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2016 Cycling Tech Trends and Rumours: What's coming now and what's coming next

Cycling technology that's coming your way over the next year

What cycling technology can we look forward to over the coming 12 months? Luckily for you, we've dusted off the old road.cc crystal ball, summoned up all of our mystic powers, and caught a glimpse of the future.

Of course, some of our foretellings might not prove to be accurate – that crystal ball can be a bit cloudy at times – but here are our predictions for the next year, along with a probability rating for each.

Could someone light some incense please? We need to get into a trance…

 

Gravel bikes and RoadPlus will become more defined genres

Gravel bikes have quickly become a major part of many brands’ ranges but there’s still not a great deal of consensus as to what a gravel bike actually is. 

Few bikes out there from mainstream brands are dedicated gravel race bikes. Most have taken the requirements of gravel racing and added the versatility of rack and mudguard mounts, as GT has done with the Grade Alloy Tiagra that we reviewed on road.cc earlier in the year.

GT doesn’t call the Grade a gravel bike, though, it refers to it as an EnduRoad bike. Then you have adventure bikes; where do they fit in? Are gravel bikes and adventure bikes the same thing? Some say they are, others see them as distinct genres.  

Check out our buyer’s guide to gravel and adventure bikes here.

We’ll chuck another term into the mix: RoadPlus. You weren't ready for that, were you? What the hell is RoadPlus? It’s a bike that’s built purely for road riding but built around 30-47mm tyres and 650b wheels (check out our article on why 650b has become an interesting choice recently). Essentially, RoadPlus covers endurance/comfort 650b road bikes. 

Cannondale’s new Slate rolls on 650b wheels and comes with a 30mm travel Lefty suspension fork. The US brand sees the Slate as primarily a road bike, but one that is capable of entertaining your adventurous spirit if you want to take the path less travelled. Gravel tracks, byways, bridleways, that sort of thing. 

Cannondale doesn’t call the Slate a RoadPlus bike, though, preferring the term 'New Road'. Argh! Too many names! 

We expect to see more bikes like the Slate appearing in 2016, however we end up describing them, and perhaps more bikes that don’t fit neatly into existing categories. We’re all for genre-busting designs here at road.cc, we just wish the terminology wasn’t so confusing.

road.cc probability rating 7/10

 

Campagnolo will launch a disc brake

Campagnolo will release a disc brake, or perhaps more than one, in 2016. That’s pretty much certain. 

Why? Because the UCI is continuing its disc brake trials in the professional peloton in 2016 with a view to making them fully race legal in 2017. 

Nobody knows how prevalent disc brake use will eventually become among the professionals – will discs become the default option or will they be used only selectively? – but you can be sure that Campagnolo won’t want its teams to be at a disadvantage. That would be bad for the brand and the opposite of what sponsorship is all about.

Campagnolo confirmed to us a couple of years ago that it was working on hydraulic disc brakes for road bikes and 2016 just has to be the year when that comes to fruition. 

Is Campag working with Formula on those disc brakes, as has been rumoured? We couldn’t tell you for sure but it’s a possibility. Shimano and SRAM both launched disc brakes into the road world after having developed the technology in mountain biking. Campagnolo doesn’t produce mountain bike groupsets so it doesn’t have that disc brake experience in the bank meaning that working with a third party would make some sense, but we just don’t know.

Will Campagnolo’s disc brakes work alongside its electronic shifting system, EPS? In a word: yes. All of Campagnolo’s sponsored road teams use EPS so electronic shifting and disc brakes will have to work together. A few years ago, Formula adapted Campagnolo EPS shifters to work with its own disc brakes, so it should be easier for Campag to do the same.

We can’t see Campag launching any cable-operated disc brakes. They wouldn’t fit with the brand’s market position or focus on mid to high end components. It’s going to be hydraulics all the way.

road.cc probability rating 10/10

 

Tubeless tyres will really take off

No, really this time. Our man Dave Arthur has been banging on about this at every opportunity for years. Will 2016 be the year when tubeless tyres really become a major part of the road cycling scene? They’ve been gradually gaining popularity for years now and always seem on the cusp of greatness, but never quite making it.

Tubeless fans say that the tyres improve the ride quality and increase resistance to punctures, although the fitting process can sometimes be more problematic than usual.

Check out our Buyer’s guide to tubeless tyres here. 

These days there are plenty of wheel options out there and ever more tyre choices, although some notable big players, such as Continental, don’t believe in the technology and haven’t got involved. If Conti did have a change of heart, we’d say that tubeless would definitely hit the big time. As it is, we’re not so sure.

road.cc probability rating 6/10

 

Shimano will unveil a new version of Dura-Ace

Dura-Ace, Shimano’s top level road groupset, is due an update and we’d be surprised if one didn’t arrive in 2016.

The current Dura-Ace 9000 (mechanical) and 9070 (Di2 electronic) groupsets were announced back in 2012, and all of Shimano’s other road groupsets have been revamped since then, so it's Dura-Ace's turn.

Shimano Dura-Ace 2013 27Assuming it does happen, what new technology might feature in an updated version of Dura-Ace? The current favourite guess in the road.cc office is that Shimano will add an integrated power meter. Loads of power meters have come on to the market in the past two or three years and the fact that Shimano doesn’t yet offer anything in this field has to be seen as a missed opportunity, especially as the brand already makes cranks, pedals and hubs that could potentially be developed into power measuring components.

What form would a Shimano power meter take? A crank based system would make a lot of sense, like SRAM’s Quarq designs, but that’s speculation.

Shimano owns BikeFitting.com and that sub-brand has a static bike system that already offers power measurement in 3D throughout the pedal stroke. It can tell the direction of force applied to the pedals at every 7° of the crank revolution, both left and right. This is exactly the kind of thing we’d expect Shimano to be offering out on the road.

Will the next Dura-Ace incarnation be wireless? We can’t see it, especially not if it’s going to be released in the next few months. SRAM trialled its wireless eTap system for ages before it was officially unveiled and everyone knew what was coming months in advance because we’d all seen it on professional riders’ bikes.

It’s impossible to keep something like that under wraps, especially if it needs to be race tested ahead of launch. If Dura-Ace was going to be wireless, we’d know about it already – unless Shimano has hired a team of oompa loompas who work tirelessly and never see the light of day.

What else could a new Dura-Ace groupset offer? A 12th sprocket? At one stage we never thought we’d get to 11. Or 10. Or 9. Or 8… You get the idea. But given how little space is available on a freehub, we can’t see anything changing here.Shimano-R785-Hydraulic-disc-brake-Di2-road.jpg

Anything else? Perhaps Shimano will add hydraulic brakes properly within the Dura-Ace groupset. Currently, they’re non-series. 

Beyond that, we’re guessing that a new Dura-Ace groupset will be lighter and offer slicker shifting, better braking, and so on. Those are the usual claims.

road.cc probability rating 8/10

 

Tyres will get wider still

The default option for road bike tyres was 23mm until a few years ago but now we’re up to 25mm – we see far more 25s than 23s even in the pro peloton – and that trend looks set to continue. Schwalbe One Tubeless

Why? Because wider tyres can give you lower rolling resistance, greater comfort and a larger contact patch with the ground, meaning a reduced chance of skidding. That’s more important than ever with the growing popularity of super-powerful disc brakes.

Specialized has tacked on an extra millimetre and is making its super-quick Turbo S-Works and Turbo Cotton tyres in a 26mm width, and rolling resistance tests conducted on behalf of Velonews magazine found them to be the fastest-rolling tyres tested.

The 28mm versions of the best-rolling tyres will be faster still. With rim brakes, a tyre’s size is limited by the need for it to fit inside the calliper, but that’s not the case with disc brakes, so over the next few years wider tyres will fit more and more new bikes as manufacturers expand their ranges with disc models. 

road.cc probability rating 7/10

 

Road bikes will become more integrated

Integrating components into frames and forks has several benefits. It can make bikes more aerodynamically efficient and it can make them look a lot neater. From a manufacturer’s point of view, it can also tie customers into buying their replacement components for years to come, although we’re in no way cynical enough to suggest that that’s why they do it. Definitely not.

Trek Madone 9 Series Project One - riding 1

The current road bike with the highest level of integration has to be the Trek Madone 9 Series which was launched earlier in the year. The dedicated front brake is integrated into the fork crown, the rear brake fits almost seamlessly with the seatstays, the handlebar/stem combo works with the head tube/ headset spacers, all of the cabling is internal…

Not all manufacturers are going to go as far as Trek, but a higher level of integration is certainly on the cards for 2016.

Hopefully, more brands will hide the Shimano Di2 junction box inside the frame.

road.cc probability rating 8/10

 

SRAM eTap will prove a big hit

SRAM’s new Red eTap wireless shifting system is due for delivery in spring 2016 and we reckon it’ll prove immensely popular.

Why do we say that? First, we’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of rides with eTap and it’s amazingly simple to use. It’s an excellent, intuitive design.

Second, eTap is very neat and it fits into our modern day ethos that says wireless is A Good Thing. Bikes look less cluttered and we can eventually have fewer holes in frames (once designers start producing eTap-specific bikes). 

Finally, after the high-profile recall of SRAM’s hydraulic brakes, we don’t think the US brand is going to have taken any chances with the technology here. That debacle cost SRAM a lot in terms of both reputation and hard cash, so you can be pretty certain that it won’t be running the risk of anything similar happening with eTap.

With all that in mind, we think that eTap is going to be massively popular despite its high-end price tag.

You can expect SRAM to introduce eTap levers that are compatible with hydraulic brakes at some stage, and to add WiFLi compatibility too. The technology is bound to trickle down from Red to Force, but that might not be for a while.

road.cc probability rating 8/10

 

More disc brake equipped road bikes will hit the market

This isn’t so much a prediction as a statement of fact: there will be more disc brake equipped performance/race bikes in 2016. 

It has been just a few months since the UCI announced that it would allow pro teams to trial disc brakes in the peloton ahead of an anticipated full roll-out in 2017, and although everyone knew that permission would be granted sooner or later, bike brands are still reacting to the timing. 

Some brands already have disc equipped race bikes. Pinarello, for example, unveiled the Dogma F8 Disc back in May and members of Team Sky raced on it in August, while Focus has its Izalco Max Disc which it claims is the world’s lightest production disc brake road bike.

focus izalco max disc 5

Many other manufacturers have disc equipped endurance bikes but don’t have disc versions of their lightweight, race geometry bikes. 

Trek currently has a disc brake version of the Domane endurance race bike, but there’s currently not a disc brake version of either the aerodynamic Madone or the lightweight Emonda. Over at Bianchi there’s a disc brake version of the endurance Infinito but no disc brake version of either the Oltre or the Specialissima.

We’re not saying these brands will necessarily add disc brakes to all of their top end performance models, but you can certainly expect them to offer more disc equipped lightweight race bikes, along with cheaper alternatives.

road.cc probability rating 10/10

 

Someone will reveal wireless electronic brakes

SRAM has ditched wires for its eTap shifting system, will somebody do the same with brakes at some point? 

We actually spoke with someone from one of the big component brands about this a while back and they said that it was perfectly possible from a technological point of view, but there’s a major psychological hurdle here: who is going to run the risk of riding with electronic brakes? If a shift system runs out of juice, the worst that will happen is that you can’t change gear. If your brakes run out of power, things could end really badly. You could get a thick lip or anything.

Still, we reckon there’s a small possibility that some one-man band will come up with a design for electronic brakes and we’ll see it at somewhere like Eurobike.

road.cc probability rating 1/10

 

Power meters will become more accessible

Power meters have become increasingly popular over the past few years as prices have fallen and more people have become convinced of the value of training by wattage. 

Stages power meter for FSA 386EVO SRAM BB30 road and mountain (1)Stages has recently announced carbon versions of its crank-based power meter for the first time, including its own Stages-branded models (rather than simply adding its power-measuring pod to third-party cranks), that will become available in 2016. Stages’ own carbon power meter for BB30 interface will be €799 with the BB axle €99. bePRO pedal powermeter  - 4

Okay, that’s not exactly cheap, but it’s much cheaper than the price you were looking at for a power meter three or four years ago. In addition, there are new players in the market like Favero with its BePRO pedals (£545) and 4iiii with its power meter that you fix to your existing cranks. 

Check our buyer’s guide to choosing a cycling power meter.

We can only see power meters becoming more accessible in 2016 as the technology becomes more prevalent.

road.cc probability rating 7/10

 

Rotor will launch its Uno hydraulic groupset 

This isn't much of a prediction in that we’ve already seen Rotor’s forthcoming Uno groupset with hydraulic shifting and braking, and it’s scheduled to hit the market in spring 2016. We assume that will happen.

Rotor says that it has been working on the Uno system for the past six years and that it partnered with Magura to produce the hydraulic brake systems, both disc and rim, confirming a long-standing bike industry rumour. 

Rotor reckons advantages of a fully hydraulic system are smooth activation, low maintenance and multiple shifting positions. Another significant benefit is the lack of batteries. 

road.cc probability rating 9/10

 

Shimano Sora will go 10-speed

Shimano’s Sora groupset, one above entry-level Claris, was last updated in 2013 so we reckon it’ll get a full revamp in 2016. It has been 9-speed since 2009 while next-level-up Tiagra has been 10-speed since 2012; that makes us wonder whether Shimano will make Sora 10-speed next year.

Maybe Shimano will ditch the one-piece brake pads too, and go with a decent set of cartridge pads too.

road.cc probability rating 5/10

 

Everything will be lighter, stiffer and more vertically compliant

Of course it will. And more aero too.

road.cc probability rating 10/10

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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