It is a universally known fact for cyclists that their bike is never quite good enough. There’s always something else to add – be it some lovely new wheels, perhaps a group set upgrade, or maybe even just some differently coloured hoods to match the rest of the bike. The pursuit of perfection is however limited by time, money and the majority of people not being professional. Because of course, if you’re professional, you get plenty of (what I presume are) freebies if you’re successful, and thus can build an impressive wardrobe of sunglasses, shoes and the like to compliment your no doubt vast banks of trophies and medals. You certainly know you’ve made it if your sponsor custom paints your frame though, as this takes a great deal of time and effort to produce, and sometimes, in the case of the winners of Grand Tours, the bike will be ridden just once, on the final stage, and given how the final days of Grand Tours are these days, that’ll probably only be around 100 miles.
But don’t worry, this isn’t about the vast number of yellow bikes that permeate the consciousness in the last week of July (although that’s probably an upcoming feature…), or the bikes that are adorned with national flags once the rider becomes national champion. We’ve done world champion bikes before (https://sicycle.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/world-champions-fashion-history-and-the-curse-or-should-the-world-champion-wear-black-shorts/) so what remains is the real pinnacle – the very special bikes that commemorate the rider for simply being who they are.
A nice idea perhaps slightly poorly executed, Specialised made this machine at the end of 2012 for Boonen, with the logos being translucent, showing the attentive onlooker a list of Tornado Tom’s palmares. Specialised and Boonen have history – he prefers a very long top tube and very long stem despite his great height, and supposedly the original frames they gave him when Quick Step moved from Time to the big S in 2007 gave him back problems. They thus cooked up a new alloy bike with a new geometry, which Boonen promptly won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, and pointed down at the bike to give Specialised a good picture for their add campaigns and anyone unfamiliar with the story a chuckle:
Mark Cavendish – Scott Foil
Back in the good o’l days of Columbia-HTC, when Cav had a full lead out train, the Tour de France was but a twinkle in Bradley Wiggins’ eye and Chris Froome was bobbing along at Barloworld, Cavendish was on a Scott custom made out to resemble a fighter plane, before Wiggins again stole this motif for his odd little RAF logo that he still hasn’t really explained. The bike was dashed out to look like it had been riveted together, and featured Cavendish’s signature emblazoned on the top tube acrest a nudey ladey with a British Flag. I should point out he hadn’t met Peta Todd by this point. In a turn up for the books, the bike evolved as the race went on as well, with ‘medals’, representing a 1st place icon with ‘wings’ (as if he’s earning his wings…’cos the bikes a plane…ahaha….ha) were added for each victory, so that he wound up with 5. A green frame would have to wait until the year after, however.
Philippe Gilbert – Canyon Ultimate CF
Back in 2010, Omega Pharma-Lotto sponsor canyon gave their star attraction, Philippe Gilbert, as well as Bjorn Leukmans, a special cobble edition of their Canyon Ultimate CF model. Quite why, given neither had won a top level classics race (Although Gilbert has won Het Volk), and when Gilbert would be spanking his way up the Ardennes instead, is unknown, but it did look quite nice, blending in with the cobbles, even if the results weren’t as good as the workmanship.
Cadel Evans – Canyon Ultimate CF, BMC Impec, BMC TeamMachine
I break the promise of no yellow/world champion bikes to show what Cadel Evans has managed to get through in the last few years. Spurred to victory at the worlds in Switzerland atop an Aussie themed Canyon, with the Kangaroo also being a feature on his Diadora shoes every so often, and this was transferred onto his all white celebratory Canyon, which he rode in the Tour of Lombardy. Of course, Evans then left for BMC, and in doing so became the first of three of their four world champions who hadn’t actually won the Worlds on a BMC (the others being Ballan on a Willier and Hushovd on a Cervelo, with Gilbert finally delivering this year), and they made him a new world champ bike, before combining the world and yellow colours for the day Evans led the 2010. They finally got to get the yellow one into Paris in 2011.
Lance Armstrong – Trek Madone, Trek Speed Concept
The man who crossed the line with the fastest time around the course of the Tour de France from 1999-2005 (thanks for that one legal team) has had a great range of bikes, with the Madone being created for him by the infamous F1 Project, as well as being named after his training climb. The most interesting were the range created for his 2009 comeback – particularly the Damian Hirst Butterfly model, which sold for over $1.9 million at auction, which consisted of hundreds of butterfly wings varnished onto the frame and wheels.
Alejandro Valverde – Pinarello Prince
Ah ha, you may quip, that’s just a national champions bike. True, but Valverde’s reward for the Spanish Championships in 2008, which he needed given they barely changed his kit, was this lovely bike which he then road to victory in the Vuelta to earn the name emblazoned on the head tube – Don Alejandro, Prince of Spain. Of course, he would later be banned, but the bike was so popular that the design was unleashed on the public.
Andre Greipel – Canyon Ultimate CF SLX, Ridley Noah Aero
Greipel, known as the Gorilla because the alliteration and the fact he has ridiculous quads, has had the motiff stenciled onto his bike the last couple of years, more notably on his Noah aero road bike, which provides a bigger canvas. The Gorilla took as many stage wins as Mark Cavendish at the Tour this year, and is chronically underrated for his talents, which include setting furious paces in the early stages of spring classics.
Andy Schleck – Specialised Tarmac, Trek Madone
Ever since Kim Kirchen’s heart attack, which appears to have saddly forced him to hang up his wheels, The Schlecks have been the only Luxembourgian riders in the eyes of the world, despite Laurent Didier also being a professional. Thus, with the hopes of the tiny nation on their shoulders, they’ve had a mix of bikes to celebrate the fact – the number Andy had at the 2010 Tour was even cited as a reason why he might have dropped his chain, due to mechanics constantly switching components, although it seems unrealistic given they’d probably just build a new bike. Trek, who like Specialised, adore any opportunity to make something custom, also produced ‘His and His’ bikes for Franks and Andy in 2011, featuring the Lion of Luxembourg. They didn’t give either one for 2012 – presumably because, for various reasons, they barely raced.
Levi Leipheimer – Trek Equinox
Leipheimer, now disgraced not only by the positive test from his junior careet but also by his admissions of blood doping, and made to look somewhat arrogant by seemingly, according to OPQS, only telling them about it an hour before the report was due then expecting to be able to ride Paris-Nice for them next year, used to be popular enough to command custom TT frames, especially when they were to be used in the Tour of California, his home event. The bike featured a colour scheme that went with his then Astana kit, and had the ‘Big Bear’ of California featured as well.
Fabian Cancellara – Trek Madone
Oddly, Cancellara has never really been one for custom bikes – he’s only ever attached little badges reading ‘Tony.M’ and ‘The World is Yours’, ie from Scarface, onto the bike, and had a Gold chainring on his TT bike when he was Olympic champ. Trek thus decided to give him a Spartacus based frame, based on the name he sometimes likes and sometimes doesnt, although he didn’t use it much – he moved onto using the newly made Domane. Perhaps he’s saving all the embellishments for when he finally wins the World Championships?
Ryder Hesjedal – Cervelo R5 CA
Garmin call Hesjedal, Ryder ‘Weight of Nation’ Hesjedal, which is a tad unfair on the other top level Canadian Pros, Svein Tuft, Dominique Rollin and Michael Barry. When Hesjedal won Garmin the Giro, Cervelo first made an obligatory pink bike, then made this maple leaf adorned number, complete with pink accented cranks (bottom left) This was an excellent idea, as he and equally monstrously tall Johan Van Summeren look near exactly the same on their machines.
Sylvain Chavanel – Specialised Tarmac, Merckx EMX-5Chavenel, another underrated rider, has progressed well since his move from Cofidis, where he was mocked for his large salary and lack of results (until he won a Tour stage, that is), and has since managed to take Tour stage wins, yellow jerseys, time trial triumphs as well as helping and even supplanting team leader Tom Boonen in the classics, notably in 2011 where he was second in the Tour of Flanders. Before that though, Specialised made him a Bastille day bike to try and pick up from one of Quick Steps notorious off years at the Tour, an event which seems to curse them, with a Tricolore ensemble. In 2010, Chavanel took Yellow in two days after winning two stages, one aided by Cancellara’s go slow protest, and his ‘reward’ was an appaling concoction by the arts team at Eddy Merckx, who, given Chavanel was holder of Yellow and Green, decided the bike would represent this fact. Criminally, the yellow was on the none drive side, which is the side you don’t show if you’re photographing your bike properly. Luckily the cobbles lost Chavanel the jersey and he didn’t have to ride the abomination again.
Samuel Sanchez – Orbea Orca
After Sanchez won the Olympic road race in Beijing, on the 9th of August 2008, (ie 9/08/08) with race number number 8, he decided appropriately that the number was his lucky one, and thus his Olympian steed was decorated with the numeral, as well as various gold trims – cables, gumwalls, jockey wheels and even his chain became gold. His handlebar tape was the most obvious reminder of his success, as was the helmet he wore – all in all, an excellent effort, especially given the fashion issues of combining Gold with luminous Orange.
Alberto Contador – Trek Madone, Specialised Tarmac
You may be tired of the Madone/Tarmac club (and there’s more to come) but they do seem rather keen on making up bikes. Contador, as the man with the most Grand Tour victories of any current rider, has had various coloured bikes, such as Treks three grand Tour effort, which combined his the new logo of a his celebratory pistol shot hand made up of bands, which were coloured to represent the three colours of the leaders jerseys of the Grand Tours as they were then: Yellow, Pink and Gold. Contador did sneakily start using a red stripe when the Vuelta changed their jersey colour, despite never having worn the red jersey, but given he won the 2012 Vuelta, he can happily do so now. His 2010 Tour winning (…) bike was also notable for this, although more for the mural of contador himself on the top tube.
Alexandre Vinokourov – Specialised Tarmac
Vino rode one of Specialised’s Red Olympic bikes to glory, but before that he had a Kazak eagle themed ride, before graduating to a slightly less subtle version of Sanchez’s Olympic frame – an all Gold frame and handle bar tape combo. He only rode it about three times, although he did beat Gilbert and Nibali in his farewell criterium around Monaco. Which wasn’t fixed at all. No.
Jens Voigt – Trek Madone
It’s taken a while for the uber-popular Jens to get a custom frame, but now he’s on Trek, they had no excuse. The first offering was a ‘stat’ bike that offered various facts on the number of bones he’d broken and the like, before the delivered a ‘Shut up Legs’ variety that was a bit more tongue in cheek, with facts like ‘number of souls crushed.’