Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
It wouldn’t be right to jump into today’s topic without first thanking you all for the outstanding comments over the past two episodes of Tech Talk. No other online magazine, or YouTube channel has a more dedicated, experienced or knowledgeable audience and we appreciate you adding so much value.
If you missed the two stories, here’s part 1: https://www.roadbikerider.com/thoughts-on-shimano-making-105-di2/; and part 2: https://www.roadbikerider.com/thoughts-modern-bicycle-components/.
The Tour de France is one of the largest showcases of new road cycling technology. While I’ve never been lucky enough to be there, the tech trends are widely reported. Here are some of the things that I thought were interesting in what to me was the best Tour de France in decades.
Tubeless Tires Finally Fully Accepted
In a departure from previous years, with only a few exceptions, the teams used tubeless tires in the 2022 Tour. In the past there were concerns about their weight penalty over tubular tires (sew-ups), especially on climbing stages, and their reliability (holding air and staying on the rim).
New tire designs have addressed the reliability issues. And more importantly for racing, it’s agreed now that tubeless tires – especially the wider ones typically used now – reduce rolling resistance, saving precious energy and boosting speeds on the downs, flats and ups.
It would be fun to know a lot more about tubeless tire use at this level, such as average tire pressures used; which sealants are preferred; what types of failures are causing flats (why didn’t the sealant fix the puncture?); if the number of flats is less now; and if the pro mechanics are mounting these sometimes undersize tires by hand or prying them on with tools (I sure hope not).
After Stage 16 one of the big stories was Rafal Majka’s Campagnolo chain breaking. There probably wouldn’t have been such an uproar had the resultant injury not forced him to abandon. That was sad to see.
Social media was going crazy that day with theories on what happened. A lot of race fans blamed modern chains, like the 12-speed Majka was on because these chains are so thin.
The thing is that you can make a chain thin without reducing the strength of its parts. So, I suspect that the reason his chain broke was because it was either damaged or not assembled correctly during installation.
Tip: Majka’s chain break in the biggest race in the world should be a lesson to us all to check our chains carefully before any important bike event. The only way to do this is to very carefully inspect every link on both sides of the chain for any issues. A flashlight helps.
Disc Brakes on Road and TT Bikes
I may have missed a few bikes that still had rim brakes because I didn’t watch every stage of the Tour due to network access challenges. However, I did watch most of them and it seemed to me that the vast majority of road stage bikes featured discs this year.
Plus, there were discs on the time trial bikes, too, which is kind of a big deal because to switch required major changes to the super aero bikes. Still, they might have actually been what saved Vingegaard on the final time trial stage – watch the video if you missed this scary moment.
It has to be easier to work on team bikes if they all share the same brake technology so this development makes sense. I hope that their use across the board at this level of racing results in improvements in function and maintenance that make it to the consumer level.
Specifically I’d like to see discs include a tool-free centering adjustment so you could fix rubbing issues easily, even bad ones.
More Integrated (one-piece) Handlebars and Stems
I think there were more integrated bars and stems in the peloton this year than ever.
By combining a handlebar and stem it’s possible to reduce the overall weight compared to a separate bar and stem because less hardware is required.
Also, since the handlebar position is fixed, there’s no chance it can loosen and slip or get knocked out of position in a crash. And, one-piece bars and stems sure look neat and tidy, which probably reduces aero drag a bit, too.
A possible advantage is improved ease of routing internal wires and hoses. The disadvantage is if a rider gets injured in a crash or maybe throws out their back, etc. there’s no handlebar angle adjustment available to fine-tune the fit.
Oversize Derailleur Pulleys
If you were watching closely, you may have seen that a few riders were using oversize derailleur cages and pulleys on some stages, like the time trial. Two companies offering them are Ceramic Speed and Kogel.
Oversize pulleys have been around for awhile but it seemed to me that more racers used them this year. The claimed benefit is improved drivetrain efficiency because the chain doesn’t wrap so tightly around the pulleys. Further friction reductions come from their sealed bearings and special lubes – Ceramic Speed makes their own lubes.
The derailleur manufacturers do not recommend changing over to these quite expensive setups, yet their use in the Tour suggests the teams believe that they work. If you’re considering giving them a try be sure to read up on all the pros and cons.
Aero Helmets Gone Wild
My favorite event is the time trial. I’ve invested a small fortune on wind cheating goodies. One of the best is an aero helmet since it helps streamline the entire body.
Judging from this year’s Tour TTs, I’m going to need to spend a little more on an even bigger one. In this video of Stefan Bisseger’s Stage 1 crash, check out his huge mushroom shaped lid.
What trick tech caught your eye this year? Please share your favorites with a comment.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.