David Harmon tests his bike to the max
From the final sprint….
… to hammering over pave, a pro bike delivers
Ask a professional rider to name the best bike he has ever ridden and more often than not the reply will be something like; “The one I’m paid to ride”.
Impeccable as the professional rider’s answer might be, it delivers not an inkling of what pros look for and appreciate in a bicycle.
There is no greater testing ground for a racing bicycle than within the ProTour peloton. It is at the very least 10% faster, harder, tougher, longer and more destructive than anything top amateur racing throws at a product.
So what are professional riders looking for in a bike that is different to the rest of the bicycle riding, and buying, public?
Shaving off the grams is almost an obsession with riders across the world but in reality overall weight is not an issue to professional riders. For a number of years the UCI have ruled that the minimum weight of a complete bike should 6.8kg and all manufacturers can comfortably produce team bikes within those parameters.
More important than the overall weight is how the weight is distributed. This will have a major impact on the way the machine rides and handles. For example, a super light frame and heavy wheelset would be more tiring to ride and handle quite differently than a slightly heavier frame with super light wheels.
Between them, Campagnolo and Shimano provide the entire peloton with groupsets, with the notable exception of Saunier Duval Prodir, whose Scott machines are equipped with the all new American made SRAM Force groupo.
All 3 systems work slickly and are extremely reliable in all conditions and that is really all a rider competing on the limit requires.
Saddles, bars and pedals are the physical points of contact for riders and as such are often very individual. Manufacturers will offer a range of bars, stems and saddles to riders and these may well be changed for specific races.
For professional teams the handbuilt wheel is now a thing of the past except for Paris-Roubaix. With such a huge range of high quality factory built wheels available to teams, in both carbon and aluminium, the potential to change the characteristics of the ride through choice of wheel is enormous.
The big challenge for manufacturers is to produce a team bike that strikes an acceptable balance between an aggressive, responsive machine and rider comfort.
The almost universal use of carbon as a frame material has lead to fabulously stiff and responsive frames and wheels but look about the peloton and it is clear that dozens of techniques are employed to achieve an acceptably comfortable ride, from flexible parts of the frame to shock damping elastomers, depending on the terrain.
To coincide with the Tour de France, RoadcyclingUK will be taking a regular ride on the bikes of the ProTour teams starting with the Specialized Tarmac S Works used for 2007 by Quickstep Innergetic.