By and large, just about any bike currently being ridden in this year's Giro d'Italia can be bought by anyone with the financial means to do so. What makes these bikes special, however, is more than the sum of brand names and models. It's that they're built and prepped by some of the best and most seasoned mechanics in the world, and nearly everywhere you look there are small details that set these machines apart.
We've been profiling pro riders' bikes for years, and one trait has repeated itself time and again: these bikes are consistently and predictably perfect in terms of their mechanical and functional setup. Sure, mishaps and errors happen, but with far lower frequency than with typical enthusiast bikes, particularly given the amount of use and hard they're ridden.
Quick-release levers are always in the correct spot, brake pads are aligned exactly as they should be, gears shift with robotic precision (often literally, as is the case these days), and every little bit is finished with the utmost professionalism. Even cable ends are tidily trimmed and neatly crimped, and there's nary a squeak or creak ever to be heard.
Race bikes are about more than just being reliable and safe, though; they also have to be fast. Much of the work is hidden away with higher-performance bearings and lubricants that can't be readily seen. However, one spin of any crank or wheel here will reveal that there's something quite special going on inside. In the most fastidiously prepped rigs, it's a dramatic difference.
Ryder Hesjedal is now using a Berner derailleur pulley and cage setup on his Cervélo. Lab tests have shown modestly lower friction than stock setups
Every bike is also highly customised to each and every rider. Fit dimensions are, of course, the most important aspect with every touch point set just so: saddle height, tilt, and setback; bar tilt, bend, and width; hood height and angle. In some case, bars are even taped in a preferred style. Not surprisingly, such customisation is quite time-consuming and can be hard to keep straight, so nearly every team has an expansive spreadsheet that records every key figure.
Every rider has their own preferences for bar and lever position
Finally, as the saying goes, "look good; feel good; do good". These bikes are incredibly, remarkably, almost otherworldly clean each and every time they hit the start line. In many cases, they're also hyper colour coordinated for a final appearance that simply looks fantastic. Mechanics go to quite great lengths to keep them looking this way, too.
There are few better ways to make a rider feel special than with a custom paintjob -– especially when you're leading the Giro d'Italia!
Ultimately, the goal is that each rider has to do nothing but pedal, shift, and brake; everything works as it should with no further thought or effort needed. Sadly, a mechanic's most consistent sign that they've done their job properly in this arena is that the bike becomes somewhat of an afterthought. But that doesn't mean the rest of us can't admire their work.
Clean, clean, clean! And the bikes look like this each and every day