Tick tock: More new time trial bikes are on the way
While severe worldwide shortages in bike components and accessories mean new road bike announcements have not been as frequent as normal this year, it seems time trial bike development has continued at pace. Both Canyon, Cannondale (still unannounced) recently debuted new TT rigs. Now it seems Trek and Factor have done the same.
The Trek Speed Concept is one of the most successful time trial bikes on the market, but it has looked a little long in the tooth of late. As such, it comes as no surprise that Trek has moved to update its time trial machine. It should also come as no surprise the new bike features disc brakes, as Trek’s top-end road range is now entirely disc-brake-only.
Trek has made other noticeable updates to the new bike. Starting with the front end, it seems Trek has done away with its mono bar cockpit setup and moved to a more traditional twin riser set up under the elbow pads.
These twin risers are attached to what looks like a newly designed integrated handlebar and stem, which flows almost seamlessly into the top tube as per many modern TT bikes.
Trek has ditched the nose cone style fork and head tube setup, favouring a dropped head tube that helps integrate that new stem into the top tube. This setup creates a smoother, fully integrated setup offering less frontal area to the wind.
Trek has paired this integrated front end with a much bigger top tube and a down tube featuring a cutout to hug that front wheel. It all seems to have been designed to improve the airflow over the bike.
Moving to the rear of the frame and perhaps the most notable design element is the new dropped seatstays. In keeping with new road and TT bikes, the seatstays attach to the seat tube much lower than on the old Speed Concept.
More interestingly, though, the stays also feature a lengthy horizontal section extending back and around the rear wheel before dropping to the rear hub. It’s a design which, it has to be said, looks very similar to that of the Specialized Shiv TT.
The seatstays on the outgoing Speed Concept attached much higher on the seat tube and appeared to flow into a compensation triangle at the seat tube/top tube interface. Trek has stuck with this compensation triangle, and although it’s hard to tell for certain, it seems to have even grown a bit.
If it has grown this could be thanks to the recent relaxation of frame design regulations by the UCI. Trek may also be leaning on these new regulations with its much deeper top tube/head tube interface.
However, it has to be said Trek certainly hasn’t gone overboard with the freedoms the new regulations offer. The new Speed Concept looks relatively tame compared to what is possible, given the UCI’s updated rules allow the option to go as narrow as 10 mm in tube width and match that width to an 8:1 aspect ratio (e.g. 80 mm depth, 10 mm width). That doesn’t mean the new bike is lacking any speed though. Trek might well have found a design that proves to be just as fast without the added weight larger tubes would surely bring.
In a slightly strange move that I am sure Trek will explain when the bike is officially announced, the new rig gets a slight name change, dropping all the vowels from the word “Concept” to create “Speed CNCPT”. Trek has also decked the bikes out with the time stamp 00:00:00. Let’s hope that’s not the time saved by switching to the new bike.
One brand which does seem to have taken full advantage of the new regulations is Factor. In the stage 21 time trial at the Giro d’Italia, Matthias Brändle of Israel Start-Up Nation finished in 16th position aboard a blacked-out, as-yet-unannounced time trial bike, presumably an updated Slick TT from team sponsor Factor.
This new Factor is perhaps the most interesting bike since the Lotus Hope GB track bike was announced in 2019. The new Factor appears to be the first bike to really utilise all the freedom the new UCI regulations offer.
This new design freedom is most visible in the ultra-narrow tubing seemingly used throughout the frame and the deep and extremely wide-sitting forks and seatstays.
Let’s take a look at the front end of the new bike first. While modern TT bikes are often fully integrated and narrow, I have yet to see anything with a head tube (or head tube-covering nose cone in this case) as thin as the new Factor. The nose cone / external steerer-style fork which covers the head tube seemingly targets that new 10 mm minimum width rule before aiming for the complete opposite effect, flaring out to an ultra-wide stance at the top of the fork legs.
This nose cone-style fork has the effect of extending the depth of the head tube, while staying within the UCI regulations, while the wider-stance fork legs are said to create a smoother airflow between the wheel and fork. This combination adds up to create a look rarely seen in road time trials.
The forks also seem notably wider than on most other time trial bikes – again a design option made possible by the relaxed UCI regulations – which should result in a more aerodynamic setup.
Brändle was using Wattshop Anemoi aero extensions, but presumably the final version of the new bike will feature a new cockpit design from Factor. It does appear though the new frame maintains the mono riser setup from the current Slick, so expect to see that style remain.
Moving back through the frame Factor seems to have done away with the twin-vane split down tube on the current Slick, in favour of a truncated style aero shape, but it is difficult to tell for sure.
One thing we can see is a larger and raised bottom bracket area. This is one area frame designers often target for improved aerodynamics, especially on triathlon bikes where regulations are not as stringent on how enlarged this area can be.
In keeping with the rest of the bike, Factor has opted for a rather deep seat tube and seatpost, again for improved airflow.
More interesting, though, are the rear seatstays. As we have come to expect, the new stays are dropped low on the seat tube, even if not quite as low as the new Trek above.
What’s interesting about the new stays is how they extend out of the seat tube. While again not extending as far back horizontally as the stays on the new Speed CNCPT, they form a Formula One rear wing-esque shelf behind the seat stay before dropping to the rear hub. Without information from Factor on this new design, it isn’t easy to speculate what this design achieves, but perhaps it manipulates the airflow to help reduce drag in the wake of the rider or around the rear wheel.
The Factor unsurprisingly also features disc brakes, as Factor is another brand moving solely to disc-only road bikes.
We didn’t spot any riders in Wednesday’s Dauphine time trial aboard the new bike, but presumably, the Tour and Olympics riders will all be aboard the new machine later this month and in July.
While dedicating equipment and resources to TT bikes during the global shortage might seem strange, it is quite likely this development work started long before the impact of the shortages hit home. The raft of new TT rigs this year is also likely due to the upcoming Olympics, a Tour de France with two lengthy time trials, the natural timing of design updates, and with that, the opportunity to introduce disc brake into TT rigs.