Tech features Gallery: New and custom bikes of the Tour
All the sausages and Fanta you can stomach with a closer look at a host of Tour bikes, including some with prices "starting from 10 grand."
This Tour has been full on, hardly providing a moment’s respite to catch our breaths. The almost alternating GC-stage-to-sprint-stage route philosophy has us so far enjoying a perfectly paced crescendo as “The Duo,” the sprinters, and the stage hunters do battle time and time again. Anti-climaxes only come from too much focus on a few key stages or a race that peaks too soon, GC decided by the end of the first week. On the other hand, we can’t expect flag to finish excitement all day, every day. Just as the riders can’t sustain such efforts, our excitement levels can’t build indefinitely. This Tour route has struck the perfect balance so far and that poise looks set to continue. If it was a wedding (an Irish wedding, to be clear) the band are just wrapping up, the sausages and sandwiches are on their way out, the DJ is setting up for a banging gig, and the kids have enough Fanta in them to keep them going well into the wee hours.
ASO has, so far, hit the route nail square on the head, and the riders have hit the performance nail equally cleanly. It’s proving an equally fascinating Tour on the tech side. The first week delivered everything from new bikes to new saddles, helmets, and shoes. The middle week saw the return of the dropper post, and, although not at the Tour, some
leaked images of the new Specialized Tarmac SL8. The fascinating stage 16 time trial is sure to keep the tech excitement alive. We just need some sausages and Fanta to get us there. Dig in … If you are worried about the impending AI doom and the eventual demise of humans, there is hope. Lapierre has created these custom painted Xelius SL’s for the Groupama-FDJ Tour de France and FDJ-Suez Tour de France Femme avec Zwift teams. The Symbiosis Edition design was created using AI and Obvious, a collective of three French artists, or in other words, humans who really should have known better. It’s not that the new design is terrible, it’s just pretty unremarkable, especially compared to the fabulous designs Lapierre’s AI-less humans have created in the past. I’m thinking of the one-off colourway for the inaugural Tour de France Femmes or Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig’s Danish national champion/hammer edition bike. In contrast, the mechanical and biomechanical movements represented by concentric circles with pink flowers representing humans and blue gears representing machines, both acting together in true symbiosis in pursuit of the same objective “ to always go faster, and aim for victory,” … is very, very AI and not very human, or good. Both Gaudu and Pinot run a lot of spacers under their stem. I’ve always wondered is this a personal preference of the riders or representative of the team bike fitter’s philosophy. Mathieu van der Poel has a new paint job. The red bikes he has raced so far this season have been replaced with this white design. It’s a simple swap, no fancy designs, no complex colourways, just swap the block of red for a block of white. MvdP’s stage one fuelling plan. As a fully Shimano-sponsored team rather than one that buys its parts, Alpecin riders must use the r9200p power meter. MvdP is on the new Aeroad with minor updates to the seat tube, still no official word on this update from Canyon. It’s an update we first covered in our Milan-SanRemo tech gallery earlier this year. The white bike has since disappeared and van der Poel is back on his red Aeroad. The white bike has one thing the red doesn’t … a paint-matching tube to hold the transponder. Alpecin mechanics were applying these Dura-Ace 50th Anniversary stickers just before the start. Merida has provided Bahrain-Victorious with this new “Team Pearl” colourway for their Tour de France fleet. Mark Cavendish had this commemorative paint job on his Wilier Filante SLR. The new colourway is said to be a celebration of Cavendish’s career. What is seldom is wonderful … Classic drop bars were once the dominant bar shape in the pro peloton. Their popularity is on the decline of late as many riders swap/settle for more ergonomic shapes, but Wilier makes these one-piece bar stems with a classic drop for Cavendish, just as they did for Filippo Pozzato when he rode Wiliers in his final seasons in the pro peloton. The marble-like effect is in keeping with a similar aesthetic on the other Astana team bikes. Factor officially unveiled its new O2 VAM this week. The O2 now has an aero twist, with Factor claiming no other bike this light is as fast (and vice versa). The new bike is said to be stiffer than the outgoing O2 VAM, to the tune of around 35%, or the same stiffness levels as offered by Factor’s Ostro aero bike. Aero-wise, the new bike is said to be 12 watts faster (average +15/-15º yaw sweep at 48kph) than the old O2 VAM, halving the gap to the Ostro, while at lower yaw angles between 0-5°, this gap is said to be as low as 5 watts. In more measurable and tangible terms, all this means a claimed frame weight of 730 grams, and a complete bike with a claimed weight of 6.2 kg for a size 54 cm Dura-Ace build without pedals. We couldn’t weigh this team bike (i’d misplaced my scales), but a review bike has since landed and the size 56 cm with SRAM Red Etap AXS plus Favero Assioma Duo pedals and head unit mount weighs in at 6.7 KG. The new bike features this impressively thin top tube. Factor explained how the tapering top tube, reducing down to just 10 mm at the junction with the seat tube, in combination with the “external seat post” promotes controlled deflection at the saddle over bumps to improve ride comfort. In what was surely a bittersweet moment for Factor, Mike Woods won the Puy de Dôme summit finish on stage 9, but was not on the new “aero climbing” bike. Israel-Premier Tech and Factor had gone to extreme lengths to get the Ostro VAM as light as possible, which presumably their marketing team has since been cursing, given the true lightweight potential of the new O2 is unavailable to UCI weight limit-restricted pro riders. Factor has slightly tweaked the O2’s geometry also, with a 10 mm bump in stack height across the range said to be in response to rider positional data. The handling geometry is identical to the Ostro VAM, with four different fork offsets ensuring a consistent 57mm trail figure across all seven sizes. Wood’s bike featured these areas of raw carbon finish. The review bike delivered to me, and presumably all production bikes, do not feature the same raw sections. The production bikes are instead available in three colour ways – Storm Grey, Red Velvet, Chrome/Raw Carbon, plus Prisma Studio custom paint. The new O2 features an external seat post. They will not require cutting for most saddle heights, although they can be cut if needed. The team is riding pre-production frames, presumably rushed through to have them ready for the Tour and pre-Tour testing, as well as UCI-frame approval, and for registering on the UCI equipment register. Factor also unveiled a new Black Inc wheelset, the 28//33. The tubeless and clincher-compatible rims are laced with carbon fibre spokes and weigh in at a claimed 1,146g. As the name suggests, the new wheels feature a 28 mm-deep front rim with a 33 mm rim at the rear. Internally the new rims measure 23 mm, while externally, they measure 28 mm and are said to be optimised around a 28 mm tyre. We measured these 28 mm Continentals at 30 mm on the new rims; we also measured a heck of a lot of other tyres at the Tour. The new O2 VAM, if you are wondering, officially offers clearance for up to 32 mm tyres. The new wheelset is priced at US$2,900 / £2,900/ €2,800 / AU$4,690. As mentioned already, we have an O2 VAM in for review, so expect a longer-term review in the coming months. If, in the meantime, you want to buy a new O2 VAM, prices start at US$9,900 / £9,900 / €9,500 / AU$15,990 for an Ultegra Di2/SRAM Force AXS equipped bike rising to US$12,200 / £12,200 / €11,700 / AU$19,690 for the SRAM Red AXS with Quarq power meter equipped rig. Brace yourself, the days of “prices starting from 10 grand” have definitely arrived. Tadej Pogačar and his Team UAE-Emirates teammates are all racing the new Colnago V4Rs. We took a closer look at Pog’s bike on the eve of this year’s Tour Grand Depart. As we also did with Jonas Vingegaard’s Cervelo S5 as he rolled out for stage one. Biniam Girmay is racing his first Tour de France aboard a Cube Litening Aero equipped with 12 speed Dura-Ace Di2, Newmen wheels, Continental tyres, and Rotor Aldhu InSpider power meter, with Prologo providing the saddle and bar tape. Despite the Shimano logo on the chainstay, Intermarché takes power meter cranks and chainrings from Rotor. Girmay is using the Aldhu InSpider with 54/39 chainrings. The team also uses CeramicSpeed’s Oversized Pulley Wheel System. While most of the team uses the already expensive “standard” OSPW, Girmay gets the mind-boggling €1,800 hollow Ti pulley wheels. Look pedals were once the dominant player in the clipless pedal market. They are still immensely popular but you could be forgiven for thinking their presence in the Tour peloton seems to have dwindled in recent times. That’s not entirely accurate, though, as the brand still supplies six of the 22 teams in the Tour. A “sprinter shifter” at home on the drops on a sprinters bike. After a difficult start in the opening sprint stages followed up with a third place on stage seven, expect to see Girmay and the Litening Aero challenge for stage wins in the remaining sprint opportunities. The Intermarché-Circus-Wanty riders have two Cube frames to choose from. Louis Meintjes rides the Litening Air, more of an all-rounder (or “aero-light” as I like to say) than the dedicated aero rig Girmay chooses. The rest of the build is pretty much identical, 12 speed Dura-Ace Di2, Newmen SL R.42 wheelset, Conti GP 5000 TT TR tyres, Prologo saddle and bar tape, Rotor power meter, and CeramicSpeed OSPW and bearings. If you missed what we learned by measuring tyre widths at the Tour de France, you can “unmiss” it here. Tour paint jobs … It’s all fun and games until someone shows up and takes everyone else’s toys. With other brands showing up with subtle tweaks and corny slogans, Lidl-Trek and Mads Pedersen marched in, flipped the table all the way over, and stole everyone’s toys. While other teams have rejigged the colourway for their entire Tour fleet, or individual riders have one-off customised paintjobs, every rider on Lidl-Trek has one of Trek’s eight new Project One colourways or paint schemse. Each of the colourways is also available to the public through Trek’s Project One premium paint scheme. Pedersen’s is a Trek Madone with the Chroma Ultra-Iridescent colourway, otherwise known as “WTF?” I’ll just … … leave … …. this here. SRAM provides gold chains and cassettes to its former World Champions, but it also just works so well with this paint scheme. This is a 56/43 chainring combination, Pedersen was using a 56-tooth 1X when he took victory on stage 8. Regardless of the merits of 1X, pros will almost never use the inner ring on a profile like that of stage 8 … why carry something you are not going to use? A paint job so good even the UCI came back for a second look. Each of the Lidl-Trek riders has a colourway from the new Project One range. Giulio Ciccone’s Emonda got the Cerulean Mist (blue to you and I) and Real Smoke treatment. While Tony Gallopin, who announced his retirement at the end of the season on the Tour’s first rest day, is racing his final Tour de France on this Real Smoke and White Ash painted Emonda. That “Real Smoke” isn’t just a name, apparently, there is real smoke captured and trapped within each layer. Mattias Skjelmose’s Madone in the Red Smolder colour and Real Smoke effect. Skjelmose shared that Red Smolder with Jasper Stuyven Juan Pedro López’s Emonda got the Team Tie Dye Project One colourway. While Ciccone and Alex Kirsch were also in a sharing mood with both rider’s bikes treated to the Cerulean Mist paint. Quinn Simmons also had a stunning Diamond Flake (chrome to you and I) painted Madone, but unfortunately, a TV network was hogging it the entire time we visited Lidl-Trek. Ciccone is also using Trek’s new RSL Aero bar. The bar replicates the same shape introduced with the new Madone’s one piece bar/stem in a more traditional and adjustable two-piece setup. The tops feature an aero profile, while the drops flare out 3 cm from the shifter to bar end. Ciccone has quite the interesting wireless blip position, but it makes sense if you’ve ever seen his out-of-the-saddle in-the-drops style. What did you think of this story?
😐Meh 😊️Solid 🤩Excellent