Bicycles, we love them! With the Tour well underway, we thought it would be interesting to take a first look at some of the bikes being used by the teams making the news….Bikes of the Tour de France 2008.

When we join the race next week we will of course be bringing you more bike-geek articles!

Liquigas – Cannondale Super Six

First up, Liquigas. They’re still in the race, despite Beltran being caught and flung out for testing positive on a Stage 1 control. Later, we’ll tell you about the one-off, trick paint job on Pellizotti’s machine done by Stefano at Barza Design (see here for the trick paint job he had at the Giro), but for now, thanks to Rory Mason at Cannondale, we can also explain the ‘fat at the head and bracket, skinny at the seat stays’ looks.

Bikes of the Tour de France
Pello’s custom Barza-designed Cannondale.

“That’s part of balancing the way the Super Six rides. You want it rigid where you need it (bb area and front end) and comfortable where it matters (seat stays). Our form certainly follows the function.”

Talking of form, Pello sits his back in the classic pro position, seat up high, stem long and down low to give an extended but comfortable position.

The new Super Six has an integrated bracket in a huge carbon shell, even the ‘world’s coolest cyclist’ Danielle Bennati can’t deflect it (Benna isn’t riding the Tour , but stay tuned – this is interesting!) Cannondale have been developing it over the last eight years and the system is now being adopted by other builders. Liquigas – like all good Italian teams should, ride Campag gruppos.

Bikes of the Tour de France
Pellizotti is a big fella.

Back in my youth, Francesco Moser’s team decided to go with Shimano and it nearly caused a civil war in Italy!

However, they do ride Cannondale’s own ultra-light Hollowgram chainset.

The team colour’s of lime green, white and black don’t sound appealing, but in the flesh it looks sharp as a tack.

Bikes of the Tour de France
Cannondale have the answers!

We asked Rory if triple Giro stage winner Bennati rides the same frame as Pellizotti; “Benna has a custom geometry due to his position and build. Since the SuperSix is a monocoque in the front triangle, we built him a custom mould. In doing so, we experimented with tube shapes and carbon layups to better suit his riding style. It is possible that some of the information gained in these trials with Benna could make it into production bicycles.” You ask those dudes at Cannondale a question – you get an answer!

Benna has the classic sprinter’s saddle high, bars down low, with long extension set up. The gruppo is Campag and the cranks are Cannondale’s own chainset, of which Rory says; “The Hollowgram Si SL crankarm is machined from two pieces of aluminum and bonded together. It is extremely lightweight (hollow inside with thin walls) and very rigid. It is also very durable and reliable.” So now you know!

Bikes of the Tour de France
Benna’s bike is a bit different from Pello’s.

In Liquigas sharp, green, white and black livery, it all adds up to a stunning looking machine. And with a tanned Benna astride it in ciclamino shorts and jersey, it’s hard to get any cooler.

Columbia – Giant 09 Proto

Benny Devcich, High Road’s spanner man was happy to give us the juice on the machine on which Mark Cavendish won two stages and the “fairplay” award for the Giro, and has today won his second Tour stage into Toulouse as well, ripping past Jimmy Casper, Oscar Freire and Robert Förster as if they weren’t really trying.

Bikes of the Tour de France
Cav rides a bike that is as stiff as possible.

“Mark is riding the 2009 prototype, it has an integrated bottom bracket which is 40% stiffer than the previous frame and with the redesign at the head and square down tube, it’s 40% stiffer at the front too.

“The lower head race is up to 1 1/4″ with a 1 1/8” top race. Whilst there have been all these increases in stiffness at the bracket and head, a softer ride has been dialed in at the rear, with one of the features to achieve this being the curved seat stays.

Bikes of the Tour de France
Cav wants a beefier stem than this.

“The objective for 2009 is to have all team bikes, irrespective of size at a weight of 6.85 kilograms, that’s with a Shimano gruppo and Zipp 202 wheels.”

There’s not much to add, save – it’s damn light!

Lampre – Wilier Triestina

Wilier of Triestina have been around an awful long time, but their big break-through came when the late Marco Pantani used one to charge up mountains at a prodigious rate for Mercatone Uno, back in the mid 90’s.

Marzio Bruseghin (Bruz) is a powerhouse of a rider and his win in that tough Giro stage 10 time trial speaks for itself.

Bikes of the Tour de France
We’re not sure about Brus’ red spokes though.

Bruz is cool, but team mate Fabio Baldato now in his 18th season is beyond cool – he’s cult, and the only cyclist in the world who gets away with a beard.

Bruz’s machine displays an integrated seat post, but a little different from a lot of the others, inasmuch as there’s a fair gap between the saddle rails and the top of the ISP giving much more scope for height adjustment.

ISP’s in some people’s books mean a harsh ride. It looks to us that Wilier have compensated by curving the seat stays to dial in a little compliance.

The pink and blue jersey colours sound like they shouldn’t work, but they do and when applied to the frame with splashes of black carbon visible, it looks fresh and attractive.

Bikes of the Tour de France
Lampre’s Wilier.

Despite a world full of composite wheels, if the roads are rough and the descents dangerous, hand built wheels still rule the roost. Campag of – of course – gruppos, complete the look.

Milram – Colnago Extreme Power

Erik Zabel, the pro’s pro, fit all year and always there or thereabouts, albeit his best years are behind him. Still, he’s placed 4 times in the top 10 on stages in the Tour so far, with a best of 3rd.

His Colnago Extreme Power is the stiffest frame to come out of Ernesto’s stable to date; Charles Manantan comprehensively (that’s an understatement!) tested one last year (have a look at the article and some great photos here) so I won’t embarrass myself by trying to tell you about it, save it’s the internal carbon ribs within the tubes which make it so stiff – 30% so according to Colnago.

Bikes of the Tour de France
Most pro’s simply don’t “do” stack height.

Zabel is a complete bike-nut: he keeps a bike from every team he’s ridden with – and from every season – in a basement flat in his home town, and he’s still keen to get data about his performances: after all these years, you have to wonder what he’s going to do with it. So his Shimano gruppo includes SRM-dedicated cranks.

SRM’s crank offering used to be a bit basic; getting the job of gathering data was more important than shiny looks, but lately most crank manufacturer’s offer an SRM compatible model and Shimano’s is one of the sleekest.

Bikes of the Tour de France
Bikes of Le Tour 2008

The Milram blue is attractive and Colnago’s decals never date.

Saunier Duval – Scott Addict

Scott have always been at the cutting edge in the lightness stakes. The aluminium frames they made for the short lived French Jean Delatour pro squad were superlite gems.

The Addict came out of the CR1, a frame which set a benchmark for carbon bicycles.

The Addict however, has more aggressive geometry and everything (except the bottom bracket threads) including cable stops and rear fork ends are in carbon.

Bikes of the Tour de France
Ricco’s Cobra Scott is very well done.

Almost inevitably, there’s also an integrated seat post. Over the last few years the designers at Scott have made a speciality of custom paint jobs for their star’s machines; Riccardo Ricco’s version is no exception and it gets the full “Cobra” treatment too.

Love it or hate it, it gets guys like me snapping away and folks like you reading the Scott name on websites and in the magazines. The guys at Scott must have known that Riccardo was going to wear the white jersey for best ‘Giovani’ – young rider – at the Giro (or was it that he was going to win a stage – or more? – at the Tour in the new white-based team kit?) when they chose white for the paint instead of team yellow.

The designers at fi’zi:k saddles get in on the act too, and Ricco sits on a rather fierce looking fanged reptile. Saunier have stuck with SRAM this year, the ‘Red’ gruppo. The folks at SRAM have huge experience in off road componentry, but their move onto tarmac is a brave one, given the dominance of the ‘big two’ – Campagnolo and Shimano.

Bikes of the Tour de France
The cobra is painted, it’s not a sticker.

The uni-directional gear change on the shifters works beautifully and it’s good to see their completely different approach to gear changing. The brakes are minimalistic gems, contrasting with the huge SRAM graphics on the cranks.

Bikes of the Tour de France
“The Cobra” – another example of a self-made nickname.

Ricco is running a compact chainset even on stages which don’t include mountains – the mechanics will like that; a lot less chopping and changing of rings and cassettes.

Yes, we know Diquigiovanni and Astana aren’t riding the Tour, but we thought that while we’re talking about beautiful bikes, we could show you these gems as well…

Diquigiovanni – Guerciotti Khaybar

Diquigiovanni have taken the unpatriotic (well, for Italians anyway) route and gone to Japan for their components. We spotted oversize lower rollers on the rear mechs of Gibo and Hondo’s bikes at the Giro; the mechanics don’t know what they do; “mountain bike!”. We think it’s a method of reducing chain friction…

Bikes of the Tour de France
Oversize rollers reduce friction.

If Pello is long, relaxed and streamlined, Gibo Simoni is short, nervous and upright. It’s always difficult for small riders to get an asthetically pleasing form on the bike and Simoni alas bears this out.

Bikes of the Tour de France
Guerciotti’s are always beautifully turned out.

However, he’s one of the most experienced pros in the bunch and when it comes to climbing, there’s not much you can tell him. The short stem suits his punchy ‘on the tops’ climbing style allowing his arms to give strong purchase and his lungs to be open, not constricted by being hunched up, as he scales those Dolomiti monsters.

Gibo’s machine has the ‘bare carbon’ look, the lacquering having been kept to a minimum. Lacquering a carbon frame is purely cosmetic, the GB track team’s ‘stealth’ machines, for example, are left ‘bare’ in the interests of saving precious grammes.

Bikes of the Tour de France
We like white-based colour schemes.

The rest of Sr. Flavio’s squadra ride white machines, which to our eye looks much nicer with the predominantly white jersey.

Like so many other manufacturers, Guerciotti have gone down the integrated seat post route, and it’s a neat one; but it’s from the “nothing new under the sun” file – English frame builders Carlton had one back in the 70’s.

There’s a drawback with the system however. If you’re a big rider, it makes transporting the machine a whole lot more awkward.

Astana – Trek Madone

The frame that won the Tour for Alberto Contador last year is little changed for his Giro win this year. Change comes slowly at Trek and only for good reason, there’s no rush to follow fashions; they were one of the last to eschew conventional headsets and go A-head.

Talking of headsets, there’s the neatest and smallest of engraving on the top races; cool!

Bikes of the Tour de France
Check out the engraving – this is very trick.

The 2007 ISP is still neat and has graduations to assist in finding optimal position. The bracket remains big, strong and home to an integrated axle.

What has changed is the gruppo; after a long association – via US Postal and Discovery – with Japan, Johan Bruyneel and Trek have let the sun set on Shimano and returned to Europe and SRAM. Bert winning the Giro was a major coup for the new kids on the block.

Bikes of the Tour de France
Hudz meanz any colour you want.

Bert ran a compact with 34/53 on all the Giro stages, mechanic Alan Buttler tells is that there’s no problems with shifting, despite the big ‘jump.’

Trek’s own Bontrager wheels, with super neat flangeless hubs do the rolling.

In common with most pros, Bert has the stem hard down on the top race with no stackers, ‘compact and aero’ are the watchwords for a professional’s position in this millenium.

Bikes of the Tour de France
You could only get away with this if a) you’re wearing the maglia rosa, or b) you’re a girl.

The Astana baby blue colour is contrasted with white and dark blue; but pink tape and shifter rubbers to go with the maglia rosa? You be the judge!