As he prepares to go for a win in the Tour de France’s opening stage, we catch up with the fastest man on two wheels to talk gadgets and bike tech
“My gears change electronically, but the most important thing for me is that you can have two different places to change gear. I have shifters on the brake levers like normal, but I also have satellite shifters on the handlebars. That means I don’t have to change my body shape to change gear when I’m sprinting.”
“I don’t wear a heart-rate monitor; I concentrate on power output. I have stress gauges built into the cranks and a wireless SRM PowerMeter so you get a very accurate reading of how many watts you’re putting out through the whole pedal revolution – which is as good for holding you back as it is for making you do more.”
“Normal handlebars are hollow but mine have a metal cross-brace built into the top part of the tube, and the stem is really beefy. They’re not the lightest, but I pull on them a lot during the sprint, so they have to be able to withstand that and not flex. Most of the other riders in the peloton use them now.”
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“During a sprint, I’ll be going 75-80kph but for most of the race we average 45-50. We’ll often hit 100kph on a downhill. That little voice in your head that says: ‘maybe I should ease off a bit’ – I don’t really have that. The top speed I’ve been clocked at in a race is just under 130kph – that’s breaking the speed limit on a motorway.”
Tech in cycling
“As in Formula 1, there are limits to what you can do. It’s meant to level the playing field, but it really restricts the progression of bike technology. There have been bikes with weird shapes and other novel ideas that were outlawed. Some of them worked, some didn’t, but I’d like a bit of leeway for manufacturers to experiment.”
His favourite gadgets
“We spend 200 days a year in hotels and a lot of time travelling, so gaming on my Vita or iPad is a big part of my downtime. I think driving games can actually help with racing as a lot of the same skills apply – judging speed and distance, and spatial awareness. I want to get a simulator that’ll work with my PS3, although I haven’t got space at the moment. Gaming does take energy out of you though, so I’d be lost without my Kindle.”
Mark is riding for the OPQS Team in the 2013 Tour de France, which begins today. Follow him on Twitter: @MarkCavendish
This article was originally published in Stuff's July 2012 issue.