Cycling the Tour de France

chris__p
chris__p Posts: 9
edited June 2009 in Road beginners
Hi. I am new here, and I'm sorry to be asking the typical newbie question for advice on what bike to buy, but I've had a search and my question hasn't been answered before.

My question is this - what bike would you buy if you were going to cycle the Tour de France route? The whole lot, from start to finish. 3,500 km in 23 days?

It is a situation I find myself in currently. I am going to be attempting to complete the Tour this June, one month before the pros. I know very little about bikes. I am just a determined chap who had a really, really stupid idea.

Anyway, obviously it needs to be light, but I think the most important thing is reliability. I don't care how long each stage takes, but it has to last 2000 miles in 3 weeks without breaking down. So I guess I'd like to know what are the most reliable road bikes out there

Thanks

Chris
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Comments

  • Bronzie
    Bronzie Posts: 4,927
    It's usually the engine, not the bicycle, that breaks down. :wink:

    Are you carrying anything on the bike, or are you supported with a car to take all your spare clothing etc?
  • chris__p
    chris__p Posts: 9
    Sorry yes I meant to say I do have a support van, so won't be carrying more than a small saddle bag
  • CiB
    CiB Posts: 6,098
    Read this as soon as you can. It's one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long while, and will give you a taste of what you've let yourself in for.

    French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France by Tim Moore.

    http://www.amazon.com/French-Revolutions-Cycling-Tour-France/dp/0312316127

    Remember too the famous quote about drugs & the tour - "You don't do this sort of thing on lettuce leaves & fizzy water."
  • robmanic1
    robmanic1 Posts: 2,150
    Chris, are you clocking-up many miles at the minute? The reason I ask is that you're looking at 90-odd miles a day, sometimes over some pretty serious slopes, sometimes in baking sun/ pouring rain etc. If not, reckon you need to buy whichever bike you can lay your hands on soonest, you definitely need to get some 100+ mile rides in before you go.
    Most bikes in the £500+ range are pretty well built and reliable these days, just make sure it's well maintained and you should be fine I reckon.

    Bon chance!
    Pictures are better than words because some words are big and hard to understand.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/34335188@N07/3336802663/
  • edhornby
    edhornby Posts: 1,780
    I've read that too - very funny about how he gets obsessed with the weight of his bags... I think having a support vehicle is a very good idea

    if you're going to be doing that kind of distance, I'd say comfort is also a factor, if you can get to a bike shop with a sizing rig to make sure the bike fits you it would be very useful

    reliability is dependant on dependant on the quality of the bits and how well the bike is set up, as long as you don't buy something really cheap and crappy, you should be ok as it will be (mostly) warm and dry. make sure the bike has good quality wheel hubs and decent chainset, chain and cassette as these will get some hammer

    oh, yeah - get a few good quality pairs of bike shorts and keep cleaning them regularly throught the trip !!

    make sure you get give us updates on how you get on !! good luck
    "I get paid to make other people suffer on my wheel, how good is that"
    --Jens Voight
  • pneumatic
    pneumatic Posts: 1,989
    If you are doing that from cold, make sure you get someone in a bike shop to measure you up for the bike, whatever it is that you buy. A couple of inches here or there may not seem too bad if you are just going for a spin around the block, but, over 2000 miles, an inappropriately set up bike will almost literally crucify you.

    Also, do some training now. You can start on adrenalin and you will get fitter as you go along, but you need something to get you back on the bike on day 3.

    good luck. I wish I was coming with you!


    Fast and Bulbous
    Peregrinations
    Eddingtons: 80 (Metric); 60 (Imperial)

  • chris__p
    chris__p Posts: 9
    Thanks Chris, I read that a long time ago, it is an excellent read. Surprisingly it didn't put me off!

    Robmanic - I have rather unfortunately broken my arm (hit by a car in London) which has messed things up a bit. I had been doing alright, about 1600 miles this year. I did a 140-mile ride and felt ok at the end. I'm not fast but I get there in the end. I was going to train in the peak district last week to get some idea of the kind of inclines I might face (snakes pass etc) but the arm has put paid to that. Anyway, I've been riding a Shimano bike I bought off ebay for a hundred quid. I think its served its purpose now and definately not what I want for France

    cheers,
    Chris
  • chris__p
    chris__p Posts: 9
    ed, pneumatic - thanks for the replies. going to a bike shop to get it sized and set up right is a good idea. i just want to know what i'm looking for first. i'm not even sure what frame i want. i'm thinking aluminium might be best as i would be worried about damaging a carbon frame and ending the whole trip

    i will update you how i get on, or if you want i have a website - http://www.ultimatetriathlon.co.uk
  • pneumatic
    pneumatic Posts: 1,989
    I have a spesh Roubaix and I love it.

    Its big selling point is the road noise dampening system which helps over long distances. However, also for the comfort of riders like me, it has a high head tube, which more sporty riders find unhelpful.

    Don't know a lot about materials physics, but I would guess that the damage you would need to do to a CF frame to ruin it would probably also kill an alu one.

    There was a rider in last year's tour who failed to notice that the peloton was splitting for a concrete traffic island. He hit it full on and snapped his S-Works Roubaix clean in half. The most miraculous thing was the way he somersaulted off the bike, landed on his feet and looked around going "where's my bike?"


    Fast and Bulbous
    Peregrinations
    Eddingtons: 80 (Metric); 60 (Imperial)

  • chris__p wrote:

    That is a fairly extreme adventure you've decided to take on, obviously I'd be more impressed if you were doing them back to back :wink: but still good luck.

    BTW, why?
  • Bronzie
    Bronzie Posts: 4,927
    In terms of reliability, as has been said, once you go above a certain price point they are pretty much going to be very similar. Again as has been suggested, go for comfort over pure weight saving.

    The most likely thing to cause reliability problems would be punctures I'd say - don't use lightweight racing tyres, but something a bit tougher and this should help avoid the worst of it. Plenty of recommendations on here and the Tech forums for tyre choice but something like Conti 4 Seasons would be my choice.

    Oh and good luck by the way. Sounds like a great adventure. Let us know if you are doing it for charity as I'm sure a few will chip in.
  • John.T
    John.T Posts: 3,698
    Not wishing to appear flippant I would suggest a Ducati given your lack of experience. This is a very strenuous undertaking and with over 10 years cycling behind me since I restarted and 2 Raid Pyreneen rides I would not even contemplate it.
  • adeyboy
    adeyboy Posts: 113
    Read this as soon as you can. It's one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long while, and will give you a taste of what you've let yourself in for.

    French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France by Tim Moore.

    http://www.amazon.com/French-Revolutions-Cycling-Tour-France/dp/0312316127

    Remember too the famous quote about drugs & the tour - "You don't do this sort of thing on lettuce leaves & fizzy water."

    I second that... brilliant book. Read his one about the Donkey too.. though that is for the DonkeyRadar forum really.
  • volvine
    volvine Posts: 409
    i would suggest a sportive bike like the Bianchi C2C range made with a little more relaxed position in mind most of the big manufacturers make a sportive range now.
    good luck but i think even if you go to the peak district to train from what i have been told nothing in this country compares to the cols in France which you will have to face and as said before we don't get the temperatures they do either.
    fair play to you for attempting it though i'm sure you will have a story or two to tell which ever way it turns out.
  • John.T
    John.T Posts: 3,698
    Having looked at your website perhaps I was being a bit flippant. You seem to have the right attitude and determination and these will be the most helpful atributes for your ride. I very much hope your arm mends quickly.
    As regards the bike any of the 'sportive' ones as suggested. I would not be too worried about carbon. It is not as weak as some people think and it does have some comfort advantages. A lot depends on how much you want to spend.
    Fit is more important than what it looks like. Get a triple chainset, They may not be as fashionable or aesthetic as a compact but you will be glad of the lower gears. Make sure the cassette has a 27 bottom cog not a 25.
    For tyres 23mm or 25mm are plenty big enough. French roads are generaly better than ours. I have done over 3000 miles in France and only had one puncture and that was my fault.
    Try to get the bike some time before you go to sort out any bugs there may be and also to see if the saddle suits you. Also be sure that you or your team can do minor repairs on the road side.
  • Infamous
    Infamous Posts: 1,130
    Judging by his average speeds I think you were right to suggest a ducati. As a none cyclist he seems to have taken on too much (in my opinion).

    Good luck though, I hope you do it!
  • bahzob
    bahzob Posts: 2,195
    edited March 2009
    Did the 2006 route (rode in 5.5 weeks just before the tour itself so arrived back at start in time to watch real thing). Rode solo/self supported.

    Around 5000km ridden (need to ride stage gaps and had to make some detours due to family emergency), 50km or so of ascent. Mixture of days, some easy days, others riding full tour stage (including the alp stages)

    This was first real cycling adventure previous experience being year on exercise bike. Decided to do the tour in Oct 2005, started training in earnest Feb 2006.

    Planned to do on an old 1980s Raleigh but, luckily, that broke before I set off. Took advice from couple of LBS. One said get a touring bike, other a Specialized Roubaix. Took latters advice and very very pleased I did. Did me for the full ride and I am still using it now for sportives, TTs and road racing. Reckon it must have done over 30Kkm in all weathers and survived 4 major crashes.

    One change from standard I made was to fit a triple. Definitely something I would recommend. Only things that broke during ride were chain (replaced with KMC which proved much better) and back wheel rim cracked & needed replacing.

    Bit more about bike here http://mr-miff-on-tour.blogspot.com/2006/03/mr-ms-bike.html

    (Know you are supported but just in case others fancy a go.. travelled very light, here what I took

    http://mr-miff-on-tour.blogspot.com/2006/05/stuff-in-bag-what-i-will-be-taking.html

    Good luck. Happy to offer any additional advice if needed,
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • bahzob
    bahzob Posts: 2,195
    John.T wrote:
    Not wishing to appear flippant I would suggest a Ducati given your lack of experience. This is a very strenuous undertaking and with over 10 years cycling behind me since I restarted and 2 Raid Pyreneen rides I would not even contemplate it.

    As per above just to state contrary I did tour and a half with around 4 months serious training, having spent previous year using exercise bike to get down from fat&lazy 15stone to normalish 12.5stone. My first centrury ride was done a couple of months before I set out.

    Fortunately (I think) when I did my tour I did not know about forums like this..
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • bahzob
    bahzob Posts: 2,195
    PS. By coincidence just spent week with Paul from Axarsport.

    http://www.axarsport.com/

    I went to ride bike and only found out when arrived that Paul veteran of number of Marathons de Sables, also has mate Fulvio who does most years and finishes first in age cat . Very nice guy and if not already in contact with him suggest get in touch.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • CiB
    CiB Posts: 6,098
    There's a journo from The Telegraph on his way to India over the next 9 months. Different target, different approach but worth a read.

    Ride To India intro

    Belgium

    Search for The Bicycle Diaries on their web site for updates...

    [Edit - you have a PM]
  • John.T
    John.T Posts: 3,698
    Bahzob. Your ride was very good but you averaged just over 75 miles a day and could be a bit flexible. Chris will need to average 100. He intends to ride the stages so some days such as the TTs he will have a very easy day. The shortest normal stage is 99miles while the longest, Barcelona-Andorra, is 139.
    I wish him all the best but he should not underestimate the challenge.
  • dennisn
    dennisn Posts: 10,601
    Bronzie wrote:
    It's usually the engine, not the bicycle, that breaks down. :wink:

    +1 ......... The bike breaking is the least of your worries. Not trying to sound like I'm lecturing you but what you're attempting is a "monster" ride in anyone's book. From the pros on down, this is as tough as it gets. Some days may have 2 and even 3 "monster" climbs in them and can send even the best home with their tails between their legs.
    You will have 100 mile or so days with headwinds all the way. Things like this can really
    wear on you brain, at least as much if not more than on your body. Your body and brain will suffer the "tortures of the damned" to quote "A Clockwork Orange".
    Good luck, and I do mean that.

    Dennis Noward
  • bahzob
    bahzob Posts: 2,195
    John.T wrote:
    Bahzob. Your ride was very good but you averaged just over 75 miles a day and could be a bit flexible. Chris will need to average 100. He intends to ride the stages so some days such as the TTs he will have a very easy day. The shortest normal stage is 99miles while the longest, Barcelona-Andorra, is 139.
    I wish him all the best but he should not underestimate the challenge.

    Sorry but to correct. While not wishing to belittle the extent of the challenge I found 75 miles a day was, if not easy, straightforward. Averarge also includes rest days and off route excursions to take in extra climbs it seemed a shame to miss, like Ventoux, Aubiisque & Vars. I started out with a (with benefit of hindsight) too conservative plan. In later weeks of tours I was doing regular day on day rides over 100 miles including riding the stages into and through the Alps in "real time". A typical day would be 6-9 hours ride time consisting of breakfast/leave around 9.00 - ride 3-4 hours, 1 hour stop, ride another 3-4 hours.

    This gets to destination around 16.00-18.00 which gives hour to find hotel, check in shower and still time to wander round town and find a meal. Longer days (like Alps) could be catered for by leaving a bit early and having a shorter lunch (in practice you really dont need/want to spend a long time over lunch as risk overeating, a lesson I discovered on after slap up 3 course lunch first day),

    Its worth bearing in mind that though days are tough, each days ride can be planned to include long periods of active recovery. The event is not a race so intensity can be scaled back a bit at the expense of time which can maximise time in onbike recovery zone. As a specific e.g. scaling back from a hardish endurance pace to an easy club run pace of will only add an extra half hour to hour or so of ride time but will mean big portion of ride is helping recovery rather than adding to fatigue.

    I know this now. At the time I did recovery by accident when I was riding, as often I would take it easy so as not to go too far and get to planned destinations ahead of time (even so I did some detours). Only had two days when pushed to make overnight stop, one where due to family emergency needed to ride 150miles in single day, other when crashed on Tourmalet (with Peryrsourde/Aspin to follow)/multiple punctured and ran out of inner tubes.
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • John.T
    John.T Posts: 3,698
    Disregarding TTs Chris will have to average closer to 110 miles a day, about 30% more which is a considerable difference. I found 4 days of this on the Raid Pyreneen to be hard. He also has to ride between stage towns so no taking an easy day if he needs it. I get the impression the you were far more flexible and could do over night stops when suitable which is a more sensible way of doing it. If he survives the first week it will get easier as the body adapts.
    I have tried following stage routes in the past and apart from in the mountains the navigation can be rather difficult to say the least even with the 'Book'. This can be very time consuming and breaks the rythm up.
  • chris__p
    chris__p Posts: 9
    Hi guys. Thanks for the messages.

    Yep, its going to be hard. Thats the idea. Its meant to be the 'Ultimate' triathlon, thats why I wanted to do the ultimate bike ride. I could have done Lands End to Jon O Groats, I probably would have made it, lots of people do, and when I did people would say well done but it was hardly an ultimate ride.

    Bahzob - that was an incredible ride - amazing! I had a quick look at what you did. You not only rode every stage, you rode all the bits in between. And you did it all solo, carrying your kit, with no support crew. That is pretty incredible. If anyone thinks I'm going to struggle (and I am!) this guy has done it with less training than me, carrying his own gear. I'm going to have a good read of your blog and I will be in touch with questions for you I'm sure.

    And yeah, I know my body and mind will go through hell at times. But last year I swam for almost 15 hours in the Channel, in freezing cold water. You have nothing to look at, nothing to listen to, nothing to think about, nothing to do, except keep swimming. If you want to talk about mental and physical torture! By comparison, cycling is absolute bliss and I'm hoping the Alpine scenery will keep me going if nothing else.

    To whoever said my average speed was slow, you are right. I am slow, thats why I want a better bike. Most of those rides were done on a bike I bought off ebay, commuting to work with a heavy backpack on, with flat pedals, usually in the dark, hilly roads, often through ice and snow. Remember that weather we had? Coldest winter in ages. It was a lot colder at 5 in the morning when I was riding to work in the dark freezing my nuts off. What was your average speed that day? I'm not having a go, but am I right in thinking a decent bike, clipless pedals and a bit of daylight might add a little speed? In any case, speed doesn't really matter to me. I don't care if some of the stages take me 16 hours, its just about getting them done.

    Anyways, back to the bike. My budget is £800-£1000 but this incudes all gear and spares, so ideally the bike would be £500-£700. I've been looking at the Trek 1.2 Triple and the Specialized Allez Triple, mostly because they are both triples! Does anyone have any experience with these? I've read reports of both of them having puncture problems so I guess I would upgrade the tyres. Any other information gratefully received. I also read someone had problems with the bottom bracket on the Trek. My shimano BB needed replacing on my bike after about 500 miles. Is this a common problem, or perhaps something to do with riding style?

    Cheers

    Chris
  • bahzob
    bahzob Posts: 2,195
    John.T wrote:
    Disregarding TTs Chris will have to average closer to 110 miles a day, about 30% more which is a considerable difference. I found 4 days of this on the Raid Pyreneen to be hard. He also has to ride between stage towns so no taking an easy day if he needs it. I get the impression the you were far more flexible and could do over night stops when suitable which is a more sensible way of doing it. If he survives the first week it will get easier as the body adapts.
    I have tried following stage routes in the past and apart from in the mountains the navigation can be rather difficult to say the least even with the 'Book'. This can be very time consuming and breaks the rythm up.

    Wrong again. Chris says he has a support van. So guess he'd be riding in this between stage towns. Guess the van will also make navigation easier, which can be a pain I agree (the more so if the roads are being dug up and bridges rebuilt in preparation for the tours passing, think Chris doing his ride July so should be sorted by then.)

    Wrong also in your calculations. As I said in earlier post I realised once started riding that I had been conservative in initial planning. I sped up considerably after this in order to allow myself to do some off route excursions in addition to the main ride. On the final 26 days I was averaging 90 miles a day. These days included all the major climbs on the event plus detours up the Aubisque, Vars and Ventoux + other lesser cols.

    Having since ridden rides (including Raid Pyreneen) supported and unsupported I can vouch for the difference between the two and I'd say 90 miles/day solo is at least as difficult as 110 miles/day supported.

    Not sure how you did your Raid Pyreneen but go back and try it the other way. Then you might be a bit more qualified to speak on this topic.

    Also rather than suggest lots of reasons for why things may be difficult/fail would advise you and other naysayers adopt an approach that I follow and would recommend to Chris and anyway else trying to do something a bit out of the ordinary.

    In the words of Nike "just do it".

    and in the words of someone who has recently achieved something that makes even riding the tour seem quite easy by comparison "And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can."
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • bahzob
    bahzob Posts: 2,195
    chris__p wrote:
    ...Anyways, back to the bike. My budget is £800-£1000 but this incudes all gear and spares, so ideally the bike would be £500-£700. I've been looking at the Trek 1.2 Triple and the Specialized Allez Triple, mostly because they are both triples! Does anyone have any experience with these? I've read reports of both of them having puncture problems so I guess I would upgrade the tyres. Any other information gratefully received. I also read someone had problems with the bottom bracket on the Trek. My shimano BB needed replacing on my bike after about 500 miles. Is this a common problem, or perhaps something to do with riding style?

    Cheers

    Chris

    Back in 2006 I tried an Allez before the Roubaix and the difference in terms of comfort then was enough to convince me the Roubaix was worth the extra. I'd try whatever you are thinking of before you buy and would suggest this includes a carbon bike of some sort. Others with more recent experience of buying bikes should be able to help (might also be worth putting post in the buying advice thread.)

    If its just the triple thats an issue if bike comes with a compact that might be enough, again best to try. One test will be if you can get up a 10% gradient and you can keep rpm over 50rpm, ideally seated.. If you really think you need a triple then it just so happens I might well be taking one off my Roubaix over summer to try out some Rotor rings. If I do I'd be happy to lend it to for a while (Its mix of FSA/Ultegra). Its got MegoExo BB which is pretty reliable (had one go on me after around 10000miles of abuse and lack of TLC).
    Martin S. Newbury RC
  • robmanic1
    robmanic1 Posts: 2,150
    bahzob wrote:

    Also rather than suggest lots of reasons for why things may be difficult/fail would advise you and other naysayers adopt an approach that I follow and would recommend to Chris and anyway else trying to do something a bit out of the ordinary.

    In the words of Nike "just do it".

    and in the words of someone who has recently achieved something that makes even riding the tour seem quite easy by comparison "And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can."

    To be read to the strains of "Jerusalem", inspirational stuff, it's what this great nation of ours was built on!

    Not taking the p!ss by the way, I completely agree with you.
    Pictures are better than words because some words are big and hard to understand.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/34335188@N07/3336802663/
  • John.T
    John.T Posts: 3,698
    Hi Chris. You do sound to have what it takes so best of fortune.
    Re the bike. Either of these would be fine. Whichever you feel most comfortable on. I would stick with the major brands as they have world wide dealer networks if something should go wrong. All bikes have puncture problems, it is the roads not the bikes, but some tyres are more resistant than others. The only tyre I punctured in more than 3000 miles (over a few years) in France was a Conti Gatorskin, suposedly puncture resistant. Most of the time I have used good quality race tyres by Conti, Michelin or Vitoria. Conti 4 seasons are a good compromise tyre. A bit slower than a race one but much faster than the full on armoured ones like Marathons. I have more faith in keep them hard and stay out of the gutter. As for BBs. most bikes in this price range will have similar stuff which is generaly reliable. You get the odd failure and they are the ones that get on here. Just make sure you have plenty of miles in the UK to bed it all in. Most things fail soon or much later.
    As you have a service veh, make sure you have some spares with you. 2 Tyres, 6 tubes, full set of brake blocks, 2 quick links for the chain. Also lubes, cleaning kit and anything you think may be helpfull. A clean bike always goes better or so it seems.
    I would recommend changing the brake block on whatever bike you get to Koolstop Salmon ones. They are very good in both wet and dry conditions as I found first hand on the Tourmalet. You may need to get holders as well if the standard ones are one piece.
    How is the arm. Are you riding again yet.
  • bahzob
    bahzob Posts: 2,195
    Also its just occurred to me that if you are the right size another option would be to lend you my bike. Doing the tour got me bitten by the cycling bug and I succumbed to the inevitable condition of" mustbuyitis" and now have a new bike on order. When that arrives I wont be using the Roubaix much so could do with being without it for a few months if its for a good cause. Its a medium frame and I'm 5'8".
    Martin S. Newbury RC