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We often see new bikes and cycling-related technology make their first appearance at the Tour de France, and no wonder – it’s the biggest race in the world and the biggest annual sporting event on the planet. CyclingTips reporter Dave Everett has been roaming the pits looking for new and interesting bits of kit in recent days. Here’s what he’s found.
As the race rolls on and having spent more time digging deeper, meeting brand representatives and basically having a good nose around the team buses and trucks, I’ve seen a bunch of new bits of tech.
On stage 8, the first where the road seriously tilted upwards (and where Blel Kadri won a solo victory), German power meter manufacture and pioneer in the market, SRM, revealed their new PC8 head unit. The sole rider in the peloton to actually get their hands on the unit was Andre Greipel of Lotto-Belisol.
The slimmed down unit now has an anodised aluminium casing. It is still very reminiscent of the old shape, but now looks exceptionally robust and not quite as fragile as the previous plastic-cased models. The logo is now etched on to the front of the unit too.
The screen has also been improved, being larger with a high-resolution and high-contrast LCD display. This screen can be customised so any number of metrics can be viewed at any one time. An ambient backlight helps with viewing in all lighting conditions and this is automatic — my guess is it’ll adjust automatically if you ride through a dark, dank tunnel.
New for SRM is the GPS facility with adjustable recording intervals. This is a feature that is severely lacking in the older models. With the likes of Garmin making huge strides in this area it was about time SRM caught up. Course mapping and elevation profiles are all possible on the device and real-time gradient percentages tell you how steep a climb is.
The SRM PC8 allows wireless uploading of ride data and magnetic connection is also available for linking to the computer or charging.
The battery life has reportedly been improved, thanks to a long-lasting, rechargeable lithium polymer cell. The ANT+ connectivity means that even if you don’t own a SRM power crank, yet do own a ANT+ compatible power meter, you can still use this device and its features.
Tech head of the peloton and a teammate of Andre Greipel’s, Adam Hansen, said at the start of stage eight (in jest) that the new SRM was wasted on his team leader given the day’s hilly parcours. Adam, I’m sure, would love to get his hands on the new unit and would be the perfect pro to give SRM feedback on how the unit works.
Earlier in the Tour I brought you photos and information about Vincenzo Nibali’s shark-themed Specialized Tarmac and here’s a bit more.
It looked as though Nibs was planning on using a dropper post while on the hillier stages, much like Ivan Basso did in the Giro d’Italia several years ago. Back then Basso claimed it helped with descending, allowing you to lower your centre of gravity. These are used in mountain biking where throwing your body weight about is a lot more demanding due to the terrain they cover.
Another theory as to why Nibali had it installed here was that items like these allow the bike to be brought up to the UCI’s minimum weight limit while actually imparting some gain (as opposed to simply adding ballast).
Sources close to the team though revealed that it was all for the publicity. Nibali won’t be using the post – FSA installed the seatpost in the hope of generating interest, and I guess they could say it did the job.
One item that Nibali is using though is the new Specialized Turbo tyres, which I wrote about in a previous article. Omega Pharma-QuickStep are all on them, and even though Astana are using Veloflex at the moment Nibali has been spotted on the new Turbo tyres. Will we see the rest of the team swap rubber before the Tour’s out? If the hype around how many watts they save is true I’m sure we will; we will just have to wait and see.
Sticking with Specialized, a brand that seems to sponsor every other team in some way, their own brand wheels Roval have been seen in action under the Tinkoff-Saxo team. These were first seen in the team bikes back at the Criterium du Dauphine in June. Before the Dauphine the team were using Zipp Wheels. The team’s full wheel inventory now though, from the wheels in the bikes to the dozens that are needed as spares, are all Roval.
According to Specialized, the team was so pleased with the Rovals wheels they tested during the Criterium du Dauphine that they swapped to the Rovals ahead of the Tour. Specialized had to contact a huge number of their international suppliers and recall as many wheels as possible to fill the order that Tinkoff-Saxo placed.
With a team owner like Oleg Tinkov, I suppose swapping or buying sponsors out of a contract is not a problem. The team is still using bars and stems from Zipp’s range however.
Stage 12 from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint Etienne was a day that saw the mercury rise. Two Belkin riders, Bauke Mollema and Steven Kruijswijk, were seen using ice vests while recovering on the trainer in front of the team bus after the stage. Belkin, like many teams, now has ice vests, which help cool the riders’ core body temperature down and reportedly aid recovery.
Three rear pockets are seen on the vest so presumably these could, in theory, be used in racing. The question is: would the weight of carrying about all that ice erase any benefits you’d get from being cooler?
Also at the Belkin team bus, one noticeable item missing from team leader Bauke Mollema’s bike was the lever hood on his Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 leavers. In place of the usual dual-density hoods was a wrap of simple contrasting black bar tape. It doesn’t look too comfortable but each to their own.
Meanwhile team kit manufacture and secondary sponsor of the NetApp-Endura team has added a little detailing to the team’s kit to celebrate the fact that the ProContinental team is participating in the Tour. A simple little logo with the dates of the race sits below the team sponsor’s name on the side of each rider’s jersey. This will surely become a prized possession for many of the riders once the race rolls over the finish line in Paris come July 27.