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By Lennard Zinn
I have noticed that the Euskaltel team is riding a bike called Orbeathat looks very much like the new Kestrel full carbon frames I have seenin my local stores. Is the design just a common configuration of the tubedesign or are these companies in some way connected?
Orbea is a large bike manufacturer. Indeed, it’s far bigger than Kestrel.Located in the Basque country of Spain, Orbea is part of the CooperativoMondragón, the world’s largest worker’s cooperative. Being co-ownersof their companies, workers tend to work harder and more devotedly thanthey would as simple employees. The Cooperative provides daycare, hospitals,schools and other amenities for the workers in the numerous companies underits umbrella. Orbea is by no means the largest under that umbrella; oneof the companies is a huge manufacturer of household appliances, for instance.
While all companies in the bike industry borrow technology and ideasfrom others and therefore often share characteristics, I know of no businessconnection between Kestrel and Orbea.
From the photos of this year’s Tour so far, the frame that Lance Armstrongis riding does not appear to have the extra faring on the down tube thatI have seen on the Madone 5.9 frame. Is he actually riding a Madone oris it a different frame?
I’ll let Trek’s team liaison, Scott Daubert, handle that one:
Lance is riding the Madone SL. It was introduced to himin January at the team camp in Solvang. Since then all, of the climbers(Triki, Chechu, Floyd and Jose) have received one also.The SL will be available later this fall in the same colors seen hereat the Tour. It gives consumers a choice in bike aesthetics otherthan a bike with shaped tubes. There is very little difference inframe weight between the two versions but the team likes to call the Madone5.9 the race bike and the SL the climbing bike. For more visit www.trekbikes.com.
On a side note: this is not the sort of information a manufacturer wouldsay about their own product for obvious reasons, but I talked to Dirk Spiersof Giant Europe about Trek’s switch of seat tubes for the Madones in theTour. He said that Giant’s chief carbon designer, Kuan Chun Weng, Ph.D.,had predicted this switch, as he had believed that the extra material inthat faired seat tube would make it too harsh on the body over a three-weektour.
A big bike for a big guy
I’m a big rider, Magnus Bäckstedt big, so I’m always interestedin what the big boys are riding in the Tour. What frame was he using?What frame are some of the other big boys using? With the trendstoward big dollar production setups, are they custom, or just adapted withbigger parts?
It seems harder and harder for us to take advantage of the latest technology,which seems to be made for the masses, but not for the extremes of sizethat might benefit from it most. As the cost of tooling and productionincrease, I understand the business decisions made, but what are we bigguys to do? I’ll just keep riding my TI custom bike until then, Iguess…
Magnus rides a custom titanium Bianchi XL made of 3Al/2.5V titaniumalloy. It has sloping geometry and a Bianchi Mega Pro Evolution cross sectionto the down tube. It also has Bianchi’s Structural Foam Injection in theseat tube; Bianchi squirts expanding structural foam into the bottom ofthe seat tube that expands and stiffens and strengthens that area. Usinga weldable material like titanium allows Bianchi to easily make the framecustom to his dimensions and needs.
Magnus’s effective seat tube length is 64cm, center to top, while theactual seat tube measurement (remember, it has a sloping top tube) is 61cmcenter to top. His horizontal top tube length is 60.5cm (the center-centerlength measured along the top tube is 59.7cm). His head angle is 73 degrees,and his seat tube angle is 73.5 degrees. His chainstay length is 40.9cm.
Magnus’s bike has a Bianchi full carbon fork, ITM “Special model integrated”stem and bar, Campagnolo Record 10 components, FSA semi-integrated 1-1/8”headset, Fizik Aliante saddle, Vittoria Corsa Evo CX tubulars, Look CX6Carbon pedals, Elite Patao Macia bottle cage, and Sigma Sport computer.
How light is too light?
With all the high tech carbon frames at the tour, do any come intotrouble for weighing too little? There is a minimum weight, right?
Yes, many of them fall below the 6.8-kilogram minimum weight. Theyhave to add weight, which offers the opportunity to use more aerodynamicwheels, a power meter, or some other gadget that could be useful.
It’s all about the rim
Do you think the greater proliferation of carbon rimmed wheels in thepeloton has contributed to the high number of crashes in the first weekof the Tour? Obviously it has rained a lot, but I have found personallythat carbon rims offer far less predictable braking performance in allconditions but especially in the wet.
Where were those lovely retro brakes?
Any clue why Lance isn’t using the aero’ brakes that he was using earlierin the year? I believe he was testing out the old 1982 Dura Ace AXbrake calipers in the wind tunnel and in his lead-up races, and just wonderedwhy they didn’t make the cut for the prologue and TTT?
Trek’s team liaison, Scott Daubert says that he is, “not completely certain on that but there is some concern revolving around their ability to stop in a panic situation. The rubber in the holders is 20+ years old and being used on a carbon Hed 3 spoke so the risk is too high when you throw all that together.”
It may look worn, but…
In your Tour Tech column dated 7/11 discussing Beppo Hilfiker, youdisplay a photo of Saeco / Cannondale’s SRM Crank. In that photo,the 53 chainring appears to have significant wear to the gear teeth.Is this pre-designed with forward slanting involutes, or is Saeco / Cannondalestretching the limits of chainring use in the Tour ?
I’ll let Hilfiker himself answer that one:
We agree that it could be mistaken for a chainring that looksworn, but I just talked to Chris Dodman who designed the Hollowgram crankand he confirms that the “shark tooth” profile is there by design and helpsto keep the chain better in place at the high loads the pros put onto theserings.
Forget the bike. What about the work stand?
What kind of work stand do the race mechanics use?
A surprisingly high number of the bike stands used by race mechanicsthey make themselves—one-off jobs just right for their application thatyou cannot buy. Pro road race mechanics almost without exception use standsthat clamp one of the sets of dropouts and support the bottom bracket;I can’t think of any offhand using a work stand that clamps to the seatpostor frame tube. I got a lot of questions about the one in the pictureof Saunier Duval mechanic David Fernandes, and I am quite sure thatit is a one-off homemade unit.
However, some companies have listened to race mechanics and improvedtheir stands by incorporating common features the race mechanics seem tolike. Tacx has a new stand called the Cycle Spider Team, which certainlymust be the single most widely used bike stand among Tour mechanics.
The Tacx Cycle Spider Team features a very stable tripod base that canbe opened narrowly for fitting into tight spaces or can be spread out fully.It has clamps along its beam for the front or rear dropouts, while thebottom bracket is supported in a soft rubber cradle, and the opposite wheelcan be attached. It is widely adjustable in length with big, plastic leversthat hold the dropout clamps securely in adjustment and open easily toallow them to be slid along the beam.
You can raise and lower the stand and spin it around easily, again withbig plastic quick-release levers. This stand is used by Liberty Seguros,Quick Step, and many others, and the number keeps growing. For instance,the day before the prologue I watched the Phonak mechanics repeatedly knockTyler Hamilton’s gorgeous new TT bike off of their funky bike stand andjust barely catch it before it hit the ground. Note the way the bottombracket is perched up on it. The next day, Tacx had outfitted the Phonakmechanics with Cycle Spider Team stands.
One thing that I am willing to bet prevents more widespread use of theTacx stands, however, is that Tacx and Elite are locked into intense head-to-headcompetition in the water-bottle-cage and stationary-resistance-trainerbusinesses, so a team can only have one of the two as a sponsor. Giventhat over half of the Tour teams are sponsored by Elite, I would doubtthat mechanics on those teams would dare use a Tacx work stand.
Park Tool has a stand used by U.S. Postal with similar features to theTacx Cycle Spider Team. On the Park stand, rather than the dropout clampsmoving independently along the beam, the pair of front and rear clampsare attached to the same sleeve and slide back and forth together.
A question of access
How do you get such incredibly up-close access to the Tour racers’bikes to file your reports, and how come mechanics are so willing to sharedetails?
Having followed auto racing for many years, I’m amazed at the difference.In motorsports land, everything that can be done behind a closed tent is,photographs are rarely allowed, and team technicians are notoriously vagueand evasive.
Kudos to your reporting, for sure, but there must also be some underlyingethic among the tour participants for why they’re willing to give so muchaccess. I imagine a part of it is that there’s a closer relationship betweenthe parts used by racers and the bikes bought by civilians than there isbetween a NASCAR Monte Carlo and what you can buy at a Chevy dealer….
Partly it is cultural, yes. You can buy almost all of the stuff theriders are using, which is not the case in car racing. Also, car race mechanicsstay in the same place for days at a time and can set up an impermeablebarrier to the outside world. Bike race mechanics have to set up and teardown almost every day and travel with whatever contrivances they mighthave to keep people out. While teams like T-Mobile and US Postal bringbarricades for that purpose, most teams do not set them up except to surroundthe riders warming up on wind trainers prior to a time trial.
Another thing that helps is a press pass, which gets me into areas thepublic is cordoned off from, where the team trucks and buses are parkednear the start and the finish. Finally, I have developed personal relationshipsover the years with many team mechanics, and they show me things and answerquestions they might not without that relationship. But, failing any ofthese things, I sneak around sometimes when I cannot get at what I wantto see.
Gears for l’Alpe?
Do you know what were the gear ratios that Lance used on the TT upL’Alpe d’Huez? From what I could see on the tele his cadence seemed toaverage around 105.
From Scott Daubert, Trek team liaison
The front was the norm – 39/53
The rear was 14-15-16-17-18-19-20-21-22-23
And finally, about the Tour jerseys
In your most recent installment of tech Q&A, you said:
“The sponsors are definitely not Velcro-applied, nor are theysilk-screened on. They are sublimated in, like all other team jerseys,but I am not sure how there is always one for each team, unless they justmake them up for all of the teams before the Tour. Because sublimationis done before the jersey is sewn together, they can’t just slap it onin a truck after they see the stage results.”
They can sublimate in the back of a truck after the jersey’s been sewntogether. Voler does this with their semi-custom jerseys. I believethat all teams are required to submit artwork prior to the race that shouldbe dye-sub’d onto the jerseys should they be so lucky as to pull on oneof the four honored jerseys. Thus, each team’s art house can drawup artwork that honors the sponsors suitably.
I do not know for a fact that this is the way things happen at the TdF,but it is how it happens for other races here in the US.
Well, there ya have it.
Now that the Tour is over, I am returning to my regular Tuesday Q&Aschedule…. starting NEXT week. I’m taking a few days off, now.