2021 pro bike tech | New Canyon Speedmax, a new Cannondale time trial bike and more spotted at Tour de Romandie

It’s a big year for time trials, and here comes all the new fast kit

Marc Soler competing in the 2021 Tour de Romandie Prologue on a new UCI legal Canyon Speedmax

We’ve spotted an unreleased UCI-compliant version of the Canyon Speedmax being raced by Marc Soler at the Tour de Romandie prologue time trial. This generation of the Speedmax was, until now, only available as a non-UCI-compliant triathlon bike.

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Alongside this, an as-of-yet unreleased Cannondale time trial bike that borrows much tech from the SystemSix aero road bike is being ridden by Team EF Education-Nippo.

New helmets from Kask and other juicy tech nuggets have also been clocked at the Swiss stage race.

As the WorldTour racing season gets into full swing, we’re starting to see more new bikes and tech emerge. And with time trials taking centre stage at some of the year’s biggest races – including the Tour de France and the Tokyo Olympics – we’re seeing new TT bikes and new aero positions being tested out in the heat of competition.

2021 Canyon Speedmax (UCI-legal version)

First up, we have a new disc-brake Canyon Speedmax time trial bike, which was ridden by Marc Soler of Team Movistar during the Tour de Romandie’s opening prologue time trial. Soler finished 49th on the day, 27 seconds behind stage winner Rohan Dennis, of Team Ineos-Grenadiers.

The bike appears to be a UCI-legal version of the 2021 Canyon Speedmax triathlon bike, with suitably slimmed-down tube shapes – which helps shed weight and bring the tube profiles within UCI size limits – and the integrated storage options removed.

Marc Soler competing in the 2021 Tour de Romandie Prologue
The frameset looks to be a slimmed-down version of the 2021 Canyon Speedmax triathlon bike.
Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Similar to the current/outgoing UCI-legal Speedmax CF SLX, the new Speedmax uses deep kammtail aerofoil tubes, but otherwise this is a faily hefty refresh. The fork is still a hinge design, which sits in front of the head tube and extends the effective aerofoil depth, but its legs are much deeper (and presumably more aerodynamic) than before.

At the rear of the bike, the large triangle connecting the seat tube and the top tube has disappeared (perhaps for weight savings), and the heavily dropped seat stays appear to kink out, away from the rear wheel, before heading down to the dropouts. This could be intended to reduce their interaction with the airflow over the rear wheel.

The seatpost is a typically deep-section aerofoil shape, with an adjustable head to help the rider fine tune their saddle position.

Canyon Speedmax CF SLX
The current / outgoing Canyon Speedmax CF SLX is rim brake-only and has slightly different tube profiles.
Daniel Benson/Immediate Media

The handlebars appear to be a mixture of a Canyon base bar with carbon fibre extensions that have been customised for Soler’s time trial position.

Though they’re unbranded, they share a visual similarity with extensions made by dutch company Speedbar.nl, which has made custom aero extensions for many top riders in the current peloton (including last year’s Tour de France winner, Tadej Pogačar).

Marc Soler competing in the 2021 Tour de Romandie Prologue
Soler’s aero extensions look like a custom set, so it’s unlikely these will appear on final production bikes.
Luc Claessen/Getty Images

On trend, the new Speedmax uses hydraulic disc brakes to help the rider slow down, and Soler was using a Zipp 454 NSW front wheel and a Zipp Super-9 full carbon rear disc wheel.

It looks like the Spaniard was using Continental tyres, with a clincher or tubeless tyre on the rear and a tubular on the front (the giveaway is the tan tape at the base of the front tyre).

Soler’s build is completed with a SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset, with black oversized AXS chainrings. These were created in response to demand from SRAM-sponsored professional teams, and finally released to the public – as required by UCI rules – in March 2021.

SRAM Red eTap AXS Groupset
Movistar uses SRAM Red eTap AXS groupsets, and Soler had the larger-than-normal chainrings up front.
Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Curiously, this new bike doesn’t appear on the UCI’s list of approved frames and forks. The list, which was last updated on April 17 2021, contains details of frames and forks that have been approved by the UCI for use in its events and competitions.

Manufacturers will typically seek such approval for their frames and forks prior to their commercial release.

The rules do, however, allow for ‘prototype’ equipment to be used in competition, provided authorisation from the UCI is granted and the product is made commercially available within 12 months of its first use in competition (this is the exact rule that ‘forced’ SRAM to release the aforementioned chainrings).

It’s also possible that the UCI’s approvals process has simply been subject to delays due to the ongoing global pandemic, which has caused delays and increased costs for production and shipping within the cycling industry. Or maybe they’re just busy measuring the height of socks.

New Cannondale time trial bike

We also spotted a new Cannondale time trial bike being ridden by Stefan Bissegger of Team EF Education-Nippo, who finished 5th on the stage, just 11 seconds behind Dennis.

Unless Cannondale has plans for a new name, we can assume this new bike is a replacement for its Slice time trial bike.

Stefan Bissegger riding in the 2021 Tour de Romandie Prologue
Stefan Bissegger’s subtly-branded time trial bike looks like a replacement for Cannondale’s existing Slice time trial bike.
Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

The new frameset is largely unbranded (save for a small Cannondale logo on the head tube), and also doesn’t appear on the UCI’s list of approved frames and forks, but it’s similarities to Cannondale’s SystemSix aero road bike are unmistakable.

The rear end looks almost identical to the American brand’s aero road bike, with a deep kammtail aerofoil seat tube and (relatively) slim seat and chainstays.

Up front, the new time trial bike diverges more obviously, losing the ship-esque bow around the fork/head tube junction.

Close up of Stefan Bissegger riding the 2021 Tour de Romandie Prologue
The new time trial frameset shares many features with Cannondale’s SystemSix aero road bike.
Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

The frameset appears to be designed around the Vision Metron TFA aerobar, which features fully internal cable routing through the stem, and a large range of adjustment capabilities.

Bissenger was also using Vision’s Metron TFE Pro extensions, which aim to mimic the kind of custom carbon extensions Soler and other riders are now commonly using.

Switzerland's Stefan Bissegger competes in the 4.1km prologue of the Tour de Romandie
Vision’s Metron TFE Pro extensions aim to reduce aerodynamic drag by smoothing the airflow around the forearms.
FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

As the picture shows, they don’t follow the precise angle of Bissengers forearms, but they’re also more easily available and likely considerably cheaper.

Completing the build is a Vision Metron 81 front wheel and a Vision Metron TFW full carbon rear disc wheel, both shod with Vittoria Corsa Speed tubeless tyres.

Neilson Powless riding the 2021 Tour de Romandie Prologue
Bessigger’s teammate Neilson Powless likely has access to the POC Tempor, but chooses to use POC’s more conventional Cerebel time trial helmet instead.
Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Seeking every advantage possible, the Swiss rider was also using Speedplay Zero aero pedals, a very large FSA Chainring, a CeramicSpeed OPSW system and POC’s distinctive Tempor time trial helmet – a helmet that all of his teammates presumably have access to, but few actually choose to use.

Big hitters testing out new kit and positions

One noteworthy result from the Tour de Romandie prologue was that Team Ineos-Grenadiers occupied all three steps on the podium, and put four riders in the top 10.

The 2018 Tour de France winner, Geraint Thomas, finished second on the day, 9 seconds behind Dennis. It’s a result that bodes well for the Welshman, who also appears to have heavily rejigged his time trial position since last season.

While the trend in recent years has been for time trial riders to raise their armrests (to make the drop between the saddle and handlebar smaller), Thomas has gone the opposite way, lowering his armrests and adopting an extremely low position.

Geraint Thomas riding the 2021 Tour de Romandie Prologue
Geraint Thomas is back on form and has a new time trial position.
Luc Claessen/Getty Images

His armrests appear to be the same kind as the custom, carbon Aerocoach extensions used by team-mate Filippo Ganna, rather than 3D printed-titanium extensions made by Pinarello / Most.

Thomas’s new position is so aggressive, his torso angle seems to have gone beyond horizontal – which is unusual even among WorldTour pros.

The upshot of the position is likely that it enables Thomas to get his head low and out of the wind. On the other hand, it does raise the question of how well he can see where he’s going, even if that’s less of an issue when you only race on closed roads. It’s clearly a fast position for him, but we don’t recommend trying this one at home, kids.

In addition to the team-issue time trial base layers Team Ineos-Grenadiers riders have been using recently, Thomas was also using a new time trial helmet from Kask (it’s similar to the Kask Bambino Pro Evo with the tip of the tail chopped off), a Princeton CarbonWorks Blur 633 rear disc wheel and a 100mm-deep Aerocoach Titan front wheel.

Geraint Thomas riding the 2021 Tour de Romandie Prologue
The saddle-to-bar drop of his new aero position is pretty extreme, even by pro standards.

Though it’s hard to tell because of the motion blur, Thomas appears to have been using Continental Grand Prix TT clincher tyres, potentially in a pro-only version that combines the Grand Prix TT casing with the tread pattern from Continental’s old GP4000s II clincher (which is apparently slightly more aerodynamic than a completely slick tread).

It’s a big year for time trials, with this year’s Giro d’Italia and Tour de France both boasting two time trial stages each and, of course, an Olympic time trial on the horizon.

Given this, it’s no surprise to see the potential contenders for overall and single-day glory testing out new kit, new positions and new training and racing strategies in some of the less important (again, relatively) races leading up to those objectives.

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As always, we’ll keep our eyes glued to all the pro coverage for any more new and interesting tech tidbits.