HAVS #4: What’s Up With Yellow?

HAVS #4: What’s Up With Yellow?

These dudes are highly trained, hyper vigilant, exceptionally prepared and remarkably personable. They do shit with alacrity and grace, and they wear yellow all the time, you can't miss them.


They are Mavic’s interpretation of Neutral Support, they are the SSC Program. Which SSC Program is either marginally or totally philanthropic—it’s hard to know exactly who’s getting paid to do what where—but basically these dudes, which dudes are like the SEALs of Cycling, exist to help/assist/save/revive/maintain every racer on every team, regardless of sponsorships, affiliations, endorsements, loyalties, allegiances, etc. These dudes are highly trained, hyper vigilant, exceptionally prepared and remarkably personable. They do shit with alacrity and grace, and they wear yellow all the time, you can’t miss them. Because they’re yellow and matching, and all their equipment is clean and shiny and goes fast, we enjoy photographing them. Because we enjoy photographing them so much, we decided to formally study them in their natural environment and call it a Visual Showcase. What follows is Manual for Speed Visual Showcase #4: What’s Up With Yellow?

IIThe 2014 USA Pro Challenge Mavic Special Service Course Team
  1. Paul Rinehart, 55 years old, 25 years experience.
  2. Jeff Rowe, N/A, 14 years experience.
  3. Jordan Schware, 28 years old, 13 years experience.
  4. Charlie Gray, 30 years old, 10 years experience.
  5. Bill Sullivan, 44 years old, 9.5 years experience.
  6. Petar Tomich, 44 years old, 9 years experience.
  7. Ron Gainer, 37 years old, 8 years of experience.
  8. Ryan Walsh, 26 years old, 6 years experience.
  9. Russell Berryman, 30 years old, 4 years experience
IIISSC Positions
  1. Moto Driver: “This is the most skilled position. You can be an experienced motorcyclist who knows how to ride a bike, or maybe you’re an ex-professional cyclist with intimate first hand experience riding in and managing the spontaneous and unpredictable nature of the peloton, but its hard to put it all together.”
  2. Moto Jumper: “The stress is acute, not sustained. You’ve got to jump off the bike, your hands are numb, your legs are numb, and you’ve only got ten seconds to make a wheel change if you’re going to do it right.”
  3. Car Driver: Exactly what it sounds like.
  4. Car Jumper: Exactly what it sounds like.
  5. Transfer Driver: Drives the main truck and equipment to the finish ahead of the race, sets up base camp and work area in advance of the rest.
  6. Mechanic: They are all mechanics. Everyone works on and maintains the equipment together.
IVPre-Race Checklist
  1. Meet at the vehicles in the morning, several hours before the start.
  2. Collect the wheels that ride with your vehicle. Side note: If your vehicle is an automobile, you’re responsible for two sets of wheels: the wheels that “decorate” the top of the car, and the wheels that ride in the back.
  3. Check the tire pressure.
  4. Gap every single wheel. Side note: It’s easier to tighten a skewer than to back one off.
  5. Load up the car, quick release levers facing backwards (like a flag).
  6. Load all three bikes onto the roof of the car: tallest (58) goes in the middle for aesthetic reasons while placement of the 56 and 54 depend on the race and racers and is based on experience, intuition, country of origin, etc.
  7. Make sure the bikes are in the big ring and 3rd cog down in the back, with the pedals horizontal.
  8. Make sure valve stem is at 12 o’clock.
  9. Check to be sure each car has a complete a Pedal Box equipped with Speedplays, Mavics, Times, Shimanos, 3 tools and a measuring tape.
  10. Consciously dehydrate because races average 4.5 hours and there NEVER time to stop.
  11. Jumpers check their Jump Kit, which Jump Kit contains a gapping tool, a derailleur-sized screwdriver, scissors, cable cutters, electrical tape, a 15mm cone wrench for centering brakes and a measuring tape.
  12. Wipe down everything one more time and make sure the car is clean.
  13. And last, after all the work is done, put on the yellow shirts.
VThings for Jumpers to Think/Stress About When Changing-Out a Wheel
  1. Breaking or bending a derailleur.
  2. Forgetting to close the quick release.
  3. Knocking a brake pad out of place.
  4. Putting the chain back on the wrong gear.
  5. Jamming a wheel into the dropouts.
  6. Managing a dead wheel. Trading a dead wheel in with a car.
  7. Remembering a rider’s bib number.
VIThings for Riders to Keep in Mind When Receiving a Wheel Change
  1. The hand signal is not 100% necessary, as long as it’s clear whats happening.
  2. Pull to the right.
  3. Get off the bike if at all humanly possible.
  4. Don’t put weight on bike while we’re making a change.
  5. If you’re riding SRAM, please get the chain in the 3-4 up position. If you’re riding Shimano, the chain should be all the way down.
  6. Take a push! We’re happy to do it!
  7. Please don’t ask for a tow up the road unless it’s absolutely necessary, in which case we’re happy to do it!
  8. Say thank you.
VIIPost-Race Checklist
  1. Everything gets stripped down and washed.
  2. Then we do a visual inspection of all the wheels.
  3. We look for tire wear and damage.
  4. Track down and exchange all the wheels that went out for the ones we took in.
  5. Once returned, every wheel that went out gets a complete tire and tube change.
VIIICommon SSC Maladies/Complaints/Anxieties
  1. Numb hands.
  2. Numb ass.
  3. Urinary distress.
  4. Boredom.
  5. High anxiety.
  6. Uncommunicative COMM.
  7. Weather.
  8. Being hit from behind by another motorcyclist.
  9. Being hit from behind by a cyclist.
  10. Okay, basically any form or variation of crashing.
IXMavic Special Service Boot Camp
Numb hands. Numb ass. Urinary distress. Boredom. High anxiety. Uncommunicative COMM. Weather. Being hit from behind by another motorcyclist. Being hit from behind by a cyclist. Okay, basically any form or variation of crashing.
Mavic Fun Fact: "Mavic is an acronym: Manufacture d'Articles Velocipediques Idoux et Chanel. And so really, the French don't care how you pronounce it. Maaaa-veek, MA-vick, whatever."
"We're the stop-gap."
"There are about 50 SSC members Worldwide."
"We hand out only aluminum wheels because they're the safest and they work on anything."
"The two most important things we think about when we're hiring someone are: 1) We need to know that you are safe, that you're not going to kill or injure somebody, and 2) That you're not an asshole, that you get along with everyone, that you gel, that you're a team player."
"We wear the yellow shirts for safety, because they're so visible."
"Most race days are fourteen to fifteen hours long."
"I think our record was a crit on the east coast a few years ago, we changed 96 wheels in one race."
"The worst is when one of our cars gets a flat tire. Our record in that situation is a 3-minute tire change."
"We all do this thing, it's basically a collective superstition that we've been doing/observing for the last twenty years. We keep cash in the right sleeve pocket of our jackets. It's about being prepared for anything."
"Physical fitness is more important than you might think."
"A deep understanding of the race bible is necessary to know which teams ride which gear, who is on each team, and most importantly to know each day's course, especially any dangerous sections."
Wheel Change Demonstration
The following basic steps outline a smooth, safe and efficient wheel change.
01 Rider pulls to the right-hand side of the road, raising his right arm.
02 Rider gets fully off the bike—he does not stand over it.
03 Rider raises the punctured wheel off of the road.
04 Meanwhile, the jumper is at the ready, correct wheel already selected.
05 Jumper exits the vehicle with the wheel already oriented correctly.
06 Jumper quickly runs to the rider.
07 Jumper carefully but swiftly replaces punctured wheel with a new one.
08 Rider remounts only after wheel is completely secured.
09 Jumper pushes rider, rider rejoins the race and pedals to glory.
"There are no bathroom breaks for the duration of the stage."
"Mavic SSC is perpetually cleaning wheels."
"A textbook dismount."
XHow to be a Part of the SSC Program
  1. Complete the Bill Woodul Race Mechanics Clinic Course.
  2. Impress Instructors, Guest Speakers and Staff with your professionalism and “application of craft.”
  3. Make contacts.
  4. Volunteer at regional races.
  5. Get lucky, be in the right place at the right time, be available when it counts.


Thanks to Mavic and the Special Service Course Team for making this post possible.

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