Race tech: SRAM’s Neutral Race Support motorbikes

High-tech machines for carrying wheels and water

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SRAM’s Neutral Race Support (NRS) team added two modified Aprilia Mana 850 GT ABS motorcycles to their armoury for this year’s Amgen Tour of California. They allow the crew to cover smaller time gaps and deal with tight and mountainous roads.

The Aprillas, which had their first test run during last month’s Tour of the Gila, were specially chosen by SRAM because of their seven-speed clutchless sequential transmissions. These make it easier to mirror the variable speeds of the peloton.

The transmission has three different settings: Sport, which allows the rider to manually shift using a foot lever or handlebar mounted paddles; Touring, which does it all for the rider; and Rain, which mellows the throttle response and allows the rider to downshift only.

BikeRadar caught up with Rob Eva, SRAM’s Southern Hemisphere market manager, and pilot of Neutral Moto 1 at the Tour of California, who gave us a run through his machine. “We need a storage can, a comfortable spot for the ‘jumper’ and, obviously, room for the rack,” he said. “It’s got to be a good bike that has a bit of go in it.”

Aprilia’s cvt automatic clutch: aprilia’s cvt automatic clutch
Matt Pacocha/BikeRadar

SRAM’s Aprilia Mana 850 GT ABS CVT motorbikes have an automatic clutch

Eva gets the racks from metal fabricator Chris Jones, who lives in Australia. The ones used in California are a fourth generation design; previous generations were used in numerous editions of the Herald Sun Tour.

“This moto in the back drives with bottles,” said Eva. “Especially on a stage like tomorrow, where we’re going to be on our own for long periods, when riders need bottles they can pull up alongside and get them, so long as they’re within they’re feeding time.”

Aluminium racks made by chris jones fabrication: aluminium racks made by chris jones fabrication
Matt Pacocha/BikeRadar

The aluminium racks are made by Chris Jones Fabrication

The helmet cam belongs to Eva’s ‘jumper’, Eric Brandt. Brandt’s job is to ‘jump’ off should a rider need a wheel and change it. Each motorbike carries four Zipp 404 clinchers: two fronts plus one 10-speed and one 11-speed rear. The red tyre marks the wheel with the Campagnolo 11-speed cassette.

Neutral Moto 1’s main job is to stay with the race leaders. “We’re chasing the podium,” said Eva. “So if a break goes up, we go with it; if they come back, we come back.”

Rob eva and eric brandt man neutral moto 1: rob eva and eric brandt man neutral moto 1
Matt Pacocha/BikeRadar
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Rob Eva and his ‘jumper’ Eric Brandt with Neutral Moto 1