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Tour de France tech super gallery: the bikes, trends and kit behind the scenes

Peter Stuart
24 Jul 2019

The trends, the winning bikes, Brailsford's bike, and a peek at the world of the team mechanic

This year has been a special one at the Tour de France, with some of the most dramatic stages and general classification battles in recent history. The bikes that have been ridden by some of the biggest names have also been some of the most exciting we've seen in years.

The main attraction, as per usual, is Peter Sagan – and more specifically his custom-painted Specialized Venge, complete with a supremely sprinty 140mm stem, and a set of concealed sprint shifters on the handlebar drops.

We only managed a passing look at Geraint Thomas' Pinarello Dogma F12, but with the Welsh dragon emblazoned on the top tube, it screamed of national pride and a fighting spirit. 

In terms of spec, Thomas's bike was near-identical to Wout Poels' F12, although both were switched from Shimano Dura-Ace carbon wheels to lightweight Meilienstein wheels for the Tour's mountain stages.

Pinarello equipped the entire team with rim brake Dogma F12, that is except for a single bike in the fleet – Dave Brailsford's Pinarello Dogma F12 Disk (that's how they spell it, not us). Given his strong form in recent sportives, it doesn't seem to be slowing him down much.

Quirky choices

While it will hardly steal the limelight on the Champs-Élysées, we were pleasantly surprised with some choice shoe styling from Astana. With these Panchic yellow trainers, the team members are well coordinated for sign-on and post-race interviews.

Back to bike tech, many teams stuck religiously to the components of its main sponsors. Ag2r-La Mondiale, however, have been refreshingly divergent by fitting Ceramic Speed Oversized jockey wheels on their Shimano Dura-Ace rear derailleurs.

Shimano was certainly the groupset of choice from the main teams, but we did spot Campagnolo's newest 12-speed Super Record EPS groupset on Team UAE's Colnago fleet.

Unlike in past years there was little evidence of rebadging of equipment by pro teams, aside from saddles – many of which seemed to be Fizik models with the logos removed. Trek-Segafredo and a few other teams sided for rebadged Zipp sub-9 disc wheels for their TT setups, as many wheel makers do not offer a specific disc wheel option.

Behind the mechanic's curtain

The team vans were hugely varied at this year's Tour. Team Ineos and Deceuninck-QuickStep had vans that resembled showrooms amid their considerable fleet of vehicles. The mechanics themselves, however, seemed for the most part to be operating in much the same way from team to team.

Park Tools and Beta tool sets seemed to be the favourite tools of the trade for the mechanics, while Morgan Blue and Muc-Off cleaning and degreasing products were rather common.

The number of spares is often startling, with several hundred sets of wheels kept by each team, not to mention several dozen team bikes too.

The vans abounded with spare cranksets, chainrings, crank spiders and all variety of cassettes. Given the number of spare wheels, it was encouraging to see that most teams still had a traditional truing stand – suggesting that they prefer to mend spokes than replace wheels.

Power meters and head-units

Mechanics will no doubt be happy to see the general phasing out of SRM power units, which used to be common across most of the Grand Tour teams. The systems once needed a wired-in PM6 head unit, which made for extra cabling headaches.

This year teams have largely used Shimano's integrated chainset power meter, but several have also used the S-Works system, while Cannondale has sided for Power2Max.

The trend has certainly been toward smaller and more lightweight head units such as Garmin 820 or Bryton Rider units. That does away with the need for cabling, as the power meters broadcast data in ANT+ signal, but also makes for more aerodynamic and neater front ends to the cockpit.

Aerodynamics and disc brakes

While there are many new and interesting technological developments, the most ubiquitous step forward seems to be that all the major players are using aerodynamic frames and wheels regardless of the profile of riders.

Vincenzo Nibali, for instance, has sided for Merida's rather chunky aerodynamic Reacto, which is as well equipped for fast sprinting and descending as it is for long and punchy climbs.

The Specialized S-Works Tarmac and Venge are the most common bikes in the peloton, and both are amongst the most aerodynamic bikes on the market. 

However, even previously less aero-focussed options such as the Cannondale SuperSix Evo have been updated. Cannondale now claims that its bike is more aerodynamic than the S-Works Tarmac, which itself was more aerodynamic than the original Specialized Venge.

Cannondale have yet to embrace disc brakes for its pro race fleet, while the likes of Specialized and Scott have furnished their entire teams with discs. Ineed, Simon Yates' bike comes in at just over 6.8kg (the UCI legal minimum weight) despite its disc brakes and aero wheels.

Stunning paint

While bikes look a great deal faster than they did five or 10 years ago, the technology around painting has also come forward in leaps and bounds.

Sagan's bike certainly showcases this, but there was little argument from the sidelines that Trek's custom Project One paint-scheme for the Trek-Segafredo team was the most stunning.

While it may detract from the stock colours of a bike, or even team colours, it would be our humble prediction that more brands will opt for ambitious eye-catching custom colourways in future years to allow their bikes to take centre stage.

Fingers crossed for a fantastic finish to the Tour this weekend, but from a tech standpoint, we've already been spoiled.

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