Owning a road bike begins simply enough with an off-the-shelf set of wheels, entry-level helmet and pair of clip-in shoes. But then, given time, there comes the realisation that the basics aren’t enough. Tweaks must be made here and there – especially when a 100g saving could, at a stroke, gain valuable and effortless seconds when pushing against the clock. And then, you must finally admit it. That irrational joy derived from wearing the latest gear or fitting a new component to your bike. It’s almost as fun as the riding itself.
The GPS cycling computer
Of all bike tech accessories, the GPS computer has to be the number-one investment. As well as recording each ride in detail and automatically uploading the results to social-fitness networks such as Strava (strava.com) – let bragging rights ensue – it puts a plethora of live information at your fingertips.
The neatly sized Wahoo Elemnt Roam GPS Bike Computer is a joy to use from the get-go. The initial setup – all done from your smartphone – couldn’t be slicker, while the data fields on its 2.7” colour display are customisable in an almost infinite number of ways via the brand’s Elmnt Companion app. Navigation is also a joy – scroll through routes you’ve pre-plotted on Strava, select the one you like and away you go, all within seconds. Also, when on the road you can enter an address and the turn-by-turn instructions will update and guide you there.
If you’re performance-minded, the Elemnt Roam can display live Strava segments, so you can see how you’re stacking up against your previous times – and those of others too – to keep you motivated.
Other comparable top-end options are the Garmin Edge 1030, which has a similar spec to the Wahoo but with a larger screen. Purists who are supremely into numbers, meanwhile, are likely to be drawn to the SRM PowerControl 8 GPS Cycle Computer (accurately measuring power, altitude and speed on your ride), although it does come with a hefty price tag. Wahoo Elmnt Roam, £299, uk.wahoofitness.com. Garmin Edge 1030, £413, wiggle.co.uk or buy.garmin.com. SRM PowerControl 8 GPS, £650, sigmasports.com
Ever since Dave Brailsford enshrined the concept of marginal gains, accurate data measurement has become the currency of cyclists. The holy grail is the humble but critical watt. This tells you how hard you’re pedalling and ultimately, therefore, how fast you will go.
Italian electronics sports kit firm Favero has a fantastic offering in the form of its Assioma power meter, which is built into the pedal itself and transmits the data to your cycling computer for real-time metrics – and to record for later analysis. What’s more, fitting these regular-looking pedals, or even switching them between your bikes, could not be simpler: take off your existing pedals, fit the new ones, sync with your computer and you’re all set – it takes minutes. You’ll get 50 hours of use from a single charge, then just affix the magnetic connector to the pedals from a double USB cable to keep it running.
Garmin has a comparable option in the form of its Vector 3 power-meter pedals. Then there’s the crank power meters from the likes of Stages Cycling, although these are much more unwieldy to fit, and once they’re on, they’re on! Favero Assioma, €445 for a single pedal or €695 for a pair, cycling.favero.com. Garmin Vector 3, $999, buy.garmin.com
There’s no question that upgrading your wheelset is one of the most game-changing investments you can make – bringing new life, looks and speed to your bike. French brand Corima’s MCC DX wheels stand out from the crowd with their eye-catching aero carbon spokes, albeit with a slightly eye-watering price. Weighing just 1,285g for a set of 32mm-deep rims (1,355g for the deeper 47mm set), they’re ridiculously light. With structural foam inside the rims – and some very nifty work with carbon-fibre layering – they’re super-strong and a versatile option across a range of uses.
However, if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, then look to specialist British wheel brand Parcours. Its Strade comes in at under £1,000, yet is really capable. The wheelset is designed to be paired with wider (optimised for 28mm) tyres, therefore offering a more comfortable and stable ride. Yet there’s no sacrifice in performance – these are quick with superior aerodynamics, testament to 12 months of thorough research and in-house expertise. Corima MCC DX 47mm carbon wheels, from £1,460 per wheel or £3,100 per pair, corima.co.uk. Parcours Strade wheels, £999 per pair, parcours.cc
Cameras are becoming more commonplace among cyclists, mainly thanks to YouTube and the possibility of lawsuits. With their weight and speed implication – something long-distance weekend riders watch carefully – cameras tend to be the reserve of the commuter cyclist (in case of an incident), or for those who like to make videos of their journeys. The Cycliq Fly12 dashcam is a brilliantly designed bike-specific camera and light combo. The front unit (there is a matching back one too) weighs just 195g yet packs a bright 600-lumen light and wide-angle full-HD camera, with stabilisation and audio into the neat and 1m-waterproof package. The battery life is up to five hours with both light and camera running continuously.
The Techalogic DC-1 is a nifty option too. It has dual HD cameras – one facing forwards, one backwards – that fit on your bike helmet. It’s unobtrusive and weighing just over 100g, you’ll barely notice it. Cycliq Fly12, £269, cycliq.com. Techalogic DC-1, £179.95, techalogic.co.uk
The S-Works Prevail II by Specialized fits very comfortably and, with its trademark generous air vents, you’ll look the part while remaining cool in the heat. While most top-end helmets feature MIPS (a multi-directional impact protection system that helps to reduce rotational forces in an impact), the brand has taken it a step further with its ANGi model. Integrated within the helmet is a crash sensor, which continually measures rotational forces via an accelerometer and gyroscope. It is synched with the Specialized Ride app on your phone and in the unfortunate event of a crash, the app then automatically sends a text message to chosen contacts in your phone, notifying them of your location via GPS. To avoid false alarms, the app has a countdown timer giving you the chance to void the alarm after the first signal.
Likewise, the Swedish cycling helmet and apparel brand POC (the equivalent of Volvo in the bike world) offers a helmet suited to those with special medical conditions such as severe allergies. Built into the helmet is a Medical ID chip that stores your medical profile, so if an accident happens, first responders will be able to read your vital information and make informed decisions for your treatment. Specialized S-Works Prevail II, £200, specialized.com. POC Ventral Air Spin NFC, £240, pocsports.com
3D-printing technology continues to breathe new innovation into a host of different products, including the bike saddle. Fizik has teamed up with a Silicon Valley-based digital manufacturing company, and biomechanics and engineers have created a saddle constructed from a 3D-printed mesh – its Antares Versus Evo 00 Adaptive model. Although the surface appears uniform, there are several zones, some with softer, spongier areas that offer more cushioning and comfort and others with stiffer support. Fizik Antares Versus Evo 00 Adaptive, £369.99, from fizik.com
Components offering marginal gains
Cycling is often a passion pursued by people who are obsessive about details. There are a myriad of specialist component manufacturers to cater for this demand, and CeramicSpeed has largely taken ownership of the niche with its Oversized Pulley Wheel System. Even at a glance, the pulley wheel is noticeably larger than standard and, some might say, it even looks cool. Made of aluminium, with a carbon cage and ceramic bearings, CeramicSpeed claims it offers a 2.4-watt saving over standard Shimano pulley wheels, which is significant over longer distances.
Then there’s ultra-fast racing chains, with CeramicSpeed claiming its UFO version can save up to 5 watts. The chain is coated in a special liquid that sets quite hard, almost waxy, so there’s no grease or lube to deal with. It’s aimed more at those racing, as the real benefits are only reaped in the first 600km of use. Also, if you’re likely to find yourself riding in wet or muddy conditions, best give it a miss – this is for ideal blue-sky race conditions only.
Finally, Cane Creek’s fourth-generation eeBrakes are exceptionally light at just 162g, compared to 326g from Shimano’s top-of-the-line brakes – need we say more? CeramicSpeed Oversized Pulley Wheel System, €459, ceramicspeed.com, and UFO Chain, €139, ceramicspeed.com. Cane Creek eeBrakes, £329, 7hundred.co.uk
For two decades, manufacturers struggled to create a reliable electronic shifting system. Then, at the 2009 Tour de France, Shimano finally cracked it with the launch of the first commercially successful model – Di2. By removing the need for shifter cables, electronic shifting offers a much more precise and speedier gear change, so it’s no surprise that it was quickly adopted by pros. Since then, it has become accessible to the enthusiastic amateur rider. New bikes fitted with Di2 start from around £2,700, or it can, of course, be retrofitted. An entire groupset will set you back around £1,000, then three or four hours of mechanics to install. From one charge, you’ll get between 2,000km and 3,000km of riding. Once you’ve shifted to electronics, there’s no going back. Shimano Ultegra Di2 11-speed groupset, now £999.99, wiggle.co.uk
Looking for the most cost-efficient gains to your speed? Look no further than the aerosuit. Compared to wearing your normal jersey and shorts combo, this all-in-one option will typically offer up to a 19-watt advantage at 50km/h – this is simply huge. After much development and refinement in the windtunnel, British cycling apparel brand Rapha’s Pro Team aerosuit is constructed with three different materials to aid airflow and reduce drag. Rapha Pro Team aerosuit, £230, rapha.cc
Strictly speaking, this isn’t a piece of bike tech, but any self-respecting cyclist looking for those extra seconds should be using a heart-rate monitor. You will find wrist-mounted optical versions, but the chest-mounted ECG ones provide much more reliable and accurate readings. The recently updated and released Wahoo Tickr is very light at 48g, has greatly increased battery life of up to 500 hours, plus it’s slimmer and, once in place on the elasticated strap, you’ll forget it’s on almost instantly. Data will be shown on the Wahoo app, or a multitude of other devices, including almost all cycling GPS computers. Wahoo Tickr heart rate monitor, £39.99, uk.wahoofitness.com