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Tour de France Tech: More new stuff from the Tour

  • By Zack Vestal
  • Published Jul. 23, 2010
  • Updated May. 21, 2011 at 7:10 PM EDT

Paul Lew

The race is winding down as the peloton barrels toward the final TT and Paris, but that doesn’t mean there’s been a shortage of new gear on show at the Tour. We’ve got a few more galleries of TT bikes and such on the way, but for now, here’s a final roundup of the new products we saw in person in France.

Reynolds RZR 92.2 aero front wheel

First ridden in anger in the 2010 Tour de Suisse by Nicolas Roche of Ag2r La Mondiale, the Reynolds RZR 92.2 made its Tour de France debut in Rotterdam. Select Ag2r La Mondiale and Footon-Servetto-Fuji riders rode the RZR 92.2 front wheel paired with a Reynolds Element disc in the rear.

“This is the first wheel in the Reynolds line that was designed specifically for aerodynamic performance,” said designer and engineer Paul Lew.

Lew was in Rotterdam to watch his creation put to the test, and he described the major design features of the RZT 92.2. It’s quite light for a deep-section wheel, at 690 grams. The rim, spokes, hub, and hub axle are all carbon. The 92.2 mm rim was designed using a proprietary computational fluid dynamics computer program used to design and validate efficient airflow for U. S. Navy robotic drones and guided missiles. The 92.2 mm rim depth terminates in a razor sharp trailing edge which Lew says creates the smoothest possible shape for re-attachment of separated and turbulent air. Twelve, N.A.C.A.-airfoil-shaped full carbon-composite spokes support the rim. They terminate in a full carbon hub with a double carbon wall for lateral stiffness.

The 92.2 also sports a wide tire bed. “One of the things we addressed right away was the fact that triathletes and time trialists don’t race 18 and 19mm tires any more. So we knew that we had to address a wider tire,” said Lew. But he didn’t want to compromise braking performance with a non-parallel brake track. Ultimately, the resultant rim shape has a wider, deeper tire bed than any prior Reynolds wheel, yet the smooth and parallel rim sidewalls help turbulent air reattach into laminar flow, according to Lew.

In addition to the RZR 92.2, Lew pointed out improvements to the flagship, ultra-light RZR 46T. It’s now got strands of Kevlar woven through the rim to improve impact resistance, and additional strands running the length of the carbon spokes for breakage resistance.

2010 Tour de France Tech, SRAM LTE group

SRAM Red Limited Tour Edition parts group

Before the Tour even started in Rotterdam, SRAM representatives were busy showing off their latest creation. It’s a Red parts kit that’s functionally identical to the Red group currently available, but this one has a special yellow on black graphics package. Called the Limited Tour Edition (LTE) group, SRAM-sponsored former Tour winners Carlos Sastre, Lance Armstrong, and Alberto Contador started the race on the LTE kit. Oscar Peirero also gets a group, but he’s not in the race this year. Additionally, any SRAM rider that winds up in yellow, even for a day, gets the LTE group installed. For example, Fabian Cancellara scored a kit with his prologue-winning ride.

If you can’t score the yellow jersey for a day, you can still get a SRAM LTE group. The company will make the yellow on black parts kits available to the public for a limited time. Pricing is yet to be determined, but check with your bike shop starting in September.

Zipp 404 carbon clincher

Zipp wheels have long been popular in the pro peloton, even among riders and teams not sponsored. The new 404 clincher probably hasn’t seen much use in France since tubulars are the norm. But Zipp’s Andy Paskins was on hand to show off his company’s latest. Visiting teams before the prologue in Rotterdam, Paskins said that several Saxo riders had been testing the 404 CCL wheels, with good feedback.

2010 Tour de France Tech, Specialized Prevail helmet

Major design elements on the 404 CCL include Zipp’s new Firecrest rim shape, which is characterized by a relatively blunt, fat inner edge and wide brake track. The wide tire bed and brake track improve tire stability and the blunt inner edge makes for outstanding aerodynamics.

The 404 Carbon Clincher wheelset is available now at Zipp dealers.

Specialized Prevail helmet

As it gets harder and harder to shave grams from bikes and wheels, smart builders are looking elsewhere to drop weight from the overall bike and rider package. Specialized already makes one of the lighter helmets available. The 240-gram S-Works road helmet has been in service for several years now.

2010 Tour de France Tech, Vision Trimax wheel

New on the heads of Tour riders this year is the 185-gram Prevail helmet. Its overall shape and style elements are quite similar to the S-Works lid, but new double-density foam, a Kevlar interior roll cage, lightweight straps, and a much smaller rear retention system helped drop the Prevail below 200 grams. Even better, ventilation doesn’t appear to be compromised, as Specialized’s typically large vents and deep interior channels remain.

Lampre and Omega Pharma-Lotto riders get their Prevail helmets now, but the rest of us have to wait for late fall.

Vision TriMax Carbon wheels

FSA wheels product manager Gianluca Cattaneo was on hand in Rotterdam to check in with the Cofidis team and other FSA/Vision sponsored teams. He showed off a revised Vision wheel. The TriMax Carbon mid-depth carbon tubular gets a wider tire bed and brake track for improved aerodynamics.

No word yet on pricing or availability.

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