New tech finds at Tour Down Under: Specialized, Kask, Zipp, Giant and more
As far as technical changes in professional racing go, 2018 has started a little quietly. Our complete round-up of 2018 team bikes covers a great deal of what’s new, and more so, what isn’t. However, hidden amongst it all, and especially on the feet and heads of riders, are a few new pieces of tech and gear. Tech writer Dave Rome reports.
With both Bora-Hansgrohe and Quickstep Floors riding in bright fluoro Specialized helmets and shoes, it’s hard to ignore that both are new.
Nearly all riders on both teams, including the likes of Peter Sagan and Italian sprinter Elia Viviani, are in what appears to be a new Evade aero road helmet. The helmet is relatively closed off on the top and sides, with forward-facing vents visible in front and toward the ears and a large shielded exhaust out back.
We got a view of the helmet not on the head of a rider and there’s clear channeling through it, with the front and rear vents aligned.
Kask Utopia helmet
First seen in use by Team Sky in Sunday’s People’s Choice Classic criterium, the Utopia is claimed to be the world’s fastest road helmet. The Italian company compared 10 leading aero road helmets in a wind tunnel and also created 3D scans for computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Kask claims its test showed the Utopia saves up to six watts when riding at 50km/h when compared to its best performing competitor.
Kask claims the helmet offers great ventilation and heat management through vents and channels, in addition to weighing only 235g in a size medium. In a press release from the company, it’s claimed the Utopia offers a quiet riding experience with reduced air noise and pressure near riders’ ears. It’s promising to see such a thing mentioned given what we know about cycling and hearing loss.
A new sponsor for Lotto Soudal, HJC is a relatively unknown helmet brand outside of motorbikes, and for good reason — the brand has only just entered cycling. The Belgian team is at the Tour Down Under using the brand’s only two road cycling helmet models.
The Furion, as pictured in use by Andre Greipel, is the brand’s aerodynamically tested model, offering a more closed-off design with obvious front to rear vents. HJC claims the helmet weighs just 190 grams which, if true, is an impressive figure for an aero helmet.
Used by a few others in the team, and spotted within the team car, is the more airy H.sonic helmet. HJC claims this 24-vent helmet is also to be wind tunnel-tested, though, like the Furion, data is not provided by the brand. Oddly enough, this model is claimed to be 20 grams heavier than the Furion. Foam is light, but reinforcing for where the foam is removed typically isn’t.
Abus Aventor helmet
Abus, a company best known for its locks, is continuing as helmet sponsor for Movistar in 2018. With the Santos Tour Down Under being a warm one, the team is mostly riding the new Aventor.
It’s a model we first saw at Eurobike, where we’re told the helmet’s surface area is 40% vents. Such an open design means it needs a reinforced cage, something that bumps the weight up a bit to a claimed 240g.
The other model in use is the German company’s new aero model, the Gamechanger. With a sunglass port at the rear of the helmet, the front is designed to be more ventilated with the rider in an upright position, and then more closed off when attacking.
Another helmet first released at Eurobike, eyewear specialist Oakley is now in the helmet game. The brand sponsors both Dimension Data and Katusha with its new helmets in 2018, and many riders are using the Aro5 aero helmet. This helmet is closed off across most of its surface but offers huge frontal vents.
For those not wearing the Aro5, the Aro3 is the pick. It’s a more traditional road racing helmet, offering greater air flow at the cost of aerodynamics.
The rear retention found on both models, is a collaboration with Boa. The reel-closure system is commonly used on footwear, but not helmets.
Specialized S-Works shoes
As with the new Specialized Evade helmet, the majority of QuickStep Floors and Bora-Hansgrohe riders are riding in what’s clearly a new Specialized S-Works shoe. Given Specialized’s existing and past shoe naming, we can only assume we’re looking at the S-Works 7.
The shoe features two Boa dials which appear to made of aluminium, and watching riders put their shoes on before the race, the clicks sound more precise than the Boa S2 Snap dials on the existing S-Works 6. The upper appears to be made of the same Dyneema directional mesh as the current S-Works 6.
Looking under the shoe there’s some sign of material relieving, but given the likes of Peter Sagan using these shoes, it’d be safe to assume they’re equally stiff, if not more so, than the current S-Works 6 model.
Colour-wise, the red and orange is likely an attention-seeking ode to the Australian summer racing (however, we can confirm it’s not the heat-changing Torch technology). A green colourway has been spotted on the feet of a few Bora-Hansgrohe riders too.
Given just how visible these shoes are, we can only assume the new model is near.
Giant Surge shoes
Spotted on the feet of Australian Sunweb-Giant rider Chris Hamilton (among others) is new footwear from Giant. The world’s largest bicycle manufacturer recently teased such a product being in development, leading us to believe that the new top-tier road shoe is near production.
The shoes use two Boas for retention, with the lower one looping further down the shoe. Upon asking a rider to show us the sole, the shoes are clearly using Giant’s unique ExoBeam sole technology, a design that allows the shoe to naturally twist with the foot (but only marginally), but not flex along the length of the sole.
Fizik Infinito R1 Movistar Team shoes
Movistar have a new special edition shoe from Fizik, with the new Infinito R1 in the team’s white and blue colourway. It’s a shoe that Fizik is already advertising for sale.
The new Infinito R1 offers a new closure system, where the two Boa IP-B dials are designed to work with the pliable upper to provide a hugely generous fit range. Looking to the carbon sole and there are clear ventilation ports that run through to mesh innersoles.
Other bits of note
If new shoes and helmets weren’t enough, Specialized is also teasing its own powermeter at the Tour Down Under. Both Specialized-sponsored teams, Bora-Hansgrohe and QuickStep Floors, are using the new Specialized-branded left-right powermeter attached to Shimano R9100 cranks.
Where the teams were last year using powermeters from Canadian firm 4iiii, it appears that Specialized have worked in collaboration with the Canadian company to bring its own branded version to the table. With more bike brands equipping powermeters on production bikes, this move makes lots of sense.
Details are extremely limited, but based on a visual inspection, it seems the powermeter mounted on the driveside shares plenty in common with the 4iiii product, but the left crank arm reveals a design different to what’s found in 4iiii’s range.
Zipp 454 NSW Tubular
It looks like Zipp is getting set to release a tubular version of its biomimicry-inspired 454 NSW wheels. Designed to improve handling in crosswinds, the wheels are a flagship product for Zipp and, up until now, have only been available in a clincher version.
A little birdy also told us that a shallower 303 (353?) type version of the wheel is in use. It’s one we’ll be keeping an eye open for.
In addition to these, we also spotted a new fork on Andre Greipel’s Noah SL, and a few other small bits and pieces. You can read about all of these and much more in our complete round-up of the 2018 WorldTour bikes.