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Bicycling/mystery writer seeking help with details/accuracy re. road race bikes

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Question
Hi! I'm a children's book author and am currently working on a mystery that deals with the world of road cycling. I have some unusual questions; I'm looking to check accuracy/plausibility for some of my details concerning a bike discovered near a crime scene.

Can you tell me, do all members of a professional cycling team typically ride the same type of bike? (brand, color, etc.) Would individual riders' bikes have any obvious distinguishing features, such as their names printed on them somewhere, or customized handlebar tape, or a certain type of wheel?

Also, about how many spare bikes does a team travel with? Is the team mechanic in charge of overseeing those bikes? Does every rider have a spare bike fitted to his specifications and ready to ride?   

Thanks in advance for your time and assistance!
Best,
Diana

Answer
Diana,

What a cool set of questions to answer!!!

A professional cycling team will all be riding the same brand, color, and equipped bicycles. However, one rider might have a sponsorship from a shoe company other than what the rest of the team has, so he/she would have a different set of pedals for instance. A saddle (seat) may differ between bikes depending on the individuals fitting needs. And, yes, a riders name is often on the bike. Sometimes it is obvious, but often it is very discreet and doesn't show up in a camera shot but the team mechanic knows where it is. Obliviously to keep all the look alike bikes straight.

Every rider will have a different seat height, seat to handlebar reach, handlebar height... so even if you have two riders on the same team riding the same frame size the differences in the way  the bikes are set up will be very different, although, sometimes, very minor differences. Top flight riders are usually very picky about having their bikes set at a very specific measurements.

Wheels are a very good example of individual choices. One rider will feel that a deep rimmed "aero" wheel will give him and advantage during a certain stage, while his team mate opts for a lighter wheel thinking that is the better choice for the day's race.

I don't know when your mystery is set but back in the old days - like the 1980's and 90's - when bike where made of steel and aluminum, and not carbon fiber, it would not be unusual for a rider to have a bike made by a favorite frame builder and painted in the team colors with a different builder's name on it. For instance a team might ride the "Smith" brand of bikes but one rider has worked with a small builder by the name of "Jones" for years and trusts his work. Jones would build the bike to the rider's specific dimensions - steel and aluminum are easier to customize - and then the bike would be painted in the team colors with the Smith name. Sometimes, however, Jones would get his name in there, usually on the chain stay. The best example is the Huffy's team 7-Eleven rode in the '80's. No one in the bicycle world really believed that they were really Huffy. And more recently in his first come back Tour it is widely known that Lance Armstrong rode a Lightspeed in the time trials that was labled Trek.

The number of bikes carried on the chase car will vary depending on the rider position on the team - and even the stage of a multi-stage race. Each one of a rider's bikes is the sole responsibility of the team mechanic. As is the security of the bikes. In the 1989 (or '86?) Tour it is said the team mechanic took his eyes off of Greg Lemond's time trial bike and it was sabotaged before the penultimate time trial.

Back to the number of bikes carried. Depending on the race, and how deep the pockets are on the team, every rider on the team will have at least two bikes of a specific nature, two road two time trial, for a given race. An elite racer might have a few more - a bike for the long flat stages, one specifically for the mountains, one for time trials and, of course, back-up bikes to these. How many make it on the chase car depends. Let's say that we are talking abut a mountain stage of a race, the team leader will have a reserve bike on the car and so will his top one or two lieutenants. The rest of the rack will hold "generic" bikes that can fit a couple of different riders. If those riders have a "mechanical" they will have to suffer for a while until the mechanic fixes their personal bike.

There are many other scenarios that come to mind - a domestique on a team may give up his bike to his captain if the team vehicle is not close. A mechanic could grab the wrong bike off of the rack in the heat of the race - the racer may or may not notice in the heat of battle. The reserve bike has a problem and a back up bike has to be given out...

Then there is the neutral support car that carries a bunch of non-specific bikes for anyone to use. Although I think this practice is going by the wayside.

I will be have to answer more questions or clarify the above - just ask! It may be easier if you contact me directly, my email is: bikesnrovers at gmail dot com. Please ask as this might be as close to writing a book as I ever get!

Warmest regards,

Tad  

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Tad Hylkema

Expertise

I can help you with bicycle fitting problems (proper fit, numb hands, etc.), Buying help (Which type of bike, brand, so forth), basic repair problems (Flat tires, poor shifting, noises, etc.), technique questions (How to climb better, how to ride in traffic...), and even basic training questions (first race, long tour, or just a weight loss program). Some repairs are better left to the experts, we used to call this category "home repair gone bad." However, many fixes are simple and can be done by most. I will simply tell you if you should try it or take it to a shop. I will even help you ask the right questions when you walk into a shop so you can feel more confident. If I don't know an answer I can find out and get back to you.

Experience

I have worked in bicycle shops or the bicycle industry since 1984. I started racing around that time but rode bicycles and did some touring before that. I have managed large shops in the upper Midwest, been invited to join a professional team as mechanic, which I turned down so I could open my own shop. I have built wheels for two US National Champions. I have also been a consultant to retailers and manager of a bicycle fitting system company here in the US. My greatest joy is helping people get into riding and be more confident about their riding and bicycle.

Publications
Various regional enthusiast publications.

Education/Credentials
Doesn't really apply but I do have a BA in English/History (Both very marketable - that is why I stayed in bicycles!) And had been working on my Master in Education before I thought better of that.

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