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83.R.003 – Hearts, Stripes and Shiny Things

“£10’000 for a bike,…you could buy a car for that!”

The perennial statement regarding the gleaming piece of carbone[1] that you can find in your favourite local bike shop window has to be one of the most overused phrases ever, but at last weekend’s London Bike Show it could be heard in the air like a steady breeze through the trees. The thing is, yes £10’000 is a lot of money, but you are getting a bike that can win the greatest races in the world. Try winning an F1 race in your ten grand car!…

…For me, getting up close to the bikes that have won green, yellow and white stripy jumpers[2] is like being in the paddock at a MotoGP race. Each machine has a different personality and suits a different rider. This uniqueness is echoed not just in the way that the bikes are set-up and cared for, but also by the tiny hidden gems that the pro’s add to them. You have to know where to look and you have to look carefully, but most of the elite riders will adorn their rigs with some kind of heart/stripe/shiny-thing.

I’m not going to blow all of the rider’s secrets and in any case it’ll be more fun for you if you spot them for yourselves, but the lucky charms will be there if you snoop around long enough. The point is that these bikes are not just expensive, they are not just “hi-tech”, they are completely individual. They may well be the same model that you or I could purchase if we had the funds, but when a racer spends hours training, racing and working on his or her ride they become more than just man and machine…

…To win bike races, riders require not just the finest bikes made from the most superb materials. If those components aren’t put together in just the right way you’ll never get the right flow. You’ll never feel that the bike is a true extension of yourself, which it must be. For us mere mortals we can tweak our bikes over the years with new components and different set-ups, but for the pro’s it’s very much more important that the bike is dialled in quickly and this is one of the reasons that they cover so many miles in the short pre-race season. The early spring classics will not reward those that haven’t made best friends with their new bikes! In fact as you read this some riders will be trying their bikes out for the first time in a training camp in Mallorca, whilst their team mates are winning stages in the Tour Down Under.

By the end of the season those bikes and their respective riders will be as close as the most devoted husband and wife if they are to scoop the highest accolades. The great thing about a good bike show is that all of those bikes (and some of their riders) should be on display somewhere and as if just seeing them wasn’t a good enough reason to be there, you should also be able to learn a thing or two from them. All of the little bits of tape have been added for a purpose, all of the wear marks tell a story, all of the specially adapted components are there for a reason and also the paint jobs are usually super trick!…

…All good things to take away with you and experiment with on your race bike at home. It doesn’t really matter if it’s worth a grand or ten; we’re all just playing with bikes at the end of the day. Forget for a while how much something is worth in terms of cash and be proud of two things. Firstly you are part of a sport that allows you access to the best equipment in the world, to personalise and to modify what you have and then to emulate its fastest athletes at all different levels. And secondly you are part of a sport that allows its fastest athletes to do the same.

If you’re lucky you’ll spot the little gold heart hanging from the saddle of the World Champion’s race bike – if you’re really lucky they may spot yours one day…





[1] Term used to describe a magnificently over designed piece of carbon – can be a frame, wheel-set or aero-bar as long as it is truly and completely badass.

[2] White Jersey with five coloured rings around the chest denoting the world champion.

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