Road Gear

Tech Gallery: A look at Cavendish’s ‘Fighter Pilot’ sprint bike

Not to be outdone by the Trek Project One paint jobs over in the Astana camp, and the custom yellow Specialized Tarmac SL3 for Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara, Scott Bicycles and the Columbia-HTC team produced a special bike for their star sprinter Mark Cavendish.

By Zack Vestal

2009 TdF Tech, Cav's bike: Aside from the paint, Cav's Scott Addict is the same as the rest of the team's bikes.

2009 TdF Tech, Cav’s bike: Aside from the paint, Cav’s Scott Addict is the same as the rest of the team’s bikes.

Photo: Zack Vestal

Not to be outdone by the Trek Project One paint jobs over in the Astana camp, and the custom yellow Specialized Tarmac SL3 for Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara, Scott Bicycles and the Columbia-HTC team produced a special bike for their star sprinter Mark Cavendish.

According to Scott marketing coordinator Lionel Girardin, Cav’s Addict is called the “Sprint Air Force.” It wears paint and decals in a World War II fighter airplane theme. The top tube sports wing decals, each pair signifying a shoot-down in the style of the World War II dogfighting days. “Just as fighter pilots mark their planes with each successive kill,” said Girardin.

The bike sports a custom silver-painted finish with faux rivets. Decals of a pinup girl holding a British flag, Cavendish’s name in script, and the lettering “Sprint Air Force” accent the fighter airplane theme. He’s also got a green SRM power meter head unit and green Oakley Jawbone glasses to go with the green sprinter’s jersey he wore early on in the race.

2009 TdF Tech, Cav’s bike: Cavendish is now apparently an honorary member of the “Sprint Air Force.”

Photo: Zack Vestal

When we caught up to his bike, it bore only one set of wings, but Cavendish has since increased the tally.

The concept and creation

Girardin said the project began during the Tour of Romandie at the end of April. The Columbia-HTC (then Highroad) visited Scott Europe offices to suggest the concept. “We discussed with Mark about a special bike for the Tour de France,” said Girardin. “Mark really wants to take care of his image and decided to create his own logo with his name.”

The idea for the British Spitfire aircraft theme originated with Cavendish, so the graphic scheme was not a surprise. Scott USA general manager Scott Montgomery said, “It reminded him of the attack from the sky of the flying aces in the dogfights of war.”

He was careful to point out that it was not necessarily a nationalistic symbol, just a symbol of speed and precision. “Nothing aimed at any other country, just the images of going fast, and taking risk for pride and glory. Seems to be working, eh?” said Montgomery.

2009 TdF Tech, Cav's bike: A pinup girl with a British flag adorns the head tube.

2009 TdF Tech, Cav’s bike: A pinup girl with a British flag adorns the head tube.

Photo: Zack Vestal

Girardin said the process of creating the custom graphics was essentially the same as for a production bike. All the graphics are generated in Adobe Illustrator as vector files, and then printed on water transfer decals. “Before we send it (the graphics kit) to our factory, we print it and try all the graphics on a bike in size 52 to make sure all the lines fit,” said Girardin. “In actual production, we use a gray frame paint base, then apply decals and finish with a clear coating.”

There are two of the bikes in the Columbia-HTC team truck. “This process allows us to produce more than one frame. We did two for Mark so he has a spare bike in case with the same graphic,” said Girardin.

2009 TdF Tech, Cav's bike: The fighter plane theme continues down the fork, with faux rivets airbrushed on.

2009 TdF Tech, Cav’s bike: The fighter plane theme continues down the fork, with faux rivets airbrushed on.

Photo: Zack Vestal

The bike and rider – just as fast as in February

Cav’s Addict is essentially the same as he’s used all season. It’s got a fork with a little extra material than stock, for stiffness; an ultra-stiff stem and bar combination by the Shimano component brand, PRO; a Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 mechanical gruppo (with Dura Ace 7800 cranks and an SRM powermeter); Fizik Arione saddle and Zipp wheels.

One of the team mechanics, Nic Vandecauter, confirmed that everything on the bike is set up just the same as it’s been all season. Only the graphics have changed.

Photo Gallery