Lance Armstrong Bikes: The Story of the Disgraced Champion Told Through 9 Iconic Tour de France Bikes

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In the world of competitive cycling, the quest for lighter and more efficient bikes has led to the development of some truly iconic bicycles.

Lance Armstrong rode many bikes during his now-infamous career, always in pursuit of the best technologies and performance.

This article will explore nine legendary Lance Armstrong bikes that he rode while conquering the Tour de France, showcasing the evolution of materials and technology in the sport.

From the early days of steel tubing construction to the more recent carbon fiber designs, these bikes played a crucial role in Armstrong’s success.

Join us as we delve into the history and significance of these bicycles, and learn how they contributed to the legacy of a once-revered champion.

Lance Armstrong Bikes: 9 Iconic Bikes Used By The Fallen Champion At The Tour de France (Title Image)
Credit: Anita Ritenour from Santa Maria, CA, USACC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Edited from the original.

#1. Eddy Merckx MXL

The Eddy Merckx MXL was the first bike Lance Armstrong rode as a professional at Team Motorola.

Designed in collaboration with Columbus, the MXL features oversized, oval-shaped tubing designed to create a stronger and stiffer steel frameset capable of withstanding the demands of daily racing.

This innovation was well-received by Team Motorola, who raced on similar bikes during that time.

The remarkable Eddy Merckx MXL steel racing bicycle, originating around 1992-93, features the iconic Team Motorola paint scheme.

Constructed from the exclusive Columbus MXL tubing, the frame displays a unique teardrop-like silhouette and is adorned with various custom engravings and pantographs.

Lance Armstrong’s bike was equipped with a Shimano Dura Ace 7402-7410 groupset, a 3ttt titanium stem, a San Marco Rolls saddle, and Mavic MA40 wheels, and weighed in at 21.2 lb (9.6 kg).

The fork crown, rear brake bridge, dropouts, and bottom bracket shell all bear the Eddy Merckx signature or emblem.

In 1993, Lance Armstrong rode this iconic bike to secure his first-ever stage win at the Tour de France and to triumph at the World Cycling Championships road race, marking a breakthrough moment in the young cyclist’s career.

#2. Fondriest X Status

The Fondriest X Status was a high-end road bike produced by the Italian company Fondriest, designed for the 1997 season.

While the bike itself boasted impressive features, its iconic status within the context of Lance Armstrong’s career is not due to the quality of the bike or the victories it achieved.

Instead, it holds a special place in history as the bike Lance Armstrong never had the chance to ride in competition.

In October 1996, Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer, sidelining him from competition for the entire 1997 season. Despite this setback, he demonstrated his resilience and commitment to the sport by participating in the Cofidis winter training camp in January.

Although the Fondriest X Status never saw competitive action with Armstrong, it remains a poignant symbol of the challenges he faced and overcame throughout his career.

#3. Trek 5500

In 1999, Lance Armstrong rode the Trek 5500, a bike that featured the company’s OCLV carbon fiber road frame technology, which had been introduced in 1992.

That he rode the Trek 5500 to his first Tour de France victory (now stripped) makes it a contender for the most iconic Lance Armstrong bike of all.

That year, Trek became the first non-European bike manufacturer to win Le Tour, with Armstrong’s triumphant performance on the US Postal Service team.

Surprisingly, Armstrong and his teammates competed on standard Trek 5500 OCLV carbon frames, which were the same as those available to customers worldwide.

The Trek 5500 came fitted with a 1-inch head tube, a threaded chromoly steel steerer tube, and a Cinelli quill stem. It’s said that Armstrong’s bicycle utilized a completely standard frameset, weighing a mere 3.86 lb (1.75 kg) – considerably lighter than its peers.

Rolf, the team’s sponsor, delivered custom-made tubular wheels for flat stages, while Mavic provided their Ksyrium wheels for mountain stages.

Despite Shimano’s promotion of its SPD-R clipless pedal system during that period, Armstrong famously favored the older Look-style Dura-Ace pedals. He selected the timeless Selle San Marco Concor Light saddle for his inaugural Tour de France triumph.

The Trek 5500 also holds the distinction of being the first carbon bicycle frame to win the Tour De France.

Its OCLV (Optimum Compaction, Low Void) technology involved using high-grade carbon material and expertly engineered tooling to mold each lug and tube.

This method reduced the amount of epoxy and fillers left inside the completed frame, resulting in a tightly compacted material with fewer “voids”.

#4. Trek 5900

Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France triumphs from 2000 to 2003 are indelibly linked to the Trek 5900.

This particular model debuted the lighter OCLV 110 carbon, reducing the frame’s weight to a mere 2.75 lb (1.25 kg). Additional improvements included a more substantial 1 1/8″ steerer tube, a threadless headset, and 9-speed Shimano Dura-Ace components.

During this time, the team explored different wheelsets and cockpit elements, eventually choosing Bontrager wheels along with Deda handlebars and stems.

In 2000, Armstrong alternated between the 5500 and the more advanced 2.75 lb Trek 5900 frame for mountain stages.

Upon the team’s request, Shimano custom-adapted Deore XT mountain bike headsets to be compatible with the 5900 model and persisted with this arrangement for the following three years.

Mavic’s then-new Ksyrium model replaced the Trek-branded Rolf wheelsets that year, much to the dismay of the Madison-based company.

By 2001, refinements to the carbon frame resulted in a small additional weight reduction.

The team continued utilizing Mavic Ksyrium wheelsets, and the enduring fork secured the identical Deda cockpit setup. Shimano’s 9-speed Dura-Ace kit remained the top choice, and Armstrong persisted with a downtube front shifter on mountain stages to shave weight.

In 2002, componentry underwent significant changes as Armstrong pursued his third win.

Shimano, Deda, and Selle San Marco still contributed their usual parts, but Shimano finally developed a successor to its old Look-style pedal that Armstrong deemed worthy for competition.

This quickly became known as the “Lance Pedal” and was later introduced as the now-familiar SPD-SL design. Bontrager took over from Rolf as the team’s wheel provider, while Steve Hed maintained his contribution of three-spoke wheels for time trial events.

The 2003 iteration of the Trek 5900, weighing a mere 2.16 lb (0.98 kg), was Armstrong’s top choice for a frame.

Further weight reduction resulted from a prototype carbon fiber steerer tube (which never reached production), an at-the-time prototype 10-speed Shimano Dura-Ace groupset, and Bontrager Race XXX Lite wheels.

Moreover, Chris King initiated a three-year sponsorship stint with its renowned NoThreadSet threadless headset.

In 2003, the UCI had not yet established a minimum weight requirement, so teams and riders were free to shave grams as desired. Lance Armstrong’s 2003 Trek 5900 bike weighed only 14.5 lb (6.6 kg)

#5. Trek Madone SL

In the summer of 2004, Lance Armstrong set out to win an unprecedented sixth consecutive Tour de France – and he succeeded.

Bike enthusiasts closely examined the tools that propelled him to this historic victory, particularly the Trek Madone SL.

The initial Madone 5.9 made its appearance at the 2003 Tour. It acted more as an enhancement of the 5900 rather than a completely new bicycle.

The name of the bike itself was a tribute to Armstrong. The Col de la Madone in France is a climb with little racing pedigree or history, but was famously a favorite of Armstrong for training and performance benchmarks.

The Madone SL, Armstrong’s bike for the 2004 Tour, had the same top tube and rear triangle as the Madone 5.9, while incorporating the downtube and seat tube from the Trek 5900 Superlight, aiming for weight reduction.

The Madone was born from a challenge Armstrong posed to Trek: to create the lightest, most streamlined frame ever to win the Tour. Both rider and design engineer had to balance performance and legality carefully.

In 2004, Armstrong piloted a Trek Madone throughout the entire race for the first time. Although it had gained some weight due to the newly-established 15 lb (6.8 kg) UCI minimum weight rule, the frame still weighed a feathery 2.4 lb (1.1 kg).

Armstrong continued to use the prototype carbon steerer-equipped fork, making the Madone SL an essential component of his historic win.

#6. Trek TTX

During his pursuit of a seventh consecutive Tour de France victory, Armstrong paid tribute to his fight against cancer with a prototype Trek TTX time trial frame.

The frame featured his trademark “10/2” motif, marking the date of his cancer diagnosis.

Lenny Futura, a renowned graffiti artist, was commissioned to create an array of yellow icons adorning the frame and both wheels, with each symbol representing a significant moment or aspect of Armstrong’s life.

The upgraded TTX model boasted a small increase in top tube length, resulting in a more stretched-out riding position for improved aerodynamics. The frame also featured a noticeably stiffer bottom bracket and head tube area for better power transfer.

Bontrager provided a new fork with a wider 1 1/8″ aluminum steerer tube, which proved to be more aerodynamic than its predecessor’s 1″ version.

#7. Giro d’Italia Trek Madone

In 2009, Lance Armstrong rode a custom-painted Trek Madone to commemorate his first appearance at the Giro d’Italia.

Contemporary artist Shepard Fairey designed an intricate pattern inspired by classic Italian architecture. Instead of being hand-painted, the graphics were die-cut decals applied over a solid yellow base coat at Trek’s in-house paint facility.

The result was a visually stunning bike with superb attention to detail.

Armstrong’s bike featured “Livestrong” and “1274” graphics, as well as a hidden phrase “WNW 2009” (Winners, Not Wankers, 2009) near the bottom bracket. Apart from its visual treatment, the bike had mostly standard components for an Astana team bike.

It was equipped with a complete SRAM Red groupset, Bontrager Aeolus 5.0 carbon tubular wheels, Race XXX Lite carbon stem, Race XXX Lite carbon bar, Shimano Dura-Ace SPD-SL pedals, Bontrager Race XXX Lite bottle cages.

It also featured an Incite 9i wireless computer, and Armstrong’s trademark Selle San Marco Concor Lite saddle.

The total weight of the bike was 16 lb (7.3 kg).

#8. Butterfly Madone

Lance Armstrong’s Butterfly Madone was designed by British artist Damien Hirst to celebrate Armstrong’s comeback at the 2009 Tour de France.

The bike was eventually auctioned off for half a million dollars, making it the most expensive bike in the world. The auction, which included six other Armstrong’s Trek bikes, raised a total of $1.3 million for Livestrong.

Damien Hirst, known for his artworks featuring preserved dead animals, continued this theme with Armstrong’s Trek Madone.

He used real butterfly wings lacquered onto the frame, intending to create a shimmering effect when the light catches it, as real butterflies do. Hirst also aimed to avoid adding extra weight to the bike.

The plan drew negative feedback from animal welfare activists who saw the usage of actual butterfly wings as inhumane. Moreover, the bike’s Bontrager wheels used genuine butterfly wings too.

#9. Trek Madone 6 Series

Lance Armstrong riding a Trek Madone 6 Series at the 2010 Tour of Flanders.
Lance Armstrong riding a Trek Madone 6 Series at the 2010 Tour of Flanders.
Credit: lo_iseCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Edited from the original.

In 2010, Lance Armstrong made a comeback to the Tour of Flanders, riding a Trek Madone 6 Series that differed from the one he used in 2005. The 58 cm Pro Fit Madone 6 Series frame shared similar features with his regular road bike.

These included a tapered front end, molded-in bearing seats at the head tube and bottom bracket, a wide down tube and chainstay spacing, an integrated seat mast without cutting, and internal control lines.

One subtle difference was a few extra millimeters of tire clearance up front between the tire and fork crown in case of mud. This special Ronde van Vlaanderen fork came from stock parts, likely using fork tips from another Trek model.

Additional changes included alloy Bontrager Race Lite handlebars, double-wrapped with Bontrager cork tape and cushioned with Bontrager Isogel padding to help with the pounding cobbles.

Armstrong continued to rely on his trusted Bontrager Aeolus 5.0 carbon tubular wheels, paired with Hutchinson tubular tires. He also switched to Look KéO Blades pedals to make it easier to swap bikes with his Look-equipped teammates.

His bike’s drivetrain showcased a distinctive specification. Armstrong ran a slightly heavier PG-1070 cassette that ran more quietly, and the upgraded PC-1090R chain featured more aggressive chamfering to minimize noise.

Armstrong’s riding position changed little, with minor saddle adjustments. The total bike weight was not disclosed by the team.

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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.

6 thoughts on “Lance Armstrong Bikes: The Story of the Disgraced Champion Told Through 9 Iconic Tour de France Bikes”

    • Along with all the other top contenders. It was the culture of professional cycling, Lance just did it better than all the others. “It” referring to both his training regiment and and his PED regiment.

  1. Drug use and all, Lance Armstrong was and always will be the GOAT of pro bike racing in the Tour De France. He outperformed all the others doing the same drugs. He just wasn’t a very nice person to destroy so many of his fellow riders. I do think it is too bad that drugs ruined the natural course of competitive sports. Big Mig (not that one)


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