Billed as the world’s finest cycling expedition, Rouleur Classic is an end of year event that ashmei has attended since 2015. This year, we sent the ride team’s Rauri Hadlington to share his impressions.
The first time I had chance to check out the Rouleur Classic event was in 2017, courtesy of ashmei. Truth be told, it was awesome checking out the latest kit from the great and the good of cycling (whilst doing some geeky cycling celeb spotting!). So this year when I was asked to go back to review the season-ending event – billed as the greatest cycle show on earth – and I was only too happy to oblige (read I begged them for tickets until they finally relented).
If you don’t know the event, it’s a small, high-end cycling expo in London’s Bloomsbury area. Alongside the usual stands there is also a theatre where various talks are given by the great and good in global cycling. It’s a pretty small affair and seemingly attended by anyone who’s anyone (and me) in cycling. This makes it a particularly great place for cycling royalty spotting.
So what caught my eye? The first thing I checked out was a talk by FK Day, the co-founder if SRAM about tomorrow’s cycling tech. Due disclosure – I have a bit of a vested interest in SRAM’s future products, which I’ll go into a bit more later. The talk was pretty interesting, with FK speaking a fair bit about World Bike Relief. For the uninitiated, this is his charity project to supply affordable bikes to developing countries as an alternative means of transport. There were some slightly cliched and stage-managed questions (he was asked which was better, seeing an African girl riding a charity bike or seeing a pro win a grand tour on SRAM, he of course, struggled to answer, but that may be because only one of those things has ever happened). It was fascinating to hear about the approach they took. Their aim was not just to build an affordable bike, but one that will be both resilient and easy to maintain. He also spoke about how the challenges of designing this bike were not entirely dissimilar to the challenges of designing a high-end eTap group set for the pro’s – even if the ultimate goal was vastly different. He shot off before any Q&As were opened to the audience, so I didn’t get to pursue my own SRAM based agenda.
Out in the main exhibition hall I headed first to say hello on the ashmei stand. This year the brand collaborated with Bikevo.com – a newly launched app based virtual coach fronted by Alessandro Ballan. It’s always cool to see companies with a similar vision pull together, the shared performance orientated DNA meant there was a clear synergy. The moisture management of ashmei’s Merino + Carbon fabric lends itself well to indoor training sessions like those of Bikevo (I can tell you from hours of sweaty experience!) and I’ll be interested to see how the virtual coaching works over time.
As you’d expect, there was also a fair bit of other bike porn around. For me, the star of the show had to be the Felipe Pantone x Romance Specialized – an one-off custom that I’d heard would be auctioned for FK Day’s World Bike Relief project, valued at a tasty $35,000. Custom paint jobs were clearly on trend. A Peter Sagan S-Works featuring a metal flake green finish that was outdone (possibly for the first time) by a Titici – where the branding was finished in gold leaf…because…well, why not? Otherwise, aero was very much the order of the day – and highlights included the Cannondale Supersix, a new Cervelo S5 (the one with the Y shaped stem) and the S-Works Shiv (the one with the fin spoiler on the seat tube and triple head tube ).
There was some impressive tech out on show too. The guys from HydroVision Optics caught the eye (pun intended) with their custom-painted sunglasses and helmets, which weren’t as eye-wateringly expensive as I thought they’d be. Launching at the show was Hexo, who showcased their innovative custom helmet offering. From a 3D scan of your head they will 3D print the helmet to your exact size and shape. Aside from the custom fit, the design of the helmet was pretty special, made up of a honeycomb structure that was light and breathable and because of the fit, impressively aero.
There were a couple more stalls that I was drawn to. First were the guys from Colnago, who have just taken on the distribution for Ceramic Speed, the low friction bearing company. I spent some time playing with their samples and the difference between ceramic and stainless steel was stark – if it’s within your budget. I spent some time chatting about their concept bike too (the one with the shaft drive train) and it turns out that this doesn’t actually work yet. It will turn the wheel but the drive shaft won’t shift – although apparently they’re in talks with some engineers in and out of cycling to get it running. That said, given the UCI’s struggles in coming to terms with disc brakes, I don’t see something like that going mainstream anytime soon.
Finally, I dug out the SRAM stand. Earlier this year, I bought a semi custom frame that is specifically designed for SRAM 1x eTap. The only problem being, that group set doesn’t exist. I asked if it was coming and the guys on the stand said “Well, we’re big fans of 1x and big fans of eTap so, let’s see”. All of a day or two later the SRAM eTap 12 speed cassette and rear derailleur were spotted at the Criterium Saitama, with what looks like a clutch in the mech. This would help make it 1x compatible…
I think that pretty much wraps it up. It would have been cool to see some more of the talks and spend more time chatting to some of the stall holders but by the time I’d got all of the above done we were being kicked out! Hopefully I’ll sneak back in next year…until then I’ll be holding out for that groupset!