The SNEWSÂ® team -- which included eight editors -- spent the entire four days of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2004 scouting out the trade show scene from the paddle tank to the climbing wall and even around the dusty and quiet corners of private rooms and hidden booths. We continue this week reporting on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations that caught our eyes. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned when it should have been. We're only covering product that stood out to us and was ready for prime time, so if you're not mentioned, we either did not see you, we didn't think your product stood out sufficiently, you were showing the product behind closed curtains which implied you didn't want us to talk about it, or we were just plain clueless -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on what's moving and shaking in the world of products for cycling:
Cycling is getting more play in Outdoor
Certainly road and mountain biking are as much apart of the outdoor lifestyle as the "mainstream" sports represented at Outdoor Retailer. In fact, a sizeable number of outdoor specialty shops are already stocking or looking into stocking cycling clothing and accessories to serve their hiking, climbing, boating, skiing or trail running customers who also road or mountain bike.
For those stores that give attention to the category, there is actually a good niche opportunity here since the hardcore bike shops tend to stick with major brands like Pearl Izumi and Descente, as well as Euro brands like Assos and Castelli.
While the hardcore bike shops will migrate to Las Vegas in October for the InterBike trade show, there is a significant and increasing amount of cycling product to be found at Summer Market.
At Summer Market, the trend was styling, padding and hydration
One clear trend is toward improved chamois technology in all bike shorts, with 3-D molded foam replacing the old sewn layers of padding that wear like a loaded diaper.
Styling was also evident this year more than in years past, with attention paid to providing products that look good off the bike as much as they do on -- and that is a good thing.
And while hydration packs abound these days, the vast majority continue to be best suited to hiking and running. Only a handful appear adequately suited to mountain biking -- you rarely see road cyclists using them -- offering sufficient ventilation, streamlined fit, and secure placement on the back -- nothing worse than a pack flopping around while you're trying to keep from bouncing off the bike yourself.
And now to the products that captured our editors' eyes:
Cannondale -- The only true bike-only brand exhibiting this year at Summer Market, Cannondale has a long history that was evidenced by the well-developed product line. Perhaps the most unique product is the Nebula Baggy Shorts which feature hidden "Yank This" cinch straps that hike the shorts up for riding.
Craft -- Best known in our world for its high performance underwear, Craft also makes topnotch cycling clothing. The Valhalla Shorts are particularly nice mountain bike shorts for men and women.
Hind -- Most consumers know Hind for its performance running and fitness clothing; however, its cycling products are also well designed. Noteworthy is the new Vortex Jersey that features mesh panels welded into the back for enhanced ventilation. The women's Skizzle Shorts are certain to command attentionâ€¦from the boys.
InSport -- Another multi-sport brand focused on price point, InSport also offers some unique cycling product. Most noteworthy are the RTP Shorts, which feature a chamois with Liquicell -- essentially a thin, liquid-filled pad that's designed to cushion and reduce friction. We've tested other Liquicell products in bike gloves and even bike seats and they do soften the ride nicely.
Kelty -- The revamped line of Speed Packs, such as the Pulse and Ion, should prove popular with cyclists. It's a noticeable improvement over the current hydration packs in the line.
Salomon -- As Salomon expands its lifestyle collection, mountain biking has also been included. The stylish Scream Dirt Short has a detachable inner short with chamois, while the Dirt Jersey is suitable on and off the bike.
Sugoi -- Once considered the "poor man's Pearl Izumi," Sugoi has shown a commitment to upgrading its product line. The line now has some of the best-looking jerseys on the market and a full selection of high-quality shorts. The Gusto and Traverse Shorts should have a lot of appeal for men and women, while the Technifino Wrap Skirt with inner short is a uniquely feminine product.
The North Face -- The new Flight Series hydration packs are very well ventilated and the new Nalgene bladder system is a very good reservoir with a bite valve that actually works easily. SNEWSÂ® tested the Hammerhead and found it carries nicely and has plenty of capacity for cool weather clothing, although the much smaller Dogfish left our team feeling as if proper fit was an afterthought in the design. Look for a review on the Hammerhead coming soon.