Tour de France Bicycles & Historical Bike Weights

After swapping my Cannondale 3.0′s hodgepodge of Campagnolo components for Shimano Dura-Ace 7700s, Canny weighs in at 19.0 pounds. In this day and age of ultra-light (and über-expensive) bicicletas bedecked with enough carbon fiber to embarrass a B2 Stealth Bomber, this seems a bit portly and admittedly, she could easily lose another 1.5 lbs. if I cared to spend a few hundred dollars for a lighter wheelset, saddle and handlebar.

But can you believe that my C’dale (with its 19-year-old aluminum frame) actually weighs less than the bicycles that Miguel Indurain, Jan Ullrich and Bjarne Riis rode to Tour de France victory in the mid- to late 90s? And every winning Tour bike before that!

Below are some of the bikes ridden to glory in the modern Tour de France era. Bike weights hovered between 18 and 22 pounds from 1968 to 1998, after which they plummeted especially with Lance Armstrong demanding every technological advantage. In 2004, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) imposed a minimum weight requirement of 15.0 pounds (6.8 kilograms) for bicycles raced in international events under their jurisdiction—including the Tour de France—so the lightest bike ever ridden to overall Tour (faux-)victory was Armstrong’s Trek 5900 SL, weighing 14.5 pounds in 2003.

Some other observations are below. [August 11, 2013: Items below that are stuck out are largely due to disqualifications of once-declared victors like Lance Armstrong implicated in doping scandals.]

  • In the last 40 years, three two bicycle manufacturers have dominated the race for the yellow jersey: Gitane (with 11 victories), Trek (9), and Pinarello (10 as of October 2013). The last couple editions of the Tour de France have been won by Brits on Pinarellos.
  • TVT (of France) claims to have at least 5 victories spanning from 1986-1991. Their bikes were frequently rebadged as other marques.
  • 1994 was the last time the Tour was won a steel bike—a TIG-welded Pinarello-badged beauty ridden by Miguel Indurain.
  • Indurain and Bjarne Riis rode TIG-welded metal-matrix frames to victory in 1995 and 1996, respectively.
  • Aluminum bicycles were ridden to glory by Jan Ullrich and Marco Pantani in 1997 and 1998, respectively.
  • In 1999, Lance Armstrong’s TT bike was a Trek-badged titanium Litespeed Blade. I think this is the only titanium bicycle that was ever used by a Tour de France victor disqualified leader.
  • Ever since Lance Armstrong won lead the Tour on a stock Trek OCLV in 1999, every winning bike has been made out of carbon fiber.
  • Shimano also finally had a win in the Tour starting in 1999 2007.
  • For the climbing stages in all seven of Lance Armstrong’s TdF victories frauds, he used a downtube front shift lever to save weight (about 2-3 ounces). Nowadays, combination brake/shift levers (such as SRAM Red) are just as light as a separate downtube and brake lever—and bicycle manufacturers don’t even put braze-ons for downtube levers on their frames anymore—so 2005 will likely go down in history as the last year that downtube levers were used by a Tour de France winner.
  • Alberto Contador’s Trek Madone 5.2 in 2007 was the first Tour-winning bike with a mountain bike-like sloping top tube. Now almost all modern race bikes have “compact” frames, with the main holdouts being Cannondale and Pinarello.
  • SRAM had its first victory in 2010 despite Andy Schleck’s infamous chain-skipping incident. (He was later awarded TdF victory after Alberto Contador tested positive for clenbuterol.)
  • Cadel Evan was the first TdF winner using electronic shifting (Shimano Di2 on a BMC Teammachine SLR01) in 2011.

With the UCI limit of 6.8 kilos being so easy to achieve nowadays for sponsor-backed professionals, what will be the latest innovations we will see in the next decade of Tour de Frances? More widespread adoption of electronic shifting and aerodynamic tubing are a near certainty. Eventually, Shimano and SRAM will come out with 11-speed shifting to catch up with Campagnolo. [August 11, 2013: Done.]

I’ll go ahead and predict that by 2020 some sort of disc brake system for road bikes will be introduced and that electronic equipment (e.g., sensors, meters and communication devices) will be more integrated into the frames. [August 11, 2013: I made these predictions in 2010 and by now they already seem fait accompli.] Any one else with predictions?

Year Winning Racer Bicycle Manufacturer Weight, lbs. (kg) Notes
1962 Jacques Anquetil Helyett 22.4 (10.2) (1)
1965 Felice Gimondi Magni 24.2 (11) (1)
1967 Roger Pingeon Peugeot 22.9 (10.4) (1)
1968 Jan Janssen Lejeune 19.1 (8.7) (1)
1972 Eddy Merckx Eddy Merckx (Colnago) 21.1 (9.6) (1)
1973 Luis Ocaña Motobecane 18.7 (8.5) (1)
1976 Lucien Van Impe Gitane 18.3 (8.3) (1)
1977 Bernard Thévenet Peugeot 22.0 (10.0) (1)
1980 Joop Zoetemelk Raleigh 22.4 (10.2) (1)
1985 Bernard Hinault Hinault 21.1 (9.6) (1); TT bike?
1987 Stephen Roche Battaglin 21.1 (9.6) (1)
1988 Pedro Delgado Pinarello (built by TVT) 21.6 (9.8) (1),(18)
1989 Greg LeMond Bottechia (built by TVT) ? (18)
1990 Greg LeMond LeMond 20.0 (9.1) (1); TT bike
1993 Miguel Indurain Pinarello 22.7 (10.3) (1)
1993-1994 Miguel Indurain Pinarello-badged (Dario Pegoretti) 19.8 (9.0) (16)
1995 Miguel Indurain Pinarello Espada 17.8 (8.1) (1); TT bike
1996 Bjarne Riis Pinarello 19.8 (9.0) (1)
1997 Jan Ullrich Pinarello 19.8 (9.0) (1)
1998 Marco Pantani Bianchi 17.8 (8.1) (1)
1999 Lance Armstrong Trek 5500 ? (2); Frameset: 3.9 lbs. (1.75 kg). 1″ head tube, threaded chromoly steerer, 9-speed Dura-Ace
2000 Lance Armstrong Trek 5900 ? (2); frameset: 2.8+.9=3.7 lbs. (1.25+.42=1.67 kg), 1-1/8″ head tube, threadless aluminum steerer, 9-speed Dura-Ace
2000 Lance Armstrong Trek 5900 SL <15.0 (<6.8) (2),(5),(6); Frame: 2.2 lbs. (1.0 kg), for mountain stages
2001 Lance Armstrong Trek 5900 ? (2) frameset: 2.5+.9=3.5 lbs. (1.15+.42=1.57 kg), 9-speed Dura-Ace, still used downtube front shifter for mountains
2002 Lance Armstrong Trek 5900 18.0 (8.2) (1)
2003 Lance Armstrong Trek Madone 5.9 15.8 (7.2) (1),(14); road stages
2003 Lance Armstrong Trek 5900 SL 14.5 (6.6) (2),(14); frame: 2.2 lbs. (.98 kg), mountain stages
2004 Lance Armstrong Trek Madone SL 15.0 (6.8) (2),(3),(4),(13),(14); frameset: 2.4+.7=3.2 lbs. (1.10+.34=1.44 kg)
2005 Lance Armstrong Trek Madone SSLx 15.0 (6.8) (3)
2006 Oscar Pereiro Pinarello Dogma-FPX 15.0 (6.8) (3),(8); Magnesium AK61 Superlight
2007 Alberto Contador Trek Madone 5.2 15.0 (6.8) (3),(10),(12); First official win by a Shimano-equipped bicycle.
2008 Carlos Sastre Cervélo R3-SL 15.0 (6.8) (3),(9); Rotor Q-Ring elliptical chainrings mounted on FSA crankarms
2009 Alberto Contador Trek Madone 6-Series 15.0 (6.8) (3),(11)
2010 Alberto Contador Andy Schleck Specialized Tarmac SL3 15.0 (6.8) (3),(7); First win by a SRAM-equipped bike?
2011 Cadel Evans BMC Teammachine SLR01 15.0 (6.8) (3),(15); first TdF winner using electronic shifting (Shimano Dura-Ace Di2)
2012 Bradley Wiggins Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Think 2 15.0 (6.8) (3),(17)
2013 Chris Froome Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Think 2 15.0 (6.8) (3); 126mm stem, 40cm bars, 172.5mm Dura-Ace cranks, and 23mm Veloflex tubulars

TT bike = time-trial bike
(1) Les Velos Mythiques Vainquers du Tour de France by Yves Blanc and Bruno Bade, as described in the Starbike Weight Weenies Forum.
(2) Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France-winning machines, James Huang, CyclingNews.com, July 2007.
(3) UCI weight limit of 15 lbs. (6.8 kg) in effect
(4) Other components Armstrong used are described in Wired Magazine, July 2004.
(5) Trek Press Release, July 2000.
(6) Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France Bikes, Chain Reaction Bicycles, 2001.
(7) Andy Schleck’s Specialized S-Works SL3 SRAM Red & Zipp Tour ride, The Road Diaries, July 2010.
(8) Oscar Pereiro – Dogma-FPX Bike on display, YouTube user Taurus0423, November 2006.
(9) Cervélo launch Carlos Sastre R3-SL and S3 limited edition frames, BikeRadar.com, June 2009.
(10) Alberto Contador’s Astana Trek Madone 5.2, CyclingNews.com, May 2008.
(11) Alberto Contador’s Astana Trek Series 6 Madone, CyclingNews.com, July 2009.
(12) Trek Madone: The Bike That Owned the Tour de France, Gizmodo.com, July 2007.
(13) Trek Madone 5.9 Project One, CyclingNews.com, November 2004.
(14) Trek’s 2005 Carbon Fiber Lineup, Chain Reaction Bicycles, November 2005.
(15) Evans’ BMC teammachine SLR01, Velonews, July 2011.
(16) Tour de France winning bikes, Bikeradar, June 2012.
(17) Buyer’s Guide: Race Bikes, Bicycling Magazine, March 2013.
(18) From TVT’s letter. Thanks to James Greenlees for sending me it.

More photos

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4 thoughts on “Tour de France Bicycles & Historical Bike Weights

  1. never ceased to amaze me that armstrong demanded such attention to detail on the bike weight and then rode with a gold chain round his neck.

  2. How things have come on since the early 00′s.

    Our first thoughts are probably related to frames but wheels, groupos and other detail parts must have come on strides; plenty of steel framed bikes out there now that are close to or even below the UCI limit…

  3. Love this info. I am working on a novel in which the 1974 Tour figures prominently. I notice that the year’s 74 and 75 are missing from your chart. Why? And can you tell me what Merckx rode to the winner’s podium in those years and also suggest what were the major bikes riders were on during those years? The details are important to me in the telling of my story. I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you and keep up the great work. That’s a beautiful Gitane up there.

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