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Tour tech 2012: Time trial bikes from Canyon, Cervelo, Cannondale, Trek, Pinarello, Giant

The aero machines being ridden by Wiggins, Cancellara, Menchov, Sagan and more

Today is the first individual time trial day in the Tour de France so we’re looking at some of the bikes that the leading contenders will be riding as they attempt to put seconds into their opponents, or at least limit their losses, before hitting the Alps on Wednesday.

Team Radioshack (Radioshack Nissan Trek for long), which includes time trial ace Fabian Cancellara, are on Trek Speed Concepts. We’ve written about this bike plenty in the past, including a piece on Spartacus’s bike last week. 

To trigger your memory, it’s the bike that uses Trek’s Kammtail Virtual Foil (KVF) tube profiles – designed with a 5:1 depth to width ratio but with a truncated rear end. The idea is that the air behaves almost as if the tail was still there to keep the drag ultra-low, but allowing Trek to stick within the equipment rules set by the UCI (cycle racing’s world governing body).

Check out the skinniness of the fork blades and the seatpost which keep the frontal area that hits the wind as small as possible. Trek integrate the front brake into the fork to the extent that you can hardly see it in this picture, while the back brake is sheltered behind the bottom bracket.

The computer sensor is incorporated into the left hand chainstay, sitting flush with it, and about the only thing on the bike not designed specifically with aerodynamics in mind is plate on the stem. It features a pair of dice that add up to seven – which Cancellara reckons is his lucky number.

Tour leader Bradley Wiggins will be attempting to put time into his rivals on a Pinarello Graal – this bike belongs to loyal lieutenant Richie Porte. That curved seat tube design to manage the airflow over the rear wheel has become universal on top end time trial bikes although, if we’re looking for unusual characteristics, there aren’t many that still use an external, threaded bottom bracket. Nearly all go for a press-fit type these days for increased stiffness.

Pinarello don’t integrate the front brake into the fork like some manufacturers although they do position it around the back of the legs so it doesn’t hit the air head on. They also go for a direct mount brake from TRP that tucks in there nicely.

They hide the battery neatly inside the chainstay too. Although Team Sky are sponsored by Shimano, we’re pretty sure those are HED wheels on Richie Porte’s bike – a Stinger S9 and a Stinger Disc – hence the lack of graphics. And that’s an O.Symetric chainring on there; Wiggins uses the same. Again, O.Symetric aren’t a team sponsor so the logos have been removed.

Russia’s Team Katusha have switched from Focus to Canyon this year. The highest placed team rider is Denis Menchov who is currently fourth, just 54secs behind Wiggins. Menchov finished the Prologue in eighth position.

This is the Canyon Speedmax CF Evo bike belonging to Italian rider Giampaolo Caruso. We’ve told you about this bike before when Canyon announced it to the world. It’ll be in the lineup for 2013 with prices starting at around €4,000. Naturally enough, Canyon reckon the design is faster, lighter and stiffer than their current Speedmax offerings.

Canyon make extensive use of what they call Trident tube profiles on the Speedmax CF Evo. The tubes have curved leading edges and angular, chopped off tails – which sounds similar to Trek’s KVF design but it’s actually a quite different shape.

The various elements of the front end are amazingly well integrated with the stem (if you can still call that a stem) blending into the top tube. Canyon’s own centre-pull brakes are recessed into the back of the fork crown with a plate over the top so they’re hidden.

It’s just the brake shoes/blocks that extend out into the path of the wind. The rear brake gets a similar arrangement behind the underside of the bottom bracket.

Katusha use a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset with the battery hidden away inside the frame. Canyon won’t be offering any versions of this bike with cable-operated gears – it’ll be Di2 only, although you will get the choice of either Dura-Ace or Ultegra.

Look closely and you'll see the grip tape on the nose of the saddle to stop Caruso edging forward. That's going to wreak havoc on his shorts.

Liquigas are on the new 2013 Cannondale Slices. This is the bike belonging to Peter Sagan, the Slovak rider who has won three of the first eight road stages so far in this year’s Tour. Of course, the Liquigas rider competing for top honours in the general classification is Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali who is currently duking it out with Wiggins and Evans in the top three.

Like Katusha’s Canyon Speedmax Evo, this is a new bike that’ll be available to buy in the 2013 product year. The previous Slice was overdue an update and the Cannondale designers have been busy incorporating many new features. Essentially, it’s a complete redesign.

Most notably, there’s that front end which features an external fork steerer and a stem that flows neatly into the top tube for slippery aerodynamics. The cables run internally, heading inside through a cap in the top of the stem.

The other major change is around the seat tube/top tube junction. Rather than extending out around the rear wheel and heading back in towards the seat post clamp like the Cervélo P5 (see below), the Cannondale engineers have effectively extended the top tube backwards and brought it back in towards the seatstay junction. The idea, as ever, is to reduce drag. The N.Aero-Tec Post that fits in there falls easily within the UCI’s rules on dimensions.

Liquigas use Vision bars. That’s grip tape that Sagan has on both the base bar and the extensions to avoid slipping.

The groupset is SRAM Red although the brake callipers are designed especially for the Slice. As you can see, the front brake sits behind the fork legs while the rear brake is another that lives just behind the bottom bracket.

We’ve already featured the Cervélo P5s that Team Garmin-Sharp ride in time trials so check out that story for all the details on this bike. In fact, the P5 must have had more column inches on than any other bike out there since we went to the launch back in January. Ryder Hesjedal’s win in the Giro certainly helped the bike’s cause.

Finally, this is a Giant Trinity Advanced SL belonging to Rabobank. Rabobank aren’t making much of an impact in the overall classification with their highest placed rider being Bauke Mollema in 37th place, and this is his bike. Mollema was also the highest placed Rabobank rider in the Prologue finishing in 28th place. We can’t see Rabobank making too much of an impact in today’s individual time trial although that doesn’t detract from the fact that these are excellent bikes.

Like many of the other brands, Giant meld everything together at the front end and they’ve gone for one of the deepest head tubes in the business. That brake is a cam-operated single pivot option.

Rabobank use Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 shifting on their TT bikes, one of the big benefits over a cable-operated setup being that they can have multiple shift points. That means they can change gear from the aero bar extensions as usual but also from the base bar when riding out of the saddle.


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 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 over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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