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I've been looking at a lot of the coverage of the Tour de France. All of the attention is on the cyclists, and no attention whatsoever on the cycles. Even in photographs or videos, they are so far away, or the bikes are moving by so fast, you can't tell what they are riding.

I know I definitely can't afford whatever kind of bike they are using, and it would be horribly impractical for me to ride one since I'm commuting, not racing. I'm just very curious as to what is the top of the line in terms of bikes. When I look at high end bikes in shops or online I can't tell if they are actually superior or if they are just loaded with expensive gimmicks.

What frames, brakes, seats, gears, tires, etc. are the world's top competitors using?

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Awesome ones! Ridden by amazing machines! –  geoffc Jul 6 '11 at 20:36
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@Apreche - Are you interested in current riders and equipment, or a historical overview? Also, this question would be more instructive if people were to focus on the why instead of the what (which can probably be found via a few minutes' Googling). –  Neil Fein Jul 6 '11 at 23:06
    
Expensive ones. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 7 '11 at 2:31
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Here is an overview from bicycling magazine of the different bikes used in the 2010 tour –  David Jul 7 '11 at 14:34

5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

The focus is on the riders, because the bikes are just not so different from one another. The UCI (international cyclists' union) tightly regulates what shape and weight the bike must be, and what technical solutions are acceptable, so the sponsoring manufacturers can only compete on relatively minor features such as aerodynamic tubing or frame stiffness. These are of no practical importance to an everyday cyclist.

A typical racing top-level bike nowadays will have

  • an aluminum or carbon fiber frame, with increasing focus on aerodynamics over weight (because it's relatively easy to achieve the UCI minimum weight of 6.7kg regardless)
  • always a carbon fiber fork
  • either super light or aerodynamic wheels, depending on the type of rider and needs of the particular stage
  • either Campagnolo Super Record, Shimano Dura Ace, or SRAM Red component set, depending on who's the sponsor
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Correct. Years ago, the UCI decided that the race would be about the riders rather than the machines. Bike manufacturers have actually complained that Le Tour is so influential it has put a brake on design... Advancements are allowed only grudgingly. Greg LeMond won his first Tour using the just-approved "aero" helmet in the final time-trial, winning by a margin that the helmet may well have contributed. –  M. Werner Jul 7 '11 at 0:47
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A typical racing bike these days will be made of carbon. Full stop. Aluminium hasn't been used in top bikes for years. And carbon is used for most parts: frame, forks, handlebars, components, seatpost (usually always integrated as in Wilier Cento 1 for instance), seats... –  Robert Koritnik Jul 8 '11 at 10:21
    
"either Campagnolo Super Record, Shimano Dura Ace, or SRAM Red component set, depending on who's the sponsor": Not entirely true. Some riders may choose their own set based on their preference and what they're used to. It's rare but exists. –  Robert Koritnik Jul 8 '11 at 10:24
    
@Robert Korytnik: You're right, I was projecting from maybe 2007, when I remember some sprinters still used alu frames for their better stiffness. Edited. –  ttarchala Jul 12 '11 at 16:07
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The UCI minimum is weight is 6.8kg not 6.7kg. –  e100 Jul 25 '11 at 15:32

The Trek Madone 6 Series is pretty typical...US teams have ridden these for numbers of Tours and other famous stage races as well. You can buy essentially the same bike; it's a top of the line carbon frame with the top-of-the-line components installed.

Many of the "team" bikes are made by other manufacturers and simply painted with appropriate team colors. Bikes are of course built up to the individual rider's specifications so that fit is perfect. For many years, it was no secret that many of the team bikes were Lightspeed frames fitted with top-level Campy components and simply painted appropriately.

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I looked up the Trek Madone 6 Series page and it's covered in Tour de France blurb. trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/road/race_performance/madone_6_series –  Hugo Jul 6 '11 at 21:12

Check out this site, they have detailed articles and photos of actual pro bikes. There are even a few bikes from this year's TDF already up there.

http://www.cyclingnews.com/tech

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Team NetApp has an article about their Bike sponsor Simplon for Giro d'Italia:

The best german professional road race team Team NetApp rides race-ready prototypes of SIMPLON’s new aero-roadbike NEXIO during the Giro d’Italia. Conceptually the NEXIO combines the best of both worlds in the present professional bike yard of the team. It shares top class aerodynamics of SIMPLON’s MR.T time trail machine as welll as exceptional lightness and stiffness of the more traditionally shaped PAVO roadbike.

Source: http://www.teamnetapp.com/en/news/detailview/news/team-netapp-rides-simplons-new-nexio-aero-roadbike-at-the-giro-ditalia-2012/

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This year Bradley Wiggins used the Pinarello Dogma 2 (frame only)- which costs just under £4k. Found this cool article on what bikes the Olympic gold medalists use that you might find useful...http://www.theranktank.com/blog/2012/08/deciding-which-bike-to-get-look-at-what-our-olympians-ride-/

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That's one sweet looking bike. –  GordonM Nov 8 '12 at 20:32

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