Bike Mechanic: Tales from the Road and the Workshop

The role of the bike mechanic on a pro cycling team is complicated and often stressful – they are part psychologist, part gopher, part technician, and always busy. When the team goes to sleep at night, the day is only halfway done for the team of mechanics that work on cycling’s biggest stage. The book Bike Mechanic: Tales from the Road and the Workshop shares some of the most riveting, captivating stories from the highest levels of professional cycling as told by the mechanics and Rouleur‘s Guy Andrews and Rohan Dubash. Packed with prose and behind-the-scenes photos, the book documents the tales from ProTour-level bike mechanics at the Classics and Grand Tours, as well as practical advice for the home mechanic. Read on below for an excerpt from this fascinating book.

Excerpt from Bike Mechanic: Tales from the Road and the Workshop republished with permission of VeloPress. See the book on


The wheel change is a pressure situation; practice and a calm approach is essential.

The wheel change is the one time that a mechanic can really help his riders during a race. Good changes take a few seconds. Rear wheels and time trial bikes create another set of problems but the essential aim is always the same: to get the change done as quickly as possible.

Calmness is required to achieve this aim — not just from the mechanic, but from the affected rider. Riders know to wave for attention to the commissaire’s car before they stop. They hope that their team car also immediately sees the problem although either way the commissaire will radio to let the squad know that one of its riders has an issue. The rider will stop on the right-hand side of the road, allowing all the team cars, motorcycles, press, TV, and race cars to pass safely to the left.

If it’s a rear wheel puncture, the stricken rider will shift his chain into the smallest sprocket to enable the wheel to be removed quickly. If the team car is a ways down the string of following vehicles, he will probably remove the wheel and hold it up in the air for greater visibility. If it’s a team leader who is affected, the action will be even quicker: teammates will drop behind and usually give their own wheel or even bike. This allows the leader to return to the race more quickly — and leaves the domestique behind to receive the service and then endure the long slog back into the race.


Photo by Taz Darling |


Photo by Taz Darling |

During the 2013 Milan–San Remo, Pablo Lastras of the Movistar squad finds himself with a puncture. Time for the mechanics to spring into action. First of all his flatted front Campagnolo Bora wheel is quickly removed and unceremoniously dumped on the road while the new wheel is installed. The mechanic assisting Pablo presumably has to wrestle with the “lawyer’s tabs” on the fork ends — the lips  that retain the front wheel should the quick release lever come undone. In the past, many mechanics filed off these tabs to assist quick wheel changes. New legislation from the UCI intends to stamp out this practice, however. Now the mechanics have to reset the quick release correctly. The result will undoubtedly be slower race service.


Photo by Taz Darling |


Photo by Taz Darling |

Once the change is done, it’s time to get the stranded rider on the move as quickly as possible. A push usually helps him on his way. In addition to the mechanic, the directeur sportif will normally have gotten out of the team car. That means that as one finishes up the change and picks up the wheels, the other can push the rider back up to speed. If you look closely at the picture, you can see that Pablo is in a reasonably large sprocket at the back so he can get on top of the gear quickly. If it is a rear wheel puncture, the rider will have to be pushed until he can shift into the correct gear and start pedaling.

The moment the rider is clear, the car chases after mechanic Francesco, who thoughtfully collected the flatted wheel. He may have had to run 200 meters down the road to get Lastras back up to full speed.


Photo by Taz Darling |

All this takes a few minutes at most, although it still normally leaves the rider facing a long chase back to the race. Often the rider therefore calls for more service from the mechanic once back up to speed. This could be regarded as a bit of gamesmanship, as invariably there is nothing wrong with the bike, but it allows the rider to hang onto the car and get some needed assistance for the chase. The race judges will usually turn a blind eye if it’s following a crash or puncture, but riders certainly can’t hold on for a free ride all the way.

“Usually, in the car during quiet moments, we chat or talk by radio with the guys in the other Vittoria cars, exchanging information and commenting on the race. But that day we were all tense. It was freezing cold, and the riders were racing in unbelievable conditions. We helped them to dress, to open their energy bars, to shake off the snow from their backs and shoulders. In the car the heating was set to maximum level so my hands were warm enough. And then Lastras of Movistar had a flat — I had no problems and replaced his wheel in seconds. As I pushed to get him started again, I saw his eyes: he was really overwhelmed by the effort, from the cold and from that absurd situation. I saw him again at the Giro this year and he thanked me for that help. I just remember the intense cold, the heavy snowfall, and the tension of it all.” — Francesco Villa, Mechanic Vittoria Neutral Service, on the 2013 Milan-San Remo

Bike Mechanic: Tales for the Road and the Workshop is available from

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Inside the Peloton: 2015 Tour de France Videos by GoPro

Stage 3: Antwerpen > Huy, 102nd Tour de France (WorldTour), Belgium, 6 July 2015, Photo by Thomas van Bracht /

Stage 3, 102nd Tour de France, 6 July 2015, Photo by Thomas van Bracht /

With the advent of tiny and rugged personal video cameras, we’ve been able to get closer than ever to action sports. The Tour de France is leading the way with their partnerships with GoPro and Velon – mounting GoPro video cameras on multiple riders during each stage and posting edited videos by the end of the day!

From what we can tell, it looks like a few teams have created videos of their own (focusing on their riders or mechanics), but most of the teams are using the compiled footage provided by Velon. That’s why each video can have footage filmed by riders from multiple teams, and why teams are often posting the exact same video (we edited out the duplicates for you below).

We think that it’s only a matter of time before live GoPro videos will be incorporated into the race coverage, but until them check out some of the 2015 Tour de France videos below, sorted by stage. Tell us which of these Tour de France videos you find the most interesting in the comments below!

Stage 6 Tour de France Videos:

Stage 5 Tour de France Videos:

Stage 4 Tour de France Videos:

Stage 3 Tour de France Videos:

Stage 2 Tour de France Videos:

Stage 1 Tour de France Videos:

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The Rider by Tim Krabbe

Arguably the most famous date in literary fiction is June 16, 1904…Bloomsday…the single day James Joyce steers protagonists Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus throughout the streets of Dublin. “Ulysses” is a fearsomely lengthy, legendary tome: dense, complex, employing different literary styles for each of the 18 chapters, the object of a landmark obscenity trial. Yet it’s also a love affair with his native Dublin, penned in exile. Says Joyce, “I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book.” Buried hundreds of pages into the book, the date is revealed to the reader in a solitary mention. And why June 16, 1904? It was the day of Joyce’s first date with his wife-to-be Nora Barnacle.

The Rider. By Tim Krabbe.

The Rider. By Tim Krabbe. A book every cyclist should read.

Style-wise, Tim Krabbe’s elegantly crafted novella “The Rider” is the anti-Ulysses: stripped down prose, crisp sentences, a sleek and svelte 148 pages in length. It, too, takes place on a solitary day, June 26, 1977, revealed in the very first sentence. Thirty-eight years ago today, in fact. It’s a book which can be comfortably digested in a single sitting. It’s a book which definitively addresses what it means to be a racing cyclist. And it’s a book which will stay with you for as long as your passion for cycling flickers.

The plot encompasses an entire 150 km. race in the foothills of the French Alps from the point of view of a marginally accomplished amateur cyclist who came to the sport too late in life. Oddly enough, or maybe not so oddly enough, the protagonist is also named Tim Krabbe. Throughout the course of the race Krabbe reflects on his previous races, legendary professional cyclists and their successes and failures on the bike, superstitions, and just the random and occasionally bizarre thoughts that course through one’s brain while the body endures episodes of immense suffering.

If someone unfamiliar with the sport of cycling asked me what racing a bicycle is all about I’d hand them this book. Krabbe was an accomplished Dutch amateur cyclist and his keen insight into the physical as well as psychological facets of the sport is all too evident. Krabbe is probably most well-known for writing the novel upon which the excellent film “The Vanishing” was based. Make sure you see the original Dutch version, not the American re-make. If one pays attention to the radio frequently playing in the background noise, one can hear the play-by-play of Bernard Hinault’s and Joop Zootemelk’s epic duel in the 1980 Tour de France.

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Five Ways to Make Cycling Part of Your Daily Life

National Bike Month may be over, the time when we in the cycling industry go all-out to preach the gospel of pedal-powered bliss, but we believe that any month on the calendar qualifies as Bike Month! Hopping on a bike for any variety of reasons any time of the year can be a game-changer for personal health and fitness as well as for the greater good of the environment.

Here are some ideas about how to make cycling, as seamlessly as possible, a part of your daily life. The idea is to make it as little of an “event” as possible – just the idea that you can hop on your bike with the minimum of fuss for a myriad of reasons.

Run Errands

There’s likely a surprising amount of quick jaunts that take place within a tight radius of your home. A quick trip to the grocery store/pharmacy/post office/etc. Several years ago Clif Bar initiated their 2 Mile Challenge – to use a bicycle for as many (if not all) short trips as possible within a 2-mile radius of home – and that’s the perfect place to start. Make a mental checklist of how many places you frequent by car that are that close to your residence – then start using a bike instead.

My local grocery store is just over 1 mile away from home and I try to make that quick trip for small purchases by bike. Likewise, I make it a point that any time I take a trip to the public library it’s by bike. Regarding carrying capacity, my preference is just to use a cycling-specific backpack – such as the Ogio Commuter Backpack. It’s versatile, there’s no mechanical fiddling necessary on the bike regarding racks/panniers, and it just flat-out looks good to boot.

Ogio Commuter Backpack is a great choice for running errands.

The Ogio Commuter Backpack provides plenty of well-organized space for running errands and it’s supremely comfortable while riding.

Versatile Gear

Just hop on a bike and go – you don’t need to get all kitted up. Take inspiration from cyclists in Copenhagen. A set of platform pedals or toe clips/straps and shoes that work well on a bike as well as walking around are really all you need to make the utility-bike transformation. Regarding shoes, a perfect choice is the Merrell Roust Frenzy. It works great on the bike with either platform pedals or toe clip/straps, you’re comfortable walking all-day long off the bike, and they look great, too (and don’t scream out “I’m a cycling shoe!”).

Merrell Roust Frenzy shoe is supremely versatile - both on and off the bike.

The Merrell Roust Frenzy shoes are a perfect means to pedal efficiently as well as walk comfortably.

Regarding a bike, there’s plenty out there that’s reliable, perfectly utilitarian, low maintenance, and easy on the wallet. Something in the vein of the Schwinn Slicker will certainly get you where you need/want to go with ease and aplomb.

Schwinn Slicker is a great choice for commuting, transportation, running errands, and general fitness.

The Schwinn Slicker has everything you need in a reliable, all-purpose bike for errands, transportation, and general fitness.

Commute to Work

Most of us have to leave the house to make our way to work, so why not try to make the trip by bicycle? It’s a wonderful way to integrate exercise into a busy schedule (plus spend more time outside), and for those with short to medium-length commutes the time commitment may be rather comparable.

Ogio Commuter Backpack has a dedicated protective laptop sleeve.

Backpacks such as the Ogio Commuter making commuting to work an easier proposition with features such as a dedicated laptop sleeve plus a myriad array of organizer pockets.

Depending on the distance you need to travel and the dress code at work, it’s likely that you’ll have to switch clothes when you arrive. However, you don’t have to burden yourself down by transporting all your clothing with you on the bike. Drive in on a Monday with a stockpile of clothes for the week so your ride to work is basically just a regular ride. And ideally your workplace will have a shower facility, but I can attest that a quick cleanup is possible, too, sans shower.

Even longer commutes can provide opportunities for cycling. I once worked in the next city over and took a regional express bus. When I wanted to get some riding in I’d take my bike with me to work on the bus in the morning (it had a front rack), and then I’d ride home in the evening. Currently, I share car-pooling with a co-worker and any number of days the person who wasn’t driving would bring their bike to work in the morning and then be able to ride home in the evening.

Fun with Maps

How well do you know your locale? There’s no better way to explore where you live than by bike when you combine the potential distance travelled with the granularity of what you see. I drew inspiration from the gentleman determined to walk every mile of every road in New York City (, which amazingly amounts to 6000+ miles, to peruse Google Maps in my area to plan out leisure rides to places I’ve never been.

Break the pattern. Turn down a road where you maybe don’t know where it’s going. Or perhaps you do know where that road ends up, but have never seen what’s there along the way. Who knew there was a Hells Angels house on the other side of my town on a road where my usual route had me turn off prior to passing it (true story!).

Who would have guessed these guys were across town?

Who would have guessed these guys were across town?

Out on the Town (Day or Night)

Sure, it’s great to have alone time on the bike, but riding with friends is time well spent. Why not hop on bikes to make that pub crawl happen? Or that First Friday art gallery crawl? It’s motivating knowing others will be out, there’s safety in numbers regarding visibility (try a night ride, all those lights on bikes makes a difference), you burn calories between stops, and you might just inspire others to hop on a bike as well. It’s infectious in every good sense of the word.

Tour de Fat festival is great means to bring together people via cycling and a healthy dose of zaniness.

The Tour de Fat festival is the perfect means to bring together friends and cycling. Plus you may get to pedal mad-scientist inventions like this “Shoe Bike”!

So how do you make cycling part of your daily life?

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Star Wars and Bikes – May the Fourth Be With You

Since today is Star Wars Day, “May the Fourth be with you”, we couldn’t help but highlight a few of the cycling/Star Wars crossovers that we’ve spotted on the intergalactic interwebs. Riding bikes and being a fan of Star Wars has provided some particularly rich crossovers, but remember to choose your allegiance carefully!


These stormtroopers need an upgrade:stormtroopers

Impressive tie fighter costume for cyclocross:

Legos and Star Wars and bikes:


This looks as ungainly as the AT-ATs in the movie:


This is not the speeder he was looking for:

We have no idea what is going on here:


How many stormtroopers does it take to change a flat:

See, bikes are faster than the dark side:


Sweet stormtrooper low-rider:



X-wing with a mini R2D2 on the back! Yes:


More cyclocross fun – racing this CX-Wing was like shooting womp rats with a T-16:


Copy rogue leader:


This wookiee bike looks comfy:


OK, so this isn’t strictly a cycling helmet, but R2D2 helmet anyone:


The bike riding is strong with this one:


Or you can show off your allegiance with these bike/Star Wars-themed shirts from Endurance Conspiracy – either Chewbacca:


Or Darth Vader:


And finally, these intergalactic designs from Mike Joos imagine what various Star Wars characters personal bikes would be (the Boba Fett trailer is especially nice):

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