New Classified wheel tech spotted in Ibiza Triathlon
A new chapter in the Classified hub story looks like it's about to be written, as Powershift-equipped disc wheels were spotted at the recent PTO European Open Triathlon in Ibiza this weekend.
New Zealander Kyle Smith and Briton Ruth Astle were both seen aboard bikes fitted with Classified's two-speed internally-geared hubs built into their Parcours disc rear wheels; the first time the technology has been integrated into disc wheels.
The Belgian brand's Powershift hub technology has been growing in popularity over the past couple of years. The technology, which places a two-speed internal gear inside the rear hub, provides wireless shifting that is fast, performs under load, and can be shifted without turning the pedals. Using a satellite shifter at the handlebars riders can take advantage of a wider range of gears, but crucially can do away with double chainsets and the front derailleur.
It has received multi-million dollar investments from the likes of Tom Boonen and Phillipe Gilbert, and various professional riders have acknowledged its potential advantages.
It entered the spotlight first in April 2022, when Uno X's Anthon Charmig became the first to use it in the professional peloton at the Tour de Hongrie. Fast forward to Opening Weekend 2023, and Victor Campanaerts caused a stir when he ditched his front derailleur and ran an enormous 62-tooth chainring paired with the Powershift hub at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
In our review of the Classified rear hub, we cited a lack of wheel choices as a potential negative, and while that problem has since been resolved with the brand striking a deal with various wheel makers, the product's potential to benefit time triallists was still hamstrung by the lack of disc wheel options. That would now appear to have been solved, too, with the latest sighting opening up the technology to a new crowd.
What might this mean for the WorldTour?
The aerodynamic benefit of ditching the front derailleur has been used extensively in flat time trials, where a wide gear ratio isn't required, but for hillier terrain riders have been forced back to a less aerodynamic 2X setup for optimal gearing.
With the likes of Campanerts and Charmig already using Classified paired with a 1X drivetrain configuration on the road for its aerodynamic gain, it's almost guaranteed that time triallists would be interested in the same setup. Until now, though, the aerodynamic gain of switching to 1X was offset by the fact that Classified was only available in spoked wheels, which are typically less aerodynamic than a disc wheel. Now that the tech is available in a disc, however, it is surely only a matter of time before we see a Classified Powershift in a WorldTour time trial.
However, it's important to note that the technology will likely only fill a small niche. As mentioned, flat time trials won't need the gearing that the Classified Powershift will offer. Conversely, very hilly time trials such as Stage 20 of this year's Giro d'Italia or the infamous Tour de France time trial on La Planche des Belles Filles will be considered too steep, and riders will prefer to use (or swap to) a road bike to benefit from the reduced weight. The sweet spot will be rolling time trials, or those with a short, sharp hill where a bike swap isn't viable.