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Road cycling guide

FrameGears/handlebarsHelmetSaddleShoesTyresWater bottle

A professional rider's form and fitness means nothing without a good bike to support him over the tough terrains of the ProTour.

Above is a clickable graphic of the bike Lance Armstrong rode to his seventh Tour de France win.

Find out the finer points of the machine that carried the Texan to his historic achievement.

Frame: The bike is made from carbon fibre, which means it is both strong and lightweight - particularly crucial when it comes to aiding a rider up a steep ascent.

No bike can be under 6.8kg, under rules from governing body the UCI, but the frame tips the scales at a little less than 1kg.

Gears/handlebars: On this bike, the brake and gear levers are as one to enable a rider to limit the movement of his hands in a race situation.

Positioning can vary, as on any standard leisure road bike, with riders able to place their hands in a number of places to give them more control in different racing situations.

In general terms, the low gears are used for climbing hills and inclines, and the higher gears are for descents or going along the flat.

But gear choice differs hugely from rider to rider.

Armstrong, for example, tended to favour lower gears, which he pedalled at a high cadence, while Jan Ullrich grinds his way through the bigger gears.

Helmet: These have been compulsory since midway through 2003, when Andrei Kivilev died after sustaining head injuries in a crash. The UCI had tried to make them compulsory in 1991 before riders staged a protest.

The helmets are very much standard and something anyone might buy in a regular bike shop.

Saddle: Every rider has their own type of saddle, depending on their height and race positioning.

A change in that is liable to bring about injury, or at least undue stress on the body.

Saddles are a combination of plastic and carbon fibre, surrounded by a leather shell.

Shoes: The shoes, made of soft leather with a man-made plastic sole, are designed to be compatible with the pedals and are perforated to allow water to drain and to keep foot control.

They have a cleat attached to a mounting socket on the underneath of the shoe, which fits onto the pedal and looks the foot in place. As a result they are difficult to walk in.

The shoes also contain a quick-release system in case the rider needs to break free in a fall.

Tyres: In the case of Armstrong's old Trek bike, tubular wheels are used, with an inner tube sewn into the tyre's carcass. The carcass is then glued to the rim with a flexible rubber cement.

Water bottle: Taking on fluids is key, particularly after spending hours in the saddle in often high temperatures.

The riders in the peloton start the day with water bottles, which are thrown away and replaced by the domestiques in every team as the need arises.

The cage that holds the bottle is also key as it must keep it in place over even the roughest terrains of, say, the Paris-Roubaix.

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