Team DSM rides around Paris-Roubaix next Sunday with a so-called Scope Atmoz in their bikes. A technique that allows riders to adjust their tire pressure at the touch of a button. A little more, a little less: it can give you some advantage. An ingenuity, as it is called. But it also raises the question of where all the innovations will go. Will riders soon be riding with dozens of buttons on the handlebars?
First we had the dropper post, now Scope Atmoz. Inside and outside the field, there is a great deal of attention paid to innovation. You almost have to, because the sport is increasingly becoming a winning game. Where can we make money? How can we get the rider to start in the best possible shape? By keeping an eye on the numbers and data, you will go a long way in answering these questions. Except that there is no definitive answer to the question of where innovation stops. There is always something to improve.
The only party that can formulate an answer is the UCI. The World Cycling Federation has the exclusive right to determine what is allowed on a bike and what is not. So the dropper entry was allowed and Scope Atmoz is also tolerated. Interesting to note. These are buttons on your handlebars that enable you to activate another mechanism on the bike. You lower your saddle or you put a little pressure on your tires. Super convenient of course.
The frontiers of technology
It appeals to the imagination what else you should be able to adjust or unfold at the touch of a button. The width or shape of your handlebars, a DRS system as in motorsport or something you can tighten your shoes with towards the final sprint. I like to leave the really useful applications to the manufacturers, but one could imagine riders soon driving around with a half cockpit on the handlebars. Everything to operate your bike and keep an eye on watts. I think we are still only at an early stage of what is possible.
You can make almost everything by the bike electrically adjustable. You can even make it happen automatically using the right data. You can drive around on a high-tech device that automatically finds the best dimensions for you in any terrain, in any turn or regardless of weather conditions. In fact, the only thing that does not happen automatically is the pedals. It can hardly be called cycling anymore.
The UCI has nicely included in the Classification Guide what is and is not allowed in the field. The union considers anything that does not comply with the rules to be ‘technological fraud’. The concept of mechanical doping, as we almost all know, does not appear in the document. In fact, we really only know what is allowed at the moment, but we do not yet know what is not allowed about new developments. Logically, for no one can predict exactly which way we will go with technology.
Mechanical doping as the main problem
Doping – both the chemical and mechanical variants – is considered by many as pure cheating. However, I prefer to see the athletes who use it as people who were looking for ways to find means, even outside of the race, that they could use to ride better, harder or faster. The fact that very dangerous limits for the body have been exceeded makes it a good thing that this is ultimately forbidden. Or at least been banned.
The use of chemical doping has long been seen as one of the biggest threats to cycling. But you can still inject so many drugs or take pills: With this form, you are and remain a person who cycles from A to B. In the end, the processes in your body are naturally much more bound by boundaries. With technology that you will understand, we can really do much, much more. This makes it perhaps the most important topic for cycling in the coming period.
And we must dare to think about it and ask critical questions. Especially us as media.
Jannick van der Hooft (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Twitter: @jannick_der)