Tour de France 2020

Tech Podcast: Tour de France clincher renaissance!

Tires have risen to the top of the tech stories during week one of the Tour. What goes into making a good tire? And what's up with the clincher's comeback?

The 2020 Tour de France has brought with it plenty of excitement, but from the tech angle, it’s been almost all about tires through the first week of racing. Stage one brought slip-n-slide danger, and from there we were treated to a win on clinchers (with tubes!). Of course, speculation still abounds as to which teams are experimenting with tubeless tires. And of course, the more traditionalist riders are sticking with old reliable, the tubular tire.

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On today’s episode of the VeloNews tech podcast, editorial director Ben Delaney joins me to talk about all the rubber happening’s from the first week of racing. Why did so many riders have difficulty getting grip on the road during stage one? Was it really soap from one of the caravan vehicles, or was there something else at play?

And is it really that big of a deal that Julian Alaphilippe won a stage on clinchers with tubes in them? What about tubeless tires: Is that really going to revolutionize the way riders attack a Tour de France stage? The answer is, of course, a solid maybe. But never before have we seen such a multi-pronged assault on the venerable tubular tire, which points to a need among teams and riders to better control how tires interact with the road.

We talk about all the considerations that go into designing an effective tire, as well as the difficulties in addressing all the needs of a rider. Since designers can’t simply cram all the technologies into the tire without adding a lot of weight, tire design becomes an exercise in compromise — unlike other sports that involve tires, which consequently also involve engines that can simply overtake the added weight. Not so with cycling, in which the engine is the rider.

If you have questions about this episode of the VeloNews Tech Podcast, feel free to reach out to tech editor Dan Cavallari via email, Twitter, or Instagram. And as always, if you have suggestions for topics you’d like us to cover on a future episode, we would love to hear it.