While most riders were sponsor correct at the Tour de France — dutifully racing what their team is paid to use — some went off script with their own solutions.
Here are our top five types of poorly covered up gear at the Tour de France — including one setup that is what it purports to be, but wasn't used the way the company designed it to be.
As much as the internet loves a good conspiracy theory, often riders use non-sponsor-correct gear just for reasons of personal fit.
Is Taylor Phinney on a Specialized S-Works Romin because it is secretly the best saddle in the world? Um, no. He just found something that really works for him, so he uses it, and masks the logos out of respect for Cannondale’s current saddle sponsor.
Saddles are like soul mates. Uh, if your butt could have a soul, that is. What I mean is that a great saddle is hard to find. So if you find yours, don’t give it up. Even if you have to lie shamefully to the world.
Okay, here’s a better example of finding your true sole mate. Ah, come on, it’s punny!
Anyhow, Diadora and Gaerne would probably both prefer that Movistar and Lotto-Soudal riders all used their shoes. But the team would prefer that the riders are happy with the shoes of their choice. So, the shoe-shaped shoe covers are the solution.
Now sometimes you’ll see teams using products that just don’t exist, like, say, a Bontrager Disc wheel. Or another Bontrager Disc wheel. Bontrager makes plenty of wheels, but no discs. But Zipp and Lightweight do.
Other times you’ll see blank wheels, like, say, the tri spoke featured in the video above. This is often a similar situation to saddles and shoes; riders have found something that works for them, and they strip logos out of respect for the current sponsor.
And then sometimes you’ll see works in progress, like a blank disc with a Roval sticker.
Blacked-out stems and handlebars are usually a matter of rider preference. Peter Sagan really likes his Zipp Sprint SL stem, for instance.
But sometimes it can just be a matter of making something work. FSA’s negative 17-degree stems are a common go-to for riders wanting to get a low position. Some stem brands don’t make negative 17s.
And sometimes it’s just a matter of inventory. PRO will be selling -17-degree stems for the new Di2 internal routing, but it looks like FDJ doesn’t have any yet, just the more common -10 options. So, Arnaud Démare used an FSA stem.
Again, it’s not a vast conspiracy involving secretly incredible products; it’s just a matter of making a rider happy with the right fit and feel.
5. Cranks /powermeters
Now, powermeters are more likely to fall in the category of functional differences.
The most blatant example is Cannondale’s use of SRM meters and empty Garmin Vector pedals. Some Cannondale riders use Shimano SPD, but a few still use the Look-compatible Vectors because Garmin is paying.
At Dimension Data, a number of riders including Mark Cavendish opted to stick with the trusty old SRMs over sponsor-correct Rotor power cranks.
SRMs aren’t light or cheap, but they are pretty reliable, year in and year out.
Perhaps the weirdest crank setup at the Tour is found on Tony Martin’s time trial bike.
Katusha is SRAM-sponsored and the prototype chain ring and the rest of the drivetrain are all SRAM parts. But SRAM doesn’t endorse the use of regular eTap derailleur with a one-by system, since it doesn’t have a clutch like SRAM’s Force 1 derailleur does.
But hey, he’s the world time trial champion and the guy who likes riding with straight-up grip tape on his saddle. Whaddya gonna do?
Now, before you get all hot and bothered and start typing comments about tires, let’s address it. Yes, some tire companies make tires for other brands, like Veloflex-made Kendas, but this is similar to bike frames, really; a few brands make their own, some contract with factories. But these company contracts are a different type of thing than a rider finding his soul mate… and a Sharpie marker.