There are brands, personalities, and event promoters that have achieved exceptional accomplishments in 2015 by questioning and challenging the status quo. Here we are talking about forward-thinking concepts for the sport, product design, or marketing that were surprising and inspiring with the potential to revolutionize specific segments of the industry.
You might ask, why set up these Accomplishments of the Year Awards? Well, we want to honor the accomplishments of teams and persons who are ready to revolutionize the known by creating new formats and concepts. These accomplishments simply don’t fit any category. The Award-winners were chosen by the expertise of the participating international journalists and the expert jury.
R&D Team of the Year: Specialized e-bike R&D Team
While e-mountainbikes have certainly reached a new level of on-trail performance, we all know that power is nothing without control. In order to fully harness the immense potential of e-assist power, the innovative superbrand Specialized have developed the Mission Control App, allowing the rider to fully customise the function of their bike . Utilizing the knowledge gained from seven years as the engineering manager of Specialized’s mountain bike department, Jan Talavasek now heads up e-bike R&D and is the main brain behind the development of the new Specialized Turbo Levo model range. We’ve had various chances to test prototypes of the Turbo Levo FSR Expert 6Fattie, and were impressed with the technical solutions; although not a finished product, some of the new innovations are very exciting. On the hardware side of things, Jan Talavasek’s team showed the world clever details to increase usability and reliability while enhancing smart simplicity.
The revolutionary component on the Specialized e-mountainbike range is not the hardware though, it’s the software. With the Mission Control App, Specialized allows the rider to not only choose the assist mode, but also personalise all functions such as adjusting motor tune, acceleration, max motor assistance, etc. Furthermore, the app will log your ride and provide a lot of data for analysis (which can be shared with Strava too). The highlight of the app is called Smart Control, an algorithm that will automatically adjust motor assistance based on diverse variables that you can set. With the ever-increasing quantity of sensors and electronics in components, it’s now up to the manufacturers to take advantage of this data to make our bike ride smarter and more efficiently – and also allow us to tailor it to our personal preferences and needs.
While adding more intelligent technology might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Jan Talavasek and his team’s Mission Control App have shown what an important role software will play in the future, pushing the boundaries of what is thinkable and possible. The development teams of innovative brands (especially in the e-mountainbike sector) will consist of software engineers as much as technical engineers and designers in the future. And like on your iPhone or Android smartphone, it’s the software, not the hardware, that will ultimately make the difference.
Event of the Year: Giro Grinduro
This year has seen a revolution in road racing. Both the Superenduro B-Road and Grinduro celebrated a successful start, bringing a new attitude and style to skinny-tired racing.
Just like enduro brought together XC racers, freeriders, downhillers, enduro specialists, and normally non-competitive riders a few years ago, the Superenduro B-Road and Grinduro have united racers from across the entire cycling spectrum. While the jury and journalists loved both formats, there could be only one Award winner. While Superenduro B-Road has the potential to be a sustainable and more popular format appealing to many traditional road racers, it’s the Grinduro format which really closes the gap between road and mountain bike racing. Roadies, gravel riders, downhillers, XC racers, enduro riders, and cyclocross racers shared the stoke together at this exciting event held in October 2015 in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Grinduro’s concept was conceived by Joe Parkin and successfully realized by Giro’s Dain Zaffke and his team.
In the beginning, bike choice was as unclear as the expectations from the racers, and that was the beauty of the event – it would be the passion of the riders themselves who would define it. Thanks to a Gran Fondo-style mass start and no overall timing, just four timed stages, friends could ride and race together, and even help each other by team time-trialing in one stage that consisted of six miles of rolling pavement. A race format that encourages people to make new friends and have fun together out on the course… sound good? Then throw in handmade bikes, camping, fires, a wild night of music, beer, and delicious food prepared by Gourmet Century chef Chris Diminno.
One thing‘s for sure: this race format will not only inspire other event promoters around the globe to hold similar events, but will also be the start of new developments and new innovations. Imagine dropper posts for your gravel grinder to enhance downhill capabilities, frames with even more tire clearance, or a 1x setup with an even wider range of gears to endure harsh climbs and downhills.
“Grinduro perfectly blends the best of gravel racing, enduro, and a gran fondo into a format that puts fun and camaraderie in first place,“ says ENDURO Mountainbike Magazine’s founder, Robin Schmitt. “This exact lifestyle is fresh, fun, and badass, meeting the Zeitgeist of the new generation of cyclists we want to embrace with our new publication, GRAN FONDO – Cycling Magazine.“
Newcomer of the Year: Bold Cycles
Looking at today’s landscape of enterprises, you have those big players with established names, huge resources, and the power to push new trends and new technology – whether it’s good or bad. Then you have those small companies that maybe don’t have the big money, but have a vision and passion. Those that act by conviction, and are crazy enough to fight for their ideas despite a lot of nonbelievers, are those that will make a difference and make change. This is why companies like Google or Facebook are crazy about buying small innovative start-ups; it’s those individuals and lateral thinkers that personally and radically believe in their work who drive innovation.
In 2015, we saw the Swiss company Bold Cycles become one of the most desired brands on the planet – out of nowhere! No one had seen them coming, as only a few people knew their deep technical background and long history in the bicycle industry. As a two-man show (and with enough financial resources provided by the family to support their ambitious goals for the next years without any risk for consumers), designers and owners Oliver Kreuter and Vincenz Droux surprised (and quite frankly shocked) the industry with their innovative internal shock design. On the one side it was the radical bike design, on the other side the modern approach and entire marketing campaign they launched – which as a very small company was more successful than a lot we’ve seen out there in the past few years.
The attention to detail is stunning, marking an incredible debut for the the small Swiss company who are not interested in taking on the big brands, but instead want to offer the consumer something unique and special. The Bold Linkin Trail represents a new thinking, a new level of integration that makes bikes cleaner, simpler, and more aesthetically appealing. This newcomer is definitely a company to watch on both the marketing and (even more) the product side. Never underestimate the people that live their passion and have a clear vision!
Words: Trevor Worsey Photos: Christoph Bayer / Dain Zaffke / David A. Smith/Dusty Berm Shot / Jordan Haggard / Wolfgang Watzke
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