Other industries could learn a thing or two from bicycles. Efficient by necessity and elegant by design, the bikes of 2009 make studied use of materials, geometry and artistry to get every ounce of power and panache from the oldest method of human transportation.
Then there’s the beauty of the crankset on Lance Armstrong’s Tour de California bike. Check out the concentric gears connected to the pedals. That extra unit in the center is an SRM-made power meter, sold separately, packed with eight sensors that measure everything from power output to RPMs, and are accurate to within 2%. Lance interfaces the SRM module with a computer after racing to measure his performance against his goals, where it is mashed up with data coming from the heart-rate monitor on his chest. The SRAM Red parts group and carbon fiber Bontrager rims are light enough that the extra weight of the SRM module is totally negated, making this sub-15-pound machine all about efficiency and long-haul comfort.
Bike designers would be remiss if they didn’t somehow jump on the green bandwagon, too. The bauhaus stylings of the Areaware Moof are most distinctive at the headtube, where an integrated headlight and tail-light (solar-powered, of course) peek out from under the handlebars, and the coaster-brake drivetrain also smacks of a minimalist take-only-what-you-need ethos.
What’s the trend for 2009 bike design? Carbon fiber, it’s the secret sauce in almost every bike on this list, whether it’s in the frame or the components. Unlike metal, frame-builders can make carbon fiber stiff in one direction, and flexible in another. This means that frames can be made to absorb vibration better than metal, improving long distance comfort while staying rocket stiff for sprinting. And if that isn’t efficiency, then we don’t know what is.