Ask Nick: Race numbers, cranks and post-race Cokes

Technical editor Nick Legan answers questions about attaching race numbers, Campy chainrings and why riders down the cold soda after a stage

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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.

I have a question regarding race numbers during the Tour. How are they attached to the jersey? Safety pins?

Also, do they use the same numbers every stage or do the riders receive multiple copies of their numbers?

The numbers at the Tour are made of fabric and adhesive backed. Most riders also pin them on for extra security. Riders will leave them on a jersey and re-use them as many times as they can, just to save the trouble of re-pinning them. But they are indeed given multiple sets of numbers.

For the bike numbers, teams are issued one for each rider. If they are broken off or lost in a crash, a mechanic or director can request another one from the race organization. It’s in everyone’s interest to keep the rider’s finishing order correct.

I was looking at the new Shimano 9000 groupset and it looks fantastic. The new gear combinations for the crank really piqued my interest and was wondering if the new 9000 cranks will be compatible with the 7970 Di2 group.

That’s a good question. To be honest, I can’t be sure until I try it. I would think the 9000 cranks would work with your current group, but perhaps not perfectly. The chain roller width is the same on both Shimano 10- and 11-speed chains. So the tooth width of the cogs and chainrings will also be the same. The only problem might come if the chainrings are spaced significantly closer. That could lead to overshifts. But I would think you could figure it out.

Got a quick question regarding chainrings for Campagnolo. I have a 2006 Chorus crankset with 50/34 chainrings and a 10-speed cassette. Most of my riding is in Florida (highest point 345 feet) so I’m considering a switch to a slightly bigger set of rings. I’ve seen that the 52/36 sets seem to be gaining some interest and this combination would probably work well for my riding. Is there anyone who makes a good set of rings that will work with this set-up? I’d even consider Q-Rings, if they work with these components. And while we’re on the topic, do you have an opinion on the effectiveness of Q-Rings or other elliptical chainrings?
—Steve Hardy

You have some options for larger rings. Campagnolo, Fulcrum, T.A. Specialites, Rotor and others produce options you can explore based on your budget. Campagnolo doesn’t produce a 52-tooth ring, but they do sell a 36. Same story with Fulcrum. T.A. Specialites, a French brand with excellent chainrings, produces almost any size under the sun for your cranks. Depending on the importer, you could probably find a 51×35 chainring setup if you were so inclined.

Rotor does produce chainrings compatible with your crank, but only in a 50×36 combo, but you have to understand how Rotor rings work when looking at chainring sizes. A 36-tooth ring from Rotor is effectively a 38 when in the power phase of your pedal stroke and a 34 in the “dead spot” of your pedal stroke. It’s somewhat hard to compare them “apples to apples” with round rings.

I do like Rotor rings. I have a set on my personal road bike right now. I’ve also played with them on my mountain bike. I felt comfortable with them very quickly after I installed them and I notice the difference only when I jump from a round ring bike directly onto my personal bike. For me, when doing a hard, seated climb I really like the feeling of the Rotor rings. I haven’t done power or heart rate testing to confirm it scientifically, but Rotor does have a white paper confirming the benefits of its oval rings on its website. I’ve also spoken with two sports physiologists who think that many athletes can benefit from them.

The Osymetric rings used by Bradley Wiggins are also interesting. When I was a mechanic with Team CSC, Bobby Julich swore by them. I’ve ridden them, but only a little. The feeling of them was really strange and thanks to their radical shape, much more noticeable. Compared to the Rotor rings they are also much more difficult to work with. Making them shift perfectly is virtually impossible. But again, they’re working well for Wiggo!

I have a debate with my dad over why riders drink soda during or after race stages. I think it is to replenish carbs while my dad thinks it’s for sponsors. What is the real reason?

The real reason is that nothing tastes quite like a cold soda after a hot race. It’s true that the caffeine and sugar help a rider recover, but it’s not really an ideal recovery drink. It’s much more a comfort item. Not too many teams are sponsored by soft drink companies. Every team I worked for bought the drinks. So I guess you’re more right on this one. Now go buy your dad a Coke!

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