The 22 Fastest Bikes on the Planet: The Time Trial Bikes from This Year’s Tour
Here’s a brief look at the time trial bikes teams used in the 2017 Tour. – By Matt Phillips
The most striking feature of Factor’s Slick is the double downtube, which, the company’s information claims, allows an aerodynamic bike to have “the stiffness and feel of a traditional road bike.” Another interesting feature is the single riser stack underneath the extensions: most bikes employ two risers: one underneath each extension. Another feature the Slick has in common with many of the newer TT bikes: a so-called “external steerer” fork. Instead of the fork disappearing into the frame’s head tube at the lower headset bearing, part of the fork extends above the crown and sits in front of the head tube. According to an aerodynamic expert I consulted, this potentially creates a narrower leading edge than a traditional fork and headtube.
Astana had one of the biggest technical sponsor change-overs in 2017, with the team getting a new frame, drivetrain, and tire sponsor. For the time trails, the team is on Argon 18’s, a dual-purpose TT/Tri frame. The E-118 NEXT has many design features in common with other teams’ TT bikes: seat stays that attach to the seat tube well below the top tube (commonly called dropped seat stays); a rear brake located under the chainstay; a deep seat tube with wheel cutout; fully internal routing of the brake and derailleur lines; and the front brake is tucked behind fork legs. As seen here, Astana rides the enduring disc/tri spoke wheel combo.
The Timemachine 01 is a dual-duty TT and triathlon bike, and BMC’s engineers have built in some interesting features to make it adaptable to both. Seen here in it’s TT configuration, the seat post fits into what would traditionally be called the seat tube, anchored by a U-shaped clamp the bolts into the top tube. In it’s tri configuration, however, the post is placed further forward, inserted though the top tube and into the triangular frame member that stretches from the seat tube to the top tube. Several bar-height options are offered: BMC Team riders use the “Flat Cockpit” which lets them achieve a very low position, but a futuristic looking V-Cockpit is available for riders who prefer higher bars. Hidden inside the frame: a brake cable-pull accelerator that lets the brake pads sit further from the rim, so riders are less likely to hear pad rub. BMC is one of the teams in the tour with Shimano drivetrain and wheel sponsorship, but rider’s use wheels from Shimano’s PRO brand for TT’s.
Cannondale’s Slice RS debuted way back in 2012. It’s so “old” it doesn’t show up on Cannondale’s website anymore. The only Slice bikes available to the public are the triathlon-oriented Slice (no RS) models. Despite its age, it still looks like one of the most modern TT bikes at the tour with an external steerer fork, hidden brakes, and dramatic tube shapes. The bike shown here belongs to Taylor Phinney, who is one of a handful of riders who uses a traditional saddle shape (though thickly-padded) and not a snub-nosed TT saddle. While the base bar is on the level with the top tube, the 6’4” rider’s extensions sit atop a towering spacer stack. One of Ceramic Speed’s many formally sponsored teams, Phinney’s bike is equipped with the company’s massive pulley wheels, which are claimed to save about 2.4 watts.
Launched back in 2012, the P5-Three is another of the longer-toothed TT bikes at the Tour. The P5 was originally launched in two versions: the UCI-legal P5-Three, and the UCI-illegal P5-Six for triathlons. The difference is in the front end: the Three has a fork with 3:1 length to width dimensions, and an exposed front brake; the Six has a 6:1 ratio fork, and a cowling that hides the front brake and effectively increases the head tube’s depth. Dimension Data rides the UCI-legal version obviously, built with parts from Enve, Rotor, and Shimano. Though the team’s wheel set sponsor is Enve, the TT bikes are equipped with a HED disc wheel for –some riders even had clincher disc wheels with aluminium brake track–because Enve does not yet have a disc wheel available. The P5 is the only bike at the Tour that with a stem that is perched above–and not in line with–the top tube.
The Dean ridden by Lotto-Soudal has many features in common with other TT bikes at the Tour like hidden/integrated brakes; external steerer fork; integrated stem and handlebar system; and all-internal control routing. Difficult to see in this photo is Ridley’s F-Split fork design: the slots in the fork blades are designed to reduce turbulence by drawing air away from the fork. Though Campangolo sponsored, the Italian company does not make a tri-spoke front wheel, so the team uses an unbranded wheel, probably a HED.
Quick Step Floors and Bora Hasngrohe’s bikes look almost identical, so you can be forgiven for mistaking the two. The best way to tell the teams’ bikes apart is the front wheel: Quick Step uses a Roval spoked front wheel; Bora uses a PRO tri-spoke. Another difference: Quick Step uses a Vision bars while Bora uses PRO equipment. Both teams are using an unbranded rear wheel which may be a yet-to-be-announced Roval product, or just an un-branded disc from another company.
Though sponsored by, and registered in, the United Arab Emirates, the UAE team rides the most Italian bikes in the Tour: Colnago frames, Campagnolo drivetrain and wheels, Deda Elementi Components, Vittoria tyres, Selle Italia saddles, and Elite bottles and cages. The Colnago K.One has all the features of a modern TT bike: hidden brakes; internal control line routing; rear wheel cutout; external steerer fork; sunken stem (the stem is in line with the top tube). Not seen in the photo is the small pocket in the top tube that houses the Campagnolo EPS drivetrain’s inerface unit (or Shimano’s Di2 Junction box).