The pro peloton is in many respects a rolling bicycle showroom, and a high end one at that. A perspiring, chaotic Mayfair Lamborghini dealership fuelled by carbohydrates rather than caviar. More often than not the pro’s bikes, as well as being ultra-desirable in themselves, also feature some ultra-premium, super-limited accessories. Ineos Grenadiers, formerly Team Sky, pioneered the idea of marginal gains, and have been at the vanguard of niche accessories for years. Lately, we’ve seen them using bespoke 3D-printed titanium computer mounts at the Tour de France, but that doesn’t mean all of their innovations are polished and expensive.
At the Vuelta a España we’ve spotted the Ineos team mechanics bodging the race timing transponders at the very bottom of the fork with black duct tape. The juxtaposition of this clearly homemade solution directly next to a £1,000 Tactic hub on a Princeton Carbonworks Alta wheel is nothing short of jarring.
Why the bodge then? So often we see mechanics affixing the transponders – simply a small box containing a timing chip unique to each rider to time them across the finish line of each stage or race – to the fork leg, somewhere around the midpoint, either using heat shrink tape or a section of butyl or latex inner tube. Undoubtedly, given the team’s marginal gains reputation, the reason will be some aerodynamic benefit, despite the rough and ready appearance.
Bicycles are tested thoroughly in the wind tunnel for aerodynamic efficiency. The new BMC prototype bike we spotted at the Critérium du Dauphiné showcases how wild bicycle design can be when led by aerodynamics, and Filippo Ganna’s hour record bike shows how much a team like Ineos can dive headfirst into the minutiae of tiny gains in search of victory. What doesn’t happen (at least commonly) is the testing of bikes with transponders mounted to them, despite the fact that this is the more realistic race scenario. What we suspect is that Ineos, not content with the ‘all in this together’ mentality have done some testing and deduced that mounting the transponder at the hub is objectively a better solution, despite the scruffy appearance.
We’ve seen Jumbo-Visma mount the transponder on the inside of the fork leg before, presumably where…