Ask Nick: Clear coat touch-up, riding with a tailwind and the Tour menu

What position is fastest when riding in a tailwind? What's on the feedzone menu at le Tour?

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Editor’s Note: VeloNews tech editor Nick Legan is a former ProTour mechanic who most recently wrenched for Team RadioShack at the 2010 Tour de France and elsewhere. His column appears here every Thursday. You can submit questions to Nick at, and be sure to check out Nick’s previous columns.
After a quick trip up to Vail to ride this weekend, I discovered that while my road bike (Wilier Izoard) was on the hitch-mount rack something on my wife’s bike had managed to scrape down through the clear coat to the underlying carbon on the seatstay. I don’t see any damage to the carbon fibers, only missing clearcoat and paint (good thing the trip wasn’t any longer!). What do you recommend to cover this with to protect the carbon?
— Steve Compton

As long as there aren’t any carbon threads broken you’re OK structurally. Paint on clear fingernail polish or spray a bit of clear coat into a paper cup and brush that on to touch up the bike. That’ll put that protective layer back on the bike.

If you’re carrying both bikes frequently, you might consider putting some clear vinyl over the areas where the bikes are close. It doesn’t weigh much, you can barely see it and it stays put unlike padding put on for transport. I put clear vinyl stickers wherever a bag or accessory makes contact with my frame or fork. It keeps everything looking good and protected.

In an effort to set up my bikes the same, should the offset from the nose of the saddle to the center of the BB be the same? This is assuming that the saddles are the same on both bikes. Does different geometry change this measurement?
— GW

To your first question, yes, absolutely. Saddle setback, as it’s commonly called, has big implications for your fit. Assuming you have the same saddle on both your bikes, same crank length and pedals, etc., you want seat height and setback to remain constant.

Different geometries don’t change the needs of your body. But they can change how you achieve your fit. Take seat tube angles. If one of your bikes has a slack seat tube angle (72 degrees, say) and your other has a steeper seat tube angle (73.5, for instance), to achieve the same setback you may need a zero setback seatpost on the slacker bike and a setback seatpost on the steeper bike.

Just remember, your body’s needs or preferences don’t change when you hop from one bike to another. I’m sure I’ll get plenty of comments on this one (“I prefer a higher bar position and more setback on my climbing bike….”) but for the most part, your fit, assuming it’s a good one, is your fit.

Just wondering if there are any plans for Shimano implementing disc brakes in this new 9000 gruppo?
— Bernie

Nope. No mention of them at the launch. But Shimano did recently unveil two different mechanic disc brakes for drop bar bicycles. The CX75 is offered for cyclocross applications and the R515 for road bikes. We at VeloNews haven’t had a chance to try them yet, but initially they look like good options.

What riding position is fastest when riding with a tailwind: sitting up with hands on the hoods or down in the drops? Would that change if there were an increase or decrease in wind speed? Would that change based on rider height and/or width and/or weight? In other words, is there a simple “formula” that a rider should follow to ride as fast as possible with a tailwind?
— Don Soula

I think you’re alluding to a sail effect that you can get from a tailwind. What this all comes down to is whether or not you’re travelling faster than the tailwind you’re experiencing. Say you have a 20 mph tailwind. If you’re traveling at 15 mph you’ll get a good push and your position doesn’t matter too much. Sit up and enjoy the ride.

But if you’d like to go 25 mph, you’ll make it easier on yourself if you tuck. As Jobst Brandt succinctly puts it, “With a tailwind, speeding up until the wind is in one’s face is fairly easy, and at that point it becomes a headwind.”

Weight has no bearing on your aerodynamics, though girth associated with it does. But it does have an effect on your inertia and rolling resistance.

The other thing to keep in mind is that a pure tailwind is extremely rare. Wind often swirls and circles. If you’re worried about it, best to keep it tight!

I was wondering what foods and how much calories are picked up by riders in feedzones at the Tour de France. Is this different for each rider and is it determined by nutrition sponsors, etc.?
— Allen

With very few exceptions, all the riders get the same feed bag, or musette, as the French like to call it. Typically they will include a couple water bottles, two gels, two bars and a piece of cake or a savory snack (rice cake or mini cheese sandwich). Sometimes a small Coke will be thrown in the mix. They change often, though, to keep the riders from burning out on a particular flavor of bar or gel.

Sometimes you’ll see soigneurs trading flavors with another team to keep the mix fresh. Sponsors do dictate the makeup to some extent, but soigneurs often buy pastries, cut them up, wrap them in foil and include them in the feed bags. A mix of fruit or a small sandwich is a nice change when riders are tired of energy bars and gels.

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