One of the best things about this year's Tour has been all the new toys the teams have been showing off. But while $10,000 bikes are great eye candy, given most people's budgets, they're just that: sexy window dressing. For many of us (myself included), the bits and pieces are more attainable—read: cheaper!—and thus worthy of consideration. That in mind, here are a few of the most interesting bits we spied at this year's Tour.
SHIMANO DURA-ACE 9000
Shimano announced a complete revamp of both Dura-Ace component lines on June 1, and Bradley Wiggins and his Sky train became the first team to roll out the new gear. Though Shimano unveiled new versions of both electronic (9070) and mechanical (9000) groups, the Di2 won't be ready until the fall, so the British team is kitted with the mechanical parts. The big news is that, like Campagnolo equipment, Dura-Ace jumps from 10 speeds to 11. Other improvements to the 9000-series components include shorter (30 percent) and easier (47 percent) throws when shifting, improved hood ergonomics, a broader range of gearing options, and better braking power. Shimano has also launched seven new Dura-Ace level carbon wheels, including three clinchers (24/35/50mm), three tubulars (35/50/75mm), and one road tubeless (24mm).
GIRO AIR ATTACK SHIELD HELMET
It might look retro, but the new Giro Air Attack helmet that some of the guys from Garmin-Sharp and Rabobank have been wearing is actually the latest in helmet design. Following the trend of all things aero, this new lid provides the aerodynamic benefits of a time trial shape with the ventilation and wearability of a standard road helmet. It's intended to be slippery enough to yield some time gains—what Giro calls "free speed"—but comfortable enough to wear all day. The optical shield, created by Carl Zeiss, attaches with magnets and can be flipped upside down for easy stowing when you don't want it. A size medium weighs a competitive if not superlight 264 grams, which bumps to 296 grams with the optical shield.
LAZER SPORT HELIUM HELMET
Like Giro, Lazer delved into the aero helmet game for the Tour, though the company's approach was more progressive than an all-out new design. Lotto-Belisol sprinter André Greipel represented the company when he won Stages 4 and 5, and though the Helium helmet he sported is tried-and-true, what's new is the Smooth Aeroshell cover shielding it. Lazer says the shell saves a rider between four and ten watts of energy when riding at 28 miles per hour, the equivalent of between 12 and 30 seconds over 25 miles. Lotto riders also debuted Lazer's new TT helmet, the Wasp, which has a rib across the top of the helmet that Lazer claims that helps move air down the tail cone of the helmet more smoothly.
CASTELLI CLIMBERS JERSEY AND INFERNO BIBSHORT
We'll admit that we didn't notice these ourselves but were clued in by the folks over at Castelli. Truth is, this special kit that Garmin has been wearing on the most fiery days looks almost identical to the team's standard get-up. The main differences lie in the fabrics. The jersey is cut from a material called Strada Light 3D mesh, which is shockingly light (just 90 grams for a jersey) and non-absorbent (so it stays light when wet). The bibs use a mix of seven fabrics of varying mesh weaves—balancing lightweight and necessary coverage—that are treated with titanium dioxide to reflect UV. The combination is a kit that's airy enough for blazing days.
SIDI ERGO 3 EVOLUTION
The Sidi Ergo 3s are some of our favorite road shoes, and we've already brought you a full review of the Liquigas-Cannondale special edition model (pictured here). But a close look at the Sidi's on Peter Sagan's feet suggest that these great shoes might be poised to get even better. The shoes, which we're told are prototypes, feature a double spin-ratcheting system in place of the current buckle-dial-velcro configuration. Sidi is mum on the new cleats, saying only that they have "lots of great new stuff in the works," but we expect to see these new iterations at Interbike in September.
MAVIC COSMIC CXR 80 WHEELSET
If you've looked closely at Garmin's TT rigs, you might notice the team is rolling Mavic CXR 80s, which the French manufacturer calls "the most aerodynamic wheel system in the world." The key is that the wheels, including tires, were developed as a system, including removable elastic strips, which Mavic calls "blades," that snap on to the wheels and cover the wind-catching shelf formed by the junction of the tire and rim. The combo of the 80mm-deep rims, the two new system tires (Yksion CXR Griplink front; Powerlink rear), and the blades are said to have marginally less drag than the benchmark Zipp 808 Firecrests in head-on wind and significantly less when the wind is blowing at 10-degrees or more from the side. Garmin-Sharp hasn't been allowed to use the blades as the UCI considers whether they're permissible—"too fast for the UCI," quips Mavic spokesman Zack Vestal—but the benefits are now available to the public.