Tour de France Tech: Wet weather preparations

Nick Legan looks at how team mechanics prepped bikes for Tuesday's rainy stage

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LORIENT, France (VN) — When the rain comes down it makes life a little bit rougher for everyone at the Tour de France. Some racers revel in the foul elements, but they are a minority.

Tire pressures and chain lube by team


Chain lube: Morgan Blue oil and grease
Tire pressure: 109/116 psi (front/rear) on Aeolus 5.0/24mm Challenge
116/123 psi (front/rear) on XXXLite /22mm Challenge
130.5 psi (front and rear) for Brajkovic


Chain lube: Agip oil and grease
Tire pressure: 130.5 psi (front and rear) 22mm Continental Competition


Chain lube: Morgan Blue oil and Aquaproof Pasta (paste)
Tire pressure: 101.5/109 psi (front/rear) Vredestein Fortezza TriComp 23mm
116 psi for bigger guys

Team Sky

Chain lube: experimental natural-based oil
Tire pressure: 116 psi (front and rear) 23mm VeloFlex, normally run 130.5 psi in the dry


Chain lube: FinishLine Teflon spray and grease
Tire pressure: 116 psi max (front and rear) on Specialized 23mm, normally run 123-130.5 psi


Chain lube: Morgan blue oil and grease
Tire pressures: 109 psi (front and rear) 25mm Continental Competition


Chain lube: Motip oil (more than usual applied for wet conditions)
Tire pressure: 109/116 psi (front/rear) 23mm Vittoria Evo Corsa CX

Omega Pharma-Lotto

Chain lube: Morgan Blue oil
Tire pressure: 116 psi (front and rear) on 23mm Vittoria Evo Corsa CX, normally 123 psi

For mechanics, the two biggest questions on wet days are tire pressure and chain lube. Stage 4 was not super long at 172.5 kilometers, but with a driving rain at the start and a nervous peloton, many riders were obsessing over equipment choices Tuesday morning.

The pressure’s on

RadioShack rolls on Challenge Forté 24mm tubulars to match the wide rim of Bontrager’s new version of the Aeolus 5.0. On Bontrager’s XXX Lite climbing wheel, which has a narrower rim, the team glues up 22mm tires. Tire width affects the mechanics’ pressure decisions. The wider the tire, the lower the pressure.

HTC-Highroad also uses wide tires, 25mm Continental Competitions on their HED rims. Perry Moarman, HTC team mechanic, said that normally the team will inflate to 8.0 bar (116 psi). Tuesday they dropped the pressure to 7.5 (109psi) and even less for a couple riders.

A well-oiled machine

Different teams have different takes on appropriate wet-weather chain lube. Astana’s Chris Van Roosbroeck uses FinishLine Teflon spray and then applies a layer of grease over that for all occasions. On the very hottest of days, he’ll switch to Teflon spray then a heavy oil.

Team Sky experimented on stage 4 with a new natural oil-based chain lube from Morgan Blue. Rajen Murugayen said that he and other Team Sky mechanics aren’t big fans of greasing chains. In the past they simply used a heavy wet-conditions oil. Tuesday’s test will see if Morgan Blue has a winning solution for wet conditions.

Riders preferences

Thomas Voeckler, for one, swapped to his spare bike with aluminum rims just before the start. Jose Joaquin Rojas, stage 3’s third place finisher and animator in stage 4’s breakaway, also opted for the superior braking of aluminum wheels. Others like a shallower rim on wet days so they don’t have to fight with crosswinds as much on wet roads.

Small things can make a big difference on a wet day. Making sure you can see is a good start. Team Sky had a visit before the start from Oakley’s Steve Blick. He was there to apply Oakley’s Hydrophobic solution to their lenses.

Drying out

The hardest part of a day raced in the wet for team staff is after the race. Soigneurs have their hands full trying to get kits caked in road grime clean and dry for the next day’s stage.

Bike washes take a little longer after a wet day, especially if the rain comes and goes. If the weather dries out, all the dirt from the earlier rain has a chance to dry and cake up on the bike. For mechanics it’s actually a bit easier if it rains all day.

Brake pads and tires take a beating on wet days. So they’ll be thoroughly inspected after a day like stage 4. But that’s all part of the job. And at the Tour, the world’s biggest bike race, motivation is always high. So surviving a few days in the rain is nothing too difficult.

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