19 Weird ​Tech Secrets of the 2017 Tour de France

Some of the new, weird, and wonderful gear on display at the 2017 Tour.

Matt Phillips |

Some of the new, weird, and wonderful gear on display at the 2017 Tour. – By Matt Phillips


The front window of the Astana bus is a convenient shelf for drying and storing the team’s helmets.


This Lotto-Soudal rider appears to have made a pressure-relieving modification to his shoe.


A number of riders were spotted wearing sponsor-correct shoe covers to hide their preferred footwear. Nairo Quintana’s Movistar team is sponsored by Diadora, but, based on the heel-pad visible under his covers, Quintana prefers to wear Sidi.


UCI officials were once again conducting random inspections to check for evidence of motor doping (AKA “technological fraud”). The tablet computers are set up to scan for and detect the magnetic field created by an electric motor.

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Some riders on Giro sponsored teams were sporting a new Giro aero-road helmet. Company representatives remain tight lipped, but the helmet appears to be a successor to Giro’s Air Attack. From the front (seen on rider at left) the new Giro has more and bigger vents than the Air Attack (with room to stash eyewear), while from the rear (seen on rider at right), the helmet appears to use a truncated airfoil design. Also noted: ultralight webbing splitters; very thin and multi-color webbing; MIPS sticker; Giro’s Roc-Loc Air adjustable head fitting system. We suspect more details will be available around late August.


Back in the day, all the bikes ridden in The tour were made with lugged construction (and steel tubes), and most were manufactured in Europe. Today there’s only one lugged bike in the Tour peloton-Colnago’s C60-which also happens to be the only Italian-made bike in the race. Other than the C60, and some Wisconsin-made Treks ridden by Trek-Segafredo, the rest of the bikes in the race are made in Asia–primarily China and Taiwan.


Washing is part of the daily routine at the Tour. Bikes, team vehicles, and clothing are washed almost every day. Most riders bring just a few kits, which team soigneurs collect and wash. And because teams can’t count on every hotel or town having laundry facilities, most of the teams’ trucks have on-board washers and dryers.

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By our informal count, Look is the most widely used pedal system in the Tour, with most riders choosing the Blade pedals with carbonfibre retention springs. The Blade springs are offered in three release tensions: 12nm; 16nm; and 20nm–bigger numbers mean stronger retention and higher-effort release. Most riders seem to use the 16nm springs, but some riders–particularly sprinters–go for the highest tension springs.
Most of the bikes used in the Tour are equipped with a small number-plate holder that sandwiches between the frame and the rear-brake caliper’s mounting bolt. But that doesn’t work for all frames. Trek’s Emonda (shown), uses direct mount brakes (which mount with a two bolts, not a single center bolt) and is incompatible the traditional plate holder. Instead, the team’s Emondas have this integrated plate holder, complete with recycled fender-mounting hardware.
Meanwhile, the Madone aero bike used by Trek-Segafredo requires completely different number-plate solution from the Emonda. In this case, a plate holder is added to the Madone’s rear-brake cable guide.
A small dollop of paint acts as a reference point–usually aligned with the stem’s faceplate gap as seen here–to ensure a rider’s bars are always at the proper angle.
Shimano’s highest end brake cables (Included with Dura Ace STI levers) are coated with a low-friction material to improve braking performance and feel. And while it does do that very well, it’s also quite fragile and quickly begins to slough off. Most of the Dura Ace brake cables we checked out were showing similar coating degradation.
Though the crashes in the 2017 Tour de France have been particularly dramatic and newsworthy, crashes are not uncommon. Riders go down almost every stage, and every rider in the peloton will probably go down at least once. Look close, and you will see the telltales signs on almost every bike and body in the race.

Look-sponsored Team Fortuneo-Oscaro riders were using the latest version of Look’s power meter pedals. The biggest update is the new radio pod. The mounting system has been improved (no more zip ties), and they offer dual mode( Bluetooth Smart or ANT+) data transmission for compatibility with a wide range of head units, smart phones, and computers (desktop, laptop, tablet).

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17A lot of the riders are now using wider-range 11-28 cassettes, but most riders still use “standard” 53/39 rings (TT setups are a different story). A few riders, however, (mostly sprinters, but not exclusively) go even larger.
AG2R-La Mondiale is sponsored by Mavic, though most of the team’s bikes were equipped with brake pads from Mavic’s competitor Reynolds. Most carbon wheel brands would not recommend using a brake pad formulated for a different wheel: recommendations we strongly we advise riders follow because there can be unintended, and potentially dangerous, consequences for mixing parts not designed to work together. But we assume the team has rigorously tested the combo, and find the Reynolds’s Cryo-Blue pads offer performance–in some area–that Mavic’s pads to not. That, or the team thinks the blue Reynolds look better on the team’s blue bikes than Mavic’s yellow pads.
The sexiest carbon number plate holders in the tour were found on AG2R’s La Mondiale’s bikes.
Fresh headset caps for this year’s Tour encourage AG2R’s riders.
The Factor Slick time trial bike ridden by AG2R features dramatic a split down tube. Does the split down tube make the Slick faster? If we use results as a guide–which bike brands certainly encourage when their sponsored riders win–Factor-sponsored AG2R’s results in the Tour’s opening time trail were mid pack–riders finished in position 17, 63, 90, 99, 104, 119, 126, 127, and 169, which put them 13th out of 22 teams. However 13th in the team classification put AG2R ahead of teams riding respected TT bikes, including Dimension Data (Cervelo P5) and Cofidis (Orbea Ordu).

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