Tricks of the trade
Tricks of the trade
One of the best bits about the cobbled classics is taking a look at all the nifty tricks pro mechanics use to make life a bit easier or more practical for the riders.
We mentioned earlier how a lot of riders on Shimano-sponsored teams like to use the handlebar-mounted climbing shifters, to provide easy access from the top of the ‘bar. Some riders and mechanics take that to another level and modify Shimano’s sprint shifters (the tiny ones that are made to go on the inside of the bars on the bend of the drops) and set them in the middle of the bars either side of the stem. That way their riders could easily shift up and down the cassette from the tops without having to take a hand off the bars, with the solution cleaner and less bulky that the typical climbing shifters. Without electronic shifting, this sort of thing is pretty much impossible to do. You could certainly rig up some TT shifters to allow you to shift from the tops, but that would be at the expense of – not in addition to – traditional shifting.
Campagnolo don’t currently offer satellite shifting with their EPS system in the same way Shimano do with Di2. But last year one of the Europcar mechanics had a moment of creative genius when he attached a couple of Campag’s TT shifters to an accessory mount to create a home-made shifting system that their riders could use from the tops. Very smart indeed.
Another little modification some riders like is to put strips of bar tape or skateboard-style grip tape on their brake levers to stop their fingers from slipping. A far more common and practical bit of tech is taping the valves on the tyres. Rattling valves on deep-section wheels are incredibly irritating, especially if you have to listen to them for six hours, so a lot of teams will either wrap tape around the valve itself to make it sit snug in the hole, or just tape the valve to the rim to stop it moving about.
Another tape trick is to add grip tape to the water bottle cages. A lot of bikes will be equipped with aluminium bottle cages for the cobbled Classics because you can bend them to get a tighter fit, but for those who don’t use alu cages (or do but want an extra bit of protection), the mechanics will add grip tape onto the inside of the cages. It doesn’t always look pretty but if it stops a bottle from bouncing out on a sector of pavé, then it’ll be worth its weight in gold.