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  1. #1
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    TDF bike maintenance

    I'm surprised at the number of bike mechanical issues that I see in the TDF television coverage. There are 9 riders on each team and they ride roughly 5 hours per day. That leaves 19 hours per day to do bike maintenance and each team has a couple of mechanics.

    The most common thing that I see is rear brake centering issues. For some reason, I haven't seen them fiddling with front brakes. The second most common thing that I've seen is rear derailleur limit screw adjustments (while leaning out of a car at around 25 MPH).

    There's obviously something that I'm missing because I'd be embarassed if I only had to maintain 9 bicycles and they still required on-the-road adjustments.

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    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    I'm waiting for a mechanic leaning out of a car to get something caught in the spokes. Is it possible that the rear wheel adjustments are from fixing a flat by putting on a new back wheel, and starting to ride as fast as possible, adjustments after starting to ride?
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    Front centering, not enough space to work in & it would probably result in a crash for the rider / lost fingers for the wrench, try working on the brake on a stationary bike, then think of doing it at 40Kph

    Rear, new wheels after a puncture, may not be exactly centered as the previous wheel, getting bashed in the peleton

    Alot of adjustments will be done after crashes, and they are riding those bikes hard, much harder than the average rider would ever would.

    All those bike will be stripped and re-built at the end of the day, ready for the next day.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2manybikes View Post
    Is it possible that the rear wheel adjustments are from fixing a flat by putting on a new back wheel, and starting to ride as fast as possible, adjustments after starting to ride?
    I think that's a good guess. Rear tires are the ones that go flat most often and maybe all of the spare wheels aren't dished exactly the same. 1/2 mm might be enough to make a difference. Those riders are understandably picky so I assume they have more complaints than the folks that I typically work for. I can tell you that I wouldn't bet on my ability to keep an allen wrench seated solidly enough to adjust a centering screw while rolling along at 25 MPH.

  5. #5
    Must... ride... more... Phil_gretz's Avatar
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    Obvious Other Benefits

    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    I think that's a good guess. Rear tires are the ones that go flat most often and maybe all of the spare wheels aren't dished exactly the same. 1/2 mm might be enough to make a difference. Those riders are understandably picky so I assume they have more complaints than the folks that I typically work for. I can tell you that I wouldn't bet on my ability to keep an allen wrench seated solidly enough to adjust a centering screw while rolling along at 25 MPH.
    Two benefits for adjusting on the fly come to mind:

    - quicker re-entry for the rider to make up for lost position/time, rather than fiddling further with the bike while stationary
    - mechanic's hands impart forward force to brake bridge (or derailleur mount), allowing the rider to rest briefly while the "adjustment" is completed

    PG

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    It's always best to adjust something while it is "under load".

    Just sayin'.

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    Senior Member KD5NRH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    I can tell you that I wouldn't bet on my ability to keep an allen wrench seated solidly enough to adjust a centering screw while rolling along at 25 MPH.
    That raises a question; why not use thumbscrews on the things that might need to be adjusted during the race? It's not like they aren't spending a fortune on much pricier special hardware already.

  8. #8
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KD5NRH View Post
    That raises a question; why not use thumbscrews on the things that might need to be adjusted during the race? It's not like they aren't spending a fortune on much pricier special hardware already.
    Thumbscrews large enough to afford enough torque to make adjustments would add tremendous weight (probably as much as a gram) which would obviously be unacceptable.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    All the bikes are stripped down, cleaned and reassembled every night. They will all be in perfect condition at the start of each stage. But they get phenomenally hard treatment, crashes and flats are common, stuff gets bent. Personally I think the mechanics' ability to fix stuff at 50kph (to say nothingof the riders' ability to change their shoes and socks at the same speed) is little short of supernatural.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  10. #10
    Senior Member guybierhaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CACycling View Post
    Thumbscrews large enough to afford enough torque to make adjustments would add tremendous weight (probably as much as a gram) which would obviously be unacceptable.
    I understand there is a minimum weight for a bike, so expect if something is a good idea and adds a few grams of weight. That weight could be taken off else where. If may be possible rider has few adjustments he can make as all he knows is to ride, not a wrench. Son in law tells me bikes may have an electro server shifting system, powered by a battery, probably shed some weight else where to allow for battery. May be next they will build in wireless adjustment. Leaving only brakes to adjust on the fly.
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  11. #11
    I need speed AzTallRider's Avatar
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    I think it is a combination of factors:

    A. It is really hard to get a bike "just so" on the stand. I find I need to tweak the derailleur adjustment while on a ride, especially the index adjustment (cable tension), which is easily done, just not while in the saddle. The cable tension is also something that can change over the course of a ride.

    B. Trying to save time, it's easy to have a real wheel not seated exactly the same in the dropouts, causing the need for a brake adjustment.

    C. Being dragged along by the car is a big boost getting back to the pack!
    "If you're riding less than 18 MPH up a 2% grade please tell people Coggan is coaching you."

  12. #12
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    What you have to realise is that these bikes are the ultimate. They are lightweight in "Most" respects to the average bike and as such are a bit on the fragile side. Some of these bikes will even be one-offs for the rider. The groupset is the best available-and will also be on the light side. Then these riders are not all 160lbs and able to ride all day putting in pressure uphill or on the flat. Some of them have a lot of power in those legs and will use it.

    And on the wheels- These wheels will be handbuilt. That will give a modicum of variation from wheel to wheel. I don't care how good a wheel builder is- he will not be able to build 20 wheels and have them all identical. Slight offset will be within tolerance but these bikes are set up to the ultimate. Brakes will be set up tight and if that rim is 1/2mm out- then that is all the clearance that some riders run.

    And those of us lucky enough to own several bikes and spare wheels will know what care is taken if we change to the spare set on RD and brake set up. I spent hours setting up the spare rear wheel to interchange on my main bike. When I do change to them- I still find the brakes do not quite line up or after 5 miles into a ride I will have a rear cassette that is making noisy changes.

    So to me if they change the wheels- then some brake or RD adjustment is acceptable. What is not is a Saddle that decides to slip for no apparant reason- or a Front DR that allows the chain to jump off the Rings. That is Poor riding or poor setup
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  13. #13
    Senior Member Terex's Avatar
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    Watching TDF this morning. Cav flats, tire changed, he starts riding, and team car pulls alongside to do what Phil says is "Traditional rear brake adjustment". Apparently it's done, on the fly, after almost every rear wheel change. Actually does check/adjust wheel, if needed, and gives an extra push, which is always needed. They also said that the increased number of cameras in this year's tour captures more of the tire changes, etc., which go on constantly throughout the tour.

    They did note, during the broadcast of the race following the rest day, that it appears that there was an unusual number of mechanicals. Again, could just be bored video feed manager focusing on these little intimate moments on a day that the scenery didn't do the HD broadcast justice.

    Just like TV news programs, and any other type of revenue based entertainment, they show you what they think you'll buy.

    Oh, and those "helicopter" sounds when they show an aerial view - you thought they were the actual audio feed from the copters? It's some guy sitting in the control booth, adding the effect. Just like all the little electronic "zoom zoom" sounds on Fox Sports.
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    Senior Member KD5NRH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terex View Post
    Oh, and those "helicopter" sounds when they show an aerial view - you thought they were the actual audio feed from the copters? It's some guy sitting in the control booth, adding the effect. Just like all the little electronic "zoom zoom" sounds on Fox Sports.
    I keep wondering when they'll start using a buttload of Hexacopters with HD camera mounts. The technology is definitely there, and you can get a 3ft x 1ft remote controlled copter into a lot of places you'd be crazy to take a full size helicopter. At under $10k each fully equipped, (including GPS control and onboard collision avoidance options) they're almost disposable considering the cost of media coverage on the Tour. (Or the cost of running a full size copter for a few hours, for that matter.)

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    If I were riding the TDF I would want(need) a rear wheel/brake adjustment every few minutes so I could get the fast tow. "Take yer time fiddlin back there boys"

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    Senior Member DGozinya's Avatar
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    Paul and Phil also commented that some of these are merely placebo fixes to allay fears of the rider...as in "Wrench, my back wheel doesn't feel right, it must be the brake!" Wrench then leans out and "fiddles" with the drivetrain, doing basically nothing. Rider feels much better.

  17. #17
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    There's obviously something that I'm missing because I'd be embarassed if I only had to maintain 9 bicycles and they still required on-the-road adjustments.
    One of the other things to consider is that there is likely no one on support staff that has just a singular job. I'm guessing the mechanics have lots of other stuff on their to do list. At my LBS that head mechanic was a mechanic for a pro women's team. He said that the wrenching was the least demanding part of the job.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DGozinya View Post
    Paul and Phil also commented that some of these are merely placebo fixes to allay fears of the rider...as in "Wrench, my back wheel doesn't feel right, it must be the brake!" Wrench then leans out and "fiddles" with the drivetrain, doing basically nothing. Rider feels much better.
    You have to wonder what happens when the wrench drops a tool or gets his fingers too close to a spinning wheel.... You would think though, that with a couple of pieces of scrap steel they could build an alignment jig for each bike, so that they could get the wheels lined up exactly the same... Kind of a U shaped thing that has a few feelers so that all of the wheel rims line up the same, actually you would just need one for the team and set all the bikes up the same. Would certainly be a lot less risky then having a mechanic leaning out a window to make an adjustment.

  19. #19
    I need speed AzTallRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wogster View Post
    You would think though, that with a couple of pieces of scrap steel they could build an alignment jig for each bike, so that they could get the wheels lined up exactly the same... Kind of a U shaped thing that has a few feelers so that all of the wheel rims line up the same, actually you would just need one for the team and set all the bikes up the same. Would certainly be a lot less risky then having a mechanic leaning out a window to make an adjustment.
    During an 8 second wheel change?
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  20. #20
    I need speed AzTallRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    What you have to realise is that these bikes are the ultimate. They are lightweight in "Most" respects to the average bike and as such are a bit on the fragile side. Some of these bikes will even be one-offs for the rider. The groupset is the best available-and will also be on the light side. Then these riders are not all 160lbs and able to ride all day putting in pressure uphill or on the flat. Some of them have a lot of power in those legs and will use it.
    For the Tour, most of the bikes are straight off the rack. Custom layups are rare, because for CF, that means a mold, which is very expensive. Cycling is one of those sports where, if you are willing to spend the money (for SRAM Red or Shimano Di2, and for high end wheels), you can ride exactly what the pro's are riding. You do see prototypes in use (e.g., the Carbone TT wheels with rubber extensions to improve the tire/wheel junction), but those typically become available within a year or so. For Paris-Roubaix, the manufacturers will lengthen chainstays and such, but generally not for the tour. In fact, given the UCI minimum weight, you can ride a higher-performance bike than the tour riders are on. And light weight does not have to be fragile.
    "If you're riding less than 18 MPH up a 2% grade please tell people Coggan is coaching you."

  21. #21
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    There are some hilarious posts in this thread.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AzTallRider View Post
    During an 8 second wheel change?
    The key isn't to have variance between wheels at all, say a team has 4 riders, that means 8 bikes, minimum, with 2 sets of wheels for each so 32 wheels total. 16 Front and 16 Rear, you use a jig to make sure that the rims line up properly and the cassette is in the right place, if the wheel isn't setup properly, you adjust it, so that when you have a wheel problem, you pull the wheel off and stick another one on that is set up identical to the one you removed.

  23. #23
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AzTallRider View Post
    For the Tour, most of the bikes are straight off the rack. Custom layups are rare, because for CF, that means a mold, which is very expensive. Cycling is one of those sports where, if you are willing to spend the money (for SRAM Red or Shimano Di2, and for high end wheels), you can ride exactly what the pro's are riding. You do see prototypes in use (e.g., the Carbone TT wheels with rubber extensions to improve the tire/wheel junction), but those typically become available within a year or so. For Paris-Roubaix, the manufacturers will lengthen chainstays and such, but generally not for the tour. In fact, given the UCI minimum weight, you can ride a higher-performance bike than the tour riders are on. And light weight does not have to be fragile.
    40 years ago I was a Fibre Glass Laminator making Boat hulls. The R&D department were always modifieing Moulds to find that fractionally better/ faster boat. I was part of the team that used to modify those moulds and it does not take long--Just labour and materials that will get lost in production.. The expensive part would be discarding the 24 that don't work just to find the one that does. Hence R&D never has a budget- And doesn't show on the books very often. And that 1 out of 25 that does work---Works.
    And the 24 that don't work still get sold- as a Special Limited Production unit.
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  24. #24
    I need speed AzTallRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wogster View Post
    The key isn't to have variance between wheels at all, say a team has 4 riders, that means 8 bikes, minimum, with 2 sets of wheels for each so 32 wheels total. 16 Front and 16 Rear, you use a jig to make sure that the rims line up properly and the cassette is in the right place, if the wheel isn't setup properly, you adjust it, so that when you have a wheel problem, you pull the wheel off and stick another one on that is set up identical to the one you removed.
    The point I'm making is that, even if you are putting the exact same wheel back on the bike, it can end up out of position just a touch, requiring you to either re-do it, or adjust the brakes. There are many times when, after repairing a flat, I have to loosen and retighten the wheel because it wasn't seated exactly the same in the dropout. I check it before I get going again, but, under time pressure, I suspect this can happen on the tour. You can adjust the brakes to accommodate this, without stopping again, and that is the adjustment I've sometimes seen being made from the team car... it's a hex screw on top of the caliper.
    "If you're riding less than 18 MPH up a 2% grade please tell people Coggan is coaching you."

  25. #25
    I need speed AzTallRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    40 years ago I was a Fibre Glass Laminator making Boat hulls. The R&D department were always modifieing Moulds to find that fractionally better/ faster boat. I was part of the team that used to modify those moulds and it does not take long--Just labour and materials that will get lost in production..
    I read somewhere that only a few riders had custom sized bikes, and that they had required new molds, which took extra time. May not be universally true.
    "If you're riding less than 18 MPH up a 2% grade please tell people Coggan is coaching you."

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