it’s also beneficial to have a durable pair of over shorts for bushwhacking or sitting on fences while snacking roadside on far flung country roads. Tech tees, namely merino wool styles, are a comfortable alternative from traditional jerseys and with the rise in popularity of handlebar and frame bags we no longer need that three-pocket carrying capacity on our backs. Give it a look as you plan your return to the road this season; here’s some great designs from Showers Pass and Primal Wear.
Follow any of the current generation of professional or prominent brand ambassador cyclists on social media and you’ll see an eclectic mix and match of traditional cycling gear with casual, and often vintage, apparel when they are out of competition. Try it, it works, it’s fun, and it feels good to have a casual, personal style of your very own.
Stay tuned to the blog as we’ve asked a number of Cycle Oregon friends and partners for their thoughts on 2021 trends and we’ll be featuring those here coming up soon. And truth be told, we love riding and the ride is what ultimately matters most. We look forward to riding together sometime soon.