Thursday, 30 November 2017 16:34


Innovation is the name of the game at Dassi. The Interceptor—the world’s first graphene bike—is a marvel of material science, but hardly represents the first watershed moment in the industry. We take inspiration from other innovations, from cycling’s nascent days right through to today. Here are ten products that have, we feel, changed the face of the sport:


The date for this one is tricky. John Dunlop, the Scottish inventor and veterinarian, is widely credited with inventing the first pneumatic tyre when he filed a patent in 1888, inspired by the items he’d fashioned for his child’s tricycle. Both Dunlop and the patent authority, however, were unaware of French and American patents granted to Robert Thomson in 1846 and 1847 for a very similar design. Though Thomson himself had died almost two decades earlier, Dunlop’s patent was declared invalid in 1892.

Both designs were similar to a modern day tubular, with a canvas and leather-lined rubber tube sealed and inflated to pressure. Materials have moved on, but the basic tubular tyre remains the choice of pros everywhere. Patent or no, Dunlop went into partnership with Harvey Du Cros and founded the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company, which persists to this day in several guises.


Campagnolo is a name steeped in cycling history. Gino Bartali, Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Francesco Moser, Bernard Hinault, Greg LeMond, Miguel Indurain Marco Pantani: all rode Campagnolo to victory, and famously so.

Less famous, however, is Tullio Campagnolo’s first invention, which practically every road rider in the world now uses: the quick-release hub. The story goes that Sig. Campagnolo punctured at the bottom of the ferocious Croce d’Aune in a race. Unable to get his wheel off by hand, he was quickly dropped. Left in the dust of the race considering what might’ve been, Campagnolo decided to take matters into his own hands and create a hub that could be taken off at a moment’s notice. The design patented then is almost identical to today’s quick releases, showing a truly prescient mind at work.


Campagnolo again, though justifiably so. The derailleur had been around for some time by 1948 and the Gran Sport was not even the first ‘parallelogram’ design to hit the market. It was, however, the most refined, functional and elegant rear derailleur ever made. By its final release in 1951, the Gran Sport closely resembled the mechanical real derailleur as we know it today, with a single cable-actuated spring pulling or releasing the cage between sprockets. It was a thing of beauty to boot.

The Gran Sport was born at the sharp end of racing, used by two of the finest riders ever to grace the sport: Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi. It is part of cycling’s aesthetic history, too. All of Campagnolo’s equipment since echoes the look of a bygone era, meaning that when you’re crunching gears today, you’re channelling a bit of that spirit.


Given that it took a century to progress from pumped-up tyres to a serviceable derailleur, it is astonishing that training with power became a viable option just 40 years further on. Indeed, most people are amazed to find out that power meters have been around for this long.

Ulrich Schoberer founded SRM—Schoberer Rad Messtechnik—in 1986, when he filed a patent for a crank-based power meter. It was approved a year later, and in 1988 was produced with the first SRM head unit to give real-time power data for riders. Though the technology was heavier and less accurate than today’s offerings, the basis behind SRM’s system remains strikingly similar to their current offerings. They were way ahead of their time—a fact proved by the competition today since power meters integrated into the chain set are the most accurate and reliable options going today. SRM haven’t had to make any fundamental changes to their design since the 80s. Impressive indeed.


Nowadays we all understand the importance of aerodynamics out on the road. Above about 6kph and on all but the steepest gradients, the wind is the biggest force holding you back, and the biggest part of your drag coefficient is you, or rather your position on the bike. Every time trial bike in the world takes this into account by having tri-bars, allowing the rider to put their forearms together and tuck head, chest and shoulders out of the wind. This was news in 1989, however.

Greg LeMond was 50 seconds back on Laurent Fignon coming into the final stage of the ’89 Tour—a time trial into Paris. The bars were the brainchild of former ski coach Boone Lennon, who, familiar with the huge air resistance at play in a downhill ski race, saw the opportunity to break new ground in cycling. Lennon designed a single, u-shaped extension, mounted to the tops of LeMond’s normal drop bars, that allowed him to get out of the wind. LeMond won the stage and took the Tour by 8 seconds. Perhaps the most significant eight seconds in cycling history.


The first serviceable derailleurs, born well before the Gran Sport above, required the rider to reach down to the rear-right seat stay to change gear. Down tube shifters were a big step on from this, but shifting was still more of an art than a science. Anyone who has ridden a geared bike from the 80s or earlier will be familiar with the awkward feeling every time a gear change is needed: getting back in the saddle, taking one hand off the bars and teasing the shifter up or down one click. Shimano changed this motion into a split-second flick with their STI levers.

Integrating shifters with the brake levers was revolutionary in 1990. This was the first step towards Shimano’s dominance of the groupset market—something which continues to this day and, in a sense, goes beyond their brand. All but the most basic or retro road bikes built today are supplied with integrated brake and shifting levers. Mechanical, electronic, hydraulic—it doesn’t matter. Having the shifters at your fingertips is the way forward.


Carbon wheels had been around for some time by 1996, most notably rear discs for time trials and the now infamous Spinergy Rev-X design. The latter was banned by the UCI in 2001. In ’96, however, Bjarne Riis won the Tour de France aboard spoked, deep section Lightweight wheels similar in design to the Meilensteins available today. Johan Museeuw won the rainbow jersey the same year on a pair of Lightweights that he had bought himself.

Heinz Obermayer, the company’s founder, had created a carbon wheelset to stand the test of time. They make it onto our list because they ushered in the era of ‘mainstream’ carbon wheelsets, offering low weight and high stiffness without the aura of danger that surrounded many early carbon products.


There have been three watershed moments in shifting development: the development of a useable derailleur, the STI lever and, more recently, the introduction of electronic gears. Each of the ‘big three’—Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo—have at least one electronic groupset on offer now, yet it was Shimano who kicked it off with Di2 in 2009.

The attraction of electronic shifting is its speed and consistency. Gear cables stretch and are vulnerable to dirt and water corrosion—problems which electronic shifting nullifies. Indeed, once set up, you only need to keep the battery charged, drivetrain clean and an eye on wear to have perfectly shifting indefinitely. One look at the pro peloton will tell you how successful Di2 has been. 13 out of 18 World Tour teams used Shimano’s flagship groupset in the 2017 season and you can expect a similar proportion next year. Moreover, Di2 forced Campagnolo and SRAM to step up their game. SRAM Red eTap in particular really pushed the envelope with its wireless transmission.


The Gabba makes the list because of the way it announced itself to the world. Yes, there are probably more ingenious innovations in cycling, but few that have taken the market by storm quite as the Gabba did.

Rain jackets used to be little better than zipping plastic bags—good for keeping the water off but awful for ventilation and aerodynamics. The only way of cooling down when wearing one was to unzip it, letting wind and rain in to go swiftly beyond cool to cold once again. In 2010, however, Castelli launched a stretchy, warm, tight-fitting rain jacket on the shoulders of the Cervelo-TestTeam—the Gabba. It was so far ahead of any other brand that pro teams started bulk-buying black Gabbas and printing their logos on aftermarket. Things came to a head in 2013 when, in particularly brutal conditions at Milan-Sanremo and the Giro d’Italia, seemingly the whole peloton was bedecked in black Gabba jerseys. Castelli joked on this when releasing a ‘pro’ limited edition the next year: it was a standard black Gabba, only supplied with a permanent marker to scribble over the Castelli branding. Chapeau Castelli.


July 2016 and another world first: a bicycle made with graphene. We don’t mean to overstate the point, but our frames break new ground, offering a ride that does not compromise on stiffness or comfort.

Graphene has only come to market relatively recently, but in this time it has promised to revolutionise all manner of industries. It’s certainly revolutionised cycling. We mix powdered graphene into the resin for our carbon fibre so that the fibres are bonded much closer together than they traditionally would be. The result is an extremely stiff frame that still manages to soak up vibration superbly, or ‘float’, as some customers choose to say.

We pride ourselves on innovation. Taking inspiration from what has gone before, we strive to make the best bikes money can buy which, more often than not, means using these innovations in our builds. Where next?

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