FEATURE: This is a modern world

Thu 22 Jun 2017

We live in a world of constantly changing and developing technology, from smart phones to electric cars we are a society that is constantly on the move and the next breakthrough is always just around the corner. The professional cycling world is no different.

To find out more about the changes and advances in technology within cycling we asked ORICA-SCOTT head mechanic Fausto Oppici what he thought were the most significant technological developments, and how they have affected the sport and the working life of a WorldTour team mechanic.

With more than 20years experience at the top end of the professional peloton Oppici is a mechanic respected in his field and began by describing the impact computer electronics and electronic shifting has had on cycling.

“The introduction of electronic groupsets and high-end computer systems both on and off the bike have undoubtedly been the most significant changes within cycling throughout the last ten years,” explained Oppici. “There has been nothing else like it that has spread so quickly across all levels of the sport.”

“Not only have computers changed the way mechanics work, they have also changed how the riders train and race. The measurement of data and its instant availability has become a really integral part of the sport.

“Lately you could argue that the gradual integration of disk brakes into road racing is the latest technological development with the potential to have a great effect. The use of pads and oil in this way for the braking system is another similarity that is making the bicycle more and more like a motorbike.”

ORICA-SCOTT have been working closely with their riders and team partners SCOTT and Shimano to test and introduce the disk brake system in a gradual and systematic way, so that in 2018 the team will be ready to utilise the new technology for the best possible performance outcomes.

Meanwhile in 2017 disk brakes have been in the headlines and to a certain extent their use has divided opinion due to the alleged risk they pose to the riders, however from a purely technological point of view can their use be seen as positive?

“I believe that all three developments I mentioned earlier are in general positive changes for cycling,” continued Oppici. “Including the use of disk brakes. They have been used for many years without problem in mountain biking and the improved braking capacity in all conditions is undeniable.”

“However that being said, for me there has been no bigger or better developmental change in cycling than the electronic groupset. It has improved the performance capacity of the bikes and also that of the mechanics because we have had to learn new skills and adapt to these changes, becoming experts in electronics and information.

“Tuning the gears is different to mechanical groupsets and certain components require different attention, making some things harder and other things easier. With disk brakes I cannot give a conclusive opinion at the moment as they are still in the experimental phase for professional road racing.”

Clearly the next big change for the peloton will be disk brakes and we are yet to see whether their introduction will at any point be universal or continue to be a gradual and tentative trial.

Is there anything else waiting in the wings, ready to appear on the horizon and become the next big thing?

“If there is I don’t know about it yet,” smiled Opicci. “Disk brakes will come in, I’m quite sure about that, we don’t know when, but their introduction will become more widespread. As for a development with an impact on the scale of electronic shifting? No, I don’t think so, not yet.”

Fausto Opicci can be seen on the road with ORICA-SCOTT over the next few weeks at the Tour de France.

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