The pavé of Paris-Roubaix demands something a little different of riders and bikes than any other race on the calendar. Mechanics and bike and component manufactures can work weeks, months or even years to get new equipment ready for Paris-Roubaix. CyclingTips’ roving reporter Dave Everett headed to the start of this year’s race in Compiègne to check out the tech on display for the 2015 ‘Hell of the North’.
Thanks to the UCI’s very strict rules with regards to custom, prototype and once-off equipment, it’s becoming less and less likely that you’ll see crazy and unusual bike set-ups at the start area of Paris-Roubaix.
Now, with the explosion of comfort/sportive road bikes, we are seeing these sorts of frames being piloted by the professionals more and more. The carbon layups may be different or the wheel bases of the “sportive” bikes may be longer for special team issue frames. But all this is impossible to spot just by looking at bikes with the naked eye. Tape measures and scales are needed.
The only new bikes at the race this year were the black stealth Ridley that Lotto Soudal was using — a bike we got a good look at it earlier in the week — and the much-hyped Pinarello Dogma K8-S, with its rear suspension — a bike we also got to check out before the Tour of Flanders.
The other big brands — Specialized, BMC, Trek, Cannondale and Scott — all had bikes that have seen cobbles duty in other races.
BMC had its very red GF model bike as team standard kit, the only difference was the colour scheme and the addition of RBX on the top tube next to the letters GF.
One interesting point of note was that several riders were using normal road bikes up until the first pavé section, at which point they changed to a machine set up for the cobbles.
Peter Sagan was one such rider; he used his custom Specialized Tarmac and then swapped to a Roubaix model with wider FMB/Specialized tubulars — 30mm out back and 27mm up front.
One noticeable trend within the peloton this year was the increased use of a secondary brake lever on the top of the bars. The majority of riders who used these only had the back brake adapted. BMC rider Greg Van Avermaet had a flash looking carbon lever on his.
The reason for this trend is that it makes braking easier on the cobbles. Having only the rear brake also eliminates the danger of grabbing too much front brake and sliding your front wheel out. Oddly though, quite a few riders on Cofidis and Europcar had both a front and rear brake, and in some crazy steep angles to the bars.
Cofidis also had a selection of Di2 remote shifters in positions on the bars that seemed odd at times, including one that was facing forward so the user had to change gear using his middle and pointing finger as apposed to his thumb. Our guess is that this may have been due to the way he holds the bars.
As always, bar tape came multilayered for many riders at this race. The French squads were leaders in this department — the bar tape on several Cofidis riders’ bikes was three rolls of tape thick.
French company FMB was yet again the tubular of choice for many teams. Lampre-Merida seemed to have the smallest widths for the entire inventory of their wheels with just 25mm tubulars. Most other teams were running a combination of 30mm or 27mm tubulars.
Astana and Tinkoff-Saxo were using Specialized’s new tubulars, made of a new FMB carcass and the compound from their Turbo tyre on top. Quick-Step on the other hand were using a similar setup but without the newer compound. The tubulars the team were using had been stored away and cured for a year.
Many riders were on products that diverted from their team’s regular sponsored product. Many riders used the FSA K-Edge pro edition stem which is longer and has a greater negative drop. One rider on Europcar had swapped out his team issue Deda stem for a K-Edge stem. Even taped up it’s a pretty obvious item.
Shimano had a non-standard brake caliper being used by many of the teams, designed to allow wider tyres to be used. Giant-Alpecin also modified it with a secondary quick release lever on the cable above the brake so they could use the brake with a 30mm tyre and a wide rim and still not have to struggle getting the wheel out.
All in all it was quite an uneventful start line when it came to new kit, there was even a lack of custom paint schemes too. In previous editions we’ve seen riders take to the cobbles on cross bikes, but this year, as far as we could see, there were none. This, we guess, is again down to many manufactures having relaxed geometry bikes in their line up.