Why are pros using larger chainrings? - GCN Tech Show

Alex Paton has spotted a trend over the opening weeks of the WorldTour season of pros using larger chainsets, but what’s driving the change?

Clock09:34, Friday 16th February 2024

Alex Paton and Ollie Bridgewood return for the latest edition of the GCN Tech Show to discuss the biggest tech news topics. It’s been another hectic week in the world of tech in which SRAM filed a patent for solar charging for its AXS groupsets, KMC unveiled a budget-friendly cassette, and there were signs that the UK cycling industry’s post-COVID malaise may be coming to an end.

The road racing season also kicked up a gear over the last seven days and Alex has spotted a new trend emerging in the form of larger chainrings. Not so long ago, the default chainset size for pros was a 53/39t set-up but that’s increasingly being trumped by larger options, while amateur set-ups are conversely going in the opposite direction, but why?

Part of the shift is due to the emergence of 12-speed groupsets which has introduced a wider range of gearing options on cassettes, meaning pros can run a larger chainset on the front without having to sacrifice any performance on the hills. The wider range has also been joined by larger cassettes, like the 11-34t most riders are now using. You don’t have to go back far in history to find a time when the largest cog on a cassette didn’t exceed 28t or 30t.

If the modern speeds of the pro peloton are anything to go by, pros need the larger chainsets too. Take the Tour de France, for example, which registered its fastest ever average times in the last two editions. In 2023 that figure stood at 43kph, a huge increase on the 39kph averaged as recently as 2010. Powering to those speeds requires larger chainsets and groupset manufacturers have been happy to oblige. Shimano is a prime example, having binned a 53/39t chainset for its 12-speed groupsets in favour of a 54/40t.

Some riders are off even larger, like Lidl-Trek’s Mads Pedersen who appears to be running a 56/43t as standard.

Do you think we’ll see even larger chainsets in the future or are pros reaching the limit? Let us know in the comments.

Hot and spicy tech

Here’s a round-up of the other major tech news from the last week.

New Lightweight wheels have gold leaf and an out-of-this-world price tag to match

Lightweight is renowned for its premium and often pricy wheels, but it has taken this reputation to the next level with its limited-edition Meilenstein wheelset. Designed in homage to the company’s founder, Heinz Obermayer, they are adorned with 23-carat pure gold leaf. As you may expect, that doesn't come cheap. A set of the wheels will set you back £7,699, although you’ll have to be quick if you have the spare change as there are only 99 sets available.

SRAM files patent for solar charging for AXS groupsets

In the next twist to electronic groupset technology, SRAM has filed a patent detailing equipment that integrates solar charging into bottle cages and mudguards.

The specified 6 to 8.4 volts that the solar cells are able to generate could charge an AXS groupset in a few hours.

KMC enters the cassette market

KMC is better known for its range of chains but the company has unveiled its first ever cassette, the React.

It features some nifty technology, including a proprietary Flow Control design to optimise shifting, and a very budget-friendly price tag of $65.

Assos unveils Fenoq skinsuit in time for Olympics

The tech arms race in the lead up to the Olympics continues to rumble on with Assos becoming the latest brand to join the party. Its new skinsuit, the Fenoq, is 100% custom for each athlete and includes overshoes. The starting price for this option will be a whopping £5,670/ $7,040

Road and gravel market on the up in the UK

2023 saw a continuation of the post-COVID downturn in the UK cycling market with total market value for the year falling a further 6%, on top of an 18% decline in 2022.

Dig a little deeper and the outlook is quite bleak, particularly for the road and gravel disciplines which were the only sectors to see sale volumes increase in 2023, by 8% and 11% respectively.

Bike Vault

We've had lots of submissions for the Bike Vault over the last week, including this eye-catching Cervélo R3 with an orange colourway that is sure to help it stand out from the crowd. It's so new that it hasn't even got pedals attached yet, but will that affect the decision that Ollie and Alex take on giving it a 'Supernice' seal of approval?

Do you have a submission for the Bike Vault? You can upload your images here or for full details of what the Bike Vault is all about click this link.

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