Tech of the Month December: Snapped bars, flying chains, failing sealants – these are the top stories of 2021

We take a look back on the stories you clicked on most throughout the year

(Image credit: -)

This month we look back on the stories that you clicked on most throughout the year. Some of them are the obvious big news items, such as the snapped base bar of the Australian pursuit team in the Tokyo Olympics and Specialized's recall of its flagship Tarmac SL7.

Others were a little more niche, from automotive company Ford filing patents for a radical new front derailleur to a rant on the travails of tubeless tech – considering the year he's had, Mark Cavendish shouldn't come as surprise, but the volume of interest in his auto-ejecting chain certainly did. 


But before all that, we just wanted to let you know that we've partnered with Garmin to give away a HRM-Pro chest-strap heart rate monitor. 

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Snapped Australian handlebar at the Tokyo Olympics

Snapped Australian handlebar

(Image credit: Reader supplied)

The most clicked on story of the year covered Australian track rider Alexander Porter's handlebars which snapped during the men's qualification round of the team pursuit.

If you've seen the video, it's hard to forget. At the back of the four-man line, Porter was riding with complete smoothness when his basebar suddenly gave way – completely without warning. It's a small mercy that there was no one behind him when it happened.

We were of the understanding that the handlebar used came from Australian manufacturer, Bastion - which specialises in 'Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)', with 'decades of experience in both the Automotive and Bicycle industries'.

But when we checked the website, Bastion's Base Bar page gave us a 404 error notice. Our source says that the base bar was removed following the crash at the Izu velodrome in Tokyo.

You can find the original story here or click here for the most recent update on the whole debacle

Why does Cav’s chain keep coming off after sprints?

Mark Cavendish chain

(Image credit: Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Mark Cavendish's 2021 season has truly been quite incredible. After crossing the line first four times in this year's Tour de France, the Manxman drew level with Eddie Merckx's long-held record of 34 stage wins.

But what seemed to pique particular interest was why exactly has his chain been auto ejecting itself over the finish line. It's not something confined just to the TdF, we noticed in the Tour of Turkey earlier in the year the same thing happening – and also while sprinting against Jasper Philipsen.

We spoke to Dov Tate of Parcours wheels who provided the possible explanation that the combination of wheel speed, the ratchet freehub engagement system (as opposed to a pawl design) and a sharp backpedalling motion as Cav sits up to celebrate are likely the perfect storm for drivetrain dislodgement. 

For the full details and all the images, you can find the original story here. 

Just put a tube in it

Just put a tube in it

(Image credit: Future)

For what was essentially a 1,000 word rant on the trials and tribulations of road tubeless, it certainly garnered a lot of clicks. The crux of the matter is how the overwhelming majority of sealants just don't seem up to the task of plugging holes in narrow road tyres.

Don't get us wrong, we love tubeless for gravel – running around 25 psi, it's very rare that we end up with a show stopping slash. And for certain situations on the road – whether it's for improving rolling resistance or giving the chance, the potential, for any nicks to be plugged – we'll be whipping out the sealant and the air-tight valves.

But the fact remains that tubeless just isn't so fool-proof for narrow, roadie tyres as it is for gravel. Although there is the chance that a cut will seal, the higher pressures greatly reduce the chance of this happening – even with the help of a tubeless tyre plug. 

Ultimately, you end up being left with no choice but to pop a tube into the slimy, sealant covered carcass – we'd happily change twice the number of tubes if it means not having to deal with sealant covered ones.

Of course, everyone has their own take and experiences. The original article can be found over here and do let us know if you've found the same or the compete opposite.

Is Ford about to reinvent the bicycle derailleur?

New front mech

(Image credit: United States Patent)

Back in October it transpired that Ford Motor Company has designs on the cycle industry – quite literally – in that it's registered a US patent for an electronic derailleur that's quite unlike any we've seen before: it's actuated by neither a cable nor a Di2-Style servo.

Rather, the design uses two mouldable wires made from a nickel titanium alloy called Nitinol. When an electrical current is applied, those wires change shape and move a chain guide, which moves the chain from one chainring to another.

I's a very simple, lightweight and likely cheap solution to chainring shifting, but Ford goes further than that. Later on in the patent "automatic sprocket shifting" is discussed, with Ford appearing to be aiming this at the e-bike market, where cost efficiency and simplicity are paramount. For more details, the original article can be found here.


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Stefan Abram
Tech features editor

After winning the 2019 National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Biking Championships and claiming the plushie unicorn (true story), Stefan swapped the flat-bars for drop-bars and has never looked back. 

Since then, he’s earnt his 2ⁿᵈ cat racing licence in his first season racing as a third, completed the South Downs Double in under 20 hours and Everested in under 12.

But his favourite rides are multiday bikepacking trips, with all the huge amount of cycling tech and long days spent exploring new roads and trails - as well as histories and cultures. Most recently, he’s spent two weeks riding from Budapest into the mountains of Slovakia

Height: 177cm

Weight: 67–69kg