How do pro cyclists’ bikes differ to everyday riders and do they always get the best bikes and parts compared to us mere mortals? We take a look at five ways they’re not like us…
1. Their positions kill you
There are many ways you can emulate a pro, like wearing the same clothes, using the same shoes, and even the same shower head as Peter Sagan.
And while we can wholly recommend trying to replicate his beautifully thick golden hair, one thing we wouldn’t recommend is trying to replicate his riding position.
Pro cyclists spend a lot of time riding their bikes, they also spend a lot of time working on their core and flexibility to ride those bikes in incredibly extreme positions.
There are many examples, but Adam Hansen and the now retired Ryder Hesjedal spring to mind when it comes to riding positions that would kill a mere mortal. Look at the stem length, not something we’ll be trying any time soon.
2. They don’t get to choose what they want
You might think that turning pro means you get the absolute best equipment and exactly what you want when it comes to bikes. The reality is quite different.
To a sponsor, a professional rider is simply a pedalling advert for their products. They want to see them at the front of races, and crucially they want to see them always using their products.
Crucially, it came with a 1x specific drivetrain, which was claimed to offer a similar range to a traditional double setup, and be simpler to live with.
As we now know, the reality wasn’t quite as rosy, with many of the riders complaining about the range and performance of the drivetrain, coupled with some high profile disasters during races.
There’s even a rumour that Team Ineos has stuck to riding rim brake Pinarello’s because they can’t get the disc model light enough. So it goes to show it happens to even the wealthiest of teams.
There are exceptions to this rule, though, namely shoes and saddles because pros can be sensitive to changes in their equipment setup, particularly when they change teams.
But fear not, a bit of black marker pen is an easy way to rub out the brand name on a saddle, and some thin overshoes hide any non-sponsor correct shoe infractions with ease.
3. A much stronger mech hanger
The life of a pro can seem glamorous, but despite all the sun, adulation and Instagram followers, there are some occupational hazards most people don’t have to deal with in their day-to-day office jobs.
We’re talking about crashes.
Not only do they hurt, but they can also ruin a race through a broken bike part or untimely mechanical. Just imagine, you’ve spent your whole year building up to the Tour, 20 hours or more of gruelling training a week, then it all goes up in smoke due to an unlucky crash.
Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate potential damage, and one trick you’ll often see on pro bikes is using a far stronger direct-mount or custom derailleur hanger.
Derailleur hangers on ordinary bikes are sacrificial and are designed to break easily in a crash. This is because it’s much cheaper to break a mech hanger than smash your rear mech, or frame, to bits.
Pros don’t need to worry about this because there’s a spare bike waiting for them on their team car, so it’s much better to have a stronger direct-mount mech hanger, which will, in theory, also improve shifting and put up with a few more of the inevitable bumps and knocks that happen during racing.
4. Everybody is on electric
As it seems with a lot of new tech within the bike industry, and particularly on the road side, many people weren’t happy when electronic gears first hit the mainstream with the release of Shimano’s Dura-Ace Di2 groupset.
There were concerns about battery life, people sabotaging the electronic signals, and hey it’s something new, and we’re suspicious of new things!
As we now know, electronic gears have been a broadly positive influence on the bike industry, and nowhere is this seen more than in the pro peloton.
How many pro bikes now use electronic gears? On a WorldTour, it looks to be all of them. We couldn’t find one WorldTour rider at the 2020 Tour Down Under without electronic gears, and suspect that won’t be changing anytime soon.
Why? Because they’re better, simple as that. Once setup they require less maintenance and, if you’re a really, really lucky WorldTour mechanic, your team will be running SRAM’s AXS groupsets, which mean no more internally routed gear cables to deal with. Hurray!
5. Your bike is lighter
A pro bike is superior in many ways. They’re kept in perfect working condition, often have fancy tyres that we can’t buy, and come in striking custom paint jobs. But one place they’re definitely not superior is in the weight department.
Many moons ago, the UCI set a minimum weight limit of 6.8kg on all bikes in the pro peloton. This was purely down to the safety concerns of carbon bikes at the time because nobody wanted a featherlight carbon bike disintegrating when they were doing 100km on a descent.
Fast forward to 2020 and bike tech has moved on somewhat. We now have bikes available to buy that easily dip below the UCI’s minimum weight limit.
However, those poor, poor pros aren’t so lucky, and are still bound by the, dare we say it, anachronistic 6.8 kilos. On occasion, they’ve even had to add small weights or heavier parts to make sure bikes hit that minimum limit.
This means we can easily go out and buy a bike lighter than any Grand Tour winner. So surely it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be climbing just as fast as said Grand Tour winner because we all know the bike is what really makes the difference.
Now that may, or may not, be true, but it’s good to know there’s one part of the cycling spectrum where you can beat the pros, even if it might end up costing you all of your worldly possessions.
What do you think of our list? Did we get it right? Or should we have picked something else? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and subscribe to our YouTube channel.