Paris-Roubaix is a tough event that puts huge demands on both riders and bikes so there’s lots of technology on display that’s not used in everyday road races, and here are some examples you can expect to see this weekend.
Many riders use wide tyres run at lower pressure than normal and double-wrapped handlebar tape to cope with the cobbles. Some add secondary brake levers to provide extra control when riding on the tops and put grip tape on bottle cages to prevent drink from flying out over the bumps.
The bike industry uses this race to demonstrate the durability of new products. Brands don’t develop a new bike, brake or wheel just for Paris-Roubaix, but if they do have something that makes a difference in a race as demanding as this then they have a marketing win.
Of course, there are plenty of examples of riders winning Paris-Roubaix without any unusual equipment. Orica-GreenEdge’s Mathew Hayman famously won a couple of years ago on a Scott Foil aero road bike with no tweaks other than 28mm tyres rather than the typical 25s and a 53/44-tooth chainset instead of a 53/39.
Many riders will opt for unusual setups, though.
Shimano Ultegra RX rear derailleur
Why could it make a difference? All the bouncing and vibration over the cobbles can cause drivetrain issues. Most pros use a chain catcher to stop the chain dropping off the inner ring, but Tom Boonen’s still got stuck between the chainset and the frame in last year’s Tour of Flanders. Then, when he changed bikes, the same thing happened again and he was left stranded and any chance of an individual victory disappeared.
The new Shimano Ultegra RX rear derailleur – available for both mechanical and Di2 (electronic) systems – features what’s called Shimano Shadow RD+ technology with a chain stabilising switch to control the drivetrain over rough surfaces like the Paris-Roubaix pavé.
This picture shows a chain bouncing around on the pavé with a standard (non-clutch) rear derailleur.
When you flick the switch it’s harder for the rear derailleur pivot to move, resulting in less chain bounce over uneven surfaces. The result is that the performance of the drivetrain is more stable; the chain is less likely to hit the chainstay, there’s less chance of it dropping off the chainring, and it stays on the cassette better. That’s what makes it an attractive option for the cobbles. The essential elements of the design have been tried and tested in mountain biking for a few years now.
Who has it? Members of Trek-Segafredo were using the Ultegra RX rear derailleur at the Tour of Flanders last weekend so there’s a high chance that they will be again at Paris-Roubaix. A total of 14 (out of 18) World Tour teams use Shimano, so perhaps others will fit the new derailleur for Sunday’s race.
Can I get one too? The Shimano Ultegra RX rear derailleur will be available from mid-June 2018.
Why could they make a difference? Paris-Roubaix is flat – there are no screaming descents – but if it rains the pavé becomes slippery, water puddles in the holes, and the dust quickly turns to mud.
Disc brakes are able to offer a more consistent performance than rim brakes in rainy conditions because the braking surface is further from the wet and grimy road surface.
Also, that braking surface is steel rather than the carbon fibre that’s used for most high-end wheels these days. Brands are continually trying to improve braking performance on carbon (see Bontrager’s new Aeolus XXX wheels, for example) but it’s generally not amazing.
One other potential benefit is that disc brakes provide more tyre clearance, although you see the pros squeezing 30mm tyres into dual pivot brake callipers with a nominal maximum tyre width of 28mm.
Of course, there are downsides to disc brakes too, wheel changes in the event of a puncture being the biggest concern. Most riders will be sticking with rim brakes but it looks like some think the positives outweigh the negatives.
Who has them? Although no one (to our knowledge) rode with disc brakes at last weekend’s Tour of Flanders, they could make a re-appearance at Paris-Roubaix, where they were first seen in 2016 – used by Lampre-Merida and Direct Energie – before the UCI suspended their use in the peloton.
Four of the team went with the Emonda disc today for good reason! The other three stayed with the Madone.
What would be your choice if you had to ride this course today? pic.twitter.com/AMMEnGlemt
— Trek-Segafredo (@TrekSegafredo) March 3, 2018
Trek-Segafredo, for example, has said that the whole of its Paris-Roubaix team will be on disc brake bikes – the Domane SLR Disc, the Emonda SLR Disc or perhaps even the as yet unreleased Madone Disc (we wouldn’t bet on the latter making an appearance; that’s more likely to be launched in the summer). Team riders have been using disc brake bikes throught the spring. Trek-Segafredo includes 2015 Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb, 2017 fourth place rider Jasper Stuyven and Mads Pedersen who finished second in this year’s Tour of Flanders, so there’s the chance of a disc brake bike being ridden to a big finish.
#nobikesnolikes #efeducationfirst this is the @cannondaleroad SYNAPSE. My steed for Paris-Roubaix in two weeks time. Here it is balancing on pave... @vision_tech_usa wheels, @vittoriatires, @prologo.official saddle, @tacxperience bottles @fsa_road components, @garmin for when I get lost and FINALLY: MY BODY ABOARD. #sponsoredbymybody
EF Education First-Drapac’s Taylor Phinney stuck a picture on Instagram recently of the disc braked Cannondale Synapse that he intends to ride in Paris-Roubaix.
As the winner of the 2014 U23 version of Paris-Roubaix, @teamsunweb’s Mike Teunissen knows what it’s like to cross the finish line first in the hallowed grounds of the Roubaix Velodrome. This weekend, Teunissen and several of his Team Sunweb teammates will ride special team issue Defy Advanced SL bikes in Paris-Roubaix. Check out all of the details of his bike here--link in bio! #DefyLimits #KeepChallenging #RideLife #RideGiant
Several members of Team Sunweb will be riding Giant Defy Advanced SL Disc bikes.
Can I get them too? Oh yes! They’re everywhere! The Trek 2018 Domane SL 5 Disc, for example is £2,495 here.
Why could it make a difference? When you watch Paris-Roubaix on TV the pavé looks bumpy. When you ride it yourself it feels like you’re being repeatedly kicked in the arse while struggling to operate a jackhammer. The longer the sector goes on the more hurty and energy sapping it gets… But it’s fun! Anything that can help soften the bumps has to be welcome in terms of control, ability to lay the power down and reduction of fatigue.
Who has it? Some Trek-Segafredo riders are likely to be on the Trek Domane SLR Disc which has been around for a couple of years now. This bike comes with IsoSpeed technology front and rear which, although it’s nothing like mountain bike suspension, does help smooth the ride.
Specialized supplies Bora-Hansgrohe and Quick-Step Floors with its S-Works Roubaix (among other bikes) which features a FutureShock system. This uses a spring housed inside the head tube to provide 20mm of vertical movement at the handlebar. Several pro riders, including world champion Peter Sagan, used this bike in last year’s Paris-Roubaix so don’t be surprised to see it make another appearance this year.
Members of Team Sky have used Pinarellos with suspension over the past few years. Bradley Wiggins, for example, rode the Dogma K8-S – a bike that coupled flexible chainstays with a small elastomer damper at the top of the seatstays to provide a bit of extra cushioning – back in 2015.
Last year, a couple of Team Sky riders used the K8-S with an adjustable electronic rear damper. Pinarello partnered with a suspension company called HiRide to develop the uprated system. The eDSS 2.0 (Electronic Dogma Suspension System) uses six axis accelerometers and gyroscopes that are able to take feedback from the road and adjust the damper unit accordingly. Pinarello says it can adapt the suspension to suit all types of road surface and terrain in milliseconds.
The UCI approved the Pinarello Dogma K10S on 19 March 2018 (the disc version was approved towards the end of last year) so there’s a good chance that we’ll see that new bike raced at Paris-Roubaix.
[Edit: And – hey presto! – Pinarello has just Tweeted a pic, below]
Can I get it too? You can certainly buy a Trek Domane with IsoSpeed and a Specialized Roubaix with FutureShock. You can buy the Specialized Roubaix here for £1,900.
The Pinarello Dogma K10S Disk frameset is available here for £6,699, although no rim brake Dogma K10S has yet been released.
And the stuff you won’t see…
SRAM’s 1x (single chainring) system uses a rear derailleur that features a clutch to eliminate chain slack (it has been around since 2015 on the road, unlike the Shimano Ultegra RX rear derailleur that was announced earlier this week). This helps to keep the chain in place over bumpy surfaces.
SRAM’s X-Sync chainrings have tall, square teeth edges that engage the chain earlier, and the traditional sharp and narrow tooth profile helps manage a deflected chain.
Plus, Paris-Roubaix is flat so you could easily use a cassette that offers all the gears you need without having any big jumps between them.
Although the Aqua Blue Sport Pro Continental team competes on 3T Strada bikes equipped with SRAM 1x drivetrains, it won’t be racing Paris-Roubaix.
Tubeless road tyres have been around for years now and they’re gradually growing in popularity, especially since Mavic introduced its Road UST wheel/tyre system last year. Advantages of tubeless tyres over standard clinchers include lower rolling resistance, reduced risk of flats and increased grip.
While a tubeless system might make sense if you’re riding a sportive over the cobbles, the pros want the weight and performance advantages of tubulars, and if they do get a flat they'll just swap the wheel.
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.