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TECH NEWS

road.cc's top 10 tech stories of 2020

Check out the most-read road.cc stories of the past 12 months, including the biggest bike launches and some unexpected entries

2020 has been a strange year for bike tech – as it has been for pretty much everything else in the world – but there have been some big launches and major developments, and here's our top 10.

How have we compiled the list? We've based it on page views – as simple as that. The more people who read a story, the higher it finished.

There are some interesting omissions. Trek's launch of its updated Emonda range doesn't make it into our top 10, for example, probably because the rest of the worldwide cycling media covered the story at exactly the same time, spreading the traffic (which is something that you could say about a lot of other stories here). 

This allowed a couple of stories that you'd probably consider less significant to nip in ahead of Trek, but rightly or wrongly we've decided to base everything on clicks this year. That means that if you don't like the top 10, you've only yourselves to blame!

Click on each heading to go back to the original story.

Let's get cracking, starting with an unexpected entry at number 10. 

10. Classified’s Power Shift rear hub promises no more front mech

technology.26062020

Who'd have thought that a rear hub, albeit it a very smart one, would make it into the top 10?

In July, we reported on Classified’s Power Shift two-speed wireless electronic hub gear system which combines the ratios of a dual chainset drivetrain with the fast-shifting of hub gears and the clean design of a 1x (single chainring) setup. There’s a lot going on in that sentence so you might want to give it a second go. 

The Power Shift hub uses a planetary 2x gear system that is actuated wirelessly and powered by contactless energy transfer from the thru-axle. This effectively means that the job usually done by a front derailleur is moved into the rear hub. You still mount a cassette to the hub.

Classified says that the Power Shift hub “has an operational lifespan exceeding the lifespan of a bicycle’s internal systems, and it requires no maintenance.”

It’s clever stuff that’s said to allow you to shift under 1,000 watts of power (that's a lot) in 150 milliseconds (that's quick).

9. Giant gives the TCR Advanced an aero makeover for 2021

2021 Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1 Disc - riding 1.jpg

Giant got in super-early with its major 2021 model year launch, unveiling the new TCR Advanced road bike design back at the start of April. 

The TCR has always been the lightweight road bike in Giant’s range, sitting alongside the Propel aero road bike, but the brand incorporated aerodynamic features for the first time on this incarnation – which is certainly the way that things are going across the market.

The tube profiles are truncated ellipses, for example, the down tube is designed to work aerodynamically with a water bottle in place, the fork and seatstays are now more open than previously to allow greater airflow efficiency… You get the picture.

Read our review of the Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc 

Giant said that testing proved the new TCR Advanced SL Disc to be more aerodynamically efficient than the Trek Emonda SLR Disc, the Specialized S-Works Tarmac Disc, and the Cervelo R5 Disc, but both Trek and Specialized have updated their bikes since then. It has been a big year for sticking lightweight road bikes in wind tunnels.

8. Campagnolo launches Ekar gravel groupset

2021 Campagnolo Ekar 13-speed gravel groupset - montage.jpg

Campagnolo finally unveiled its 13-speed (yes, 13-speed) Ekar gravel groupset in September, featuring an incredibly small nine-tooth (yes, nine-tooth) sprocket.

The gear range is huge with a maximum cassette size of 9-42-tooth, and Campag reckons that Ekar is the lightest 1x gravel groupset on the market. Reviewer Matt Page said that it offered mostly excellent shifting that is very fast and accurate. 

Read our Campagnolo Ekar 13-speed gravel groupset review 

There’s no EPS (electronic) version yet, but we imagine that’s just a matter of time. Keep your eyes open for it in 2021.

7. Boardman releases 2021 road bikes

2021 Boardman SLR 8.8 Disc

Boardman bikes usually review very well on road.cc and the brand has a reputation for offering excellent value for money, so it’s not surprising that loads of you were keen to check out the 2021 range when it was unveiled back in June.

The highlight of the range is perhaps the £750 SLR 8.8 Disc which now gets mechanical disc brakes from Tektro in place of rim brakes.

Boardman sticks to the triple-butted, hidden weld 6061 aluminium frame and C7 Carbon fork with tapered steerer which features space for 28mm tyres and has mounting points for mudguards and a pannier rack. The groupset is mostly Shimano’s dependable Tiagra. We’ve not reviewed this bike so can’t comment on how it performs. 

You might encounter availability issues with bikes at this price level. When we last checked, Halfords said that more stock of the Boardman SLR 8.8 would be arriving at the end of December.

6. Specialized unveils lightweight and aero Tarmac SL7 road bike

2021 Specialized Tarmac SL7 action - 1

A Specialized launch is always a big event, especially when it's the high-end Tarmac road bike that’s getting a revamp. The news for 2021 is that Specialized has given the Tarmac an aero redesign (see also the Giant TCR above), and claims that the SL7 model is almost as aerodynamically efficient as its Venge aero road bike (which is available only as a frameset in 2021 – we suspect only until the Specialized warehouse is empty and that no more will be made) while being at the UCI’s 6.8kg minimum weight limit for racing.

With tubes, handlebar and wheels shaped to minimise drag, the SL7 “puts an end to the idea of a climbing bike and an aero bike”, according to Specialized.

Read our Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 Dura-Ace Di2 review

However, that didn’t stop the US company launching the Aethos, billed as "the lightest disc brake road bike ever”, a few weeks later – although this model isn’t intended for racing, with complete builds weighing as little as 5.9kg.

Find out all about the Specialized Aethos 

All in all, it has been an interesting year on the road for Specialized.

5. Decathlon reveals Triban RC 120 Gravel Adventure bike

Triban RC 120 Gravel 4

Decathlon launched the Triban RC 120 Gravel Adventure bike at just £499.99 – including an aluminium frame, carbon fork, 1x drivetrain with 10-speed clutch rear derailleur, and plenty of mounting options for racks and mudguards.

There was only enough clearance for 38mm tyres but the bike came equipped with genuinely useful off-road features like a flared aluminium handlebar for control over rough surfaces, and an 11-42-tooth cassette matched up to a 38-tooth chainset.

Sounds cool, right? The issue is that demand has far outstripped supply. If you’ve managed to get hold of a Triban RC 120 Gravel Adventure bike you’ve done very well indeed.

4. What can we expect from next-generation Shimano Dura-Ace?

Shimano patent application November 2020- 1

Everyone knows that a new version of Dura-Ace, Shimano’s top-level road groupset, is on the way. We expected it in 2020 but it never showed up, so it has to arrive next year. 2021 just happens to be the Japanese company’s centenary, so you can bet yer boots that we’re in for something special. 

The precise features of next-generation Dura-Ace are less clear and we’ve run a few stories about what we anticipate.

Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 coming soon?  

We don’t know for sure (and if we did you can be sure that Shimano would have made us sign an NDA) but we’re expecting a 12-speed drivetrain and Di2 electronic shifting only. There's also the possibility that the shifting will be wireless. 

Here’s our wish list of features for Shimano Dura-Ace Centenary Edition

3. Strava pushes users towards a subscription

strava leaderboard no longer free - 19 may 2020

Strava scrapped its Premium/Summit packages earlier in the year in favour of making the majority of its features a paid-for service (£6.99 per month, or £4 per month if billed annually).

When you create a feature that is very good and allow people to use it free for years, making it profitable without selling your users to ad companies means asking them to pay a sub, and that’s exactly what Strava has done. Asking people to pay for something they once got for nothing is also guaranteed to annoy a proportion of them. 

Strava remains free if you just want the ability to upload rides, see past rides and communicate with friends. But segment leaderboards are now limited to the top 10, the ability to create routes has become one of the paid-for features, and the overall gap between free and paid services is the biggest that we’ve seen from Strava.

2. Garmin launches solar-powered smartwatches

Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar - activity.jpg

This is an interesting one because although Garmin is a massive name, we didn't expect a story on the introduction of solar-powered versions of its Fenix 6, Instinct and Tactix Delta smartwatches to generate so much interest. The idea is that users need to spend less time recharging.

Of these watches, the Fenix 6 Pro is the one targeted specifically at cyclists thanks to compatibility with Garmin’s Vector power pedals and a host of cycling-specific functions.

The Fenix 6 Pro Solar Edition (£739.99) connects to your phone to display things like incoming calls, messages and emails. You can use it for contactless payment, store up to 2,000 songs and access streaming services like Spotify.

As a sports tracker, the watch will record the basics like time, speed and distance alongside more advanced metrics like heart rate and power data from Bluetooth and ANT+ devices. There is turn navigation as well as cycling-specific apps like ClimbPro and mountain bike dynamics.

Garmin claims that solar charging gives you up to 14 days of battery life.

The Instinct Solar costs from £349.99, the Fenix 6S Solar starts at £649.99, and the Tactix Delta Solar Edition is £999.99.

1. Decathlon releases Triban GRVL 900 Titanium Gravel Bike

Triban GRVL900 Ti Bike 2

The most popular tech news story to run on road.cc in 2020 – by a long way – has a touch of deja vu about it. Remember how we told you a minute ago about Decathlon’s £499.99 Triban RC 120 Gravel Adventure bike? Well, the biggest story of the year covered the release of the Triban GRVL900 Titanium Gravel Bike.

The GRVL 900 features a Dedacciai titanium frame – Grade 9 3AL 2.5V titanium, hand-welded at the Dedacciai factory in Italy – a full carbon fork, Shimano GRX 600 groupset and Fulcrum RR900 wheels for £2,499.99, which seems like a lot of bike for the money. It's certainly one of the more affordable titanium gravel bikes out there. 

The full unidirectional carbon fork comes with internal routing for the brake hose and takes a 12x100mm thru-axle. The GRVL 900’s versatility is improved by the addition of two inserts on the fork blades, which allows the rider to mount either a bag or a bottle cage.

There’s enough space to fit a 45mm-wide tyre on a 700c wheel or 50mm on a 650B wheel.

The 1x Shimano GRX groupset features a 40-tooth chainset and an 11-42-tooth 11-speed cassette. Shimano also provides the hydraulic disc brakes.

Availability? Ah! That’s the sticking point. Visit Decathlon’s website and you’ll get the message: “Limited stock available now to pre-order for delivery in March 2021” – but this isn’t currently possible. 

We’ve approached Decathlon to find out whether further stock will become available. In the meantime, we'd advise you to keep an eye on Decathlon's website, just in case.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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