Every cyclist dreams of having a spare bike available whenever he chooses. Professional cyclists live these dreams.
Professional teams have around 250 bikes available at all times. That’s about seven bikes per cyclist, with some more important cyclists having more than ten. Most bikes are at the races or the cyclists’ homes during the season, but some remain in the service course.
The service course of World Tour teams with all the equipment is a paradise for any cycling enthusiast, but only a select few can enter.
The astounding number of bicycles in pro teams
We often forget how many riders make up a cycling team, as we see no more than eight riders in a race. However, teams usually have around 30 riders, and each needs to have a lot of equipment to train and race normally.
The top-level professional teams – the World Tour teams – have around 250 bikes available for use, provided by a sponsor.
At the start of the season, the bikes are delivered to a service course where mechanics fit them with all the necessary equipment. Most of them are then handed over to cyclists for training or sent to races.
During busy race schedules, especially in spring, the number of bikes in the service course can be quite limited. But it is never completely empty, as the team needs to have a few spare frames available in case of any failures.
Teams bring between 40 and 50 bikes to the biggest stage races such as the Tour de France.
Cyclists also can swap the bike if needed. They just email the service course manager that they need a new bike, and they have it ready in a day or two.
But cyclists are not the only ones who are swapping bikes. The teams often swap all the frames mid-season and get 250 new ones. This is especially common if the sponsor has launched new equipment and wants the team to use it.
How many bikes do cyclists have for each purpose?
Not all of the team’s bikes are available to every rider, as each bike is assigned to a specific rider. The biggest factor here is the frame size, which has to fit the rider.
Riders are allocated different numbers of bikes depending on their role in the team. Team leaders have more, but sometimes that’s up to the special editions of bikes, such as the yellow bike used by the Tour de France winner in the last stage.
However, whatever the role, each rider usually has seven bikes, which are divided as follows:
- 2 training bikes
- 3 race bikes
- 2 time trial bikes
Cyclists keep training bikes at home. Professionals often live abroad, so they may keep one bike in their place abroad and another at home.
Other bikes are stored at the service course until needed. They are then delivered on races, where cyclists use the primary race bike, and the other two are stored on a bike rack of a team car.
Teams can bring more bikes per rider on longer races like the Tour de France. Usually, cyclists get new bikes before those races. Team leaders almost always have five road bikes and three time trial bikes, while others have to get through with only three road bikes and two time trial bikes.
At the peak of his career, Chris Froome had 13 bikes at his disposal in one season, including the race-winning yellow one from the Tour de France.
How do teams store all the bikes?
To store that many bikes, you need a huge warehouse, which in cycling is called a service course. Teams have them spread all over Europe, depending on where the team is based.
They are large halls that house all the team’s equipment, from bikes and wheels to energy gels and bottles. Based on some information from mechanics, teams can store up to €5 million ($5.4 million) worth of equipment there.
Service courses often also have a kitchen, living quarters, and rooms with beds for mechanics. This way, they can stay on-site, and the team saves on hotel costs.
As for bike storage, teams assign a rack to each rider. All their bikes are stored there, waiting for race day.
Normal helmets are kept separately, but time trial helmets are hung on the bike so they don’t forget to take them to the race.
Below, you can see Jumbo Visma’s service course, which is one of the best in the world.
How many wheels do pro teams have?
If teams have many bikes, they must also have many wheels. The sponsor that supplies the frames usually does not supply the wheels. The teams get these from other companies specialized in the manufacturing of wheelsets.
A frame without wheels is useless, so teams must have at least as many wheelsets as frames. If they have 250 frames, they need 250 wheelsets, but they have a few extra in case they need them.
Wheels, like bicycles, are used on races around the world for most of the season, so there are not many of them in the service course during peak season. However, the teams ensure they have around 50 wheelsets available at all times for riders to use if needed.
Teams take 115 wheelsets to the Grand Tour, of which 20 are time trail wheelsets. If the race includes stages on cobblestones or gravel, teams must bring an additional 20 wheelsets suited to that stage’s course.
Can teams and cyclists keep the bikes?
Every year, teams get millions worth of bikes, but they are not really theirs. They don’t own them but rather have them on a loan.
During the season, teams would request some new bikes and discard the old ones. But they can’t just sell them. They have to return them to the sponsor, even though those bikes will probably never be used again.
Teams have to return the bikes after the season.
Sponsors usually display used bikes in their headquarters, especially bikes that won some major races. Some bikes are also sent to dealers to be displayed in their shops.
Teams finish the season with empty service course as they return all the bikes and make space for next year’s model.
Sometimes, teams keep some bikes and display them in their headquarters or offer them on an auction where they are available to the public. But most of them are returned to the sponsor.
Cyclists also don’t keep the bikes, as they don’t need to. Next year, they will get a new bike to ride, and there’s no need to own one. They’ll only own bikes that have some sort of sentimental value to them, e.g., a winning bike from some major race.
And based on how much they earn, they can buy the bike they want. They don’t have to be gifted a sponsor bike.
Teams have around 250 bikes to distribute among their riders.
Each rider has seven bikes: two for training, three for racing and two for time trials. Team leaders can also have more bikes, especially if they apply a special frame paint job during the season.
In line with the large number of bikes, teams also have a large number of wheels. There are at least as many of these as there are frames, with a few more in reserve.
However, teams are not allowed to keep the bikes. After the season, they return them to the sponsor but keep a few for themselves and display them in the team headquarters.
Cyclists don’t keep their bikes either unless the bike has some sentimental value to them.