A mechanical problem at a critical moment of the Tour de France can end an overall contender's chances if he doesn't get a quick bike change. Although Mavic neutral support has overhauled how it supports riders, and team cars have back-up bikes for each rider, on mountain stages often these vehicles often just aren't close enough. For BMC Racing, the Swiss bike company cooked up a back-up plan for team leader Richie Porte, involving a custom dropper post on teammate Danilo Wyss' bike.
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It is common practice for riders to give up their bike so their team leader can continue the race. Then the teammate will wait for a team car to bring up his spare.
The problem is, there is often a bit of a discrepancy in rider heights and thus saddle heights. Porte stands 172cm and rides a 47cm Teammachine SLR01. Wyss is the closest rider on the team to Porte's height at 176cm. They're close, but their saddle heights are still about 2-3cm different.
So, BMC engineer Tobias Habegger cooked up a solution involving a pivoting quick-release like on a wheel axle and a secondary seatpost clamp.
On the new Teammachine SLR01, the recessed seatpost wedge clamp is accessed from underneath the top tube.On Wyss' bike, Habegger replaced the standard Allen bolt with a quick-release. Flip the lever open, and the wedge clamp releases, allowing the seatpost to slide down. The downward movement is arrested by a secondary seatpost clamp, set so that the resulting saddle height is spot on for Porte.
BMC first tested this dropper post at the Dauphiné.
This team-leader-specific dropper post is a variation on Mavic's custom dropper posts on the neutral bikes. After a mechanical on Mont Ventoux left Tour leader Chris Froome on a far-too-small neutral bike, Mavic realized improvements were needed. This year, the wheel company has spring-loaded dropper posts on three bikes on each support car, with one bike each for Shimano, Look and Speedplay pedal users. Those custom KS posts can be adjusted up and down on the fly by pulling a lever and weighting and unweighting the saddle.