At the Tour de France, team mechanics’ roles require a few skills: logistics, presentation and, yes, wrenching quickly and competently on scores of bikes.
As with tactics for a race, each team cooks up its own strategy for dealing with the seemingly endless array of moving parts. Most teams mix a blend of old school and new school techniques, from storing rider measurements and parts inventories on digital spreadsheets to applying tubular glue by hand.
Some of the most interesting tools are those custom-made for particular jobs, such as the jig Orica-GreenEdge uses for replicating cleat positioning on multiple pairs of shoes for a given rider. If you have ever been frustrated by getting a new pair of shoes and struggling to get the cleats just right, then you can sympathise with a pro rider not wanting to deal with this scenario mid-race.
Even relatively straightforward tasks like measuring saddle height have dedicated tools. While most amateur riders — and even some pros — will settle for a tape measure, pro mechanics need something more exacting, so metal rods that anchor at the bottom bracket and clamp down atop the saddle are used.
You might be content to measure saddle height with a tape measure. Tinkoff-Saxo's Rune Kristensen is not
BikeSettings.com makes a few frame jigs that are popular with pro mechanics for measuring X and Y axis points on a bike.
At BMC, mechanic Ian Sherburne uses digital angle gauges, among other tools, to dial in riders’ exact preferences, and ensure that the spare second and third bikes match the primary bikes in every way.
BMC's Ian Sherburne doesn't 'eyeball' angles; he measures them
For the more straightforward tools, such as Allen keys, chain whips and the like, Tour de France mechanics fall mostly into one of two camps: use everything provided by a sponsor, or pack their own.
“For Tinkoff-Saxo, we choose not to have a tool sponsor so we can choose our own based on what we need and what we prefer,” said mechanic Rune Kristensen. “Each mechanic has his own private tools.”
For Kristensen, whose toolbox contains a mix of brands, his favourite tool is easy to name: the preset torque wrench.
Some mechanics always have a tidy organisation for their toolboxes; others are a bit more jumbled. But one universal rule always applies: never touch the mechanic’s tools.
Check out the huge gallery above for a detailed look at many of the tricks of the trade employed at the Tour de France.
What type of tool is this, you ask? Not yours, that's what