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Weird, wonderful (and just plain wrong) bikes & kit of the Tour de France

Check out the cool, clever and just plain bizarre kit, components and rider setups we've spotted at the Tour over the years

Keep your eyes peeled at the Tour de France and you'll see some interesting, innovative and downright strange equipment choices and setups. Here's some of the strangest stuff we’ve spotted over the years…

> ​Can teams ride prototype bikes in the Tour de France?

Ridiculously long stems

It’s not at all strange for pros to use 130mm stems, and you’ll spot 140mm and even 150mm stems quite often too.

Astana -170mm stem (with phone)

In 2013, though, we spotted this monstrosity on the front of Andrey Kashechkin’s bike. Admittedly, phones were smaller in those days, but not that much smaller. We measured this stem at 170mm – which is usually a crank length rather than a stem length.

There comes a point when a team official needs to take a rider to one side and say, “Mate, we're going to get you a bigger bike.”


Even as pro bikes have become much more integrated, leaving less opportunities to add unusual bits to the front end, we're still seeing stems that are much longer than your average. We spotted this 150mm monster on Steve Cummings' fully integrated BMC Timemachine back in 2019. 

2023 Dauphine Jayco 140mm stem Elmar Reinders - 1

As mentioned, there's nothing unusual about a 140mm stem in the pro peloton. This one is on the front of Elmar Reinders' Giant Propel this year, for example.

Specialized’s aero balaclava

2023 Dauphine Alaphilippe Credit BILLY_LEBELGE - 1


Specialized-sponsored teams are continuing to use the aero balaclava that the brand introduced last year. The design is intended to flatten the rider’s ears and hair in order to reduce drag. It’s not going to win any points for style, admittedly.

Dates on wheels

Some teams are now writing dates on wheel rims with a permanent marker. Turn your screen upside down and you’ll see that this one says 24.05 – 24th May. Or is it 14th? Either way, the mechanic can hopefully read it.

2023 Dauphine Jumbo sealant date - 1

Why do this? It’s because of the introduction of tubeless tyres. The sealant inside needs topping up regularly and this is a simple way to record when it was last done.

Holy spokes!

Tour de France 2019 FFwd Falcon 2 spoke - 1.jpg

Wheels have changed quite a lot in terms of width and what kind of tyres are mounted to them in recent years, but wholesale attempts to reinvent are quite rare. FFWD's Falcon two-spoke front wheel for time trials was one that managed to break into the Tour a few years ago, ridden by the likes of Andre Greipel for Arkea-Samic and Total Direct Energie (now Team TotalEnergies). FFWD promised 9-watt savings over rival time trial wheels. 

2023 Dauphine Ben Turner Ineos, credit ASO-Billy_Ceusters - 1

Ineos Grenadiers usually ride Shimano wheels but it sometimes shops around in search of its famous marginal gains. Riders often use the Princeton Carbonworks Mach 7580 TS at the front in time trials, a wheel that's radically shaped to reduce drag.

The old ways are the best when it comes to reminders

2023 Dauphine stem instructions - 1

Sticking instructions to the stem is as old as the hills, whether that’s to remind riders about important features of the route – climbs, pavé, and so on – or, as in this case, telling them when to fuel and hydrate.

It’s simple and it works, so why change?

Mavic’s plastic CX01 blades

Tyler Farrar s Cervelo S5 39.jpg

Mavic had the idea of smoothing the gap between the tyre and the wheel's rim with a thin, barely visible plastic blade to reduce drag. We first saw these on Garmin-Cervelo bikes at the 2011 Tour.

Innovative? Certainly. Ingenious? Maybe. Permitted? Nah. The UCI immediately stomped all over these CX01 strips.

When Red was yellow

SRAM Red Yellow ltd - chainset 2

SRAM unveiled a yellow edition of its top -level Red groupset back in 2010. It made sense, though, because it was used by winners of former editions of the race: Alberto Contador, Carlos Sastre and, um, Lance Armstrong. One or two things have happened since then regarding Lance. You might have heard...

Non-top-end components get used by the pros

Pro riders usually have top-of-the-range everything, but there are exceptions.

2023 Dauphine Astana Bauro Prologo Maxim saddle Tirox rails - 1.jpegWhereas the vast majority use saddles with super-light carbon rails, this Astana rider has opted for a Proxim W650 Performance with TiroX steel rails. It looks like he’s prepared to add a few grams for the sake of increased comfort.

2023 Dauphine Mas pedals - 2

Enric Mas, who abandoned this year’s Tour de France after crashing on Stage 1, uses these Look Keo 2 Max Carbon pedals with stainless steel springs (£104.90) rather than the slightly lighter Look Keo Blade Carbon pedals (£139.90) that most of his teammates use. They're still great pedals but they're an unusual choice in the peloton. Maybe he prefers the feel or retention mechanism.

Read our review of Look's Keo 2 Max Carbon pedals 

Groenewegen’s felt-pad pedals

2023 Dauphine Jayco Groenewegen pedals - 1

Team Jayco-Alula sprinter Dylan Groenewegen has little felt pads stuck to the platform of his Shimano Dura-Ace pedals. We assume this is to make the pedal/shoe connection that little bit tighter.

Tour Tech 2017 - pedals Greipel Look Lizard Skin tape - 1.jpgQuite a few riders, such as Andre Greipel, used to put a strip of bar tape across the central stainless steel plate of their Look pedals to avoid unwanted movement.

2023 Dauphine Jayco Groenewegen shoes - 1

Speaking of Dylan Groenewegen, his disco Bont shoes are a bit special too.

Peter Sagan’s Hulk phase

peter sagan hulk cannondale 01

Back in 2013, Peter Sagan was on a Cannondale SuperSix Evo with a special Hulk paint job. Why the Hulk? Because of an impression of the character he did when he won Stage 6 of the Tour the previous year.

Cannondale Peter Sagan custom Hulk - the eyes

Oh, and there’s the green connection, Sagan having won the points classification in 2012.

Sagan’s Joker designs

Tour de France 2019 Peter Sagan stem - 1.jpg

Sagan ditched the Hulk theme and moved into The Joker and his ‘Why so serious?’ quote. This stem is from 2019.

Gorka Izagirre’s strange setup

Tour de France 2019 Gorka Izagirre stem - 1

Astana rider Gorka Izagirre was running a -17° stem in 2018 to position the handlebar lower. He then stuck spacers underneath it to move the handlebar higher. There’s probably a good reason for this, we just don’t know what it is.

Gorka Izagirre seatpost (crop)

He also had his seatpost back to front. If it worked for him, who are we to argue?

Yellow bikes

Voeckler yellow TdF C59 - full bike.jpg

It's something of a tradition for a sponsor to provide a yellow bike to the rider leading to the Tour de France. It's often fairly subtle – yellow bar tape and logos, for example – but Colnago almost went full-banana with Tommy Voeckler's C59 Italia back in 2011. 

Tour de France 2020 Pogacar Yellow Colnago

Tadej Pogacar's winning V3RS from 2020 doesn't have the yellow wheel decals, but redeems itself with a yellow seatpost, pedals and bottles. 

Brice Feillu’s undersized Look 795 Light

Bruce Feillu small bike - 1.jpg

You’ll often see Tour riders on bikes that look too small. They might want as short a head tube as possible to reduce their frontal area and minimise drag, or they might just want to save a few grams. Fortuneo-Vital Concept’s Brice Feillu took things to extremes back in 2016. It looked like he’d borrowed the bike of a much smaller teammate.

Big saddle-to-seatpost drops

2023 Dauphine Attila Valter seatpost-stem - 1

It's not unusual to have the handlebar positioned much lower than the saddle on a road bike but Tour riders take things to the nth degree. This (above) is Attila Valter's 2023 Cervelo S5, for example.

2023 Dauphine Lotto seatpost handlebar - 1

Just looking at some setups can bring on a case of lumbago.

A stack of headset spacers on a pro's bike? Really?

2023 Dauphine Gaudu spacers - 1

Although the majority of riders try to get as low as possible, we did spot that Groupama - FDJ's David Gaudu has a total of eight – yes, eight – spacers on the front of his Lapierre Xelius SL this year. Okay, they're skinny spacers but, still... eight. By pro-rider standards, that's colossal.

Adam Hansen’s homemade shoes

Aussie rider Adam Hansen famously made his own minimalist carbon-fibre shoes during his career. These ones from 2016 apparently took over 42 hours to make and weighed under 95g. A pair of lightweight off-the-shelf shoes would be a few hundred grams.   

> Best road cycling shoes 2023 — get some light, stiff kicks to help you go faster on the bike

Andre Greipel’s gorilla motif

German sprinter Andre Greipel was known as the Gorilla and had frames and saddles decorated accordingly.

Andre Greipel Ridley bikes-012

Here’s his Ridley Noah Fast from 2014, for example.

tour_tech_2018_-_selle_italia_greipel_-_1.jpgAnd here’s a saddle he was using in 2018. 

Adam Hansen’s humongous cranks

hansen cranks - 1 (2).jpgThat Adam Hansen was a bit of a maverick! In 2017 he ditched his team’s Campagnolo Super Record cranks in favour of these from Lightning with the logos removed. Hansen probably got away with it because the maximum length Campag offered was 175mm whereas he went for a whopping 180mm.

Valverde’s World Champ’s rainbow stripesvalverde movistar29.JPG

If you’re world road race champion you want everyone to know about it, right? Alejandro Valverde certainly did, with rainbow stripes just about everywhere during the Tour that came after his world champs victory.

Tour de France 2019 Valverde World Champs stripes - 1.jpg

Vincenzo Nibali’s shark-themed bike

Vincenzo Nibali bike side 2

Nibali was known as the Shark, hence this themed paint job from 2014.

Maybe it wasn't sharky enough, though, so it was changed for 2015.

Arkea-Samsic’s socks

Tour de France 2019 Arkea Samsic socks - 1The UCI has a sock height rule. They mustn’t be higher than halfway between your ankle and knee. No, really. It's easy to scoff but when you look at these Arkea–Samsic socks from 2020 you realise that it's probably for the best. 

Andrey Amador’s modified shoes

Tour de France 2019 Marc Soler Fizik shoe modification - 1You’ll occasionally see shoes that a pro rider has adapted slightly to increase ventilation or relieve pressure.

Movistar's Andrey Amador took things to a whole different level last in 2018, apparently getting Edward Scissorhands to do the styling.

Magura’s hydraulic rim brakes

Who remembers hydraulic rim brakes in the peloton? Garmin-Sharp used these ones from Magura way back in 2012. That box underneath the stem was the converter, the brake cables feeding in one side and operating a piston which pushed the hydraulic fluid to the brake unit.

Then hydraulic rim brakes came along and the Maguras were consigned to the great parts bin in the sky.

Lampre-Merida’s stickers

Back in 2013, Lampre-Merida stuck a head and shoulders sticker of each rider on their bikes. Thankfully, it didn’t catch on. It was kind of creepy, to be honest.

Fabian Cancellara’s ‘Spartacus’ Trek Madone

Fabian Cancellara Trek Madone 2016 4.JPG

Fabian Cancellara raced the 2016 Tour de France – his final one – aboard a custom-painted Trek Madone that celebrated his 16 years as a professional cyclist. It wasn’t subtle, but when you have a palmarès like his you don’t need to be.

Disguised equipment

At one time it was common to see components from non-sponsor brands disguised – often badly – in the pro peloton. The logos would be covered up to keep the real sponsors happy. It still goes on, but not as much as it once did.

2023 Dauphine Jayco Fizik saddle - 1

Team Jayco Alula officially uses saddles from Giant/Cadex but this is Elmar Reinders' 2023 Fizik Vento Argo 00 Adaptive with a strip of black tape covering the logo at the rear. 

Tour de France 2017 Trek Segafredo rear wheel - 1.jpg

This is a Zipp wheel from the Trek-Segafredo team in 2017 with a Bontrager logo added.

Tour de France 2017 Peter Sagan stem - 1.jpgAnd Peter Sagan was using a Zipp stem despite the US brand not being a Bora-Hansgrohe sponsor. A nice bit of work with insulating tape there.

Snake shorts

In 2013 members of the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team had the names of animals printed on the back of their shorts as part of a marketing campaign from Fizik. We were always a bit uncomfortable with the 'snake' one.

Grip tape everywhere for time trials

2023 Dauphine Bora grip tape - 1 (1)

Components can get slippy, especially when a rider sweats, so you’ll often see grip tape on time trial bikes to help keep riders where they want to be.

2023 Dauphine Jumbo Visma TT bike saddle - 1 (1).jpegGrip tape on a base bar is common and it’ll also make an appearance on aero extensions and saddles.

2023 Dauphine Bora grip tape - 1

Mechanics also stick grip tape inside bottle cages to prevent dislodging over rough roads.

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Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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andystow | 10 months ago

"Big saddle-to-seatpost drops"

You don't need a dropper post if you don't attach the saddle to the seatpost.

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