It's July, which means it's Tour de France time. I have been around road cycling for a while, even watching Miguel Indurain dominate in the 90s when I was just a wee child. I have definitely liked some bikes more than others. People seem to be going gaga over the Lidl-Trek bikes this year, so I figured I would write about my favorite bikes.
There are no overarching themes to this list in regards to technology, success, historical significance, or innovation. This is only my subjective opinion, which makes this article THE preeminent list of the greatest TdF bikes of all time. ;)
In no particular order:
2003 Team CSC Cervelo Soloist
At a time when carbon was taking over, and round tubes were still the norm, Team CSC used the aero aluminum Cervelo Soloist. I thought it was an awesome-looking bike with deep tubes, a teardrop seatpost (with a removable head allowing one to use it as a legitimate TT bike), and internal cable routing.
It was not the prettiest bike outside of Cannondale. I cannot say any Al bike is pretty. However, it is nice to see that tried and proven materials do not become obsolete when new material comes along.
1986 La Vie Claire Team LOOK KG86
LOOK Cycles' first carbon TdF bike way back in 1986. It was cutting edge at the time with carbon/Kevlar tubes and aluminum lugs. Not only is the KG86 a pretty bike, but it is incredible to think how far carbon frames have come in the last 37 years.
2001 Team Mapei Colnago C40
Team Mapei was the second-best-dressed team of all time. I feel their bikes hit their peak in 2001 with the Colnago C40. It was a carbon-tubed bike with carbon lugs and a beautiful paint job.
The thing that put this bike over the top was the star-shaped downtube. The tube wasn't round, oval, or even square. It was star-shaped and amazing. Colnago has a knack for making the most aesthetically pleasing frames.
2004 Team Euskaltel Orbea Starship Carbon
It is near impossible to miss Team Euskaltel in the mid-2000s. They were bright orange and had a GC contender in Iban Mayo.
The Starship Carbon was not Orbea's flagship bike at the time. That was the Orca, but the Starship Carbon had its role as a climbing machine.
The Starship Carbon was a confusing bike. It was made of Columbus Starship aluminum tubes with a carbon rear triangle. Another example of an aluminum bike in the time of carbon.
2018 Team Aqua Blue Sport 3T Strada
This is one of my favorite bikes because it was hated so much, not by fans or consumers, but by the riders on the team.
The unique part of the bike (at the time) was the fact it was a dedicated 1x. Nowadays, 1x is gaining popularity, not so back in 2018. The team riders openly complained about the lack of the 2x crankset and blamed it for their lack of success. Oh how times have changed.
1997 Team Telekom Pinarello TT
I mean, just look at it; that's cool. People say the new Cadex Tri bike is innovative. This was raced 27 years ago.
1999 Team Telekom Pinarello TT
No, the picture is not photoshopped. The front wheel is tiny. Rules were different back in the 1990s and 2000s. While I cannot say this bike is pretty, it does take me back to my favorite era in cycling. The "anything goes" era.
Bikes did not have to have the same size wheels, be a production model, or even be made by the company painted on the downtube. Most TT bikes in this era were made by Walser, who made some of the most creative bikes ever.
1995 Team Banesto Pinarello TT
I'm starting to see a trend in my favorite bikes. Another Pinarello and this one is tied with the 1997 Telekom bike for my favorite Pinarello. It just looks fast. This bike planted the cycling seed in my head as a little kid. Miguel Indurain was my favorite cycling, and his bike was way cooler than my Huffy.
1999 Team US Postal "Trek" TT
Trek made a TT bike back in 1999, it was the Hilo, but the Postal Team rode something very different. Postal rode the Quintanas Roo Tiphoon painted blue with Trek on the side. I really like the fact they rode a titanium TT bike. The Tiphoon was notorious for cracking where the cables entered the frame. Still, it did ride nice and got an American back in Yellow.
2002 Acqua Sapone Specialized S-Works E5
The best-looking team, on the best-looking bikes, with the greatest sprinter in cycling history. If there is one athlete I am a fanboy of, it is Mario Cipollini. Cipo was the reigning World Champion riding a Zebra bike; how can you beat that. Nothing was prettier than that paint job--not to mention the team kit.
This is by no means a definitive list; I didn't even talk about any of the Mercatone Uno bikes. Do you agree or disagree, have a particular bike you think is the best ever. Let me know. I'll either argue like crazy or say, "Yeah, that was a sweet bike."
Coach Adam Sczech is an IRONMAN University Certified Coach, USAT Level I Certified Coach, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and VFS Master Bike Fitter based out of the Western Slope of Colorado. Adam has years of experience coaching beginners, juniors, elites, and clubs as well as a year focusing specifically on special needs athletes. Adam's expertise with bike fitting is extensive with over 15 years and 8,000 fits for athletes that include two world record holders, a national champion, several IRONMAN Pro/Age Groups winners, and an ITU winner. He has completed several full and half Ironman races, as well as numerous Olympic and Sprint races.