Team DSM may currently be under a rather dubious investigation by the UCI for their controversial road-blocking tactics at last weekend’s Tour of Flanders, but another innovative scheme seems to have slipped through the net of the notoriously picky and hard to please governing body: the use of a ground-breaking on-the-fly tyre pressure adjustment system, just in time for the bone-shaking cobbled roads of Paris-Roubaix.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. This time last year, Team DSM appeared all set to roll out the Scope Atmoz – a €3,000 inflation hub which allows riders to change their tyre pressure at the push of a button – at the 2022 Hell of the North, before the experimental scheme was put on hold at the last minute.
But Dutch wheel manufacturer Scope Cycling says that, following a “test year” which saw the Scope Atmoz used in various “hectic” races to “make all riders feel comfortable riding with varying tension” in their tyres, the system has now been “thoroughly tested in training and races and passed all tests” – and, it seems, is finally ready to take on one of cycling’s most brutal, and relevant, races.
So, what’s the big fuss over this system, and why is it so useful for Paris-Roubaix?
The Scope Atmoz, which has been developed in collaboration with Team DSM since 2020 and which was granted approval by the UCI last year, can almost instantly inflate and deflate a tyre, changing the pressure by up to 0.5 bar per second, using an air reservoir housed within the hub which is linked via a hose to a tubeless rim.
Mechanical valves open and close to control the pressure within the tyre, and the rider is able to view front and rear pressure via a compatible head unit thanks to ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity.
To inflate or deflate their tyres, the Team DSM riders will simply press a button on their handlebars, sending a wireless signal to the mechanical valves.
Scope says the hub is free of resistance, lightweight (Scope says each hub weighs 300g), and reliable, with the company boasting that the potentially revolutionary system eschews marginal gains for “significant gains”.
Those significant gains will certainly come in handy at Paris-Roubaix, perhaps the race on the international road calendar where tyre pressure matters the most.
Aside from rolling resistance and cornering grip, you’ve also got to get over some of the roughest cobbled sectors in the world. Finding the balance between speed, comfort, and cornering grip is very tricky and Roubaix is a race with around 150km of perfectly good tarmac too, so you can’t just deflate your tyres to super low levels.
A rider would therefore have a significant advantage if they could start the race with higher pressures before lowering those pressures when the dreaded pavé arrives, with Scope claiming “up to 30 watts of reduced rolling resistance.”
The benefits of such a system at Paris-Roubaix – a race with a history of ground-breaking, and sometimes wacky, technical innovations – haven’t been lost on other teams in the peloton.
According to WielerFlits, the dominant men’s team of the spring classics, Jumbo-Visma (just don’t mention the Ronde), will also line up at the start in Compiègne on Sunday with their own adjustable tyre pressure system.
At Dwars door Vlaanderen last week, Edoardo Affini was spotted using the Gravaa KAPS, a system which uses what the Dutch company describes as “a miniature reciprocal membrane pump” to control tyre pressure via a wireless control unit mounted to the handlebar.
— Janus (@JVerlaeckt) March 29, 2023
While Affini recorded a DNF using the system last week, WielerFlits reports that last year’s Paris-Roubaix winner Dylan van Baarle, now riding in the yellow and black of Jumbo-Visma, has tested the Gravaa KAPS system during training and is very pleased with it.
So, who will come out on top in the tyre pressure arms race in the Roubaix velodrome?
Well I’m not a betting man, but a quick glance at the form book and the provisional start list for the Hell of the North makes it plain where the smart money will go on Sunday. Sorry, Scope…
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.