While mountain biking has spent the past 30 years trying to shed its road cycling similarities, the road cycling world has now begun taking some cues from its muddier cousin. Last year we talked about how mountain bike products such as dropper posts, mountain bike rotors and inserts were becoming viable options for Tour de France riders and we're back with another haul of tech trends for 2021.Disc Brakes Are (Almost) Ubiquitous Now
Despite initial fears that they would be unsafe in a peloton setting (one rider referred to the rotors as 'giant knives
'), disc brakes have now become standard issue for most teams in the Tour de France.
Every team but one now has a disc brake bike at their disposal apart from the Ineos Grenadiers. This is the same team that has been fielding Tom Pidcock at the XC World Cups this year and they were among the favourites before the race began. The team used the Tour to unveil its new Pinarello Dogma that was expected to run discs, but it ended up defying expectations and remained a rim brake only platform - potentially so the riders and mechanics didn't have to adapt to a new set-up before the biggest race of the year - although some would argue that their crash-prone riders including Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte might have fared better with a bit more control.
Despite this exception, it's safe to say that 2021 is the year that professional road cycling fully adopted the disc brake.Coloured tires
Mountain biking left many things behind in the 90s and colored tires were supposed to be one of them. While road cycling tires have generally been jet black or skinwalled in the past, this year Jumbo Visma brought a new blue tire to the race, marking the first time a completely blue tire has ever been used in the peloton.
While they were generally a fashion statement in times gone by (Marco Pantani made a splash with yellow tires on his Bianchi in 1998 ), Jumbo Visma's choice has a different meaning. This is used to commemorate their sponsor Swapfiets, a bike subscription service that uses colored tires as its signature.
To create the tyre, Vittoria engineers’ had to remove all black ingredients and formulate a new recipe for rubber compounds that uses a specific silica as a filler. The result is a Swapfiets-blue tire that is claimed to be as efficient as the original Vittoria Corsa Graphene tire. It even has its own Twitter accountTubeless
Tubeless for amateurs, tubular for pros - that has been the mantra in road cycling for the past few years. Generally, pro riders will race on tubular tires - an all-in-one tube and tire combination that is glued on to the rim. However, that tradition is starting to slip, especially where time trials are concerned.
Time trials eschew the tactics of road racing and instead it's all about one rider against the clock. Because of this, teams will wring every possible aero and rolling advantage out of a bike as possible - that's where tubeless comes in. While for mountain bikers, tubeless is all about avoiding punctures and dropping tire pressures, for time triallists, tubeless allows them to reduce rolling resistance.
This is mainly thanks to continual improvements in casing technology, plus the fact that tubeless tires are often more round, once mounted, than even the best handmade tubulars. So why aren't they being used on every pro road cyclist's bike? That comes down to safety, with tubular tyres less likely to catastrophically fail when riding in a group.Wider bars ... sort of
Coming from the gravel world as much as the mountain bike world, pro riders are starting to experiment with flared or outswept bars in the pro peloton. Riders will spend most of the time with their hands on the hoods of the bar, but for descents or sprints they will switch the drops (or the curly bits for those not fully clued in on the lingo). Gravel riders have started flaring their drops outward for the same reason mountain bikers have wider bars - so they can have more control on descents - while not sacrificing a normal riding position on the hoods for most of their ride.
Road riders have taken this principle and adapted it; rather than having a wider flared drop, they keep the drops the same width and flare inwards for a more aerodynamic position on the hoods. This comes with some sacrifices around bike handling and lever alignment but it has been experimented with by pro teams. We haven't seen any extreme flares in the Tour de France so far but as this Cycling Weekly article explains
, it's definitely an experiment the pro riders are willing to try.Mathieu Van Der Poel
Anybody who didn't believe Mathieu Van Der Poel was one of the most talented cyclists of his generation before the Tour must surely do so now. Van Der Poel delivered on all the hype that piled on him in the run-up to the event and left the race with a stage win
and six days in the Yellow Jersey
under his belt. He may now have pulled out of the race to prepare for the Olympics but Van Der Poel was comfortably the most effective mountain bike import of anything on this list.