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A day in the life of a Tour de France race bike

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Next on the list is checking the shift performance of Tyler Farrar's bike.

Next on the list is checking the shift performance of Tyler Farrar's bike.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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After just 13 minutes on the stand, Tyler Farrar's bike is tuned, adjusted, and ready for another day of work.

After just 13 minutes on the stand, Tyler Farrar's bike is tuned, adjusted, and ready for another day of work.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Inaki Goiburu mounts Tyler Farrar's bike on the repair stand to begin its servicing for the night.

Inaki Goiburu mounts Tyler Farrar's bike on the repair stand to begin its servicing for the night.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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If you tilt your head just right, it almost looks like Tyler Farrar has just crossed the finish line.

If you tilt your head just right, it almost looks like Tyler Farrar has just crossed the finish line.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Tyler Farrar's bike is clean and ready for adjustments but still has to wait its turn.

Tyler Farrar's bike is clean and ready for adjustments but still has to wait its turn.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Tools of the trade for team mechanic Inaki Goiburu.

Tools of the trade for team mechanic Inaki Goiburu.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Finally, the rest of the bike is scrubbed and rinsed, leaving it ready to tune.

Finally, the rest of the bike is scrubbed and rinsed, leaving it ready to tune.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Afterwards, Geoff Brown scrubs the drivetrain squeaky clean.

Afterwards, Geoff Brown scrubs the drivetrain squeaky clean.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Wheels are removed and cleaned first.

Wheels are removed and cleaned first.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Team mechanic Geoff Brown gets to work cleaning Tyler Farrar's bike.

Team mechanic Geoff Brown gets to work cleaning Tyler Farrar's bike.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Tyler Farrar's bike is one of the last to be tended to after the end of the stage.

Tyler Farrar's bike is one of the last to be tended to after the end of the stage.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Kris Withington tends to the spare wheels after the stage.

Kris Withington tends to the spare wheels after the stage.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Stage 7 was especially hot and left melted tar and pebbles stuck to the tires.

Stage 7 was especially hot and left melted tar and pebbles stuck to the tires.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Inaki Goiburu uses an air gun to thoroughly dry Tyler Farrar's bike.

Inaki Goiburu uses an air gun to thoroughly dry Tyler Farrar's bike.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Inaki Goiburu makes sure that all of the water is removed, especially in the drivetrain.

Inaki Goiburu makes sure that all of the water is removed, especially in the drivetrain.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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One final wipedown.

One final wipedown.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Inaki Goiburu seals in the oil he applied earlier with a layer of grease.

Inaki Goiburu seals in the oil he applied earlier with a layer of grease.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Inaki Goiburu wasn't satisfied with the rear brake feel so he opted to replace the cable - which took less than two minutes from start to finish.

Inaki Goiburu wasn't satisfied with the rear brake feel so he opted to replace the cable - which took less than two minutes from start to finish.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Inaki Goiburu checks the adjustment of Tyler Farrar's brakes.

Inaki Goiburu checks the adjustment of Tyler Farrar's brakes.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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As extra insurance, Inaki Goiburu squirts a bit of WD-40 to remove any lingering bits of water then follows with proper oil or grease at all critical points.

As extra insurance, Inaki Goiburu squirts a bit of WD-40 to remove any lingering bits of water then follows with proper oil or grease at all critical points.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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What the air gun doesn't get, Inaki Goiburu wipes clean with a dry rag.

What the air gun doesn't get, Inaki Goiburu wipes clean with a dry rag.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Inaki Goiburu also uses the air gun to dry off the cassette.

Inaki Goiburu also uses the air gun to dry off the cassette.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Inaki Goiburu wipes off and inspects the tires.

Inaki Goiburu wipes off and inspects the tires.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Displacing water is a key step that most consumers neglect post-washing. Even if lube is applied, it can't get where it needs to go if water's in the way.

Displacing water is a key step that most consumers neglect post-washing. Even if lube is applied, it can't get where it needs to go if water's in the way.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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No nook or cranny is left untouched - team mechanic Inaki Goiburu spends almost as much time drying Tyler Farrar's bike as Victor Villalba spent washing it.

No nook or cranny is left untouched - team mechanic Inaki Goiburu spends almost as much time drying Tyler Farrar's bike as Victor Villalba spent washing it.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Tyler Farrar and his bike have now parted ways for the day but both still have work to do.

Tyler Farrar and his bike have now parted ways for the day but both still have work to do.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Team mechanic Inaki Goiburu wastes no time in getting Tyler Farrar's bike loaded on top of the team car for the journey to that night's hotel.

Team mechanic Inaki Goiburu wastes no time in getting Tyler Farrar's bike loaded on top of the team car for the journey to that night's hotel.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Tools of the trade: a rag and a leather toe strap come in handy at times.

Tools of the trade: a rag and a leather toe strap come in handy at times.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Team soigneurs are busy early in the day, too, with each rider having their own bag of personal stuff for the day.

Team soigneurs are busy early in the day, too, with each rider having their own bag of personal stuff for the day.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Spare bikes are always easily identified by their lack of race numbers.

Spare bikes are always easily identified by their lack of race numbers.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Tyler Farrar's bike is loaded on to the team car for its trip to the stage start.

Tyler Farrar's bike is loaded on to the team car for its trip to the stage start.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Team mechanic Kris Withington loads bikes on to the car.

Team mechanic Kris Withington loads bikes on to the car.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Teams place bikes in designated positions based on their roles for the race overall and for that particular day.

Teams place bikes in designated positions based on their roles for the race overall and for that particular day.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Garmin-Transitions mechanics Kris Withington and Inaki Goiburu start things off by inflating all of the tires for the day.

Garmin-Transitions mechanics Kris Withington and Inaki Goiburu start things off by inflating all of the tires for the day.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Team mechanics fix bikes, of course, but also spend a lot of their time cleaning other stuff including team cars, trucks and buses - everyday.

Team mechanics fix bikes, of course, but also spend a lot of their time cleaning other stuff including team cars, trucks and buses - everyday.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Theft is a big problem during a race - aside from the monetary loss, imagine what would happen if key team bikes were stolen, too.

Theft is a big problem during a race - aside from the monetary loss, imagine what would happen if key team bikes were stolen, too.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Teams have to constantly worry about theft - even the radio antennae are removed from the cars each night.

Teams have to constantly worry about theft - even the radio antennae are removed from the cars each night.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Garmin-Transitions team mechanics move the cars and crack the truck open after an early breakfast.

Garmin-Transitions team mechanics move the cars and crack the truck open after an early breakfast.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Taking car of bikes is just part of the story - mechanics have to tend to the cars, too, both inside and out.

Taking car of bikes is just part of the story - mechanics have to tend to the cars, too, both inside and out.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The back of this Garmin-Transitions team car is loaded up with a lot of water and calories.

The back of this Garmin-Transitions team car is loaded up with a lot of water and calories.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Tyler Farrar arrives at the team bus after a tough stage 7.

Tyler Farrar arrives at the team bus after a tough stage 7.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Team cars are lined up behind the bus in the designated parking area after the finish.

Team cars are lined up behind the bus in the designated parking area after the finish.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Tyler Farrar stops for a quick interview with Cyclingnews managing editor Daniel Benson after signing in.

Tyler Farrar stops for a quick interview with Cyclingnews managing editor Daniel Benson after signing in.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Tyler Farrar grabs his bike and heads to rider sign-in.

Tyler Farrar grabs his bike and heads to rider sign-in.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Tyler Farrar's Felt F1 Team is set beside the team bus for now.

Tyler Farrar's Felt F1 Team is set beside the team bus for now.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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After a brief stint of traffic - and a convenient police escort - Garmin-Transitions arrives at the stage start and bikes are immediately unloaded.

After a brief stint of traffic - and a convenient police escort - Garmin-Transitions arrives at the stage start and bikes are immediately unloaded.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Team vehicles caravan to the stage start.

Team vehicles caravan to the stage start.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Garmin-Transitions directeur sportif Jonathan Vaughters checks his Blackberry before leaving the team hotel.

Garmin-Transitions directeur sportif Jonathan Vaughters checks his Blackberry before leaving the team hotel.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Not all of the team vehicles will head to the start. The team chef and mechanic truck generally go straight to the hotel for that night.

Not all of the team vehicles will head to the start. The team chef and mechanic truck generally go straight to the hotel for that night.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Team cars are loaded up and ready to roll.

Team cars are loaded up and ready to roll.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Inaki Goiburu even cleans off the spare wheels that got dusty the day before. We can't help but wonder what frame polish does to wet weather traction, though.

Inaki Goiburu even cleans off the spare wheels that got dusty the day before. We can't help but wonder what frame polish does to wet weather traction, though.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The team truck is obviously locked overnight but an additional car is also parked in front of the rear door so it can't be opened.

The team truck is obviously locked overnight but an additional car is also parked in front of the rear door so it can't be opened.
(Image credit: James Huang)

By now, we all have a pretty good idea what riders go through day in and day out at the Tour de France: wake up, breakfast, prepare for the stage, head to the start, sign in, race, head to the next hotel, massage, dinner, sleep, repeat.

But what about the bikes? Just like the riders, there's more to their daily lives than what happens in between the start and finish lines. To find out the rest, we tagged along with the Garmin-Transitions team and followed the primary race bike of sprinter Tyler Farrar from sun-up to sundown on stage 7, five days before he was forced to abandon the race due to earlier injuries.

While it's obvious that the Tour de France is hard on the riders, it's indeed not an easy life for the equipment or the mechanics who care for it all, either.

7:50am: Farrar's Felt F1 Team is safely secured inside the team truck (along with all of the bikes) in front of the team's hotel. The doors are obviously locked but for extra security, Garmin-Transitions staff parks another team car immediately behind so that even if the lock is broken or picked, potential thieves still can't swing the door open.

7:55am: After an early breakfast, team mechanics get to work and move the vehicles as needed. The team truck is opened up and all of the team's tyres (complete bikes and spares) are inflated for the day. Bikes are then unloaded, worked on as necessary (though the goal is to have everything completed the night before), and then loaded on to team cars in specific locations depending on that rider's role for the day.

The bikes of the overall team leader and leader for that stage receive the outer right-hand positions while the two most important domestiques for the day get the left-hand outer positions atop the car.


Garmin-Transitions mechanics Kris Withington and Inaki Goiburu start things off by inflating all of the tyres for the day.

8:30-8:40am: All main and spare bikes and spare wheels are loaded on to all of the team vehicles. Mechanics sort out last-minute details on one or two machines but otherwise, Farrar's and the rest of the team's bikes are ready to go at this point.

8:40am: Team vehicles are moved around yet again and mechanics prepare the insides of the cars for the day's work. Trash from the previous day is cleaned out and spare parts, tools, and wheels are loaded back in. Farrar's race bike sits securely in the meantime on the team car, waiting for the planned 10:45am departure to the stage start.

10:15am: Team vehicles head off for refueling as needed.

10:45am: All riders and staff load into team buses and cars (the service truck heads directly to the hotel for that evening) and depart for the stage start in Tournus.

11:45am: After a bit of a traffic jam (and a convenient police escort through the outskirts of town), buses and cars park in the designated area. Bikes are immediately unloaded and positioned alongside the bus behind a portable barrier.

12:30pm: Farrar exits the team bus, grabs his bike, and then heads to the sign-in area. Afterwards, he returns to the bus for a few more quiet minutes before the racing begins for the day. Once again, the bike lies in wait alongside the bus.

12:50pm: Farrar and the rest of the Garmin-Transitions team re-emerge from the bus, saddle up, then head to the start area.


Tyler Farrar grabs his bike and heads to rider sign-in.

1:00pm: The gun goes off and racing begins!

1:00-5:45pm: Farrar (and his bike) cover 165.5km (102.8mi), including six categorised climbs and three intermediate sprints. At this point of the race, Farrar is mostly trying to recover from severe injuries sustained in stage two and in content to safely roll in in 156th place, 22:17 behind stage winner Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step).

Farrar's bike has an easier time, finishing with no mechanicals and no crashes.

5:50pm: Farrar arrives back at the team parking area and dismounts his bike before making his way onto the team bus to begin his recovery process while the bike is reloaded onto a team car.

6:30pm: Team vehicles depart to the hotel for the evening, located roughly 45 minutes away just across the border in Chavannes-Debogis. Along the way, an intense thunderstorm erupts and all of the bikes are pelted with rain and hail.

7:45pm: Team vehicles arrive at the hotel. Farrar and the rest of the team, soigneurs, and other staff exit the bus and head in for massages, dinner, and other end-of-day activities. Mechanics begin their post-stage ritual, one bike at a time.

8:35pm: Farrar's bike is finally unloaded from the top of the team car and heads straight to the dedicated washing station for a cleaning. Team mechanic Geoff Brown first spritzes the bike down with a degreasing solution (with extra emphasis on the drivetrain), then cleans the wheels with a soapy sponge.

Second, the drivetrain is thoroughly cleaned with a brush and high-pressure power washer.

The frame, fork, brakes, and other bits are tended to last, again with a soapy sponge and lots of high-pressure water.

A note to readers: Tour bikes are maintained religiously throughout the race, including cable and bearing replacements, on a daily basis. Power washing your own bike is not recommended!

8:40pm: Farrar's bike is washed (yes, it really only took five minutes) and is transferred to the next station where it will be tuned and adjusted as needed.


Inaki Goiburu wasn't satisfied with the rear brake feel so he opted to replace the cable - which took less than two minutes from start to finish.

9:00pm: After patiently waiting its turn in the queue, Farrar's bike is loaded on to a work stand by mechanic Inaki Goiburu, who first starts by drying it with an air gun and is now working solely under artificial lighting. Any remaining water will either corrode steel hardware and/or prevent lubrication from reaching its intended target so Goiburu is particularly diligent with this step.

9:02pm: Tyres and wheels are wiped down and inspected. If needed, a replacement wheel would have been installed at this point (freshly glued tyres need a minimum of 24 hours to cure).

9:03pm: Goiburu dries Farrar's bike further with a dry rag, taking the opportunity to check the frame and other parts for damage.

9:04pm: Goiburu sprays WD-40 into smaller crevices to displace any remaining water, then properly lubes all critical points with oil as necessary, using both a drip bottle and spray can. All bolts are checked for proper torque.

9:06pm: The rear wheel is reinstalled on to Farrar's bike and Goiburu then checks and adjusts the front and rear shifting and rear brake performance.

9:09pm: Goiburu decides the rear brake line is contaminated and begins the replacement process. The cable is clipped in between the housing stops and the ends removed from the brake caliper and brake lever (the latter after first removing the cosmetic cover on the Dura-Ace STI lever).

Interestingly, Goiburu doesn't replace the housing as well but rather purges the internal liner with spray lube.

9:11pm: Goiburu has completed the brake cable replacement, including replacing the cosmetic cap on the lever and crimping an end cap on the cable end.

9:12pm: Goiburu supplements the previously applied chain oil with a layer of grease, applied by hand along the entire length, to seal it in and improve lube durability in the event of rain the following day.

Goiburu then removes the bike from the stand and reinstalls the front wheel, then checks the front brake and headset condition.

9:13pm: Farrar's bike is deemed ready to ride the next day and is loaded back into the team truck.

In total, Farrar's bike has really only received genuine mechanical attention for just 18 minutes – longer than some bike shops take to replace a punctured inner tube. Yet from beginning to end, the day lasted over 13 hours, of which only less than five was spent actually racing.

Bear in mind that like most teams, Garmin-Transitions has several mechanics on simultaneous duty during the Tour de France and short working times such as this are only possible thanks to meticulous assembly to begin with and well-established systems that are put in place by the mechanical staff before the race even begins.

Moreover, crashes will greatly extend this timeline as parts then need to be replaced and repaired.

Farrar was lucky this day – but unfortunately much less so on stage 2, when he and four other team riders crashed heavily, breaking both bodies and bikes. Suffice to say, the mechanics put in a lot more hours that day.