New Bikes of the Tour de France
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The race is over, and I'm experiencing my inevitable, annual Tour withdrawal. (What fun are mornings without Cadel's awkward-but-effective mutton-busting riding style, a couple of whingeing Schlecks, and the Contador keep-us-guessing feint and dodge?) So this morning, in lieu of Stage 22, I contemplated a few of the new bikes that made their Pro Tour debut in France.
I love that, unlike other sports, in cycling consumers can purchase the same bikes that the pros ride. (Just try picking up Fernando Alonso's F1 Ferrari.) A small stack of money will get you the very same SuperSix EVO that Basso rode to 8th overall at the Tour or a Cervélo S5 identical to the one Thor Hushovd used to win two stages. And for those unwilling to plunk down ten big ones, the good news is that the technology from these bikes continues to trickle down to affordable rides, so you can goggle the top of the line now and likely ride similar technology soon.
In the spirit of yearning for just a little bit more Tour, here are some of the hottest new bikes spotted on the roads of France in the last three weeks.
Cannondale SuperSix EVO
Liquigas-Cannondale's Ivan Basso went into the 2011 Tour as an outside favorite for the win, though after a strong first two weeks he eventually faded to eighth on GC. He snagged that top-ten spot atop one of the most exciting bikes of 2012, the Cannondale SuperSix EVO. At a claimed weight of 695 grams (that's just 1.53 pounds), this frame is the new lightest bike in production. For perspective on how revolutionary that is, remember that it was just a few years ago that Scott produced the first-ever sub-1,000 gram (2.2 pounds) production frame. For those skeptical of manufacturers claims (and you should be), Cannondale's weight is a normalized figure for a size 56 that has been verified by the independent Zedler Institute.
Beyond the weight, Cannondale says the EVO frame is 20 percent torsionally stiffer than it's predecessor, the SuperSix, and also has smaller tube sizing for less drag. The ability to make the frame smaller and lighter while increasing stiffness comes from a new carbon lay-up process that bonds three separate monocoque forms (front triangle, seat tube and bottom bracket, and rear stays and dropouts) and then overlays continuous strands of carbon fiber in key areas (for instance from the down tube, over the bottom bracket and into the chainstays). This apparently allows the company to use less carbon while still producing a frame that's stronger in testing than the aluminum CAAD9.
I had the chance to ride an EVO with a few guys from Liquigas-Cannondale the day after the Tour of California, and though I was dubious of all the claims I have to admit that the bike was extremely impressive. First of all, my 56cm frame, equipped with good parts but nothing freaky light (SRAM Red, Mavic Ksyrium SL wheels) checked in well below 14 pounds. Cannondale says a complete EVO Ultimate will weigh as little as 10.9 pounds. On the Rock Store climb outside of Agoura, California, the bike felt springy fast underneath me, but still totally stiff and responsive. However I was most impressed on the fast, technical descent down the other side, where the EVO was surprisingly nimble yet overwhelming stable—so much so that I was able to tack myself onto the back of the Liquigas train. It was clearly a bike befitting a Tour winner, even if it didn't end up that way. Unlike Basso, however, the EVO Team will set you back $9,900.
Leading up to July, much was made about Thor Hushovd's less-than-stellar season, with pundits blaming everything from the World Champion curse (historically the rainbow stripes have apparently inhibited it's owners' performances) to a lack of unity and support from team Garmin-Cervélo. Hushovd quashed all the critics with a mind-bogglingly dominant Tour that saw Garmin-Cervélo win the team time trial, Hushovd in the maillot jaune for seven days, and two individual stage wins for the Norwegian.
He accomplished the latter on the all-new Cervélo S5, which replaces the previous top-of-the-line aero bike, the S3. Besides a refinement of the shaping, the most notable change in the S5 is its geometry, which is borrowed from company's popular R3, with slightly longer chainstays and a taller head tube. Cervélo claims the new S5 shape was 36.8 seconds faster than the S3 in wind-tunnel tests but still 12 percent stiffer. It will be tough to completely verify those numbers, though Hushovd's commanding performance is convincing. And for the $9,000 the S5 will set you back, equipped with Di2, you'd best be convinced.
Pinarello Dogma 2
Though it didn't prove to be the luckiest bike in the Tour peloton (Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins crashed out aboard one on slick roads on stage 7, and Movistar's Jose Joaquin Rojas narrowly missed out on the green jersey piloting one), the Dogma 2 is arguably the sexiest looking new ride in the bunch. This second iteration of the Dogma extends the original bike's asymmetric design, with the righthand fork leg and seat stay more chunky and angular than the left, a stiffening rib on the right side of the down tube for strength, and a newly reinforced lefthand bottom bracket area, which is, according to Pinarello, the part of the frame that takes the largest stresses. All that asymmetry is aimed at compensating for uneven forces generated by a bicycle's offset drivetrain. The trademark Onda fork, the wavy shape of which helps to absorb road chatter and smooth out the ride, is better integrated into the frame for increased aerodynamics and stiffness.
Like its predecessor, the Dogma 2 is the type of bike you want to ride based on looks alone—performance be damned. That's especially true of Team Sky's green and black special edition frame. But the fact that both Rojas, a sprinter, and Wiggins, a GC contender, could ride this frame with great success speaks to its versatility. And don't forget, Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen scored an impressive solo victory aboard the Dogma 2 on stage 17. Prices on the new bike aren't set yet, but if you want it tricked out like Boasson Hagen's winning machine, expect it to set you back at least ten grand.
BMC TeamMachine SLR01
Though this bike has been around for a season, it's notable for its newly earned pedigree as the bike aboard which Cadel Evans became the first Australian (and first rider from the Southern Hemisphere) to win the Tour de France. With their geometric frame shapes and stark graphics, BMCs have always come across as no-nonsense rides (they're Swiss after all), and that was a perfect match for Evans calculating and intelligent victory. Befitting Cadel's unassuming approach, the SLR01 is also priced modestly (relative to comparable pro bikes): A frameset goes for $3,850, and a complete bike with Di2 like Cadel's will cost around $8K. That's not to suggest this is an inferior or even somehow boring bike; the distinctive skeleton seat cluster and aggressively shaped tubes give the SLR01 a certain panache in spite of the frame's simplicity.
I've been fortunate enough to ride this bike once or twice, and I can attest to its even road manners and explosive climbing ability. But don't take my word for it, take Cadel's. The simple fact that the TeamMachine SLR01 could abide the Aussie's choppy, wrestling-style of pedaling day in, day out—let's be honest, the guy killed it in the race but isn't exactly pretty to watch—should be testament enough to the bike. Vive l'Australien!