Ride Like le Vent With This Tour de France-Level Cycling Gear
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July in France typically means only two things: Bastille Day and the Tour de France. Both are national obsessions, but only one gives us the chance to see some of the newest, fastest, most exclusive cycling tech of the year. When racers line up this Saturday, they’ll benefit from a variety of super light, aerodynamic, scary fast machines and components, many of which have been released to the public just days before the riding begins. Here are several new and notable developments we will be looking out for at this year’s Grande Boucle.
Giro Imperial Road Shoes
Hot weather and big mountains call for the lightest, most breathable shoes one can find. But seven-hour days and quads that look like they belong to a racehorse also demand comfort and stiffness. Giro believes it has found the sweet spot with its new Imperial shoe. Teijin TPU uppers keep the foot retained alongside Giro’s Synchwire lacing and BOA adjuster, which allow for on-the-fly adjustment as riders hurtle down mountains at 60 miles per hour. A carbon sole blade by Easton ensures power transfer in those hectic sprints of the first week, and the shoes even come with adjustable arch support to enhance comfort and power transfer. Look for them on the feet of the French hopeful Thibaut Pinot.
Cannondale SuperSix Evo Series
Cannondale’s new mounts promise to be the best choice for riders wanting one bike to do it all, and during our recent test ride we couldn’t disagree. The aero handlebar and front end slice through the wind on those fast transition days while the lightweight and deft handling make for the perfect companion in the mountains. Look out for Team Education First, who helped develop the bike, racing on the new Super Six Evo series in July. EF aren’t hard to spot thanks to their bright pink apparel, but Cannondale hopes they’ll be able to switch one of those pink jerseys for yellow with their new rides.
Oakley Tour de France Collection Sunglasses
The yellow jersey might seem as old as the Tour de France itself, but it isn’t quite. However, the maillot jaune hits a century in age this year. Oakley decided to celebrate by, predictably, making some commemorative custom shades. The glasses will feature yellow and platinum accents and prizm road lenses. You can choose between Jawbreaker, Radar EV, EVZero Path and the Holsten models in various shades of — you guessed it — yellow.
HVMN Ketone Ester 3-Pack
When races last a month and are won by seconds, every edge counts. For a couple of years now, the use of exogenous ketone esters has been the talk of the peloton, but now they’re more readily available. These products claim to increase performance in endurance exercise without sugar, caffeine or other stimulants. The gains might be marginal, but races are won in the margins.
Disc Brakes, Single Chainring Groupsets and Tubeless Tires
If you ride gravel or mountain bikes, this stuff may be old news, but roadies are slow to change. That said, this year has seen the release of new lightweight climbing bikes from Cannondale, Willier and Scott that use disc brakes, a major race win on tubeless tires, and nearly the entire peloton switching to discs for most of the stages. Technology like Enve’s 3.4 AR wheelset (pictured) and SRAM’s new Etap AXS groupset make it possible to ride with one chainring and tubeless tires without sacrificing weight, aerodynamics or gear range. We’ve seen these setups in time trials and single day races for years, but this might be the year they (finally) take over the tour.
The Tour is where bike brands like to show off their ability to make slick custom bikes, shoes and helmets for their riders. This is especially true for recently crowned national champions and former race winners. This gear might not be faster — custom paint can add weight to a bike, for example — but nothing boosts the morale like a good-looking rig or a fresh pair of shoes. Last year’s winner Geraint Thomas will be lining up on his custom-painted Pinarello. Trek’s Project One workshop will doubtless be working hard with their stable of national champions as well. They did a great job on Toms Skujins’ King of the Mountains bike (pictured) last year, and with him lining up as a Latvian national champion, we can expect more red and white from the team in 2019.
With cobbles making another appearance in this year’s tour, riders might well turn to Shimano’s clutch-based Ultegra RX rear derailleur. Although it’s from the brand’s second-best groupset, the RX categorization shows that the derailleur is designed for more rugged roads — or cobbles. By using a clutch, the derailleur keeps the chain tight and reduces the risk of chain loss. If you’re wondering how bad chain loss would be, just ask Andy Schleck, who dropped a chain and lost the race in 2010. SRAM, the brand that made the derailleur that arguably cost him that race, has also introduced a clutch this year
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