Do you know what your favorite pro is riding?

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Longtime cycling fans will remember watching Greg LeMond racing for La Vie Claire on a Huffy. Around the same time, the mid eighties, the 7-11 Team rode Murray and later Huffy bikes. Of course, the bikes weren’t actually made by those companies; Serotta and other high-end builders made them and the sponsor’s decals were just applied to the frames. While doing a quick search for one of the old La Vie Claire or 7-11 Huffys, I found this recent Bobkestrut blog post about the 1983 Milk Race, which was won on a Nashbar frame. Back in the days when all pros were riding lugged steel, relabeling frames was fairly easy. Without decals and from a distance, it was hard to determine the real framebuilder who crafted the bike. Now that frames and components have more distinctive forms, the practice continues, but it is often easier to spot. Take the fairly recent example of Lance Armstrong using a Litespeed Blade in the 1999 Tour de France. The bike was painted blue and had Trek decals, but the frame shape was pretty distinctive.

Even though it is harder to get away with these days, the practice of professional riders sometimes using the products that they feel comfortable with instead of the ones they are actually paid to ride continues. CyclingNews has a great article about it in their tech section today. The article shows several examples of products on pro bikes in this year’s tour that aren’t exactly what they seem to be. Some of the relabeled products are more obvious that others, but they all point to the fact that the practice is still pretty common. As the CyclingNews article points out, sponsors apparently don’t mind occasionally looking the other way as long as their name is tied to a victory. So what do you think? Should pros have to ride stock equipment from the companies that sponsor them? A similar question was brought up on Bicycle Marketing Watch post some time ago. Check out that post right here.

Photo credit: College Cyclery. Apparently this Serotta made “Huffy” time trial bike used by Greg LeMond is on display in the shop.

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9 Comments

  1. Tarun July 17, 2007 at 12:43 pm -  Reply

    It is an interesting question. If you look at golf, once a club has been banned, nobody wants to use it because it is considered “cheating”, but I think that a lot of people don’t mind having bikes that are lighter than 6.8kg.

    It would certainly force the manufacturers to be more responsive to technical issues than hype if they find that everyone is using aluminum bars, etc. How about a requirement that each part on the bike sells over so many units to the public at large also?

    I would think that companies that do this rebranding would realize that they are risking a huge backlash against their product. I mean, if Trek can’t produce a competitive bike and Lance has to ride a Litespeed instead, I would think that Litespeed should reap the benefits, and Trek should be hurting. So in the end, allow manufacturers to do it, but the press should hound them on it and make them pay for it.

  2. Bubba July 17, 2007 at 10:30 pm -  Reply

    There are too many rules governing bicycle racing as it is. Getting rid of rules would behoove the sport and the bicycling public. Recumbent bikes are more efficient and will go faster, so why not allow them? Fared bicycles would go faster still. Even motorized bicycles should be allowed if they start and end the same. Whether a bike is what it’s painted to be is a non-issue. Should someone not be allowed to race when something happens to his “official” bike prior to the race? Rules make for problems, retard or stop progress, and compensate braun over brains. Of course, I think this way. I’m an American Democrat.

  3. C July 18, 2007 at 12:15 am -  Reply

    I doubt that Huffy was made by Serotta. It was most likely built by Roland Della Santa who is well known for building bikes for Lemond throughout his career.

  4. dolan July 18, 2007 at 12:51 pm -  Reply

    I remember seeing one of these “rebadges” for sale at a shop in Davis, CA about fifteen years ago. If I remember correctly it was a “Ritchey” that was actually a Merlin.

  5. Fritz July 18, 2007 at 6:24 pm -  Reply

    Ah, Bubba, I don’t think James was asking from the perspective of UCI rules. The question is if sponsors benefit from their sponsored riders riding rebadged equipment, and how much the sponsors should insist on their riders using the “real” thing.

    Didn’t Lance famously insist on staying with Look pedals in spite of Shimano sponsorship? Shimano relented by eventually creating the SPD-SL.

  6. James July 19, 2007 at 11:54 am -  Reply

    Tarun, I think often the case is that riders are just comfortable with certain products that they have used in the past. I doubt that many manufactures really like the practice, but it has been happening for a long time. To be fair to Trek, I should point out that Armstrong did ride the new OCLV Time Trial frames during the 2000-2005 tours. Those just weren’t yet available in 99.

    Bubba, I am no big defender of the UCI restrictions, but you lost me with that “motorized bikes” comment. Even, I could win the tour with a stong enough motor.

    C, You are right that Della Santa built most of LeMond’s La Vie Claire Huffys, possibly this one included. I said Serotta because I am assuming that the bike shop that owns this particular bike knows something about its origin.

    Fritz, I remember Lance with those old Look pedals. I don’t blame him for not wanting to ride SPD road pedals; I hated those when thay came out and I still do. I prefer larger platform pedals like the old school Time Criteriums that I still have on 4 different bikes. Occasionally someone will point them out as antiques, but I stick with what I like. Unfortunately, Time doesn’t make shoes any more with that cleat bolt pattern, so I am soon to be out of luck.

  7. Alberto July 19, 2007 at 1:03 pm -  Reply

    I think most riders stick with equipment, even if non-sponsored, simply because they have been used to it for sometime. I don’t think that issue is of much consequence. However, whether the public is being tricked by false advertisement may be something else entirely. If advertising is that effective and people are as dumb as, say, choosing to ride the same Selle Italia thingy that Armstrong might ride regardless of bum rash, then who are we to protest and who is deserving of it?

  8. Edu&Nano August 3, 2007 at 3:03 am -  Reply

    Quite difficult question, but Pros when they are racing, they are earning his/her salaries and risking they own life. The sponsors should respect this, the way for earn more money next season (having a better school for your kids, etc) , or keep as a Pro, is winning. Comfort and realiability are as important to win as the own strength. Practically the results are better when you let a Pro taking these “little freedoms”.

    Of course issue bicycles are valid for a Pro, but the confidence of a Pro is more a mental state, than a rational consequence

    Edu

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