Best Bikes of the 2015 Tour de France

The cutting edge in cycling technology is on display at the world's greatest bike race

The Tour de France, which kicked off on Saturday, is arguably the most significant sporting event of any year that doesn't include World Cup soccer. This year's Tour, the 102nd annual, covers 3,360 kilometers over 21 stages and is ridden by 198 of the world's top athletes representing 22 teams and 31 different countries. It's big. And it's brutal.

One aspect of cycling that sets it apart from other sports is the unique role equipment plays. The bikes are every bit as important as the riders and teams. Unlike football, F1 racing, or even soccer, a large portion of cycling fans participate in the sport on a weekly basis. As a result, we tend to geek out about the gear. Which makes the Tour that much more interesting given that the pros are riding the new 2016 models that bike manufacturers reveal just before the race begins -- bikes that everyday amateurs can purchase soon thereafter.

The following are four new bikes that four top riders from four different teams are riding in the Tour de France as you read this. If there's a consistent theme for 2016, it's that the bikes are quantitatively lighter, stiffer, more aerodynamic, and more comfortable than what we're currently riding.

Refinements on the already super-light EVO frame include greater compliance (comfort) at the fork and seat post, which should smooth out the ride. Yet a new tube design around the drivetrain is 11% stiffer for more efficient power transfer i.e. speed.

  • MSRP: $10,660 (as pictured)

  • Rider to watch: Andrew Talansky is one of three American hopefuls riding the Tour this year. He currently sits at 23rd in the general classification (GC).

  • Shaves 181 grams off the previous TCR frame, a 12% reduction, and adds an integrated seat post and proprietary wheel system (called the WheelSystem) with enhanced lateral stiffness. Giant claims the greatest stiffness-to-weight ratio of any production road frame.

    • MSRP: $9,000 (as pictured)

  • Rider to watch: Germany's John Degenkolb is currently 7th in the Green Jersey sprinter's competition. Look for him at the front of the pack on flat days when sprint finishes are all-but guaranteed.

  • Pinarello worked with the Jaguar automotive group to optimize the F8's aerodynamics, thus reducing wind drag by a whopping 47% over the previous model. It also saved 120 grams and boasts 12% greater rigidity without sacrificing comfort.

    • MSRP: $5,750 (frame, fork, seat post only)

  • Team: Sky
  • Rider to watch: Chris Froome is the 2013 Tour champion and is favored to win this year. He took the Yellow Jersey in Stage 3 after several crashes disrupted the peloton and caused a rare "time out" while the race sorted out the injuries.

  • From mounting the front brake behind the fork to routing all of the cables inside the frame and an innovative stem/bar design, this bike was designed to slice through the atmosphere like nothing that's come before it. All told, Specialized claims it will save you 120 seconds over 40 kilometers.

    • MSRP: $12,500 (as pictured)

  • Rider to watch: Peter Sagan won the Tour of California by a mere two seconds. He'll be a contender for every sprint stage and will likely win a few. But he'll also feel pressure to support teammate Alberto Contador if he's competing for the overall win.