Pro Mechs Talk Mech
Behind every great cyclist is a great…MECHANIC of course! Without their team mechanics, where would our professional cyclists and triathletes be? We picked two of the most knowledgeable BMC team mechanic’s brains for the most important tips for any cyclist, no matter your level.
When Stefano Cattai talks about bikes his eyes light up and his voice rises an octave. His knowledge of not just the sport, but the equipment – is intimidating. This Italian knows his stuff. Cattai started to race bikes at the age of 8 and he turned professional 12 years later. His career as a professional cyclist spanned 14 years as a key domestic for some of the biggest riders of his era.
Since 2007 Cattai (above, middle) has been part of the BMC Switzerland family as the Technical Coordinator for the BMC Racing Team and the BMC-Etixx Pro Triathlon Team powered by Uplace. But, an important part of that role is also teaching the mechanics of the professional teams, how to up their game.
BMC-Etixx Pro Triathlon Team’s main mechanic is Tom de Laet (below). Tom was the mechanic for the legendary three times World CX Champion Zdenek Stybar - for over ten years and is no stranger to race pressure! When Stybar switched from cyclocross to road racing around 3 years ago, de Laet joined the BMC-Etixx Pro Triathlon Team.
According to Cattai, what makes a good mechanic a great mechanic, is not just wrenching on bikes, it is understanding rider’s problems and finding ways to solve them. “Triathletes and road racers are so different and that’s not to mention the contrast between pros and amateurs. First of all, as a team mechanic it is so important to establish good communication with the athletes so their bikes can be set-up in the best way possible.The more you know about a rider, the better you can help him or her The more you know about a rider, the better you can help him or her. Every bike rider should have a mechanic they can confide in”. When it comes to bike fit no cost should be spared “The next most important thing is getting a proper bike fit from a professional bio mechanic so any physical limitations can be identified, and the bike can be set-up to alleviate those. You spend so much time riding a bike; it is money well spent to find that perfect position. In the end it will help you to perform at your best, and to prevent injuries.”
Tom de Laet also stresses the need to find a position that works for you and not to always use professional riders as the best example. "A lot of professional road riders have super aggressive positions on their bikes, with the bar up to 10 cm below saddle height. These riders spend thousands of kilometers of ride time each year adapting to those positions – positions that stress the lower back, neck and shoulders. I can’t stress how important it is to set up your position on the bike for your personal needs I can’t stress how important it is to set up your position on the bike for your personal needs. A pro needs to be as aerodynamic as possible to save watts and be faster, a hobby biker should have comfort as the most important aspect. I really recommend not trying to force a position that isn’t suitable for you” says de Laet.
Love Your Bike
”You should treat your bike as you treat your body – like a temple! You should treat your bike as you treat your body – like a templeIf your bike isn't in good shape, it will impact your performance as much as when you are unfit. Clean and perform the basic bike maintenance on your bike as often as possible. Check the length of your chain frequently and grease the bearings often. I also highly recommend always using a torque wrench to be sure not to overturn screws on your bike” says de Laet.
Cattai added: “Cleaning your bike frequently is even more important if you are living in an area with lots of salt on the street. For example our British riders often train on bad roads with a lot of salt from the sea. Then cleaning your bike is even more important, to keep it in good condition. In the long-run you’ll save money on replacement parts!”
Roadies Vs Triathletes
Cattai spends most of his time with the BMC Racing Team and likes to compare the two different sports. “When I’m with the BMC-Etixx Pro Triathlon Team riders, the first thing I have to do is check the bikes of the guys I haven’t seen for a while because I usually only see them at their training camp and before a few major events during the year. When the triathletes come then to a race, most of the small parts have to be changed. With the road team it’s totally different as When it comes to professional bikes you never think twice about changing parts that wear with timeI see the guys almost every week.
When it comes to professional athlete's bikes you never think twice about changing parts of the bikes that wear with time, you just do it. Better be safe than sorry! At the end of the day it would be my fault if the rider has a mechanical problem.”
What is the difference between the position of the roadies and the triathletes? “As triathletes have to run afterwards they prefer to sit much further forward on the bike than the roadies. This helps them to spare the load on some of the muscles they will later need for the running leg. In contrast the road guys prefer to sit futher back to have a better handling of their bike. Professional cyclists feel every millimeter of adjustment; it is crucial to set up every new bike exactly like the previous oneProfessional cyclists also feel every millimetre; it is crucial to set up every new bike exactly like the previous one. In Triathlon it is a bit different. Triathletes change their positions quite often and it is also affected by their other two sports, which means they are not so fixed to one position making them less sensitive to change. But of course, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to be accurate”.
About the Bike
“Our time-trial bike, the Timemachine TM01 is what the triathletes and road team rides in time-trials. The successes of the BMC Racing Team athletes in the team time trial speak for themselves. What it makes special for a mechanic though is the Position to Perform (P2P) technology. It makes it so much I like its clean look, with all the cables hidden in the frame and integrated brakeseasier to adjust the bike to the rider, compared to other bikes where you are quite limited with the adjustability.” Tom de Laet is more into the aesthetics though “I like its clean look, with all the cables hidden in the frame and integrated brakes, it truly is a unique bike.”