It’s been a busy year in the world of bike technology and here are the very best tech innovations that have made it into road.cc Recommends.
Every month we select the top products that we’ve reviewed and add them to road.cc Recommends. Now it’s time to tell you which of these are the very best in terms of technical innovation.
What we're interested in here are products that incorporate technology that's new to a particular field. What constitutes new technology in a GPS cycle computer is clearly very different from new technology in sports nutrition, say, but the important thing is that they both offer something that we've not seen before, or at least a new twist on existing tech.
We’ve been back to road.cc Recommends, re-examined every product on its own merits and included the best of the best here. Naturally, the tech must have been reviewed by road.cc; if a company didn’t send us their jazzy new gadget, we can’t evaluate it.
We're giving out two awards here:
Money No Object We take the price out of the equation for this one; it’s all about the performance.
Editor’s Choice This award is won by the product that gives the best combination of performance and value for money.
Let's not beat around the bush, the award winners are...
...but first, check out what else has impressed us.
First, a couple of products deserve an honourable mention despite not having quite made it into road.cc Recommends.
We’d imagine that the inside of a bike frame wasn’t the first place that Apple thought of putting their Air Tags (four for £99), but as soon as we saw these, we were thinking about how they could allow us to track our bikes, be that after they’d been stolen, lost during travel, or simply left lying around.
Rather than giving you a specific location using GPS, AirTag works by using the iPhones that are close to it. Essentially, it uses other iPhones with Bluetooth to identify where the AirTag is in relation to that phone; so if your phone is 10m away from the AirTag and that phone is in location A, the AirTag knows it is within 10m of location A.
This means that they are most effective in cities where there are countless iPhone users, but they work well enough in less densely populated places too.
Garmin Rally Pedals (£969.99) finally give fans of Shimano cleats a dedicated power meter option (okay, the Assioma DUO-Shi did allow you to install a special axle into a Shimano pedal body, but the Q-factor was quite a bit wider than normal).
The Rally RK200 pedals are a dual-sided design and they gave us consistent data that is perfectly usable for power sessions. The day to day running of the pedals is easy and there is a huge heap of data to dive into, but the thing that makes these a particularly nifty innovation can be found at the axle.
Garmin has designed the axle with all of the clever power measurement tech inside and has then designed three pedal bodies around it. That means that you can get a pedal body for SPD-SL Shimano road cleats, Look road cleats, or SPD Shimano mountain bike cleats. While the job of swapping bodies is a little more complex than Garmin suggests, the job isn’t awful. If you’re switching from road cleats to off-road cleats for the winter months, say, then it’s no bother.
Pedal power meters arguably have more versatility than other systems because you can easily swap them between bikes, and the ability to use the power meter gubbins in the axles of different pedal bodies certainly helps to offset the cost.
Now it's time to look at the high-tech products that did make it into road.cc Recommends.
Scott’s Addict eRide Premium (£9,199) is one of the lightest electric road bikes that we’ve had the pleasure of riding. After we’d reviewed it, finding it to be a fast, comfortable, sweet-handling road bike with the benefit of smooth power assistance, we raced it against the then National Hill Climb Champion up the most horrific hill in the area.
Andrew Feather, despite his otherworldly abilities, was no match for the Addict eRide’s power and torque. Mind you, it went at warp speed when we gave it to Andrew.
Science In Sport’s Beta Fuel Gel (£12 for a pack of six) might seem like just another energy gel, but that clever bunch at SIS has managed to pack 40g of carbs into a standard sized energy gel while also making it kind enough on the stomach to allow you to cram 120g of carbs in every hour.
The innovative bit is the move away from the standard energy formula to a 1:0.8 ratio of maltodextrin to fructose. Upping the ratio of fructose increases the amount of carbs that can be ingested by 12%, according to SiS, while reducing symptoms of stomach fullness.
If you want to pack in a lot of energy while avoiding stomach issues, these gels are the ones to go for.
Chain lube is rarely exciting, but the Silca Synergetic Drip Lube (£32) hugely impressed us thanks to the super-slippery tungsten disulfide particles. No, that's not a sentence you hear very often. For this drip lube, Silca has added a product that they won’t name, but they do say that it is used in racing car engines. The combination of these two materials forms a film that Silca says reduces wear by 80-90% over other lubes.
Our testing suggested that this stuff works brilliantly to prolong the life of your chain and that is going to save you a whole heap of cash in the long run.
The longer you use it, the more you offset that £32 price. Happily, it lasts really well too.
One thing that sets the practical and stylish VanMoof S3 (£1,998) apart from the competition is that everything to do with security is integrated. A "kick lock" prevents it from being moved and also arms an alarm. If the bike is somehow stolen, you can track it through Apple's Find My app.
The S3 boasts a 504Wh battery which powers a 250W front hub motor. At the top setting, this gives you a claimed 39 miles on a single charge, which is slightly more than we managed. The motor picks up quickly, though, and when going uphill a boost button allows you to zip along without any effort at all.
With integrated lights, hydraulic disc brakes, mudguards and a kickstand, this is a supremely practical option.
The Fizik Vento Stabilita Carbon road shoes (£374.99) are clever in the way that they allow you to tune the way in which they provide arch support. A floating strap is anchored under the carbon sole and then attached in an unfixed manner to the strap that wraps over the top of the foot.
Inside the shoe, there are cutouts along the instep of the insole, allowing it to bend and support a huge amount of adjustability.
It’s very effective. The shoes might feel strange initially but you'll soon find them comfortable and they're great for hard efforts.
Two products that we reviewed on road.cc get Tech Innovation of the Year awards.
Our Money No Object award goes to the new Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 groupset (£4,281.87). Shimano has moved to a semi-wireless system (that can still be run as a wired system if you prefer) for its top-level road groupset – and for next level down Ultegra too – and they’ve done so while making the shifting even better.
Shimano decided against using Zigbee wireless technology, instead creating their own integrated circuit which they claim provides processing speeds that are four times faster while consuming 75% less power.
The rear derailleur is now incredibly smooth across the full range of the cassette and while Shimano is very proud of the claimed speed increase, our lasting impression from using the groupset is that the front derailleur has become a lot more powerful.
The braking has also improved slightly with the pads retracting just a little bit further when you're not applying them. A lot will depend on your frame’s disc brake mount faces being aligned and the rotors that you use, but this update has done a lot to solve previous issues with brake rub.
We also love the increased cassette sizes with Dura-Ace now. You can pair an 11-34T cassette with a 50/34-tooth chainset for a smallest gear ratio of 1:1 to help you get up your toughest local hill.
Overall, Dura-Ace R9200 might be the most expensive of Shimano's road groupsets by a distance, but the performance is superb.
Our Editor’s Choice award goes to the Hammerhead Karoo 2 (£359), an excellent cycling computer that has been updated with increased storage, from 16Gb to an impressive 32Gb, added dual Bluetooth Smart chipsets and an upgraded quad-core processor with 2Gb of RAM. The result is a faster, more responsive device that's also capable of handling the regular software updates that Hammerhead installs to improve performance and introduce new features.
The Karoo 2 runs on the Android 8 operating system and you can pair it to an Android or iOS smartphone for message/call notifications as well as a host of other connected features.
The Karoo 2 includes audio alerts with turn by turn notifications for routes that are easy to follow, while the map detailing is fantastic and the navigational overlaps are handy. If you do go off course, it'll reroute you without going crazy.
There’s more to like. The Strava Live integration is slick, the battery life is good at around 11 hours when connected to a bunch of sensors and following a route, and we love that the charging cable is USB-C.
Reviewer Anna has been using the Hammerhead Karoo 2 since the early summer and says, "It has continued to be great to train with – and for explorations too. I’ve continued to have no issues with its reliability and the battery life is showing no signs of fatigue
"Hammerhead rolled out its Climber popup overlay after my initial testing period, which I’ve particularly appreciated since my recent move to Wales. I don’t know the lanes here but I’ve been finding most will lead you up nasty climbs, typically with some sort of vicious 20% kicker part way along.
"This is where the popup has been such a saviour. It shows you what is coming up and this has helped me gauge efforts. I’ve been able to hold something back for the toughest sections – as well as also having the confidence to push on and empty the tank.
"The display is clear and easy to read. It shows the distance and elevation of the climb remaining and also features a colour coded elevation profile which shows which sections are steeper or shallower."
What has been your favourite cycling-related tech of the year?