Keeping the Wheels Turning: Inside the Mechanics’ Truck at the Tour de France

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reviewed by Rory McAllister
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The world of professional cycling is a heady mix of adrenaline, endurance, and high-speed strategy. But behind the scenes, unsung heroes are tirelessly working to ensure every race goes off without a hitch.

These are the mechanics – the lifeline of every team, the guardians of every cycle.

In this article, we pull back the curtain on the mechanics’ truck, that unassuming vehicle trailing the cyclists, packed with tools that keep the wheels turning in this demanding sport.

We’ll explore the high-pressure world of these gurus, who combine traditional mechanical skills with cutting-edge tech to shape victories on the race course.

We’ll be covering:

  • The Mechanics’ Truck
  • Shielding The Equipment
  • The Role Of The Mechanics
  • A Day In The Life Of A Race Mechanic
  • Technology And Innovation
  • Fixes Under Pressure
  • Time-Saving Tactics

Let’s dive in!

The Mechanics’ Truck

Imagine a truck equipped with a panoply of shelves, drawers, and compartments, each labeled and stocked with precision.

It’s filled with all sorts of tools, from those we’d all find in our bike shed such as Allen keys, wrenches, and torque tools, to more specialized items like spoke tension meters and derailleur hanger alignment gauges.

These tools are arranged carefully, ensuring that the most frequently used ones are within arm’s length.

But tools are just part of the equation. 

Need a tire? There are dozens, each suited to different weather and road conditions. Chains and cassettes? They have those too. 

This truck is a comprehensive parts store on wheels.

Organization is the linchpin that holds this mobile workshop together. Every tool, every part, has a specific place, and woe betide anyone who doesn’t put things back where they belong.

Meticulously arranged spaces mean mechanics can lay their hands on exactly what they need, even in the throes of a high-pressure mid-race repair.

Shielding the Equipment

A bike can be worth its weight in gold, and the mechanics’ truck is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of these high-value bikes and equipment. Ensuring the security of this precious cargo is a paramount concern and a challenge that race mechanics handle with utmost diligence.

Modern security systems are standard on the mechanics’ truck.

Surveillance cameras are strategically placed, capturing every angle of the truck to deter potential thieves. The footage is often monitored in real-time and recorded, providing an added layer of security.

To safeguard against unauthorized movement or theft of the truck itself, advanced GPS tracking systems are installed.

These systems provide real-time location updates and alert the team in case of any unexpected movement, ensuring that the truck and its valuable contents can be quickly traced.

Robust locking mechanisms further fortify the truck. These are not your standard padlocks; they are high-security locks, often electronically controlled, and can withstand tampering attempts. In addition, the truck’s windows and doors are reinforced to resist forced entry.

The truck is typically parked in secure, well-lit areas, with a preference for patrolled sites or under surveillance. Often, security personnel are stationed near the truck, especially in high-risk areas or overnight.

Inside the truck, every piece of equipment is cataloged.

Regular checks are conducted, comparing the actual contents with the inventory list to ensure nothing goes missing.

This rigorous inventory management not only helps in maintaining the readiness of supplies but also serves as an early detection system for any loss or theft.

Sadly, there are times when even with all the precautions, thieves still manage to succeed, as we saw recently in this year’s Tour of Slovenia and Tour of Belgium.

A bike mechanic replaces the rear wheel of a Tour de France bike during a race.
© A.S.O./Thomas Maheux

The Role of the Mechanics

Mechanics are expert bike surgeons, operating on each cycle with meticulous precision:

  • They tune every bicycle to the rider’s preference, making minute adjustments to components like the brakes, shifters, and derailleurs.
  • They measure and set the tire pressure.
  • They consider whether the day’s stage is flat, hilly, or mountainous in order to select the ideal wheelset.
  • They check and recheck each part, from the safety of the handlebars to the rigidity of the wheels, to guarantee peak performance.
Two Tour de France mechanics work on their team's bikes late at night.
© A.S.O./B.Bade

A Day in the Life of a Race Mechanic

On each race day, the day starts early in the mechanics’ truck. Over steaming cups of coffee, the mechanics roll up their sleeves to get to work.

They perform an inventory check, verifying their tool stock, inspecting spare parts, and restocking as needed.

Each bike is inspected in granular detail.

Tire pressures are checked and adjusted according to the day’s forecast and race stage. Brakes are tested, gear shifting is scrutinized, and all bolts are checked for the correct torque.

Their workspace is not just the truck. As the race kicks off, the mechanics settle into their roles in the team cars where they might lean out to adjust a slipping derailleur or a rubbing brake, even as the car speeds along the race route.

The race period is a high-adrenaline time when seconds matter. Mechanics are always on standby.

In case of a flat tire, a broken chain, or a crash, they must spring into action, providing swift fixes or replacing entire bikes in a matter of seconds. With hearts pounding, they perform under the weight of the team’s expectations.

Once the race ends, mechanics don’t clock out just yet. They clean every bike, removing grime from chains, scrubbing dirt off tires, and wiping down frames until they shine.

Nothing escapes their hawk eyes.

A post-race check follows the cleaning, aimed at identifying and fixing any damage. This could range from worn-out brake pads and stretched chains to more serious issues like bent derailleurs or cracked frames.

A well-maintained bike not only provides a performance advantage but also enhances rider safety, and that’s the mechanic’s promise to their team: a bike that won’t let them down when it matters the most.

Technology and Innovation

The mechanics’ truck isn’t just a mobile repair shop; it’s also a high-tech hub, bustling with cutting-edge tools and devices that bring together the world of mechanics and technology.


Modern race mechanics use tools like digital torque wrenches, which ensure that the bolt is tightened to the perfect degree. These tools offer precise measurements, enabling mechanics to achieve optimal settings and prevent damage due to overtightening.


Power meters have become an integral part of race bikes. These devices measure a cyclist’s output, providing data on how hard they are pedaling

Mechanics use this data to fine-tune bike setups for individual riders, optimizing elements like saddle height and handlebar reach to ensure the most efficient transfer of power from rider to bike.


Electronic shifting systems, such as Shimano’s Di2 or SRAM AXS, provide seamless and lightning-quick gear changes at the push of a button.

These systems require less physical maintenance than traditional cable-operated ones, freeing mechanics to focus on other aspects of bike readiness.

Onboard sensors and telemetry systems

These systems keep a constant check on the bike’s status and share information. They also let riders control specific bike functions without any wires.

For instance, during this year’s Paris-Roubaix, Team Jumbo-Visma and DSM tested a tire-pressure system that could be controlled via Bluetooth.

This clever setup allowed riders to lower the tire pressure for the cobblestone sections and increase it for the regular road portions, enhancing both comfort and performance.

All these technological advancements work together to improve the speed and efficiency of repairs and maintenance.

They allow mechanics to make data-driven decisions swiftly, contributing to fewer mechanical problems before and during races and more consistent performance from the bikes.

Technology, in essence, has turned bike maintenance from a primarily reactive job to a more proactive role, where potential issues can be identified and addressed before they escalate into race-compromising problems.

A Tour de France mechanic makes repairs to a rider's helmet from the team car while the cyclist continues riding.
© A.S.O./Fabien Boukla

Fixes Under Pressure

High-pressure situations are the norm for race mechanics, where every second lost can make the difference between a podium finish and disappointment.

Consider the classic scenario of a punctured tire during a crucial stage of the race. The cyclist pulls over, their lead shrinking with every passing second. The mechanic, already on high alert, jumps from the following car, wheel in hand.

With rapid, well-practiced movements, the punctured wheel is removed, and the replacement is secured. In less time than it takes to tie a shoelace, the cyclist is back on the road, a disaster deftly averted.

And then there are the numerous quick fixes performed on the fly: a slipped chain expertly threaded back onto the chainring, a loose handlebar hastily tightened, or a misaligned derailleur quickly adjusted – sometimes even while the cyclist is moving.

These are the feats of precision and timing that rarely make the headlines but can profoundly influence the outcome of a race.

A team Jumbo-Visma Tour de France mechanic truck follows a cyclist on a Tour de France time trial stage.
© A.S.O./Pauline Ballet

Time-Saving Tactics

The team car often trails the cyclists, serving as a mobile service station. Mounted atop are spare bikes, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.

However, it’s not just about having these replacements at hand; how they’re arranged on the car roof can significantly influence how quickly a bike can be switched.

The leaders’ bikes are typically given prime position, placed closest to the mechanic’s seat for quick and easy access.

Bikes are mounted on the roof rack in a specific orientation, with the handlebars and pedals aligned to avoid tangling. This setup allows the mechanic to swiftly unhook the bikes, slide them off the rack, and hand them over to waiting cyclists.

It’s a demanding job, requiring mechanical skills, a deep understanding of cycling, the ability to work under intense pressure, and an unwavering dedication to the sport.

Now that you’ve had a peek into their world, we’d love to hear from you.

Did you imagine the life of a mechanic could be so stressful and demanding? What are your thoughts on their role and contribution?

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Quentin's background in bike racing runs deep. In his youth, he won the prestigious junior Roc d'Azur MTB race before representing Belgium at the U17 European Championships in Graz, Austria. Shifting to road racing, he then competed in some of the biggest races on the junior calendar, including Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders, before stepping up to race Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Paris-Roubaix as an U23. With a breakthrough into the cut-throat environment of professional racing just out of reach, Quentin decided to shift his focus to embrace bike racing as a passion rather than a career. Now writing for BikeTips, Quentin's experience provides invaluable insight into performance cycling - though he's always ready to embrace the fun side of the sport he loves too and share his passion with others.

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