How technology is changing cycling



The Tour de Yorkshire started on 1 May. Learn about the technology that both pros and amateurs use to maximise their performance on the road.

Cyclist

Long gone are the days when professional cyclists turned up in February out of shape after a long winter. Now, off-season training is intense and based around the latest scientific research.

No piece of tech has transformed training and racing as power meters have – pro riders use them to assess their progress and effort on the bike. And there won’t be many pros riding the Tour de Yorkshire without one.

Power meters – what are they and how do they work?

Power meters tell you how much power you’re generating on the bike, expressed in watts. While a speedo will tell you how fast you’re going, power meters tell you how much effort you’re using to reach that speed.

Your power output can be linked with your bike computer. You can see your wattage as you’re riding and assess it afterwards, too.

Why is this good?

  • Get a good idea of how much power is required to be competitive – whether that’s climbing, sprinting or time-trailing
  • Ride on effort, rather than speed or time – power meters take into account wind and gradient
  • Track your progress and see if you can maintain a higher wattage for longer
  • Find your ideal position on the bike – see if you can generate more power by being more aerodynamic
  • Pinpoint your weak areas by seeing where your power output drops
  • Get cadence data to see if you’re spinning the pedals at the most efficient level

The big name in power meters is SRM, which has been going since the 1980s. Its power meters are built into the left-hand crank. In past years, rivals have released devices within the pedals or hub, and some can even be attached to the stem.

Mix it with a heart rate monitor to get a more complete picture. After all, you might be able to tap out 400 watts but your body might not be able to handle it for long. Your heart rate will tell you if you need to work on aerobic fitness to support power gains.

Professional cycling – making it more TV-friendly

Live cycling on TV doesn’t look much different to how it did in the 1990s: aerial shots come from helicopters, while cameramen on the back of motorbikes provide an up-close view of the riders.

Things are changing though with TV companies looking to make cycling more appealing. Saddle and handlebar cameras are letting viewers go inside the peloton to get a better idea of the riders’ speed and closeness to one another – check out Britain’s Mark Cavendish win a sprint finish in 2014 

At the moment, this footage is only released after races are finished, but it may soon be shown live. As could footage from inside the team cars – that would mean viewers could hear what managers and coaches tell their riders, and see their often funny reactions to big moments in the race.

Amateur cycling – how tech is changing club runs

Cycling and gadgets definitely go together. Many club riders want the same tech as the pros – even if they’re going significantly slower.

  • See gradient, distance and speed on a bike computer

This can be mounted to your stem so you can see the information while you ride. It can help you keep a steady pace, judge your effort on steep inclines and see how much further you have to ride.

  • Film your ride and relive your favourite rides

Attach a camera to your helmet or handlebars. It’s great if you’re tackling an iconic mountain pass and want to see it later – the descent can be particularly exciting.

  • Track your route and compare your times with Strava This hugely popular app creates a map of your ride using GPS tracking. Plus, it lets you compare your times against other users and see where you rank.
  • Recreate races on your turbo trainer

Riding on rollers or a turbo trainer can be a little boring as you stay in one place. You can put a laptop in front of your bike and join a virtual race on Zwift, a brand-new cycling video game. Or, you could become a part of famous moments in professional races with The Sufferfest.

Want to film your next ride? Check out the VIVITAR action camcorder with a bike mount