Like with many other sports, technological advancements in cycling are constantly improving the quality of rides, for everyone from the pro cyclist to the occasional hobbyist rider. And while these technological advances can contribute to the overall comfort of a ride or increased digital conveniences for cyclists, many are primarily concerned with whether or not the improvements increase overall cycle speed.
A faster (and safer) ride is an ongoing top priority for bicycle manufacturers that are constantly seeking new high-tech advancements to increase speed. We will continue to see more of this innovation in 2018 with an ever-growing number of trends and exciting developments that serve to make us faster on two wheels.
The sleek design on aerodynamic bikes isn’t just about the overall aesthetic: bike manufacturers aim to reduce the excess in a way that constantly increases speed (without sacrificing overall safety, reliability, and durability).
Over time, high-end road bikes have been transformed from the old days of steel frames with one of the most important technological advancements in cycling. Manufacturers have replaced those with aluminium, then titanium, and now carbon fibre. The additional components of the cycle frame are also continually being revamped and improved for a lighter weight and greater speed. Even cycle gear and clothing are continually redesigned with more lightweight material and drag resistance, keeping both speed and overall comfort in mind. Cycling helmets with air ducts running through them have been continually upgraded to ensure that riders stay cool without any added resistance (and in the interest of safety, some helmets now come equipped with LED lights with brake and turn signals).
Digital or electronic gear-shifting technology reduces the decision-making time (or hesitation on the part of the cyclist), which in turn can increase cycle speeds in racing. While it has been around for two decades, it is much more commonplace these days on high-end road bikes, as manufacturers have worked through the kinks of the earlier digital shifting systems. Now we see electronic gear-shifting that provides a much more efficient ride for cyclists, and eventually, it will be as standard on cycles as power locks and windows in cars. An added bonus of digital shifting is it results in less maintenance over time for the cyclist, with automated recalibration and the removal of the Bowden cables.
There is no doubt an eBike (or pedelec) allows cyclists to achieve greater speeds, though some naysayers scoff at the eBike as a “lazy” option. Still, these increasingly popular cycles, which allow for speeds up to 25 km/hr, are especially popular for commuting in many larger cities. The assistance of a motor allows cyclists to achieve greater speeds on tough uphill climbs or simply for the thrill of greater speed.
A quick explanation on the difference between eBikes and pedelecs: pedelecs are an abbreviated name for pedal electric cycles. In the case of a pedelec, the motor reacts to the pedaling motion, but it ceases when the cyclist stops pedaling. An eBike is an electric bicycle that can continue to move even if the cyclist is no longer pedaling. eBikes and pedelecs are favoured not only by commuters but are used in many other settings as well, such as cycling tour companies. They offer a greater opportunity for cyclists of all ages and ability levels to enjoy a faster, safer ride with reduced fatigue.
Manufacturers continue to embrace technological advances in the movement toward wider tyre for the road bike, breaking the longstanding myth that wider tyres were slower than their narrow counterparts.
The cycle tyre’s performance is inextricably linked to the cyclist: while in theory a narrower tyre was thought of as a faster option, the wider tyre, which offers a more comfortable ride for the cyclist, may ultimately reduce fatigue. And, in turn, the cyclist may end up with a faster time in a race.
Here’s how cyclist and author Lennard Zinn explains it: “If a wider tyre is made of the same materials in the same thicknesses as a narrower one, it will roll faster, because the internal friction and hysteresis within the tire’s materials will be lower, and because the surface imperfections in the road will be absorbed into the tyre more easily (since it has more deflection available), thus lifting the bike and rider slightly less on each little impact.” (velonnews.com)
Cyclists with a Competitive Edge
In addition to the advancements in technology that have created faster cycles, better disc brakes, and other gear, cyclists themselves are always finding new and determined ways to increase speed, even in key sport events like the Tour de France (we are not talking about performance-enhancing drugs here). Cross-training activities are proven to benefit cycling times. Cyclists engage in a variety of activities off the bike, from yoga to weightlifting to swimming and resistance training as well as bring on their road bike. Group rides with cyclists above one’s fitness level push the boundaries of competition as well, and a variety of user-friendly cycling apps help with individual performance monitoring.
Whether mountain biking on road biking, diet plays a huge role as well as the bicycles we ride, with competitive cyclists careful to avoid fatty foods and sweets. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel needed by cyclists. However, this should be balanced with protein to keep hunger at bay during the ride. Proper nutrition and proper recovery periods after a workout can contribute greatly to cycling performance.
There has never been a more exciting time for riders, whether you are an accomplished cyclist who has mastered top speeds and challenging terrains or a newcomer who hasn’t been on two wheels since childhood. The high-tech advancements we are seeing with high-end bikes will begin to trickle down to more affordable innovation, offering cyclists of all backgrounds an opportunity to get in on the action and get out on the open road.