Tour technology: It's a lot more than bike and rider these days

When cycling grand tours were first getting started more than one hundred years ago, things were a whole lot different. Bike frames and hardware hailed mostly from Italy and, while that hasn’t completely changed, riders no longer cover 300 miles in a stage, have to take naps during a stage, change their own tires or, as happened on at least once occasion, stop to weld a broken frame along the way. 

Now stages are a manageable four to seven hours and cars and motorcycles follow the peloton, bringing doctors, mechanics and spare bikes. 

Other things have changed as well. Despite getting lighter, the bikes are carrying more gear. It began with a simple earbud on each rider so that the team director could relay information such as time gaps, crashes and upcoming weather conditions over, but it’s come so much further. 

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More than 20 years ago the first bicycle "computers" came along. These were tiny devices that mounted to the handlebars and the digital screen showed the rider data such as current speed, distance, average speed and sometimes more, depending on the model. 

What’s on the bikes in this year’s trip around France? Seven-time grand tour winner Chris Froome gave a tour of his machine recently and this is what he unveiled. 

The little computer has been replaced by a bulkier item, the Hammerhead Karoo 2, which gives significantly more data. It features a 3.5-inch touchscreen, and 4G connectivity so it can load the route maps for each race wirelessly. 

The Hammerhead is a relatively new product on the market and faces an uphill climb against Garmin which is favored by many cyclists. 

Another item the Brit is utilizing this time is the Scanwatch by Withings, which is your typical fitness tracker, but is said to excel in areas such as sleep tracking. 

Other items that are becoming commonplace are disc brakes replacing those rubber pads you always squeezed against your rims. There are also various ways of shifting that have replaced having to reach for the downtube.

One thing not yet invented is an item to prevent road rash and broken collarbones, a necessary thing to be in the works given the first two days of this year’s event. If you’d like to check out this year’s machines, you can find them here

Image credit: A.S.O.

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