Tour de France tech: Custom paint jobs

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It’s all about standing out at the Tour de France. Teams and riders fight for publicity over three weeks, whether it be getting in breaks that will ultimately fail, trying to winning a stage, wearing one of the leaders’ jerseys or in the case of some, having products that catch the attention of the media. One way of doing this is the custom bike.

MTN-Qhubeka have had a spectacular debut Tour so far, taking a stage win and holding the king of the mountains jersey for a few days. On top of this the team has had a full fleet of new bikes and components, all designed with the objective of promoting the Qhubeka charity and the fact that it is the first time an African team have competed in the Tour de France.

Even though all the team’s bikes have been specifically painted for the Tour one bike still stood out amongst them all. Current South Africa national road champion Jacques Janse Van Rensburg has been using Cervelo’s S5 on many of the not-so-hilly stages, the team having produced a stunning bike to showcase his national title.
Cust Tech pic

The green, silver and yellow paint scheme is just a slight change from what the rest of the team are on at the Tour. The build up kit is all quite exotic. Wheels are from US manufacturer Enve — this is the first time the wheel manufacturer has officially had their products used by a team at the Tour.

Janse Van Rensburg is using the company’s SES 4.5 wheels which Enve classes as its everyday race wheel. The two rim depths differ with the rear of 56mm and the front at 48mm. The design is part of Enve’s Smart System range, a design that came about via a collaboration with aerodynamics specialist Simon Smart.

Cranks are from Spanish company Rotor; their 3D+ plus cranks are their lightest. Gears are Shimano Di2 but the team has replaced the standard Shimano jockey wheels with a Ceramic Speed option. One neat touch is that everyone on the team is riding a special edition KMC chain with a hint of yellow. Bars and stem are from 3T, bartape is from Lizardskin and the saddle is Selle Italia’s SLR team edition.

At the start of stage 13 another custom bike sat outside the Team Sky bus, again for the leader of the race Chris Froome. Chris has been using Pinarello’s Dogma F8 throughout the year and at this year’s Tour we’ve seen him aboard two different versions so far: the initial team edition frame in its standard black and blue livery, and then the yellow edition F8.

Froome’s new custom paint job has been applied to a bike exactly the same as the two he was riding before. He’s got a full Dura-Ace Di2 groupset with the only change being his much-talked-about O-Symmetric chainrings. He’s also got Pro bars and stem, Dura-Ace wheels, Fizik Airone saddle and Continental Competition Pro Ltd tubulars.

All of these were in their usual colours and graphics, the frame though had more than just an added hint of extra yellow. Splashed on the toptube, headtube and again on the downtube are images of a rhino in a charging pose.


Unlike many of the custom bikes in the peloton, Froome’s rhino-inspired bike was designed with more than just looking good in mind. Instead it was built to raise awareness for the United for Wildlife charity, a foundation that fights the illegal wildlife trade, including the poaching of rhinos. Chris spoke at length during the press conference after stage 13 to explain the imagery on his bike.

“My childhood was spent between Kenya and south Africa and wildlife has always been big part of my childhood,” Froome said. “It’s something that’s quite special to me.

“It was my mechanic Gary Blem who came up with the idea of making something a little bit more personalised on the yellow Tour de France bike. He came up with putting a picture, a small cartoon picture of the rhino charging with his head down.”

“I’ve decided, agreed to become an ambassador for Unite for Wildlife also raising awareness for rhino poaching, elephant poaching. I mean if it continues at the rate it is now there aren’t going to be any more rhinos in the next few years.

“I’ve got a little kid on the way and I want him to be able to grow up and see wildlife in the wild for himself. It’s something that is quite close to my heart and I’m really happy to be an ambassador for them”.

It’s not the first time that Team Sky have competed in a race with an ecological message to share. Back in 2012 during the Tour of Britain the team partnered with the WWF (World Wildlife Foundation) to help raise awareness to save one billion trees in the Amazon rainforest. There the whole team used green kit, from helmets through to their bikes.

While we are on the theme of animals, the man known in the peloton and to his fans as The Shark — Vincenzo Nibali — has a paint scheme that puts many custom bikes to shame. But he’s not alone on the team as his boss has got in on the act too.

Nibali has three identical versions of his Shark-decal-ed bike, all set up exactly the same. The frame is Specialized’s latest Tarmac, their all-round lightweight racing bike. His equipment set up is very similar to fellow Specialized sponsored rider Alberto Contador in the fact that both like to use mechanical groupsets as opposed to the electronic offering from their sponsors.

Champagnolo is Astana’s partner and Nibali is using the top tier Super Record shifters, rear and front derailed and callipers. The major deviation from the full group is the use of the Specialized S-Works carbon SRM cranks. The chainrings though are from Campagnolo and are 39/53.

Bars, stem and seatpost are again all custom graphics. Much like Andre Greipel who actually owns the rights to the gorilla logo that appears on some of his equipment, Nibali owns the rights to his shark logo. The logo appears on each of the FSA-Force OS-99 CSI stems, K-Force Compact Tour edition bars and the K-Force SB25 TDF edition seat post.

Sat atop the seatpost is what looks to be a Selle Italia SLK carbon-railed saddle, a deviation from the team’s normal saddle sponsor Specialized, hence the reason there is no branding or logos on it.

Wheels are from the relatively small French brand of Corima. The company has a long history, over 40 years in the wheelbuilding business and 25 years working with composites. Nibali’s bike was set up with their lightweight tubular hoops — the S+. Wrapping the wheels are Specialized Turbo tubulars.

Nestled next to the Shark bike was a bike that’s not to be raced at all. Team manager Alexander Vinokourov has a Specialized Tarmac that celebrates his Olympic gold medal earned in 2012 when he outsprinted Rigoberto Uran in London. As the bike’s not for racing it allows Vinokourov to kit it out with equipment that guys on the team might not choose due to the weight penalty.

A full Super Record EPS groups takes care of the shifting. FSA provides the Plasma integrated bar and stem. The gold saddle this time is actually from Specialized and Corima have livened up a pair of their deeper Aero wheels with gold decals. Tubulars are the Specialized Roubaix. It’s a pretty neat ride for the reigning Olympic champion.

At IAM, former Swiss champion Martin Elmiger’s Scott Addict is worth including in this custom tech piece. The frame celebrates his and the team Swiss heritage. The bright red paint scheme is dotted with imagery from his homeland, mountain passes and a man in lederhosen blowing a horn aren’t quite as aggressive as the Rhino or Shark design but it sure stands out in the peloton.

The bikes doesn’t deviate in any way from the usual team set up, a full Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset including the SRM compatible cranks. Bars, stem and septets are from US manufacture Ritchy, each are from the WCS range. Saddle is the Prologo Scratch Pro with the brands unique CPC surface, a surface treatment that is claimed to aid shock absorption, cooling and grip.
The day we took the shot Elmiger had the super deep DT-Swiss RRC65 Dicut.T tubular wheels in with Schwable One tubulars. The finishing touche of the Elite cage in red and black and the Dura-Ace pedals round out the bike.

Last but by no means least is Peter Sagans bike, one that has seen some action in this years tour. It’s not quite custom but there are a few flourishes of personalisation and we think it’s well worth including in this line up.He aswell as Cavendish and Fugelsang have been the three riders who have been chosen by bike sponsor Specialized to use the bike. It’s been noted that Cavendish has reverted on several occasions back to his older Venge. There are several rumours abound as to why but as of the moment they are all just rumours.

Sagan, on the other hand has been seen on the new Venge ViAS for most of the Tour, bar a few of the more mountainous stages. The only real custom parts are his Prologo Scratch saddle in a patchwork of yellow and grey, this is the same saddle as he has on his Custom painted Specialized Tarmac that he has been using earlier in the season and on the hilly stages (see our Paris-Roubaix Tech feature).

The new Venge ViAs that Sagan is using has the full integrated proprietary stem and bar set up, a departure form the sponsored FSA cockpit. In fact only FSA provide the chianset and chainrings (under their Vision brand) on the bike. The K-Force chainset is SRM compatible. The rest of the drive chain is Dura-Ace Di2. Wheels and tubulars are both from Specialized, the Roval CX60 Rapide wheels are full carbon clinchers. The tubulars are the ever popular Turbos. As is with the new Venge the brakes are a fully integrated part of the frame. One neat touch is the new bar tape from the son of Specialized owner Mike Sinyard, the sticky touch tape from Supacaz comes in some bright colours but Sagan’s mechanic’s have chosen to keep it pretty sedate, a vast contrasts to Sagan’s riding style.

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