Cycling Innovations that Lead the Race
With the Tour of Flanders and the start of the Monument race season upon us, we have looked at the history of the ride and some of the key innovations breaking records.
Held through Belgium at the start of spring each year, the Tour of Flanders, also known as De Ronde, is one of the 5 Monument races in the cycling calendar. Sitting alongside four other significant Monument one-day cycling events, Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour of Lombardy, the Tour of Flanders is the youngest of these prestigious races, having first been run in 1913. Despite being the youngest, it is also one of the toughest races with steep inclines and numerous cobbled sections, which also give it its place in the Cobbled Classics group of races. It is also one of only two of the Monument races to hold a women's race on the same day, both of which are held in Belgium, the Paris Roubaix also holds a women's race a day ahead of the men.
This year's event is taking place on the 3rd of April, bringing together world class contenders in a race that starts in Antwerp and is expected to include steep climbs up 77 metre cobbled hills, before ending in the historic town of Ouderaarde. A sport rich in history and legacy, cycling is also a sport rich in innovation and the continual quest for a better performing kit. As we reach Monument season, we have looked at some of the key areas of innovation happening in the cycling industry and highlighted some of the leading brands when it comes to cycling innovation.
All Terrain and All Weather Ready
With the unpredictability of April showers, and some grueling cobbled inclines - all terrain cycling gear is essential for the Monument season. From wind resistance, to thermoregulation, streamlining and even UV-protection. As Alex Ingildsen, CCO at LTP Group states:
“High-performing cycling gear needs to not only be designed with the elements and race in mind, but also be as lightweight as possible. With widely varying temperatures and environments, cycling gear is constantly working to be race ready, more lightweight, and more streamlined than last season, ready to make marginal gains.”
For the harshest conditions, Australian brand Black Sheep have combined ergonomically placed insulated panels in their Elements jacket. Designed to withstand zero-degree temperatures, the jacket has strategically placed insulated panels across the chest and back, their ActiveDown∆ technology responds to a rider's changing temperature, ensuring both warmth and breathability. The brand has teamed the polyester-based insulation with their Italian sourced Thermodream fabric for added warmth.
Creating a streamlined effect was paramount for the collaboration between Le Col and McLaren, as they sought to combine aerodynamic engineering and technical performance. The resulting Project Aero uses innovative mapped and layered fabrics in their speed suits that manipulate the wind stream and in turn reduce surface friction. When it comes to speed, the project has broken records in wind tunnels and world tours, on average testing 32 seconds faster than other leading speed suits.
Creating Conscious All-day Comfort
As day long races are the norm in cycling, it is important to consider the comfort factor alongside performance. With sustainability also at the forefront of many consumers’ minds, it is interesting to note how many brands are innovating in ways that see both comfort and sustainability go hand in hand. For a more future-proof approach to a day long ride, we have put the focus below on some key innovations across the two areas.
On a constant quest to create the lightest jersey yet, Rapha launched their Silk Jersey in 2020, weighing just 98gsm, for a truly weightless feel. Created from silk, with added stretch the jersey is ideal for hot and humid conditions, drawing on silk's natural wicking, fast-drying and antibacterial properties. For a more sustainable vegan option, it is also worth considering Bolt Threads Spider Silk, who have already collaborated with Stella McCartney on her adidas range, the alternative silk offers similar lightweight qualities, strength, and biodegradability.
When it comes to feeling fresh, innovative materials brand, Polartec have recently announced their switch from silver to peppermint for plant based and metal-free odor resistance. The peppermint oil treatment is Bluesign certified and offers a renewable and biodegradable solution for stay-fresh appeal. Tested on 50 washes, the treatment continues to offer 99% microbial resistance, making it an ideal material to add to training kits.
Bespoke performance is a key contender when it comes to fit, precision and personalized speed. LA based Brandt-Sorenson create made-to-measure jerseys that offer thermoregulation, concealed, and streamlined pockets as well as UV protection. Using recycled fabrics and natural yet high performing fibers such as viscose, bamboo and wool, the brand aims to create well-made pieces that go the distance, in turn cutting down on landfill. The focus for the brand is on function and quality over fast production methods, which sees Brandt-Sorenson adopt the tagline ‘“slow fashion for fast athletes.”
Levelling the Playing Field with a Focus on Womens Performance
With women's cycling notably lacking in prominence in comparison to the men's races, it is worth noting that things look set to even out over the next few years. From 2023, the prize for the women's Tour of Flanders will increase to sit on par with the men's prize. This follows backlash after the 2021 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race where winner Anna van der Breggen picked up only €930 for the women’s race, in comparison to Davide Ballerini’s €16,000 for the men's race. Cycling tech giant and online fitness platform Zwift also appears to have confidence in the women's cycling market, having recently extended their investment across the women's Tour de France.
With the focus on levelling the field when it comes to women's cycling, we have highlighted some areas of innovation that are prioritizing the female cyclist.
Winner of the ISPO Brandnew 2021 award, Veloine are a start-up that is aimed at providing for the female cyclists that are active while pregnant. The first ever Pregnancy Cycling Kit includes a jersey that adapts to a women's growing body, along with shorts that have an extended waistband. Elsewhere, brands like Machines for Freedom have created a shape-inclusive fit and combined it with a high level of performance for women who are track riding, commuting or gravel touring. In a similar vein, activewear retailer Sweaty Betty launched cycling apparel in 2021 that includes jerseys and padded leggings that work just as well for commuting, as they do for the velodrome.
LTP is a Danish owned garment manufacturer for +60 premium brands within active sportswear, cycling, outdoor, urban performance, performance running and sustainable fashion. LTP was established in 1991, and is probably the biggest Sport & Outdoor garment manufacturer in Europe with Bluesign setups in Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, and Vietnam
LTP consists of two divisions; LTP Garment and LTP Furniture producing in ten fully-owned factories.