Simon Smythe surveys the tech trends that look set to shape cycling in the near future
1 A common standard
Over the past year, we’ve noticed that a lot of bikes are starting to look quite similar, like there’s almost a universal ‘great bike’ form.
Take Specialized as an obvious example: the latest Specialized Venge looks, feels, behaves and weighs pretty much the same as the S-Works Tarmac: It has a 960g frame and better handling than the previous Venge ViAS, and all this with no aerodynamic penalty.
The newly launched Focus Izalco Max is another bike that, at 890g, has the weight of an lightweight bike but also the features of an aero bike. Or take Canyon, which launched an specific aerodynamic version of the Canyon Ultimate with deep section wheels as well as a one-piece bar and stem.
Things become murkier still when you consider how advanced the carbon fibre techniques of most brands are that the ride quality of these bikes are as good as the endurance bikes of only a few years ago.
2 More go wireless
Since then, even the most curmudgeonly electrogrouches have witnessed that not only can wireless be light despite the extra batteries it requires (eTap is around 100g lighter than Shimano Dura-Ace Di2) but it is also reliable, battery life is good, there’s a small aerodynamic advantage to dispensing with wires altogether and perhaps best of all there’s no fiddly wiring to be poked through frame tubes and connected up. You just bolt shifters and derailleurs to your bike and off you go.
Nearly four years on it seems incredible that no one else has followed suit.
3 Proprietary power meters
In 2018, Specialized became the first brand to market a bike with a proprietary power meter. The S-Works Power Cranks that come with the 2019 S-Works Tarmac and Venge have electronic internals by 4iiii but the design is Specialized’s own. Giant bikes has now also debuted its own power meter, and with all brands moving towards total component integration via their in-house brands, it surely won’t be long before we see, Bontrager or Syncros power meters.
4 Lighter, slimmer e-bikes
E-bikes’ 2019 diet has started already. British brand Ribble’s SLe, launched last year, is claimed to be the world’s lightest e-bike with an all-up weight of 11kg. At a glance you’d never guess it was an e-bike; it’s only the oversized rear hub, containing the motor, that gives it away.
Bianchi’s Aria e-Road has a similarly svelte look and low weight, again with a motor in the hub assisting the rider to a maximum speed of 25kph.
E-bike club run anyone?
5 New time trial bikes
2018 might have been the year of the aero road bike, but that has left many of the big brand’s TT bikes looking slightly long in the tooth. Specialized launched a radical new triathlon version of the Shiv in 2018, but the UCI-legal version hasn’t changed significantly in 10 years.
Pinarello has also launched a tri-specific Bolide adorned with wind-cheating storage boxes and disc brakes but the UCI Bolide dates back to 2016. Canyon’s Speedmax CF is of a similar vintage, as is Giant’s Trinity.
BMC and Cannondale, however, do have modern disc-specific time trial bikes and we expect more in 2019.
6 SRAM goes 12-speed
This one is not so hard to predict, with the spy shots of the new SRAM 12-speed cassette on a Katusha team bike at the Saitama criterium, and more recently at the Tour Down Under, giving the game away. Cyclocross world champion Wout van Aert was also snapped riding a 1x version of 12-speed eTap, so 2019 could well be an interesting year both on- and off-road.
At this point, it’s definitely worth mentioning Campagnolo. UAE Team Emirates, AG2R La Mondiale and Movistar have all be spotted riding what looks like an updated Super-Record EPS groupset. A groupset that was conspicuously absent at Campagnolo’s Super-Record 12-speed launch in 2018.
Perhaps more interesting still is how each brand use the extra gear. At its 2018 launch, we remarked at the Italian’s brand conservatism, with the cassette still topping out with a 32 cog, shrinking the gaps between gears but not giving the rider any more range.
However, SRAM’s history of boldly breaking new ground has us pondering what might come. Enormous, dinner plate cassettes? Massive mountain bike-esque rear derailleurs? Who knows… and who knows what Shimano might decide to do.
7 Tubeless finally takes over
The professionals will doubtless keep riding tubulars, but as amateurs adopt new technology faster than the pros, we think everyday riders will go tubeless in increasing numbers. Now that Mavic has launched UST across its whole range and there are more and more tubeless-ready wheels and tyres on the market, it will be easier to realise their benefits: self-sealing punctures, lower weight without tubes and decreased rolling resistance.
8 Wider tyres
Not only will 2019 be the year of the tubeless tyre but it will be the year of the wide tubeless tyre. Tubeless is tailor-made for bigger rubber run at lower pressures, supplying extra comfort and super-fast rolling. With rim-brake calipers gone, you can go as wide as your frame will allow. Will 28mm become the new standard width for road bike tyres?
9 Return of 1x with 13-speed
The single-ring experiment in the pro peloton might have failed, in the opinion of some former Aqua Blue riders, but Spanish brand Rotor believes that with a 13-speed cassette, ‘one by’ still has a future. 1×13 has virtually the same ratios as 2×11 with only slightly bigger jumps between the low gears where, according to Rotor, it doesn’t matter so much.
Maybe 2019 will be too early for the pro peloton as Rotor’s system is still in its launch phase, but look out for it in 2020.