Daily News Digest, Features, News -

Training rides, training camps: Daily News Digest

UCI approves €4k tyre pressure management system in time for Roubaix 

In a statement published on its website, the UCI revealed it has approved a built-in tyre pressure management system from the Dutch wheel brand, Scope, for use in road racing.

Tyre pressure management promises automatic inflation and deflation of a rider’s tubeless tyres with the simple touch of a button without requiring the rider to stop. While just last year we saw a pressure management system from Gravaa make headlines, the UCI statement specifically references the approval of a newly developed Atmoz system from Scope, as authorised in line with regulations 1.3.004 and 1.3.006. 

Article 1.3.004 states, “Except in mountain bike racing, no technical innovation regarding anything used, worn or carried by any rider or license holder during a competition (bicycles, equipment mounted on them, accessories, helmets, clothing, means of communication, telemetry device, sensors, etc.) may be used until approved by the UCI”. Article 1.3.006 is the rule dictating all equipment used must be commercially available. 

We have increased the brightness of this photo to pick out some details. Note the spoke-mounted air hose on the right of the photo.

Photos of the Atmoz system in a UCI product description document and available on the Scope Cycling website show a hub-based system with a spoke-mounted hose carrying air to and from the tyre. In the document, Scope Cycling describes the new Atmoz system as “a tire pressure management system based on mechanical valves which regulate airflow between the air reservoir and the tubeless tire”.

Scope explains riders can operate the system via handlebar-mounted control buttons, and “a wireless signal is sent to the system to control valves to deflate or inflate the tire.” Perhaps key in attaining UCI approval, the description concludes by explaining, “the system does not alter the structural integrity of the wheelset and does not contain any moving parts or compressors.” 

The UCI statement reads very similarly: “the tyre pressure management system is controlled by buttons on the handlebar and uses mechanical valves to regulate airflow between the air reservoir and the tubeless tyre. The system does not alter the structural integrity of the wheelset and does not contain any moving parts or compressors.” 

While Scope Cycling has not yet released any official details on the Atmoz, the short description provided to the UCI contains several interesting points. Perhaps most notable is those references to “mechanical valves”, an “air reservoir”, and the absence of any “moving parts or compressors” in the Atmoz system. Together, these points suggest a system very different to the KAPS system in the Gravaa wheelset.

The Gravaa design we tried at Eurobike utilises a mini-compressor in the hub with a camshaft and pistons powered by the rotating bicycle wheel. In other words, a design that clearly would not receive approval under today’s announcement. The Atmoz system, on the other hand, seemingly retains pressurised air within a reservoir in the hub for transfer to and from the tyre for inflation and deflation as required. How exactly the pressure management is achieved remains to be seen, but reports suggest an official launch is expected on Friday. 

The Scope Cycling website already lists the Atmoz as being in stock and available for worldwide shipping for a cool €3,998. (International pricing TBC)

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announces that, as of 1 April 2022, built-in management systems for tyre pressure are authorised in professional road cycling.

UCI statement on Scope’s Atmoz tyre pressure management system.

A Cyclingnews report suggests Team DSM will race Paris-Roubaix with the new Scope Atmoz hub-based tyre pressure management system this weekend. While DSM typically races on Shimano Dura-Ace wheels, the Dutch team lists Scope as an “official supplier partner” on its website and is said to have assisted with the Atmoz development over the past two years.

The UCI approval, valid as of April 1 but only announced today, now opens the door for DSM (and other teams) to use such a tyre pressure management system in the Queen of the Classics.

While Scope mentions “handlebar-mounted control buttons” and “wireless signals” it isn’t clear if this is via independent buttons or through GPS head units like the Wahoo shown here. Most likely Scope is currently using its own buttons with the head units displaying tyre pressure, but a move to head unit integrated control seems likely long term.

Tyre pressure is often critical at Paris-Roubaix and a closely guarded secret within many teams. Lower pressures offer reduced rolling resistance, improved grip, and a smoother ride on the rough cobbles. In contrast, comparatively higher pressures often prove faster over the smoother tarmac surfaces between sectors. Favourites and domestiques alike agonise over the right pressure for the tortuous mix of cobbles and smooth surfaces. A device offering adjustable tyre pressure could provide riders with the right tyre pressures at the right time for both tarmac and cobbled sectors.

Gravaa has already published a blog post on its findings investigating the right tyre pressure for Paris-Roubaix. Gravaa suggests a huge 3 bar (43 psi) difference in optimal pressures for road and cobbles at 35 km/h with a 20% efficiency gain by dropping tyre pressure by 1.5 bar (21 psi) on the cobbles. These results are staggering and go a long way to explaining the importance of tyre pressure in the Hell of the North. 

It’s not quite that simple, though. Until today the UCI had not approved any tyre pressure management systems for use in road racing. There is also a slight weight penalty with the Gravaa, and presumably, the same is true for the new Scope Atmoz. That said, minor weight increases make basically zero difference in a race like Paris-Roubaix, where the terrain is predominantly flat. The benefit of tyre pressure adjustment will almost certainly far outweigh any negligible impact from the increased weight.

Perhaps more importantly, the inflation rate may prove the limiter for such technology, at least in the short term. While we haven’t yet received any details on the new Scope Atmoz, the Gravaa KAPS system has an inflation rate of 1 psi per kilometre. We had looked at including the Gravaa KAPS in a CyclingTips special Paris-Roubaix bike build coming this week, but with rarely more than a few kilometres between sectors in Roubaix, there simply isn’t the distance required to achieve the huge pressure variances suggested by Gravaa itself.

That said, the KAPS system can deflate tyres quite rapidly and precisely. The option to run an optimal tyre pressure for the entirely smooth tarmac opening 100 km before precisely dropping the pressure to an optimal level for the cobbles could provide a non-marginal gain. 

We have contacted both DSM and Scope Cycling and will bring you more details as we have them. 

Read More