Nine of the best new road cycling products of 2015

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Nine of the top tech innovations of 2015

Sponsored by Sage One: nine new products from 2015 that we think have made a real impact

Despite the fact that we spend most of our time moaning about the weather or complaining about someone stealing our Strava KOMs, it’s a really great time to be a cyclist right now.

The industry is thriving, and with that comes more invention and creativity than ever. The breadth of products available has never been better, and you can find real quality at much better prices than ever before, meaning that even if you’re on a budget you can find a bike and kit that’s far more than simply adequate.

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up nine of our favourite products from 2015. They’re products that we think have made a real difference or are blazing a trail, as well as a few that we think will be the starting points for the next generation of trickle down technology.

Here are our picks. Starting with…

SRAM Red eTap

Cynical as many may have been when electronic shifting was first released, there’s no denying that wireless shifting is a significant step forward if only because it actually rids the bike of something, rather than adding something else.

It may have been a long time coming but SRAM Red eTap has been worth the wait

Electronic shifting works wonderfully, but the additional battery and all the wires didn’t exactly simplify matters when it comes to bike setup and maintenance. Getting rid of them, on the other hand, means no more routing derailleur cables or wires through the frame, a task even the most skilled pro mechanic will be glad to see the back of.

We’ve already done a full overview of the new SRAM Red eTap wireless electronic groupset, but it’s worth looking at some of the headline features again. First, you don’t actually have to buy the entire group, as only the shifters and derailleurs are wireless. That means you can keep your crankset and brakes meaning an upgrade from regular SRAM Red to eTap will set you back around £1,000 rather than twice as much for the whole lot.

SRAM have also vastly simplified shifting. Instead of up and downshift buttons on both sides, one shifter moves the rear derailleur up, the other moves it down and pressing both together shifts at the front. The actual shifting is handled by SRAM’s own wireless system called Airea. Creating their own system has given SRAM the ability to develop eTap however they want, although the rear derailleur has ANT+ connectivity built in so it can communicate with compatible third party head units.

There are plenty of other features on top of these, but the quality of the groupset is such that it’s fair to say there won’t be anyone disappointed even after a long wait for it to materialise.

Cannondale Slate

Road bikes are changing. Well, actually it’s more that bikes are changing in general. The lines between road bikes and mountain bikes have never been more blurred and Cannonade’s Slate takes things one step further by adding a Lefty suspension fork to a drop bar ‘road’ bike.

The Cannondale Slate blurs the lines between road and mountain

Drivetrain on the top model is SRAM’s Force CX1, and all three models go with disc brakes. In another road bike first, the Slate uses 650b wheels wrapped in serious 42c Panaracer tyres perfect for on or off-road use, adding a whole lot of comfort and both wheels use thru-axles rather than quick release skewers. Plus, the frame is also Di2-ready, just in case you want to get involved with some electronic action. Basically, the Slate is ahead of the curve in almost every way possible, and a really exciting product as a result.

Traditionalists might hate it, but increased versatility is never a bad thing. And the Slate sits comfortably in between road and mountain, with features from both that makes it arguably the most adaptable bike on the market. Over the last few years Cannonade have proved themselves a brand more than willing to take risks and drive the market in totally different directions to their rivals, as well as still making the SuperSix Evo, one of the best lightweight road bikes around.

SRAM 1x

SRAM have been very busy in the last year not only developing their eTap wireless shifting but also 1x (one-by) that sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. 1x is drivetrain simplification, taking your groupset and slimming it down to the essentials by getting rid of the front derailleur and running a single chainring.

SRAM 1x strips the drivetrain down to its essentials by removing the front derailleur and running a single chainring

It’s an elegant solution for a number of different tasks – commuting and cyclo-cross being two very different examples – but it’s also been adopted by triathletes as well, with professionals taking to a single front changing without much persuasion needed.

SRAM clearly realised that there are plenty of cycling disciplines where you just don’t need front shifting, and for the less technically minded vesting the bike of another bit of kit that can be tricky to set up correctly.

As well as being ideal for cyclo-cross, 1x is also a great idea because it adds another option. And variety is one of the best things about the way the bike market is heading because no matter what type of riding you want to do, there’s an option for you.

Zwift

So many brands have tried to reform indoor training and make it interesting and enjoyable, but the truth is that for the majority of us riding indoors will always be a necessity rather than a pleasure.

Then along came Zwift. There have been indoor virtual reality training tools before, but nothing that manages to border the line between training tool and computer game quite as well.

Zwift offers a far more interactive experience than any other indoor training software we’ve seen

Graphically, Zwift looks far more like a game than it does training software, replacing on-screen graphs and stats with a high quality virtual environment. You still get important information like power, heart rate, cadence and so on visually displayed, but it feels like – and is – a far more interactive experience.

It also helps that with Zwift comes a healthy dose of the competitive spirit that makes other platforms like Strava so popular. You can race against other people in real time and while that might not do wonders for your ‘easy’ days, it’s a powerful incentive to get on the bike and ride even if you’re not actually going anywhere.

Live Strava Segments

If you’re a Strava addict, one of the biggest frustrations over the last few years has been the lack of integration between everyone’s favourite competitive bike riding social network and the market leading bike computers.

The introduction of Strava Live Segments to some of Garmin’s Edge computers means you can get real-time feedback on your performance

Then, when Garmin brought out their own segments on Garmin Connect, it looked like the marriage everyone wanted might not happen, but thankfully both parties have seen the light and now you can see Strava segments in real time on you Edge bike computer. That means you get a start point countdown, live tracking of your time versus your best effort and, most importantly, there’s no need to stop and check your phone to see whether you’re near that KOM you’ve wanted for ages.

It’s one of those rare occasions where integration has actually resulted in simplification, and both parties are better for it.

Trek Madone 9-Series & Specialized Venge ViAs

Speaking of integration, the world’s two most prominent bike brands have both been working hard on the subject and released amazingly aero bikes over the last six months. Both the Trek Madone 9-Series and Specialized Venge ViAs are genre-redefining, combining road bike looks and drop bars with time trial bike speed in the wind tunnel.

The Trek Madone 9-Series takes integration to the next level

To put it in perspective, in testing both of these bikes knocked spots off anything already on the market. And we’re not talking seconds, either, it was minutes. Trek have gone as far as to claim that the Madone even outshines Specialized’s Shiv TT bike in the wind tunnel and early feedback from the Trek Factory riders has been overwhelmingly positive.

Of course, both are so expensive that most of us won’t ever get to ride them, but ultimately the top of the market is where all the smartest ideas start and eventually they trickle down. That’s why a new Dura-Ace groupset always yields great excitement: not because we’re all going to be able to afford one, but the fact that in a year’s time all the best bits will be available in Ultegra as well, before some of that tech also makes its way down to 105 and beyond. You only have to look at the four-arm Dura-Ace chainset design, which now features all the way down to Shimano’s fourth-tier groupset, Tiagra.

And that’s what’ll happen here too. At the moment, the cheapest version of the new Madone is £4,500, but give it a couple of years and you’ll see ideas from that bike appear at far more accessible price points and genuine gains will be available to grassroots riders as well.

Enve’s super-light carbon hubs

Weight is definitely one of cycling’s great misdirections. Lighter isn’t always better, and there are plenty of other factors to take in account other than just what the display on the scales says. On the other hand, if functionality and strength are equal, weight can be the factor that quite rightly drops jaws.

Enve’s new carbon hubs weigh a claimed 232g – nearly 60g lighter than anything else on the market

Such is the case with Enve’s latest hubs. The American company claim that a set of these weigh in at 232g. To put that in perspective, DT Swiss reckon a set of their top-line 180 hubs weigh 291g, and Zipp’s 88/188 hubset boasts a 298g weight. So these are almost 60g lighter than the nearest competitor which, as a percentage of the overall weight, is incredibly impressive.

There are comparatively few carbon hubs on the market, mostly because making a hub from carbon isn’t actually all that easy and it’s harder still to not sacrifice the strength that you’ll need to actually ride the things.

Not only that, but Enve have made the hubs so that they accept standard spokes, instead of some kind of clever proprietary design, which is even more impressive. They’re only available in 20/24 front/rear hole combos at the moment and if the US retail price of $1,350 is anything to go by, you’ll probably have to sell your current bike in order to afford a set…

Bianchi Specialissima

We’ve already raved about the Specialissima in our review, but it’s worth including here for the unprecedented balance of light weight and ride quality.

The key to the Specialissima’s ride is in the Countervail technology that Bianchi have incorporated into the frame. Countervail is a vibration-cancelling system that sits inside the frame’s carbon weave and reduces vibrations transferred through the frame while maintaining the stiffness and strength needed for riding.

Incredibly low weight and excellent handling make the Specialissima a bike like none other we’ve ridden

The result is a super light climber’s bike that manages to descend as well as it climbs. The reduction in road vibration gives the bike an astonishing surety when you plough high-speed into corners, and that combined with the excellent handling makes the Specialissima a bike like nothing we’ve ridden.

On top of that, you can build a Specialissima to well under 6kg, so if you’re thinking of a mountainous adventure, you won’t find many better equipped bikes on the market. The catch? You’ll need at least £7,000 if you want one…

PowerTap P1 pedals

While there are already pedal-based power meters on the market, most aren’t as easy to install as a standard set. With all due respect to Garmin, PowerTap’s P1 pedals are what we all hoped the Vectors would be: easy to install, no specific torque requirements and generally less hassle. All you need is an 8mm allen key – like with standard pedals – and you’re good to go.

Powertap’s P1 pedals are the simple power measuring pedals that everyone’s been waiting for

And that ease of transfer is what makes the P1 such an important product. Moving a crankset from bike to bike is enough hassle that you don’t want to do it too often, and even Powertap’s own G3 hub means you’re committed to one particular set of wheels. But the P1s will allow you to take you power meter anywhere you want, and it’s about as much hassle as taking a standard set of pedals around. In other words, not much at all.

The pedals also have dual Bluetooth and ANT+ wireless capability, are compatible with standard three-bolt cleats, and run from AAA batteries with a claimed life of 60hrs. Power measurement just became even simpler.

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