If you follow the tech sections of the big cycling websites, you know that quite a bit of new or prototype equipment gets tested during the Tour. On any given stage, different riders on a team are not always using the same equipment from the sponsors. From stage to stage, individual riders might even be trying out new products that they were not using when the race started. Sometimes, the new products are very obvious, like the electronic Dura-Ace components that were spotted on select bikes in last year’s Tour. Other times, the differences between bikes are harder to spot. I probably would not have noticed that Fabian Cancellara’s yellow Saxo Bank Specialized S-Works Tarmac was a new 2010 SL3 and not an SL2 if it had not been pointed out to me. The new SL3 doesn’t look all that different from the previous flagship model from Specialized, but there are some fairly significant changes. It is fun to watch the race coverage and look for subtle differences between the bikes from the various teams. Well… it is fun for me at least.
Increasingly though, the cosmetic differences between the bikes are not very subtle at all. I have mentioned Armstrong’s custom painted bikes a few times. Mark Cavendish’s Scott Addict with fighter pilot graphics has been getting a lot of attention as well. As CyclingNews pointed out in a tech article today, personalized bikes at the Tour are becoming more and more commonplace. I have heard a little bit of talk about this trend lately. Some people enjoy seeing the variety of paint jobs and graphic schemes. Others believe that team bikes should look like team bikes… with identical graphics and paint, unless the rider earns the right to ride a custom painted bike (yellow to match the maillot jaune for instance). Personally, I enjoy seeing some of the team leaders on different looking bikes, but I can see how the trend might get out of hand. If every rider in the peloton had a bike painted with his national colors, or just favorite colors for that matter, it would probably get pretty confusing. So what do you all think? Is the personalization of bikes in the pro peloton a good thing, or is it just a distraction?
Photo via Limited Hype