Duct tape wins for Ineos mechanics, GRX 12-speed first thoughts and more in this week's tech round up

Low-cost hacks at the Vuelta, a promising ebike conversion kit, snazzy gravel shoes and insights from our Italian adventure

Wilier Adlar being ridden down technical trail head on shot
(Image credit: Mirror Media)

With both the Vuelta and the Tour of Britain in progress there's been plenty of high-end bike candy on show. However, it was a rather rudimentary hack in Spain that really caught our eye; a nice juxtaposition to the usual F1-inspired aerodynamic frames and accompanying featherweight carbon bits and bobs.

In other news we've been testing bikes in Italy as well as partaking in the country's first Grinduro event, held in beautiful Tuscany. While we haven't put 100s of kilometers on the new Wilier Adlar and GRX 12 speed groupset, we have ridden enough to share our first thoughts.

We also look forward to the release of the Sir Chris Hoy-backed ebike conversion system from Skarper and ponder whether white shoes are a smart choice for gravel riding.

Duct tape transponder hack at the Vuelta

Filippo Ganna of Italy and Team INEOS Grenadiers sprints during the 78th Tour of Spain 2023, Stage 10 a 25.8km individual time trial stage from Valladolid to Valladolid

(Image credit: Getty Images / Tim de Waele)

It’s always fun to see a WorldTour team resorting to a cheap hack to aid performance - especially when it’s the wealthiest team in the pro peloton, the Ineos Grenadiers. At this year’s Vuelta the team has taken to fixing the race timing transponders, that are a requirement of all riders, to the inside of the fork blade with a piece of duct tape. 

We’ve seen the 2cm micro chip attached with zip ties and a piece of inner tube before, but never encased in duct tape. The position was new, too - on the rear of the fork dropout. During road stages this has meant sitting inside the Pinarello Dogma F’s aero fairing that the Italian marque calls a ‘Fork Flap’. For the stage 10 time trial the Ineos mechanics even matched the colour of the duct tape to Fillipo Ganna’s white Pinarello Bolide F TT bike. 

Geraint Thomas of The United Kingdom and Team INEOS Grenadiers competes during the 78th Tour of Spain 2023, Stage 9

(Image credit: Getty Images / Tim de Waele)

After the obligatory internet speculation, Dan Bigham, Ineos Grenadiers' Performance Engineer, confirmed to Cycling News that the tape and the chosen position was “down to aerodynamics” but that in reality the savings equated to less than a watt. 

The epitome of marginal gains? Perhaps. Certainly Ganna’s victory in the time trial  won’t have deterred the Ineos boffins to continue to look for any advantage they can find, no matter how small. 

First ride and thoughts on GRX 12-speed

We have also been lucky enough to get a first ride in on the brand new Wilier Adlar gravel bike, which was dressed up in the latest Shimano GRX 12 speed groupset. The testing grounds weren't half bad too - some pretty special gravel terrain in Follonica, home of Grinduro Italy.

Wilier's new Adlar gravel bike is aimed much more at the exploration end of the spectrum. As well as progressive geometry and healthy tire clearance the new Adlar can also be specced with front and rear luggage racks that are rated for a total of 35kg of luggage.

Joe riding the new wilier Adlar down technical trail through the woods

(Image credit: Mirror Media)

Early impressions are great. Wilier seems to have succeeded in producing a bike with excellent handling for rougher gravel and bikepacking. The longer reach and slacker head angle made light work of the single track, which at times, could have warranted a hard-tail mountain bike. The package felt pretty lightweight too, I didn't get to weigh the bike, but given the rugged build, the Adlar is certainly light on its feet. I'll be sharing my full thoughts after a loaded weekend of gravel bike riding to let you know whether it is worth the €4,000 price tag.

As for the groupset, the Shimano GRX 12 speed performed pretty much as expected - which is no bad thing when Shimano's heritage of build quality is considered. The shifting shared very similar characteristics to GRX 11 speed, with an extra gear that left me with more range for the punchy steep climbs. Mechanical shifting is still less crisp than electronic offerings on the market, but I can see the appeal of keeping it simple with a cabled setup.

Chris Hoy backed Skarper ebike conversion kit goes on pre-sale

Sir Chris Hoy holds aloft the lightweight Skarper DiskDrive system that turns any disc brake bike into an e-bike

(Image credit: Skarper)

We first saw Skarper’s ebike conversion system back in the summer of 2022. At that point it was in the initial prototype stage but the concept was more than a little intriguing - a lightweight unit that clips onto any disc brake bike, thus equipping it with a 250-watt motor. The support of Sir Chris only added to its credibility. 

After months of continued R&D, aided by a whopping $10 million / £8 million in private investment and the help of Red Bull Advanced Technologies, the engineering wing of the Red Bull Racing F1 team, the Skarper Conversion Kit is now available for pre-order, with production slated to start in early 2024.

Sir Chris Hoy rides a road bike fitted with the Skarper DiskDrive system

(Image credit: Skarper)

So what does the finished article look like? The unit is said to weigh under 4kg, which is little lighter than the pre-production model due to a change in the casing material, while the rotor weight is also reduced to a claimed 620g. The 250-watt motor delivers up to 32Nm of torque, while the 240Wh battery, which takes approximately 2.5 hours to charge, should be good for up to 50km in eco mode. As for the cost, the Skarper unit will set you back £1,295 and can be secured with a deposit of £79.95.

We live in a world where seemingly every new product professes to be a ‘game changer’, but the Skarper could well be just that. For a little over a grand you have a unit that will turn your current road bike into an impressively lightweight ebike. If your current steed weighs, say, 8kg, the addition of the Skarper unit should see it tip the scales at around 12kg. That’s not a great deal heavier than the lightest production e-road bikes, the majority of which cost north of £/$10k. We look forward to testing one…

Pas Normal Studio x Fizik gravel shoe

Fizik x Pas Normal Studio Ferox Carbon gravel shoe

(Image credit: Fizik)

Everybody’s favourite exclusive Danish cycling clothing brand is teaming up with Italian saddle experts Fizik across a range of collaborative items. The first offering is this subtle yet stylish rendering of the Ferox Carbon gravel shoe. The off-white and blue colourway won’t likely stay clean for long but it does give the shoe a certain elegance not normally associated with gravel gear. 

Weighing under 300g, it features a stiff carbon sole, a woven mesh and PU laminate upper, that’s apparently tear-resistant, and both a BOA dial and a Powerstrap for better adjustment and foot security. 

Fizik x PNS Ferox Carbon gravel shoe shown from two different angles

(Image credit: Fizik)

Like most things that get the PNS stamp of approval, it doesn’t come cheap. The collab Ferox Carbon shoe will retail for $355 / £290. But you do get a pair of matching socks and a bag to carry them in.

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