Paris-Roubaix tech gallery part one: Bars, gears, and notes
“The Hell of the North”: never has a nickname been so apt. Paris-Roubaix truly is like hell for the riders and the bikes. So demanding are the cobbled sectors of Paris-Roubaix, it is one of the only “road” races to continually inspire new dedicated bikes, hacked equipment, and even push some teams to go rogue on sponsor correct equipment choices.
In years gone by, the tech scene at the Hell of the North was often as exciting as the racing, but the heady days of dual-suspension Bianchis and ultra long-wheelbase Eddy Merckx frames seem to be behind us. That said, Paris-Roubaix still keeps team mechanics busy, even if the equipment modifications are much more subtle now. Wider tyre choices are still universally accepted across all teams, but double wrap bar tape, cross top brake levers, and whacky one-off frame modifications are almost a thing of the past.
We scoured the paddock of Paris-Roubaix in search of all this year’s modifications to bring you this gallery of Paris-Roubaix tech.
One classic Roubaix hack that has all but died out with the introduction of disc brakes is the cross top brake levers. Marta Bastianelli was the only rider across both races to opt for the secondary brake option. Mieke Kroger’s lever angle is not a Paris-Roubaix hack.But the grip tape on the lever ends could well be. Riders often report difficulty in finding and maintaining grip on the brake and shifter levers over the rough cobbles. Speaking of grip, my first thought was that Elise Chabbey had opted for chalk on her gloves like a track rider for extra grip.But perhaps it was a sealant mishap that caused the mess on her handlebars and gloves. Team NXTG races on Dura-Ace R9100 mechanical with rim brakes. In a world dominated by electronic and disc brake groupsets, the rim brake 9100 setup is a nice deviation from the norm. Peter Sagan also opted for mechanical Dura-Ace, for one day only. Did we mention the World Champion raced on Ultegra? On the subject of second-tier groupsets, answer me this: Is Record EPS a second tier groupset? Double-wrap bar tape is another dying trend. Alex Kirsch of Trek-Segafredo was one of the few to opt for a double wrap. Modern technology and bikes perhaps mean it is less important. Perhaps double wrap just didn’t help. Here, a Trek mechanic adjusts Quinn Simmons’s Isospeed decoupler.Lisa Brennauer had double wrap.A Lotto Soudal rider also. But just a thin single wrap for Mads Pedersen and almost all the other riders. Another double wrap for Ceratizit-WNT.On the subject of handlebars, the Movistar teams stuck with the Canyon Aeroad integrated carbon handlebar. Mathieu van der Poel and the Alpecin-Fenix team switched to a more traditional two piece bar and stem. The Alpecin riders also switched to the Elite Ciussi Gel bottle cages. The Ciussi is significantly heavier than carbon bottle cage options, but the aluminium construction and vibration dampening gel inserts make it a firm favourite for the cobbled classics where bottle retention is much more important than low weight.Team DSM had the same Ciussi cages. Bottles grow wings on the cobbles, Trek-Segafredo had a bit of extra grip on their cages to keep the bottles in place.Knowing the location of the cobbled sectors is vital. Riders and teams opt for many different options when it comes to notes. World Champion Elisa Balsamo had a combination of printed and handwritten notes.Mieke Kroger went fully printed, with stacks of information.Marta Bastianelli kept the notes as classic as her cross top brake levers, hand written on some medical tape. That is a lot of information to take in while moving in a peloton. Movistar had neat, compact, and colour coded notes for Saturday’s race. Lotto Soudal’s was anything but neat or compact, but it was also colour coded. The Movistar notes for Sunday’s race were a more traditional handwritten option.Lizzie Deignan might have needed pace notes, such was her speed across the cobbles. Her route notes stretched down the stem …… and onto the top tube. Marianne Vos had just enough room on her stem for all her notes. At least the time I visited, none of the SD Worx bikes had any notes attached.SD Worx did, however, have SRAM’s Multiclic tops-mounted shifters. Secondary shifter options seem to be picking up where cross top brakes left off. some riders had rearward facing setups, others had the same shifters forward facing. American champion Lauren Stephens had her Di2 buttons mounted under the bars. Quinn Simmons had his SRAM Blip buttons forward facing. Marianne Vos went for sprinter shifters on the drops, perhaps her standard setup for the entire season. The SD Worx team ran SRAM’s 2x setup. Trek-Seagfredo went 1X for both races. The women raced with 50 or 52-tooth chainrings to stunning effect, while the men had 54-tooth chainrings for Sunday’s race. Staying with SRAM and Trek-Segafredo, the team went for two factor security for battery retention on the rough cobbled sectors with an elastic band to ensure no nasty unplanned battery ejections. None of the other SRAM teams in either race opted for the added security the elastic band might offer.Back to the chainrings, the Movistar team had SRAM’s power meter chainrings, presumably for the increased chainring size the power meter option offers. That increased chainring size does, however, require a specific front derailleur. The polished chainrings are the final consumer-ready offerings … … while the blacked out chainrings are pre-production prototype chainrings. Sticking with gearing, Mathieu van der Poel might have stuck with a modern aero frame in the Canyon Aeroad, but his bottle cage, cockpit and gearing choices were all much more traditional Roubaix. Van der Poel had a 53:44 setup for his third-place ride.AG2R riders had hex keys stuck to the seatposts to help with speedy wheel changes. Deceuninck-Quickstep had the same. Many teams have helpers spread across the course with spare wheels. The hex key means the rider can take a spare wheel from a helper, change it, and be on the move again before a mechanic could get anywhere near them.We started this gallery with a classic, so let’s finish it with another. The Speedplay Pave pedal, all but extinct – resurrected for one day per year.
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