It looks like a new chapter in Classified hub history is about to be written as Powershift equipped disc wheels made their debut at the recent PTO European Open Triathlon in Ibiza.
New Zealander Kyle Smith and Britain’s Ruth Astle both rode bikes fitted with two-speed internal hubs built into Parkers disc rear wheels. For the first time, the technology is integrated into disc wheels.
The Belgian brand’s Powershift hub technology has been growing in popularity over the past couple of years. The technology enables wireless shifting of a two-speed internal gear in the rear hub for fast, under-load operation and shifting without having to turn the pedals. Using a satellite derailleur with chainring drivers can use a wider range of gears, but essentially eliminates the double chainring and front derailleur.
It has received multi-million dollar investments from the likes of Tom Boone and Philippe Gilbert, and various professional drivers have recognized its benefits.
It first gained attention in April 2022 when Uno X’s Anton Charmig used it in the professional peloton at the Tour de Hungary. Fast forward to opening weekend 2023, and Victor Campanaerts caused a stir when he took the front line and ran a massive 62-tooth chainring mated to a Powershift hub from the Omloop Heit Nieuwsblad.
In our review of the assigned rear hub, we mentioned the lack of tire choice as a potential negative, and with the brand having reached agreements with various tire makers after the issue was resolved, the possibility of using the product’s time trial specifications is still slimmed down. Lack of disc tire options. And that seems to be resolved now, with the new vision opening up the technology to a new crowd.
What could this mean for the World Tour?
The aerodynamic advantage of dropping the front derailleur is widely used in flat time trials, where wide gear ratios are not required, but for hilly terrain riders are forced to revert to the less aerodynamic 2X setup for optimal gearing.
With the likes of Campernets and Charmig on the road using the Classified with a 1X Drivetrain configuration for its aerodynamic advantage, it’s guaranteed that time trialers will be interested in a similar setup. So far, however, the aerodynamic gain of switching to 1X has only been offset in classified wheels, which are typically less aerodynamic than disc wheels. Now that the technology is in the disc, it’s only a matter of time before we see a Classified Powershift in a World Tour time trial.
However, it is important to note that the technology probably only fills a small niche. As mentioned, flat time trials don’t require the gear Classified Powershift offers. Conversely, the hilliest time trials, such as stage 20 of this year’s Giro d’Italia or the Tour de France time trial at La Planche des Belles Filles, are considered too steep, and riders prefer to use (or change) a route. Bike to benefit from reduced weight. The sweet spot will be rolling time trials or short, steep hilly bike swaps that are impossible.