Every year is a big year for technology in road cycling with manufacturers competing for as big a slice of the market as they can get, and 2014 has been particularly busy thanks to innovation from bike brands, advances in computer design and, most importantly, the introduction of disc brakes. In fact, five of our top 10 tech stories of the year are disc-related, some more than others.
We kick off our countdown with something entirely different, though.
Believe it or not, just squeezing inside our list is the most lo-tech entry of the top 10 – or the top 100, for that matter – Alberto Contador’s homemade mudguard.
Six-time Grand Tour winner Bertie was using a repurposed Team Tinkoff-Saxo water bottle as a makeshift mudguard on a visit to Herne Hill Velodrome, London last month. He – or maybe one of the team mechanics – had sliced a strip out of the bottle, slung it into the saddle rails and, as far as the tech goes, that’s it. Thrifty!
Sponsorship of a top WorldTour team is an expensive business so you’re unlikely to see branded kit on a rider’s bike without some background deal having taken place. That might explain why Contador didn’t have a factory-produced mudguard in place.
Thanks to Frazer Clifford for letting us use the photo.
Apple announced its new Apple Watch back in September and we looked at what that might mean to us cyclists.
The new Apple Watch can monitor your movement and activity via heart rate and built-in sensors, and relay that information to a new Health app on the iPhone or iPad. A Workout app will let you set goals for cycling or running activities.
One appealing feature is the optical sensor that's built into the rear panel to detect your heart rate without the need to wear a chest strap. The Apple Watch uses a gyroscope and accelerometer to measure movement and can use the GPS signal from an iPhone to provide distance and speed data for compatible apps.
The Apple Watch will be able to provide directions with a map, but it’s not clear how well this will be enabled for cycling instead of the primary purpose of walking.
The Apple Watch will go on sale in 2015 and prices will start at US$350.
We ran three stories on Garmin’s new Edge 1000 GPS bike computer in 2014. First, we told you that it was happening, then we published a Just In when it arrived at the road.cc hollowed out volcano, and finally we gave you a review.
We reckon it’s the best dedicated GPS unit so far, although it does have flaws.
It has a bigger and easier to read screen than previous Edge computers, the base mapping and routing are much improved and the connectivity with other devices makes keeping track of your data a simple job. The ‘but’ is that your phone is likely catching up quickly in its ability to do what the Garmin does.
Even so, the Edge 1000 has loads to offer those who like their cycling with a side order of technology.
Genesis have been busy launching their biggest ever range of bikes, all with a fresh new look. They now offer our disc-equipped Equilibrium models which sit alongside the regular Equilibrium bikes with rim brakes, and which for the first time are offered in Campagnolo builds.
The Croix de Fer expands to five price points with prices from £850 up to £2500, and there is a new aluminium CdA for city riding and commuting.
You can’t fail to have noticed the impact of disc brakes on the road bike world over the past couple of years so news that Giant had massively overhauled their best-selling Defy endurance road bike line up for 2015 and that the carbon models would be available only with discs was big news back in July. The aluminium models will still have regular rim brakes.
The new Defy retains the tried-and-tested geometry of the previous version but Giant says it is both stiffer and more compliant than not just the previous Defy but most of its competitors in the endurance sector of the road bike market.
The top-end Defy Advanced SL 0 (£7,999) comes with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset with hydraulic disc brakes, 140mm TRP rotors on Zipp 202 wheels, Giant 25mm tyres, bars and stem, and a Fizik Aliante saddle.
The most affordable Defy is Shimano Claris-equipped (see below) Defy 5 at £499 while the cheapest of the disc brake models is the £1,199 Defy Advanced 3 with a Shimano Tiagra groupset and TRP Spyre mechanical discs.
We gave you a sneak peek of Colnago’s super-sexy C60 road bike back in March, and then followed that up with a review in May.
The essential details are that the C60 has a new press-fit bottom bracket, oversized tubes and new alloy dropouts and it’s both lighter and considerably stiffer than the C59.
When we got the C60 in for review, Dave said, “The C60 is gorgeous. It's one of the very few bike that leaves me with a tingly sensation after every ride. If you are lucky (and wealthy) enough to buy a C60, you will be rewarded with one of the most balanced and intoxicating road bikes money can buy.
“Sensational performance with unflappable handling, the C60 is in a class of its own.”
He liked it, then.
The C60 is £3,499.95 for the frameset, or £3,699.95 for the disc version.
News of Cannondale’s 2015 lineup proved incredibly popular back in August. Disc brakes are a key theme of next year’s range with seven Synapse Disc bikes to choose from. Cannondale have also launched the CAAD10 with with a SRAM Rival 22 groupset, including disc brakes, and internally routed hoses and gear cables. It is priced at £1,799. There is a track version too, and or women there is a new top-spec SuperSix Evo added to the line-up.
Disc-equipped Synapse bikes are priced from £849 right up to £6,499. We’ve already reviewed the £2,499 Synapse Carbon Ultegra Disc (above) and loved the smooth performance. With the benefits of Shimano's hydraulic disc brakes, it is a very attractive bike if you like to ride fast, but don't want to race.
Way back at the start of March we told you about Shimano’s new entry-level Claris groupset, which is a Dual Control design (you downshift via a lever behind the brake lever rather than using a thumb button, the same as you do with Shimano’s the higher end groupsets).
It's an 8-speed system with the capacity for up to a 32-tooth sprocket at the back and double and triple options at the front, and braking is taken care of by 49mm callipers that uses the same Super SLR cable pull as all the other existing Shimano road brakes.
Claris is aimed at sportive and general road riders and it is specced on plenty of affordable road bikes for 2015.
Let’s start right at the beginning. SRAM launched new Red and Force 22 groupsets back in spring 2013 with both hydraulic rim and disc brake options.
Then problems began to emerge during cyclocross races in sub-zero temperatures last winter, and they issued a recall on Red 22 and S700 hydraulic brakes. SRAM put the recall down to faulty quality control on some of the seals.
Since then we’ve run several stories outlining SRAM’s replacement plan. We won’t go over all that again now!
Finally, in June SRAM revealed new designs of their hydraulic road brakes and also trickled the technology, along with other features of their existing top-level Red range, down to their third tier Rival groupset.
There’s a new lever body, a new master cylinder, a new reservoir bladder, a new rotor design... SRAM have been busy in an effort to put the whole recall debacle behind them.
The biggest tech story on road.cc in 2014 had nothing to do with disc brakes, and it didn't concern high-end components, it was the news that Shimano were giving their mid-level 105 groupset a complete overhaul. We followed that up with a glowing review in October, concluding that it is ‘quite simply, a brilliant groupset’.
The headline news is that 105 – the most popular road groupset worldwide, as Shimano are fond of reminding us – has gone from 10-speed to 11-speed, and that it now benefits from trickledown technology from Shimano's Dura-Ace and Ultegra groupsets with a lighter shifting action and more powerful braking.
Balancing performance, value and durability, you really can’t do any better for the money. 105 is now so good that it makes you seriously question whether it's worth paying extra for Shimano's top two groupsets, and it features on many, many great value bikes for 2015.
So there you go; some excellent technology that's also accessible to the everyday cyclist.
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.