What makes a… climber’s bike?

The Alps and the Pyrenees are where the Tour de France is won or lost, so those gunning for a high GC postion pay particular attention to the bikes they us for the big mountain stages.

Despite the quantity of time trialing, the climbers will still have an impact on the overall result as they attack on the steep slopes, hoping to gap the time trial specialists and ‘diesels’.

With the minimum weight rule of 6.8kg’s set by the UCI, the days of the grimpeurs swapping to super light machines for an assault on the slopes have long gone but the dedicated mountain specialists will still make specific set up choices for the hills. Heavier, more aerodynamic frames are often eschewed in favour of stiffer, more traditionally shaped frames to maintain power transfer when the stinging accelerations are produced to gap the power climbers. To the same end, super lightweight, shallow section wheels are chosen to allow easier acceleration. With these light parts, some teams need to add Balast to maintain the minimum weight, but the performance characteristics of the individual component choices are still preferable to the climbing specialists.

Pic 1:
Rather than the 50-80mm deep wheels seen on  most stages, the mountains sees the fitting of low profile, fast accelerating wheels such as these Zipp  202’s used by Saxo Bank and Omega Pharma – Quickstep.

Pic 1: Lightweight wheels to facilitate attacks

Pic 2:
Steeper roads may see some climbers choose wider ratio cassette’s – SRAM has developed a moutain-bike-style set-up recently. This isn’t to allow them to dawdle up the slope, but rather to maintain the high cadence climbing style favoured by many specialists.

Pic 2: Low ratios for high cadences

Check out our Tour de France time trial bikes