November 11, 2021
It’s no secret that safely getting from point A to B with your bike, especially off the beaten path or during a race requires the right gear, team, and vehicle to get the job done. Historically, professional road cyclists were impressively self-sustaining. It wasn't until 1972 when neutral sport vehicles were first introduced in major races like the Tour De France.
In this day in age, team support vehicles are used for both training and race exercises, transporting extra bikes, wheels, medical supplies, food, and water. Given each team (out of 40 or so) normally have one or two vehicles on top of a slew of official race vehicles added into the mix, it’s rarely a leisurely or stress-free cruise for the driver and team. Team cars require skilled drivers with cycling knowledge, often lead by former pros who understand how to navigate small winding roads at high speeds behind the wheel.
Normally, road races can smoothly progress for hundreds of miles through long open roads, until an unforeseen crash and the ensuing chaos changes the trajectory of the entire race. Given the high speeds of travel, fragile equipment, and minimal protection, road cycling crashes can be notoriously brutal for both the riders and equipment. If a cyclist needs a new bike, mechanical attention, or medical assistance, the team car functions as an all-in-one pit stop, similar to auto racing. All in all, it's hard to imagine the sport evolving to where it currently is without the technological and mechanical innovations made to both cycling equipment and support vehicle assistance.
As a result, we wanted to dissect some of the most iconic support vehicles models and their tribute designs created by our team of talented artists.
As you very well may know, the Molteni Team Car made from a Molteni Volvo 244, is one of the most iconic cycling team support vehicles in history. Team Molteni was an extremely popular Italian professional road bicycle racing team between 1958 and 1976, taking home a cumulative 663 race wins, many of them earned by superstars Eddy Merckx, Gianna Motta, and Marino Basso. The Molteni Family - traditional Italian salami manufacturers based in Arcore, Italy, first started managing the Molteni team in 1958. Keeping leadership within the family, the team appointed Pietro Molteni and his son Ambrogio Molteni, a former professional rider, as directors. Years later, Eddy Merckx joined the team at the end of 1970, having previously won the Tour de France and two editions of the Giro d'Italia. Because of this success and hype, many of Merckx’s Belgian teammates promptly moved from Faemino to team Molteni, including his directeur sportif, Guillaume Driessens. After 1976, Molteni officially retired from the peloton.
The Peugeot 504 was one of many iconic cycling support automobiles used from the 1960s to the 1980s. This mid-size, front-engine, rear-wheel-drive automobile, made by Peugeot, came in a popular four-door sedan and wagon configuration, as well as a two-door coupé, cabriolet, and pickup truck varieties. The 504’s robust body structure, long suspension travel, and torque tube driveshaft made it a popular vehicle, especially in rough-terrain countries and on cycling routes such as the gruesome cobblestone roads of the Tour de Flanders.
The iconic VW Beetle, commissioned to be built in the 1930s by Adolf Hilter as the 'peoples car', has long withstood the test of time in becoming one of the most iconic and recognizable car models in history. Designed by Ferdinand Porsche, the sleek and curvy car was a practical and reliable option for consumers. That said, it wasn't until the 1960s that the 'Bug' came into its own, changing the way people thought about stylish and modern personal transportation. The Beetle was an affordable, lightweight, fun-to-drive vehicle when cars were clunky and difficult to drive. While still an unconventional choice for a professional cycling support vehicle, the Volkswagon Beetle doesn't look too shabby with a bike or two on top!
Similar to the VW Beetle, the Volkswagen Bus spread the same name, automotive design, style, and utility in creating a practical and affordable transportation option for the home, work, or play. Given the increase in size and capacity, the VW Bus grew extremely popular as people enjoyed the ability to transport a variety of goods, human or otherwise, wherever they needed. A spacious interior, rear-wheel drive, and air-cooled engine made the vehicle easy to operate and maintain for the average consumer. Not only was VW Bus easy to use and maintain, but it was also perfectly built to be customized, as outdoor enthusiasts, including cyclists, adapted the bus to their own needs.
While the VW bus was regarded as one of the most cost-effective alternatives to the family station wagon, it goes without saying that Bus also became a powerful symbol of hippy and counter-culture values. On a greater scale, the bus represented a growing attitude of disproval in America, especially in the country’s role as a nuclear superpower and its reliance on commercialism to feed a greedy appetite for more.
While throwing a bike up on a vintage Porsche might be a dream support vehicle for some, in actuality, the pairing is a little less than ideal. Not to worry, our classic Bike Porche design is a stylish ode to the classic Porsche 356, a sports car first produced in the late 1940s by an Austrian company, Porsche Konstruktionen GesmbH. This nimble-handling lightweight coupe was released with a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive, and two-doors, available both in hardtop coupé and open configurations. Throughout the years, mechanical engineering innovations played a major part in the growth and ultimate success of the 356 and Porsche name. Coincidently, the 356 was created by Ferdinand "Ferry" Porsche, the son of Ferdinand Porsche, the founder of the German company and initial designer of the VW Beetle.
The Citroën H Van or H-Type is a classic panel van produced by the French Automaker Citroën between 1947 and 1981. Initially, the van was developed as a simple front-wheel-drive utility vehicle, driven heavily proceeding World War Two. Exclusively produced in France and Belgium, the Citroën H-Van had a unitary body with no separate frame and front independent suspension. For a commercial van, the Citroën had unique benefits like a flat floor close to the ground plus a monstrous 6 ft tall standing height, with a side loading door to comfortably load gear. This distinctive design and body shape, inspired by german aircraft technology, turned out to be one of the most popular mechanical support vehicles in history.
It’s no secret that modern professional support vehicles with advanced technology and computer-generated graphics are far different than support vehicles of the past. While utility, speed, and corporate sponsorships continue to push the team cycling vehicle market forward, at Thread + Spoke, we continue to appreciate and pay homage to the timeless and iconic European support vehicles of the past while embracing the future of the sport.
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