Tour de France tech: TT bikes, helmets and more

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UTRECHT, The Netherlands (CT) – With the eyes of the cycling world on the Tour de France it’s a prime time for manufacturers to let fans know that they have new products for them to buy. This year’s stage 1 ITT in Utrecht saw more tech goodies on show than in previous years. In fact it was a gear geek’s paradise.

Giro was one company getting a lot of attention on social media while the race was on and they took the opportunity to show off their new and as-yet-unnamed time trial helmet. This is being worn by both the IAM Cycling and Katusha teams.

The new Giro helmet has an excessively long front overhang that results in the visor swooping back towards the face. It is also a lot shorter than many of the rivals products.

Spanish helmet manufacture Catlike were the other brand with a new lid. The new helmet is vastly different from the company’s previous Chrono WT. The new helmet is a lot more boxy with a very short if not close-to non-existent tail.

Two huge vents either side of the visor and two on top of the helmet look as though they would suck great amounts of air through during use, cooling the head.

Abus is better known for its range of bike locks but this year they’re also the helmet supplier for Bora-Argon 18. They have a new time trial helmet that has been developed with consultation from the team.

Then there was Suomy with their time trial helmet for the Lampre-Merida guys. Suomy are in their first year of sponsorship with the Italian team and seem to be producing some “different” looking helmets. The brand is better known in the motorbiking world, though they have had several cycling helmets available in the past including a shared design with Kask roughly 10 years ago.

Suomy sponsor the Lampre-Merida team with helmets. Not much is known about their TT offering at this stage.
Suomy sponsor the Lampre-Merida team with helmets. Not much is known about their TT offering at this stage.

A close look at Alexander Kristoff’s bike initially seemed to show what looked like a lack of chain cleaning from the team mechanic. A thick white powder covering the chain and splashed on the rear disc wheel was in fact a new coating that helps reduce chain friction.

Initially produced by Friction Fact — a test lab in the USA — the product has now been bought and is offered by Ceramic Speed. It’s called UFO, and only a few riders at the Tour will be using it. Apparently a coating only lasts 300-350km in its optimum state.

Friction Fact is a US third-party independent testing facility. Their goal is to provide cyclists with the tools to maximise their top speed via proper component selection. They had developed a chain treatment process for drastically reducing friction. Ceramic Speed, famed for their bottom brackets, bought it off them in the Spring and have since offered it to their customers. There are only a few riders using it at this year's TdF. Treating a chain with 'UFO' is a several-step process that includes treatment with a wax and a teflon coat (the white powder). Washing or lubing the chain in the first 300km is a no-no. Shimano, KMC and Campagnolo chains are available with the treatment at the moment.
Treating a chain with ‘UFO’ is a several-step process that includes treatment with a wax and a teflon coat (the white powder). Washing or lubing the chain in the first 300km is a no-no. Shimano, KMC and Campagnolo chains are available with the treatment at the moment.

Orbea, who sponsors the Cofidis team, had a new time trial bike in action on stage 1 of the Tour: the new Ordu. The Basque brand have been working closely with calliper manufacture TriRig on making a brakeset that flows into the frameset of the new Ordu.

The bike will come equipped with the TriRig callipers when bought by the public but with Vision being brake sponsor of the Cofidis team the team bikes have Vision’s new aero TriMax callipers installed.

The Orbea representative I spoke with stated that they have also been working with Vision on new products. It sounded as though it has been a two pronged attack to allow the bike to have a duel aero brake set up.

Vision have been working with Orbea to develop new Aero brake callipers.
Vision has been working with Orbea to develop new Aero brake callipers.

Unlike many TT bikes the Ordu comes with no in-built stem and bar setup, instead opting for a FSA mountain bike stem that is quite square but aero-looking plus with a negative drop. The reason for a lack of integrated bar and stem? Orbea apparently sees that the general public wants a bike that is easy to maintain and ship from race to race.

Basque company Orbea had a new TT bike in use by Cofidis: the Ordu. The company has worked closely with Vision and TriRig in the development of products for the new bike.
Basque company Orbea had a new TT bike in use by Cofidis: the Ordu. The company has worked closely with Vision and TriRig in the development of products for the new bike.
The stem on the Orbea is an FSA mountain bike stem often used on 29ers as it comes with a negative drop. It suits the time trial bikes due to its boxy shape. Notice the 3D printed spacer in the stem that joins an aero wedge.
The stem on the Orbea is an FSA mountain bike stem often used on 29ers as it comes with a negative drop. It suits the time trial bikes due to its boxy shape. Notice the 3D printed spacer in the stem that joins an aero wedge.

Custom bikes graced the start line of the stage 1 ITT as well. Richie Porte had his green and gold Pinarello Bolide on show, there was a new Pro tri-spoke wheel and Fabian Cancellara had his usual Spartacus design on his Trek. Perhaps the most stunning of all though was Andrew Talansky’s US national champ’s Cannondale Slice.

Cannondaletalansky

Even the seatpost has had a make over to match the national champion's jersey and kit.
Even the seatpost has had a make over to match the national champion’s jersey and kit.

Ice vests were everywhere on stage 1 as well. With the temperature soaring into the high 30s pretty much every team had some sort of cooling clothing on offer to their riders.

Orica-GreenEdge had the most high-tech setup with a hose pumping water into a long-sleeved jersey that had piping coiled through it. The jersey looked like something from a Ridley Scott sci-fi film.

Many of the riders were keeping cool via ice vests before stage 1. Orica-GreenEdge had the most interesting one in use.
Many of the riders were keeping cool via ice vests before stage 1. Orica-GreenEdge had the most interesting one in use.

Trek had a two-part ice vest: the upper body part with a set of wrist coolers as a separate item.

TrekIce

According to Trek staff the wrists are a vital area for cooling the body. This is also a reason why you may see riders pouring iced water on their wrists mid-race.
According to Trek staff the wrists are a vital area for cooling the body. This is also a reason why you may see riders pouring iced water on their wrists mid-race.

Check out the photos below for a selection of the interesting tech on display at this year’s Tour de France. We’ll have plenty more for you in the coming weeks, including more time trial bikes and kit before the stage 9 team time trial.

Photo gallery

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