Tour de France pro bike hacks: It’s all in the details

“], “filter”: { “nextExceptions”: “img, blockquote, div”, “nextContainsExceptions”: “img, blockquote, a.btn, a.o-button”} }”>

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members!
>”,”name”:”in-content-cta”,”type”:”link”}}”>Download the app.

One of the greatest things about cycling is fan accessibility. From being able to go up to the athletes themselves before and after races, to cheering them on roadside just feet or inches away (sometimes closer), to being able to train on those exact same roads, no sport is quite as egalitarian. 

That extends to equipment as well. Pros have, for the most part, the best gear on the market. But it’s still equipment that you or I could go purchase. In fact, anything the pros use has to be available to the public to buy within a short window of time.

But just because you can buy the same bike and components as the stars of the Tour de France, doesn’t mean it will be quite the same as a pro bike. Little things set them apart; it’s very much all in the details. 

Here are some of the pro bike hacks that set the pros apart. 

Also read: The 5 unusual things about Tour de France stage 12 winner Ion Izagirre’s Look 795 Blade RS

Oversized Pulleys

Intermarché–Circus–Wanty rides Ceramicspeed oversize pulleys on its bikes for a more efficient drivetrain. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Astana Qazaqkstan Team has also turned to oversized derailleur cages with this model from SLF Motion. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Marked saddle height

The EF Education-EasyPost mechanics pulled out a gold paint pen to mark rider saddle height. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Impeccable bar tape

The sure sign of a pro bike is fresh handlebar tape. (Photo: Will Tracy)
Spotless white tape is the ultimate pro move. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Sponsor correct valves

EF Education-EasyPost runs Muc-Off valves, which have a pop of color to match the rest of the team. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Or no valves at all (that you can see at least)

The Newmen Advanced SL R.42 wheels on the Intermarché–Circus–Wanty bikes have a valve tucked inside the rim for an aero advantage. (Photo: Will Tracy)
It requires a special adapter to inflate tires mounted to these wheels. (Photo: Will Tracy)

High-tech water bottle stabilization technology

Ok, it’s not so high-tech — just sandpaper. Little pieces of the gritty stuff in cages keep bottles from going flying. (Photo: Will Tracy)

3D-printed computer mounts

Alpecin-Deceuninck have shaved a few grams from its Canyon Aeroads with 3D printed computer mounts. (Photo: Will Tracy)
There’s nothing else quite like this in the pro peloton. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Foam in computer mounts

Here’s a simple way to keep a bike computer from rattling around: just add foam. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Scuffed equipment

Pro equipment sees a lot of use and abuse, including plenty of crashes. But if it ain’t broke, don’t replace it. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Biniam Girmay’s saddle has seen some better days, but while Prologo certainly would rather the Eritrean rider have a new one, he doesn’t want to replace it because the current one is broken in how he likes it. (Photo: Will Tracy)

(Photo: Will Tracy)

And brand new saddles, too

There are new saddles too of course. Soudal-Quick Step riders Fabio Jakobsen and Kasper Asgreen were spotted on what appeared to be an unreleased Specialized model. It looks like it uses the brand’s Mirror 3D-printing technology. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Tidy derailleur cable management

This Groupama-FDJ bike uses what appears to be a piece of rubber to hold a Shimano Di2 shift cable in place. (Photo: Will Tracy)
Total Energies mechanics zip-tied this cable to the derailleur hanger. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Custom chain stay protector

Two-time former Norwegian national champion Alexander Kristoff gets a nod to his past accomplishments with a special chain stay protector. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Stage profiles

Pros have all the important information for each stage taped atop their handlebars. (Photo: Will Tracy)
Could bike computers do the same thing? Yes, but many pros prefer the analog method — it hardly ever fails. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Extra identifiers on each bike

It’s hard to miss that a bike belongs to Pogačar or whichever other pro when their names are literally on the bikes. But when each rider has five or more bikes, a number indicating which one is the primary bike is important. (Photo: Will Tracy)

As is another name sticker on the down tube to let the mechanics know at a glance which bike on the roof rack belongs to which rider during a hectic roadside bike change. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Different thru axles and drop outs.

Astana’s Wiliers use the Mavic Speed Release thru axles, which don’t need to be fully removed to take off a wheel. The tip off is the open drop-out seen here, like on rim brake bikes. (Photo: Will Tracy)
Groupama-FDJ has quick releases on its bikes, a rare sight in 2023. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Super speedy tires

A number of teams race Continental Grand Prix 5000 tires, and many opt for the even faster TT version. They wear faster, but that’s of no concern to a pro rider. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Oh, and tubulars are still a thing

Of course, tubulars are still a thing. Groupama-FDJ is on these Continental Competition Pro LTD tires. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Forks prepped for transponders

Each bike in the Tour de France has a transponder on it relaying data to race organizers and broadcasters. To protect the fork, mechanics put down a piece of material before installing the device. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Number plate holders

From custom-made versions to zip ties, glue, and rubber bands, there are many approaches to the number holders on pro team bikes. (Photo: Will Tracy)
(Photo: Will Tracy)
(Photo: Will Tracy)
(Photo: Will Tracy)
The number holder on Mark Cavendish’s bike is one of the more slapped together solutions out there, with a zip tie and what appears to be a grab bag of parts from the hardware store. (Photo: Will Tracy)

And lastly, why the pros are more like us than we think

Old equipment

Total Energies is still on 11-speed Shimano groupsets. The 12-speed version was introduced nearly two years ago. (Photo: Will Tracy)
Campagnolo sponsored teams are mostly still on previous generation Super Record as well. The new generation is only about two months old. (Photo: Will Tracy)
The new Super Record, which includes updates like getting rid of the thumb shifter, is present on some bikes however. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Easier gears

It hasn’t been uncommon to see 11-34T cassettes on bikes for hilly and mountainous stages at the 2023 Tour. Riders have embraced spinning higher cadences on easier gears. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Lower spec wheels

While teams usually show off the best possible gear from sponsors, Movistar riders were on both the high-end Zipp 353 NSW wheels and the lower tier, though still expensive, 303 Firecrests. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Slammed stems are a thing of the past

The days of slamming a stem just to look pro at the expense of comfort are hopefully numbered now that many riders have a full stack of spacers under their stems. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Amazon chain catchers

It’s not all custom parts for teams. Jayco-AlUla was running this $20 Fouriers chain catcher. It’s something you’re much more likely to find on Amazon, eBay, or AliExpress than a brick-and-mortar shop. (Photo: Will Tracy)

Leave a Comment