February’s Tech of the Month: Specialized Ares Shoes, Schwalbe tyres and Lapierre Aircode

A look at the Tech headlines in January, and some of the kit we had in for test

Tech of the Month has taken on a new format for 2021, with a look at the hottest tech news we published over the four weeks leading up to filming, as well as some cool new product insights.

Product news headlines

Brexit

This was big news over the course of December and January. Brands were still trying to work out what impact Brexit was going to have on availability and prices. The most viewed story talked about Campagnolo stopping direct sales of some products UK. But it’s ok, UK distributor Chickens confirmed that Campag fans won’t be left in the cold, and the story was similar for Brookes, who won’t be selling direct to the UK but will still be available via Extra.

We have been speaking to brands about the effect Brexit is going to have on bike prices, with one brand telling us to expect around 10-20% increases. We already saw price hikes at Specialized and Giant last year, with Trek upping its prices in Jan 2021.

Chrome bikes

We had a lot of hits on this story from two guys based in Wisconsin, who believed they’ve been the first to create a mass production scale method of spray chroming bikes.

Spray chroming isn’t new – it can be applied to any surface, unlike traditional chroming, and it uses fewer harsh chemicals. But there’s a lot of reasons spray chroming can be difficult – covering the holes on the frame so drips don’t ruin it, the size of the bike and making sure the surface is totally clean. 

These guys say they’ve cracked it .. in a shed, on a 400 acre farm, using plastic sheeting, 2 fans, and 1,5000 staples! 

Painters we spoke to said they’d seen a bike spray chromed before, so we question the ‘worlds first spray chromed bike’ story they claimed – what’s different is they say it takes them 15mins per frame and costs less than $100 per frame to do. Of course, the ‘how’ is a secret and that’s the tech they’re trying to sell to a big brand. Watch this space. 

Dura-Ace 12 speed

The other big story on the site was tech writer Stefan’s look at the Tech Trends for 2021. This included what we expect to be 12- speed Dura-Ace, based upon patents that were submitted last year.

Unfortunately, the list also includes price hikes – due to a mixture of supply and demand, factory prices increasing and the use of lighter versions or Toray carbon, and probably a lot more gravel and ‘all-road’ bikes – the aero drive seems to be slowing down, we’re even seeing that in new road bikes such as Specialized’s Aethos. 

World Tour bikes 2021

And of course, being January we’ve seen a host of cool new World Tour bikes coming in. 

Mitchelton Scott is now Bike Exchange, and they’re on these very un-celeste Bianchi Specialissima and Oltre XR4 bikes. Chris Froome’s move to Isreal Start-Up Nation puts him on a Factor VAM, and Mark Cavendish – as he’s gone to Deceuninck Quick-Step is back on board a Specialized in the shape of the SL7 – the brand was happy to welcome him back! 

What we’re testing in January…

Specialized Ares S-Works Shoes (£375)

Launched towards the end of January, the Ares shoes from Specialized are not a replacement for the S-Works 7 road shoes. Instead, they’re designed for a narrow range of use: sprinting.

Offering up a claimed 1% performance boost, the fastening system is designed to prevent the rider’s foot from lifting up inside the shoe during those crucial pedal strokes.

Schwalbe G-One Ultrabite (£60) and Schwale X-One Bite (£60)

Stefan has been testing out the G-One Ultrabite and X-One Bite tyres. The former is designed for gravel riding, providing a happy medium between performance on and off the road, and it has already been reviewed, so you can take a look at our verdict here. The latter is a cyclocross tyre, ideal for slicing through thick mud – something we’ve been enjoying a lot of as of late, with the trails waterlogged by winter rainfall. Keep an eye out for the review, coming soon.

Lapierre Aircode DRS 8.0 (£6299)

Whilst many brands have been moving away from aggressive geometries, Lapierre has made its set-up more so. It’s also got short chainstays for a responsive rear end, though a wheelbase not far off market leaders like the Specialize SL7 implies the front-centre is a little longer.

The Aircode aims to provide both aerodynamic benefits and comfort, this is the top of the line model – dressed in Shimano Ultegra, with Lapierre opting against a Dura-Ace build. It comes shipped with clip on TT bars, such is the brand’s confidence in its prowess against the clock. We’ll be putting it to the test over the coming weeks.

Tech of the month will be back on March 6 with more headlines and tech bling…