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Tour de France

Tour de France Tech Gallery: Levi Leipheimer’s quiver of RadioShack Trek bikes

A look at Levi Leipheimer's quiver of Trek Madone Series 6 Tour bikes

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Since RadioShack rock star Lance Armstrong’s luck and legs aren’t cooperating at this year’s Tour de France, Levi Leipheimer has risen from lieutenant to team leader. So far, he’s battling bravely for a top ten in the overall classification.

RadioShack mechanics, along with team sponsors Trek and SRAM, spare no effort to keep all the team riders content with their machines. Leipheimer doesn’t appear to have any extraordinary parts or modifications to his setup, but a few details stand out.

For one, it’s a 2011 Trek Madone 6-Series. Trek’s new HexSL carbon saves a few grams from last year’s bikes, but the major frame features and design elements remain the same. As with the entire RadioShack fleet, Leipheimer’s bike is fitted with a range of Bontrager and SRAM Red components.

Stiffer from SRAM

Leipheimer uses SRAM’s 53-tooth time trial big chainring and stainless steel front derailleur. The TT big ring is stiffer than a standard Red outer chainring, and therefore improves shifting precision. It’s available in 53, 54, or 55-tooth sizing, but Leipheimer sticks to the 53 on his road bke.

Levi Leipheimer's SRAM time trial chainrings
Levi Leipheimer's SRAM time trial chainrings

The pro-only stainless front derailleur cage is popular among SRAM riders because it’s stiffer and performs well across a range of chainring sizes. For example, the 53-tooth time trial ring is meant to be run with a 42-tooth small ring, but Leipheimer uses a 39 in the mountains, as you’d expect.

Riders in the Saxo Bank camp also use the stainless steel front derailleur option. We asked SRAM’s Alex Wassmann about it, and he said that it boils down to solid performance regardless of chainring size.

“Because the 38 is something we don’t normally supply and design for on our titanium-cage front derailleur, we got in the habit of supplying the steel-cage front derailleurs,” he said. “They’re a little bit more versatile for mixing and matching, not having the right ramps or the right phasing that we design the ti for, which is our 39-53,” said Wassmann. “It just gets the job done.”

Also, if you look at the center of Leipheimer’s drive side crank arm, it’s easy to see that the normally hollow SRAM bottom bracket spindle is covered with a metal cap. Trek’s liaison to the RadioShack team Ben Coates explained that it’s a clever system for adding weight to the bikes. Like many of the bikes on the ProTour, Leipheimer’s bike easily breaks the UCI’s legal minimum weight barrier. So engineers at Trek devised a modular system for adding just the right amount of weight back to the bike. It’s basically an expanding plug that fits into the bottom bracket spindle, onto which little washer weights can be added. If Leipheimer is using light climbing wheels, more weights are added. If he’s on heavier wheels, weights can be removed.

Using the spotlight for good

Finally, Leipheimer, Armstrong, and the rest of the RadioShack squad began the Tour with the “I ride for” campaign. The campaign, headlined by Armstrong’s Unity bike, is designed to raise public awareness of the very personal nature of the fight against cancer and pay tribute to the daily struggle against the disease.

Liquigas riders joined in on July 9th, with decals on their Cannondale Super Six Hi-Mods.

The goal of People for Bikes is to build a grassroots national movement in support of safer cycling in America. The organization hopes to persuade one million riders in the USA to sign a pledge demonstrating to policymakers, politicians, and community leaders that cycling is a legitimate, important form of recreation and transportation.