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A legion of bike dealers, retailers, media and the occasional cycling celebrities have descended upon the small town of Friedrichshafen, Germany on the Germany/Swiss/Austrian border to take part in Eurobike, Europe’s annual bike exposition to showcase the newest and greatest in bike (as well as swim and run) gear for the 2012 season.

We’ve been cruising the expansive show floors, navigating wandering showgoers like a bumper car seeking a clear path. What did we find on our first day? Some prototype stuff in booth back rooms that we’re still sworn to secrecy on (sorry, must protect our interests!) But there’s still plenty to talk about relevant to the tri market that will hit the market for the new year. Here’s a few highlights we liked…

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Profile Design Sync 2 Hydration Belt 

It’s a departure for the brand known first for its aerobars and until recently for a line of wetsuits and wheels, to get into the hydration belt game. We expected another “me too” belt. And we were shocked and how new and different this baby is.

It’s called the Sync 2 Hydration Belt, and it’s not only a cleverly-designed one-hand bottle system, but the difference-maker it’s unbelievably incredible level of customization. “We think we’ve done something unique in the market,” belt co-designer Mark Vandermolen told LAVA. We tend to agree.

For starters, the BPA-free and highly ergonomic 8-ounce bottles fit into the holster at a 45-degree angle, which upon trying we found pretty ideal for smooth entry and exit. The holster clip itself is an L-shaped design, into which the bottle easily clips in and out. Belt co-designer Mark Vandermolen said in testing, they affixed the belt to a paint can shaker upside-down, and put in full bottles—as well as full frozen bottles. None came out.

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OK, so what bottle options are there: A two-bottle? Three-bottle? Four bottle? How about, any bottle option you like? In any setup you choose?

Instead of being sewn into the belt, the bottles clips slide onto the belt, much like an accessory might, and you can put as many bottles as you like, wherever you want to. Like the idea of racing with one bottle directly in back? Or two, but located just forward of your hips? Or two behind the hips, with an accessory belt anchored tightly between them? Wherever you want them, just slide them into location.

But to affix them there, Profile provides a neoprene, Velcro-backed “cap” that mates to the backside of the bottle clip, also affixed with Velcro (see first photo). The back piece (with soft neoprene that rests against the skin) is countersunk in the middle, and locks the clip into location. Full customization in your belt.

And yes, there are colors for the belts; black belts with black, red and blue piping as well as a white belt with black, blue, red and pink piping. A few pros have been offered the bottle and while it’s not likely to be seen on any athletes at Ironman 70.3 Worlds, there’s a high liklihood some may be seen at the Hawaii Ironman. Pricing has not been set, but Vandermolen said it will likely range between $40 and $45 for a basic two-bottle system, with added bottles and accessories (pouches, etc.) also available.

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Lezyne Air Bleed System

In the “small details” department, the cats at Lezyne are the kings of fixing the tiniest things. Yes, it’s the company that makes those amazingly sexy anodized pumps and multitools (see them featured in the Workbench section of our August/September 2011 issue of LAVA). The small crew debuted both an impressive, low-profile and USB-rechargeable lithium ion lighting collection (which ranges from $70 to $110) as well as a sexy line of shop tools including a set of chain whips, pedal wrenches and three-way hex wrenches).

They also now include a Speed Chuck (aka a hash pipe) that threads onto their pump chucks and are used to air up disc wheels) with all floor pumps. And they’ve created valve extenders with thread-on heads to receive the thread-on Lezyne chucks. Very cool small details.

But what caught our eye was a little acronym ABS on the edge of all their screw-on valve heads, as well as a little black button. First, yes, the valve heads are screw-on. No more having to use one hand to hold the pump head to the valve while pumping with the other hand. ABS stands for Air Bleed System. How many of you have torn apart the valve seals (and sometimes your fingers) trying to get a valve head off a highly-inflated tire valve, or broken the valve core screw head off? I’ve done that all. Sucks.

The Air Bleed System button on the side of the chuck is a pressure relief valve, now built into all of Lezyne’s floor and most on-bike mini pumps. Just press the button and psssssshhhh … that little bit of air back pressure that exists inside the pump. It doesn’t let any of the air out of the tube that you’ve just pumped in, just the air in the pump. That allows you to very easily remove the head from the unit.

It’s a stroke of brilliance I can’t wait to try. And I bet Blu and Puka—my two cats—will also appreciate my slow release of air in this manner instead of the shocking, noisy release the thing made heretofore when removing an air-loaded pump head, invariably sending the two cats running up the walls and away from the pump. ABS is gonna be a bit hit. And we bet the other pump makers will be attempting to copy this one. Fortunately for Lezyne, they’ve got a patent pending.

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Zipp 303 Firecrest—In Angel and Devil Editions 

We had a feeling this was on the horizon, as the 404 and 808 were the first two to get the Firecrest treatment.No, it’s not as sexy as an 808 or 404 with a depth of only 45mm. Of course, applying the 28.5mm rim width design makes absolute sense in terms of nullifying pinch flats (a problem at events like Paris-Roubaix, where narrower rim widths of previous iterations of not only Zipp but most all other wheel manufacturers increased the liklihood for a pinch flat). The wider shape and stance makes for a safer, and stronger, wheel.

The ubiquitous 88 and 188 hubsets also get an update; the non-driveside bearing on the rear wheel is moved outward 7.5mm, while the flange is canted 8 degrees inward. The move adds significant stiffness to the rear wheel.

The wheelsets are attractively light; 1198 grams for the tubular version, and still just 1,498 grams for the carbon clincher. The tubie will price at $2,300, with the carbon clincher retailing for $2,700.

And Angel and Devil? Well, we made that up, but we’re not far off; in the 303, Zipp now offers two “colorway” options: Beyond Black (a wheel with a black anodized hubset, black spokes with black nipples and black decals) and Falcon Grey (with a grey—almost pewter—hubset, silver spokes, silver nipples and white decals with sliver trim). For the guy who wants to go standard or the one who wants to murder out their all black bike, you now have a choice that won’t cost you any extra.

Additionally, Zipp is offering some items in its Service Course stem, seatpost and road drop bar collection in the Beyond Black and Falcon Grey accent options.

The move by Zipp to offer the option is one, we saw one bike manufacturer fairly hide a specified—but red-accented—seatpost because it obtusely stood out. Effectively it didn’t match the company’s all-black bike offering. When spending big dollars on a bike, these little details are a big deal.

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Cervelo S5 VWD, S3 Team, R5 VWD and R5 

Very quietly, Cervelo actually launched two new bikes at Eurobike (and no, neither were P-Series models), but we found they were impressive enough to mention due to their value. Yes, I used the words “value” and “Cervelo” in the same breath—believe it.

For the athlete who has a dedicated lightweight road bike in the stable, Cervelo debuts the R5 VWD (above). With the acryonym standing for Vroomen.White.Design, it represents the top shelf model … except for the fact that the R5ca (the California-made model) is actually the pinnacle model. But using the same tube shapes and layups, it comes in just 70 grams heavier than the R5ca—but prices at half the price—at $5,000. The ride quality will be worth comparison.

For the road comfort specialist, the R3 Team model—the same bike that won Paris Roubaix under Johan Van Summeren this year—builds in more lightness, adds a BBright crank co-designed in concert with Full Speed Ahead, and keeps the stiffness of the top-shelf offerings, but gets the cost down with Shimano Ultegra and Fulcrum wheels, at just $4,300.

Indeed, Eurobike was the first time we had a chance to see (and heft) the much-anticipated S5 VWD, the aero road bike we tested and reviewed online at the Tour de France in July. Again, being the top-end VWD version, the frame employed its finest fibers and some other technologies it learned in the production of the R5ca. What’s the different that makes this bike a $4,900 frameset? That production knowledge brings the VWD bike in 270 grams lighter than the base-level S5, and 60 grams lighter than the S5 Team frameset.

Oh, and of that entry-level S5 bike? (see main photo above)—we expect it to sell like hotcakes. It’s got all the aero testing and design of the VWD, but with a more affordable SRAM Rival specification, it brings the complete bike price in at a very reasonable $3,800. Not bad for what is going to be one of the hottest aero road bikes on the market.

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Avanti Chrono 

The boys down under (and we’re referring to New Zealand in this instance instead of Australia) at Avanti made their first foray to Eurobike, which was a great opportunity for us to get a look at the bike 10-time Ironman New Zealand champ Cam Brown will debut at Kona this October: the new, and impressivly-engineered Chrono.

As a point of difference, the bike Cam will be riding will feature a Vision front end that precludes the level of integration that the stock setup (which comes with PRO Missile Evo aerobars) here shows. But it’ll still be pretty impressive, as we’d seen in sitting with some of the Avanti engineering team.

The Chrono is actually the two-year development byproduct of the production of the company’s track frame, the Pista, which Avanti developed for the New Zealand national track team. As such, the company has done its due diligence, doing FEA, CFD and wind tunnel testing—both modeling and comparative testing—at both the San Diego Low Speed Wind Tunnel and the A2 Wind Tunnel in Mooresville, North Carolina, and benchmark testing.

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The bike features an integrated stem that is set flush with the top tube, and height adjust is manipulated through the pad stack risers of the PRO Aerobars. For Cam Brown, Avanti has created a sharply rising stem (that make it feasible for Brown to ride 112 miles in comfort, and said the stem will be made available to consumers.

The bike specified with Shimano’s Di2 electronic group is clean as can be, with all cable being ported from the aerobar into the frame through the stem, with the Di2 adjustment toggle buttons fixed into an open port at the top center of the stem… very clean in look and function. Turning the bar slightly, you can see the cables as they port into the front of the frame. And that’s it; there are zero cables exposed on this Di2 bike.

The front brakes are integrated within the front fork, and all operations for cable run move through a slightly wide bayonette nose cone. Interestingly, the front fork blades have a bit of s-bend design, staying close to the wheel and tire quite a way down the fork blade before swaying out to meet flange width for the front dropouts.

There’s a bit of unique design in the rear chainstays as well; a result of their testing resulted in stays of differing heights. Torque testing resulted in a right (driveside) stay height of 57mm (compared to 51mm for the non-driveside stay) to increase strength and stiffness. Seat adjust is set at center at 76 degrees, with several centimeters of fore/aft fit range. aIt comes in four size ranges (S, M, L and XL), and Avanti provides stack and reach numbers at its website.

The cherry integration rig, set up with Shimano Di2, prices complete with Zipp Firecrest 808 tubulars, at $15,000 New Zealand dollars. A model with SRAM Red prices at $12,000NZL, and the bare frameset will price about $6,000NZL

So can you get this bike? As long as you live where it currently retails, in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Japan or the U.K. Or, you want to get on a plane to one of these locales to scoop one up and take it home.

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Mavic Helmet Debut and Cosmic Carbone 80 

A small press event Wednesday revealed the debut of the new Mavic helmet line. The collection of three helmets (the $220 Plasma SLR, see above), the $180 Plasma and $125 entry-level Syncro) completes Mavic’s design to provide a complete rider solution, from head to foot, complimenting Mavic’s footwear and apparel line… which compliments its bread-and-butter wheel line.

Mavic’s Zack Vestal said the centerpiece for the creation of the helmets was optimized fit, and was done completely in-house. “This wasn’t a shopping trip to a parts bin in China to make our retention device,” Vestal said. “Our guys did this as we do everything, and we’re not going to do something because it’s easy; we’ll do it ground-up.”

The design team used a British navy database of over 2500 head shapes to come up with their interior shape so that it fits low onto the head. To optimize the fit experience, small cues were introduced, including Velcro helmet pad attachments countersunk into the helmet’s foam, so as to not create raised hotspot areas, and making those pads (Xstatic-treated in the case of the top-shelf Plasma SLR) a dual-density foam for comfort, complete with a channel along the temple for unfettered transfer of the chinstrap down the helmet. Pretty detailed.

The Plasma SLR sets itself apart from its other models by using a continuous carbon fiber structural reinforcement ribbing across the top of the helmet. The Plasma replaces the carbon fiber with a glass carbon. The Syncro and Plasma each come with a visor, with port plugs for those opting to eschew the visor. Aesthetically, it’s a very aggressive helmet, with an angular transition from browline across the top of the head to a flared aft that’s almost fin-like. It also has an anchor loop that separates the strap from the sections of strap that extend up past the ear and temple to the helmet. Mavic contends it’s a design that helps with the transition across the face, and thus helps the strap lay flush to the face, but we’re dubious until we can get one on our head.

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Apart from the helmets, we were drawn to the wheels, namely the Cosmic Carbone 80, the 80mm deep tubular wheelset we saw the Garmin-Cervelo team riding at the Tour, which also saw a snap-on fairing that created a smooth tire/wheel aero transition.

To this point, the wheels were unavailable to the public and only for use by the pro teams—but for 2012, they will be made public as a wheel/tire system. Wheelsets will be packaged with tubular tires that mate up with the 24.8mm tire width.

And as to whether those aero fairing would be made available to the public anytime soon, we got a negative …  but said we may see it somewhere, perhaps Kona, and that it would serve as a nice litmus for what may end up being a triathlon market-specific item. “You saw a hint of that at the tour, but the way the UCI has been going with things, they may hit the tri market first,” Vestal said. “I can’t say anything is for sure, but keep your eye on what Tim O’Donnell may be riding in Kona.”

For more photos, check out our Day One Photo Gallery, and visit us here tomorrow for more from Eurobike.