Team dsm-firmenich has always been a squad with some of the most innovative technical partners, often revealing new technology at races that has the potential to be revolutionary (think of the on-the-fly tyre pressure adjustment system they unveiled at Paris-Roubaix a few years ago.) Its bike sponsor Scott and componentry brand Syncros (which was acquired by Scott in 2012), is no exception to this rule. In the first and only time trial stage of this year’s Tour de France, Team dsm-firmenich will debut Syncros’ new one-piece carbon wheelset, the Capital SL, which the brand says has raised the bar for what is possible within modern wheel design.
The most standout feature of the Syncros Capital SL wheelset is that the carbon spokes and rims are co-molded to create a one-piece structure which differs from the majority of wheel designs on the market. Syncros uses what it calls its ‘monocoque wheel system (MWS)” – a one-shot patented manufacturing technique – to build the Capital SL wheels, arguing that this unique and modern construction process reduces overall weight of the wheels while also moving weight from around the rim to the inside of the wheel, near the hub. This leads to a lower rotational inertia, meaning that a rider has to produce less power to increase the speed. The brand claims that this means the Capital SL wheelsets show a 20% reduction in rotational inertia compared to traditional carbon wheels.
It’s not only in aiding accelerations that Syncros believes its new wheels will give riders an advantage. The one-piece construction is said to also allow faster cornering and better handling through stiffness optimisation. The MWS technology allows Capital SL wheels to have precisely defined spoke tension which should, in turn, lead to a more responsive wheel. Syncros says that its spokes weigh less than traditional steel spokes yet remain 35% stronger – they are bonded directly to the rim and woven at the intersection, resulting in optimal torsional stiffness.
Of course, aerodynamics are at the forefront of most new developments in cycling technology today, and these wheels are no exception to the rule. Syncros says that it factored a wide range of riding conditions when calculating the construction of the Capital SL wheels, with wind speed, riding speed and wind direction all playing an important part. The brand doesn’t disclose which wheels it tested the Capital SL wheels against, but notes that the overall drag was lowered by 7% compared to its benchmark.
The ethos behind the Capital SL wheels is looking at the tyre and wheel as a system, rather than two separate components. Syncros says that it has found the best compromise between low drag and rolling resistance even with a larger tyre section, meaning that, according to the brand, the Capital SL wheels are “faster than competitors with narrower tyres and offer the best handling in every wind situation.” Syncros says its investigations found that having a wider tyre at the front provides more sail area which aids aerodynamics, while the rear wheel and tyre are mostly isolated from wind due to the frame and the legs blocking the wind. Syncros has worked with Schwalbe to create a specific front and rear tyre in the form of the Pro One Aero front and rear tyre. The front tyre is designed to have the most aerodynamic shape on modern rims, while the rear is all about low rolling-resistance and durability. Since dsm-firmenich is sponsored by Vittoria, however, their Tour de France bikes were not equipped with these.
The rim of the Capital SL wheels is a hookless design in order to reduce drag while also increase impact protection – an important consideration as Syncros says that the Capital SL wheels can also be used for gravel riding. The internal rim width of 25mm is said to have been optimised for the best compromise between aerodynamic drag and reduced rolling resistance with wider tyres. There are two models of the Syncros Capital SL wheelset available: the Capital SL Aero which has a 60mm rim depth and the Capital SL which has a 40mm rim depth. The weight of the Capital SL is 1170g while the Capital SL Aero comes in at 1290g.
Whether this innovative new wheelset will make the difference at crunch time will be clear tomorrow as Team dsm-firmenich take on the time trial stage at the Tour de France, giving the Capital SL wheelsets a run-out at the highest level in the sport.