Tour de France Bicycles & Historical Bike Weights

Author’s note: This article which was first written in 2010 has been continuously updated throughout the years.

After swapping my Cannondale 3.0‘s hodgepodge of Campagnolo components for Shimano Dura-Ace 7700s, the bike weighs in at 19.0 pounds. In this day and age of ultra-light (and über-expensive) vélos 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 victory was Armstrong’s Trek 5900 SL, weighing 14.5 pounds in 2003. (That win was later nullified.)

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

  • In the last 40 years, a handful of bicycle manufacturers have dominated the race for the yellow jersey: Pinarello (15 as of August 2019), Gitane (with 9 or 12 victories), Peugeot (10), and Trek (9). Read this post for a detailed analysis and controversies regarding which bike company has won the most.
  • 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 time-trial 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 winner (later nullified).
  • Ever since Lance Armstrong 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 overall first-place finishes, 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.
  • Around 2018, more and more bicycle manufacturers were adopting “dropped” seatstays. Supposedly they are more aerodynamic and allow more compliance than traditional seatstays that meet at the junction of the top tube and seat tube.

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?

YearWinning RacerBicycle ManufacturerWeight, lbs. (kg)Notes
1962Jacques AnquetilHelyett22.4 (10.2)(1)
1965Felice GimondiMagni24.2 (11)(1)
1967Roger PingeonPeugeot22.9 (10.4)(1)
1968Jan JanssenLejeune19.1 (8.7)(1)
1972Eddy MerckxEddy Merckx (Colnago)21.1 (9.6)(1)
1973Luis OcañaMotobecane18.7 (8.5)(1)
1976Lucien Van ImpeGitane18.3 (8.3)(1)
1977Bernard ThévenetPeugeot22.0 (10.0)(1)
1980Joop ZoetemelkRaleigh22.4 (10.2)(1)
1985Bernard HinaultHinault21.1 (9.6)(1); time-trial bike?
1987Stephen RocheBattaglin21.1 (9.6)(1)
1988Pedro DelgadoPinarello (built by TVT)21.6 (9.8)(1),(17)
1989Greg LeMondBottechia (built by TVT)?(17)
1990Greg LeMondLeMond20.0 (9.1)(1); time-trial bike
1993Miguel IndurainPinarello22.7 (10.3)(1)
1993-1994Miguel IndurainPinarello-badged (Dario Pegoretti)19.8 (9.0)(16)
1995Miguel IndurainPinarello Espada17.8 (8.1)(1); time-trial bike
1996Bjarne RiisPinarello19.8 (9.0)(1)
1997Jan UllrichPinarello19.8 (9.0)(1)
1998Marco PantaniBianchi17.8 (8.1)(1)
1999Lance ArmstrongTrek 5500?(2); Frameset: 3.9 lbs. (1.75 kg). 1″ head tube, threaded chromoly steerer, 9-speed Dura-Ace
2000Lance ArmstrongTrek 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
2000Lance ArmstrongTrek 5900 SL<15.0 (<6.8)(2),(5),(6); Frame: 2.2 lbs. (1.0 kg), for mountain stages
2001Lance ArmstrongTrek 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
2002Lance ArmstrongTrek 590018.0 (8.2)(1)
2003Lance ArmstrongTrek Madone 5.915.8 (7.2)(1),(14); road stages
2003Lance ArmstrongTrek 5900 SL14.5 (6.6)(2),(14); frame: 2.2 lbs. (.98 kg), mountain stages
2004Lance ArmstrongTrek Madone SL15.0 (6.8)(2),(3),(4),(13),(14); frameset: 2.4+.7=3.2 lbs. (1.10+.34=1.44 kg)
2005Lance ArmstrongTrek Madone SSLx15.0 (6.8)(3)
2006Oscar PereiroPinarello Dogma-FPX15.0 (6.8)(3),(8); Magnesium AK61 Superlight
2007Alberto ContadorTrek Madone 5.215.0 (6.8)(3),(10),(12); First official win by a Shimano-equipped bicycle.
2008Carlos SastreCervélo R3-SL15.0 (6.8)(3),(9); Rotor Q-Ring elliptical chainrings mounted on FSA crankarms
2009Alberto ContadorTrek Madone 6-Series15.0 (6.8)(3),(11)
2010Alberto Contador Andy SchleckSpecialized Tarmac SL315.0 (6.8)(3),(7); First win by a SRAM-equipped bike?
2011Cadel EvansBMC Teammachine SLR0115.0 (6.8)(3),(15); first TdF winner using electronic shifting (Shimano Dura-Ace Di2)
2012Bradley WigginsPinarello Dogma 65.1 Think 215.0 (6.8)(3)
2013Chris FroomePinarello Dogma 65.1 Think 215.0 (6.8)(3); 126mm stem, 40cm bars, 172.5mm Dura-Ace cranks, and 23mm Veloflex tubulars
2014Vincenzo NibaliSpecialized Tarmac / Specialized Roubaix (for cobbles) / Specialized Shiv (TT)15.0 (6.8) for Tarmac(3); Tarmac: Campagnolo Super Record mechanical groupset; FSA carbon fiber handlebars, stem and seatpost; Veloflex Carbon 700X23c tubulars
2015Chris FroomePinarello Dogma F815.0 (6.8)(3); Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, O.Symetric chainrings
2016Chris FroomePinarello Dogma F8 XLight15.0 (6.8)(3); Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070, O.Symetric chainrings, Stages power meter
2017Chris FroomePinarello Dogma F1015.0 (6.8)(3); Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9100 with custom bar-tops switch, O.Symetric chainrings
2018Geraint ThomasPinarello Dogma F10 XLight15.0 (6.8)(3)
2019Egan BernalPinarello Dogma F1215.0 (6.8)(3)

References:

  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. From TVT’s letter. Thanks to James Greenlees for sending me it.

More photos

Eddy Merckx wearing the world champion colors, probably after winning the World Championship in 1974. Photo: Ray Dobbins.Eddy Merckx on his eponymous lugged steel bike in the 1974 Tour de France. Photo: CanalBlog.com.For most of his Tour de France victories, Bernard Hinault (second from the left) rode a Gitane.  This postcard is probably from around 1980. Photo: VeloClassique.com.The Gitane Greg LeMond rode to victory in the 1983 World Championships. His teammate Bernard Hinault won the Tour on a somewhat similar bike the year before. Photo: User airmailv2 on flickr.com.Greg LeMond wearing the world champion colors on his Gitane in 1983. He won his first Tour in 1986, but not on a Gitane. Photo: User airmailv2 on GregLemondFan.com.A letter from TVT claiming that the winning TdF bicycles from 1986-1991 were made by TVT. (Thanks to James Greenlees for sending it to me.) (October 10, 2010)A letter from TVT claiming the true origins of Pedro Delgado and Greg LeMond's winning 1988 & 1999 Tour de France winning bicycles. (Thanks to James Greenlees for sending it to me.)Greg LeMond (USA) 500m from finish at the Superbagneres Stage in the 1989 Tour de France. Photo: John Pierce; sent by James Greenlees.One of Greg LeMond's winning bikes of the 1990 Tour de France. Photo: BikeCult.com. (April 28, 2014)Miguel Indurain on his white Pinarello in the Tour de France, probably circa 1995. Photo: SportsFanaticcoza.Bjarne Riis on his Pinarello in the 1996 Tour de France, which he won. Photo: The Guardian.In 1999, Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France, which was also the first for Shimano and Trek. Photo: Chain Reaction Bicycles.Lance Armstrong on his Trek 5900 in the 2001 Tour de France. Photo: Wikimedia.Armstrong cutting across a field with his Trek Madone 5.9 (with aero "shark fin" on the seat tube) shortly after Joseba Beloki crashed in the 2003 Tour de France.  Lance hardly used that bike and seemed to prefer the Trek 5900 SL. Photo: weblogscltv.com.Oscar Pereiro's 2006 Tour de France-winning Pinarello Dogma-FPX. Photo: User taurus0423 on YouTube.Alberto Contador's Trek Madone 5.2 for the 2007 Tour de France - the first winning TdF bike with "compact" geometry (sloping top tube). Photo: Gizmodo.Carlos Sastre on his Cervelo R3-SL en route to victory in the 2008 Tour de France. Photo: roadbikereview.com.Alberto Contador's Trek Madone 6-series in the 2009 Tour de France.  It was the last year he rode a Trek. Photo: Bike Radar.Andy Schleck's custom Specialized S-works Tarmac SL3 in the 2010 Tour de France. Photo: The Road Diaries.Chris Froome, winner of the 2013 Tour de France, on his yellow Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Think 2. Photo: Sky Pro Cycling. (July 21, 2013)Chris Froome's yellow Pinarello Dogma F8, 2015 Tour de France, spectatorVincenzo Nibali (in yellow) on a Specialized Tarmac during the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France. Other riders are Rafal Majka (best climber), Thibaut Pinot (best young rider), and Peter Sagan (best sprinter). Photo: Christophe Ena/AP. (July 27, 2014)Vincenzo Nibali on a Specialized Roubaix during the cobble-stoned fifth stage of the 2014 Tour de France. Photo: Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters. (July 9, 2014)Vincenzo Nibali on his Specialized Shiv TT bike during the time trial of the 20th stage of the 2014 Tour de France. Photo: The Independent. (July 26, 2014)
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