Almost on the eve of this year’s Paris-Roubaix, the UCI announced the approval of a tire pressure management device from Dutch wheel brand Scope Cycling. The add-on system, priced at a whopping €4,000, offers tire inflation and deflation at the touch of a button and on the move.
On the face of it, the Scope Atmoz sounds a lot like the KAPS hub based tire pressure management system from another Dutch brand, Graava. However, the manner in which the two systems adjust tire pressure and, crucially, the UCI approval for use in competition the Atmoz now boasts, set the two on-the-fly tire pressure management systems apart.
CyclingTips caught up with Scope at Eurobike 2022, to get some more information on what the Dutch brand is calling a “significant gain” and “one of the most significant innovations of modern cycling”.
How the Scope Atmoz works
The system consists of a hub attachment housing the electronics, tire pressure sensors, valve stem for reservoir inflation, exhaust for tire pressure deflation, and a USB rechargeable battery. Two air lines run from the hub attachment, along the spokes, and into Scope’s proprietary valve stem.
The hub attachment communicates wirelessly with a communications box under the stem, which in turn is wired to two front and rear inflation and deflation buttons on the handlebars. With these buttons, the rider can inflate and deflate their tires at a rate of 0.5 bar / 7.3 psi per second, on the move and without lifting their hands from the handlebar.
Riders can also program the Atmoz with preset tire pressures, and the system features upper and lower limits adjustable in line with individual tire and wheel pressure recommendations.
Scope had the goal of creating a straightforward after-market add-on system, compatible with almost any wheel. As an add-on system with no motor or pump, the Scope Atmoz doesn’t add any extra friction or drag into the wheel system and is compatible with a wheel or frame’s standard thru-axle. Effectively there is no change to the wheelset setup.
Furthermore, Scope claims the Atmoz is compatible with all 700C and 29′ wheelsets and any tubeless tire and claims the entire system is very easy to install.
The Atmoz adds around 300 grams to each wheel, so an additional 600 grams to the total bike weight and significantly, the Atmoz is now UCI approved for use in competition. While an additional 600 grams is a hefty weight penalty, in events like Paris-Roubaix, where Scope suggests the Atmoz is most beneficial, the additional weight is much less of an issue.
Scope claims the performance gains are also far from marginal also, describing the claimed 20-30 watts gains over the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix as “significant gains.” Those suggested gains are found in optimizing tire pressure for racing across the rough stones, and so will vary depending on the varying pressures different riders select for Roubaix.
Scope points to the benefit of varying tire pressure for the individual cobble and tarmac sections of the race as another major benefit. Scope co-founder Nieck Busser suggests the benefit to a rider across an entire Paris-Roubaix, varying the pressure up and down from sector to sector is around ten watts. While the improved traction and comfort offer even further benefits.
The Atmoz relies on an internal rechargeable battery and the pre-loaded air reservoir to inflate the tires, and as such will always be limited in the number of inflation and pressure variances it can deliver per ride. Busser suggests for a race like Roubaix on 30 mm road tubeless tires with 3.5 bar lower and 5.5 bar upper pressure presets, the system is capable of eight inflation and eight deflations across the race. In races with smaller pressure alterations or lower volume tires, the number of adjustments could be much more.
While, unsurprisingly, the Atmoz requires a tubeless tire setup, it is not yet compatible with tubeless sealant. It’s something Busser and the Scope engineers are working on and hope to introduce soon, but it leads to another interesting question. Just where is the air reservoir?
Where’s the air?
Despite currently being commercially available, as required by the UCI regulations, for a cool $3,998.00 from ScopeCycling.com, Scope are keeping a few secrets up its sleeve as to exactly how the Atmoz stores air in the system.
The hub attachment houses the nozzle for adding air to the reservoir, but given the size of the attachment, it was never going to be large enough to store an air reservoir capable of offering significant tyre pressure alterations throughout a ride. Instead, Busser explains “the air is stored in here,” pointing to the rim.
“Inside the rim?” I ask.
“No, not inside the rim,”
“Ah, it’s a tube inside the tire?I ask
“It’s not a tube. It’s still a secret” Busser explains.
“You now know where the secret is, but not what the secret is.”
Busser explains the exact method for storing air is something Scope is very proud of and is very easy to install, but can’t divulge any further information just yet. This secrecy perhaps partly explains the humongous price tag. The Atmoz must be commercially available if pro riders are to race with it, and “as riders, we want it available for racing,” Busser explains. By pricing it at almost €4,000, Scope can have it commercially available and still be relatively confident in keeping their secrets from rival manufacturers.
UCI does well
The secret-keeping price tag is not the only influence the UCI regulations have had on the Atmoz system. Busser explained it was this UCI approval, so important to Scope, which would become the brand’s greatest challenge in developing the Atmoz. Scope quickly developed the initial concept, but as the UCI had no definitive regulations governing tire pressure management systems, Scope first had to determine what exactly would receive approval from the UCI and then work towards achieving that.
Rider safety, compatibility, fair competition, and availability to all teams were key points for the UCI, who insisted no motors or pumps could ever get approval. For Scope this meant a much longer design and development challenge that pushed the brand’s engineers and ultimately two UCI knockbacks before the final design was approved.
Now, as Scope unveils its approved Atmoz, Busser is adamant the UCI’s demands pushed the brand to ultimately create a much better system with greater compatibility and reliability. Creating a tire pressure management system the UCI could approve take more than two years, with the final approval arriving just a week out from Paris-Roubaix.
The approval was not only short notice ahead of Paris-Roubaix, but the UCI, fearing another Matej Mohorič San Remo dropper post “is that legal” saga, somewhat stole Scope’s thunder by announcing the of the Atmoz approval tire pressure management system in a press release.
Busser explains the news came too late for this year’s Paris-Roubaix, as Nils Eekhoff, the only rider who had previously extensively tested the system, was out with a broken collarbone. Keen to avoid any potential PR disaster in having riders unfamiliar with the Atmoz race one of the toughest, highest pressure races on the planet, both Scope and Team DSM opted not to use the Atmoz in this year’s Queen of the Classics.