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.