Paris-Roubaix Challenge - cobbled roads in the UK?

by David Else   November 28, 2011  

Last week I accidentally entered the Paris-Roubaix Challenge - a mere 90 miles of mud and cobbles next April.

So now I’m looking for cobbled roads in the UK to do a bit of training on - and to get a feel for the bumps. Anyone got any suggestions? I’m based in the Southwest, looking in the region roughly bordered by Bristol, Gloucester, Swindon, Salisbury, Shaftsbury, Radstock.

I know about some of the cobbled hills in central Bristol, the Cobble Wobble hill in Frome, Gold Hill in Shaftsbury, but ideally I’m looking for longish flattish sections of cobbles. (And I know British cobbles aren’t the same as French pave', but you’ve got to start somewhere…)

Any suggestions for cobbled roads, or maybe just rutted roads that replicate pave', much appreciated. Thanks.

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This is all very useful. I really appreciate the responses.

With some of my buddies (also training for Paris-Roubaix) I have indeed been riding on bridleways and byways recently - notably some all-day jaunts up and down the off-road sections of the Fosse Way and Ridgeway. But these routes are mainly loose gravel, compact stones, chalky mud or wet grass. It can’t harm the training of course, but I think they’re simply not rough enough to give a feel for the aforementioned EVIL CHUNKS OV STONEY DETH.

Mat - I will investigate the Salisbury Plain perimeter road. I have ridden across the Plain a few times on the Imber road that is usually closed to the public - and some of that is broken concrete and quite rough. If the perimeter road is like that, then it will be pretty handy, as you say.

Failing everything, then I’m off down the tool hire shop to get a pneumatic drill to sit on, as recommended by shollin. If it doesn’t help for Paris-Roubaix, at least I can send the video to Jackass.

David Else

posted by David Else [284 posts]
29th November 2011 - 10:09

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David Else wrote:
Failing everything, then I’m off down the tool hire shop to get a pneumatic drill to sit on, as recommended by shollin. If it doesn’t help for Paris-Roubaix, at least I can send the video to Jackass.

Don't forget to line your gloves and shorts with coarse grit sandpaper.

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posted by Rob Simmonds [251 posts]
29th November 2011 - 11:23

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I'm in Paisley, Scotland. The Campsies, Trossachs are within an hour cycle of me. Some of my local routes going into Ayrshire and Inverclyde are pretty much beat up once you get off the A and B roads. The various councils are pretty reluctant to repair Devil

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posted by giff77 [1048 posts]
29th November 2011 - 17:09

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@giff77 - ahhh, that's a bit too far north for me, especially on a Sunday training ride from West Wiltshire.

Looks like I'll be heading to Salisbury Plain this weekend to check out Mat's suggestions.

David Else

posted by David Else [284 posts]
29th November 2011 - 20:04

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Just a bit Wink hope the training goes well and the P-R a success.

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posted by giff77 [1048 posts]
30th November 2011 - 15:53

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"accidentally entered" like it Smile

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posted by Martin Thomas [567 posts]
30th November 2011 - 17:07

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@David Else - hows the 'cobbled' road training going? found any good bits of bad road.. just curious.

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posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
7th January 2012 - 14:14

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There's apparently quite a bit of cobbles round the Blackburn area; they're used for a sportive that's likened to Belgian classics in terms of surface etc.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3099 posts]
8th January 2012 - 0:44

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@ Fringe - thanks for the interest. A few people have emailed me to ask the same question. Training is going well. Several long steady rides over the past month, some in Flanders-like conditions, interspersed with turbo sessions. The nearest we've got to pave' has been several furious laps round the cobbled quadrangle of Queens Sq in Bristol (much to the bemusement of passing Christmas shoppers) and a couple of rides taking in the miltary roads over Salisbury Plain (normally closed to the public, but open end-Dec early-Jan). Still nothing that comes close to the infamous boulders we'll encounter on the Paris-Roubaix, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

David Else

posted by David Else [284 posts]
9th January 2012 - 16:11

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There's a cobbled street in Frome - Big Dave did the Cobble Wobble last year as I recall. It's a steep hill though, not flat like P-R.

EDIT - Just ignore me. Forgot you'd already mentioned it in your OP.

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posted by Rob Simmonds [251 posts]
9th January 2012 - 16:59

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Thanks Rob. Yes, as you say, not flat, but we have got a plan to include it in a training ride soon, just for fun. Likewise the famous Gold (aka 'Hovis') Hill in Shaftsbury. Any other suggestions for close-to-cobbles rough-as-hell roads in the Westcountry all much appreciated.

Meanwhile, here's another question for anyone who might have done this ride, or similar jaunts. Glasses or not?
Sure, they keep the mud out yer eyes, but are they likely to get so splattered it'll be like riding blindfold? Any thoughts and advice most welcome.

David Else

posted by David Else [284 posts]
9th January 2012 - 17:51

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Hi Simon, could you share where exactly in Rotherhithe are these cobbles? Any other areas in/around London with cobbles are also welcome.

Thanks!

~rbx

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posted by rbx [243 posts]
12th January 2012 - 5:33

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not very long (and a bit out of your way) but these 2 in Newcastle are bloody cobbly... and uphill. Close together so they could be built into a circuit!
http://g.co/maps/w7x4n
http://g.co/maps/sqre5

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posted by joemmo [796 posts]
12th January 2012 - 15:56

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David,

I'll see you at the start. Looking forward to the "stigmata" at the end.Big Grin

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [290 posts]
27th February 2012 - 11:39

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I'm doing the P-R Cyclo in June... is the April one the proper competitive one then?

David Else wrote:
Glasses or not? Sure, they keep the mud out yer eyes, but are they likely to get so splattered it'll be like riding blindfold? Any thoughts and advice most welcome.

I always ride with glasses myself - on the rare occasions they turn out to be more trouble than they're worth they just go in a jersey pocket (generally I'd rather ride with a compromised view than end up in a big stack by getting suddenly blinded by some lump of airborne stuff).

I'd also suggest Compeed patches for the bits where your hoods are going to rub your gloves against your hands (probably worth establishing where this is in advance). Or, at least, that's what I'm going with to prevent the stigmata - I have a lump on my foot where I need to use them for anything more than a couple of miles' walking, and they work really well. I suspect anything to prevent the friction of glove on hand will be of use. I may also load up my gloves with Vaseline or minty arse lard, but this may be a personal affectation.

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posted by Bez [371 posts]
27th February 2012 - 13:33

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The April one (www.parisroubaixchallenge.com/us/homepage.html)is 140-150K from San Quentin to Roubaix. It does the Arenberg Forest and the boards at Roubaix. It's described as a race!

I'm attempting April's to see if I can "hack" a longer distance in June. Really do want a cobble stone, why I don't know but I want one. The Compeed idea seems to be popular. Hmm may dig out the old flexistem from a while back.

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [290 posts]
27th February 2012 - 15:23

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Bit far for you I know, but the High St (aka Royal Mile) in our Nations capital offers a decent length of cobbles, uphill too.

http://g.co/maps/r9pwd

Je vie dans l'espoir constant

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posted by Strathlubnaig [114 posts]
27th February 2012 - 22:03

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Alderley Edge in Cheshire has a mile or two of cobbled uphill. Quite often see the northern based professionals out doing circuits there, when they aren't in the sunshine of Majorca.

http://www.cyclesportmag.com/features/geraint-thomas-interview-wales-of-...

Edgeley

posted by Edgeley [160 posts]
27th February 2012 - 23:14

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Thanks, everyone, for the latest suggestions on where to find cobbled roads in the UK, and other tips on surviving Paris-Roubaix.

For those that may be interested, my training continues. Lots of long hard rides, often in bad weather, but admittedly mainly on tarmac, plus some shorter spurts on the broken concrete of Salisbury Plain’s military roads, and along the unsurfaced byway sections of the Fosse Way in Gloucestershire. Nowhere near as rough as the real pave’ will be, I know, but a step in the right direction.

I’ve been experimenting with bikes, including steel, aluminium and titanium, as well as trying out various wheels and tyre widths.

To help avoid the dreaded snakebite punctures, I’ve also been testing tubeless tyres and wheels. There’s a full review of the Fulcrum Racing 3 Two-Way Fit wheels in the Gear section here on road.cc - and a tubeless tyre review will follow soon.

I’ve received a lot of advice from riders who have done the route before - suggestions on tyre pressure, saddle, bar tape, gearing, clothing and so on. Most memorable was a tip from a guy that rode the Paris-Roubaix audax last year: “before you start, remove your b****cks, keep them somewhere safe, then put them back in when you’ve finished”. Hmm. Nice.

A slightly more inspiring story: While I was pottering about at the Newport Velodrome recently, I spotted Magnus Bäckstedt, former Tour de France professional and winner of Paris-Roubaix in 2004, doing some training on the track. I was too much in awe to ask for tips, but I did shake his hand and get my photo taken with him. It’s the nearest I’ll ever get to Paris-Roubaix glory.

David Else

posted by David Else [284 posts]
28th February 2012 - 11:36

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If no-one else has said it: use metal bottle cages, bent inwards for maximum grip, and make sure everything you carry is secured thoroughly.

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posted by Rob Simmonds [251 posts]
28th February 2012 - 12:45

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Respect the Pave, fear the Arenburg and Sectour 4.

6hrs 18mins. Roll on next year.

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [290 posts]
4th April 2012 - 12:47

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I wasn't sure if this thread had run its course, but for those still following: I did indeed complete the Paris Roubaix Challenge on Sunday. Thanks to all the advice I got here on this forum, and elsewhere, my final choices of tyres, wheels and frame were absolutely spot on, and helped make the pave' simply bad rather than utterly horrific.

Nothing fell off my bike, nothing snapped and I didn't get a puncture. Result.

I was exceedingly happy to get round in 5hr 3min. Without the stops for food and photos I guess ride time would be a tad under 5 hours.

Roll on next year? I'm not sure. Maybe the Paris Roubaix Cyclo in June 2013. Longer, but more relaxed, with more time to stop and eat - and even look at the scenery...

@ Yorkshire Whippet - having enjoyed the P-R Challenge, are you doing the Cyclo this year as well?

David Else

posted by David Else [284 posts]
4th April 2012 - 14:15

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Well done David. Glad you had a ball and everything's intact!!!

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posted by giff77 [1048 posts]
4th April 2012 - 22:55

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did riding round queen square in Bristol help at all do you think?.. i'm guessing not having seen the size of PR cobbles compared to the small victorian bumps we have here.

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posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
5th April 2012 - 8:59

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David,

Not this year. I've got my sights set on riding the World Champs course later. Then it will be back for 2013. Thinking of giving the Tour of Flanders a go in 2014, if so then it may well be the cyclo in June. For me the distance was just about right.

I'd like to know how different the cyclo is.

Well done on a 5hr ride.

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [290 posts]
5th April 2012 - 11:51

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Thanks guys.

@Yorkshie Whippet - That’s quite an impressive itinerary. Good luck with it all.

@Fringe - You’re right, the Bristol cobbles were extremely mild compared to the real Roubaix thing, but they were better than nothing, and quite handy for getting used to cornering fast with a front wheel bouncing around. The best training ground turned out to be the Fosse Way through Wiltshire and Gloucestershire - a mix of road and off-road sections - where I cruised along on the tarmac and then pounded a big gear for all I was worth on the rough stuff - which was pretty much my strategy last Sunday.

@giff77 - Placing the words ‘ball’ and ‘intact’ in the same sentence is most apposite.

David Else

posted by David Else [284 posts]
5th April 2012 - 12:27

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There's a bit more info about the bike I used here:

http://road.cc/content/feature/56310-riding-paris-roubaix-pave-its-all-a...

David Else

posted by David Else [284 posts]
6th April 2012 - 11:40

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David, Looking to do the Paris-Roubaix challenge in April '13. Interested in the Salisbury Plain military roads you mentioned riding on. Im in Bournemouth so Salisbury isnt too far from me. Where abouts are these roads? Appreciate any help. Thank you.

posted by Walby11 [1 posts]
17th October 2012 - 17:22

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I never made it to the perimeter road, but did go over the Imber road a few times. However, the best place I found to get the hang of riding fast on bad roads was the unsurfaced sections of the Fosse Way. It was rough, but to be honest, nowhere near as rough as those Roubaix cobbles.

In fact, there's NOWHERE as rough as those Roubaix cobbles!

David Else

posted by David Else [284 posts]
19th October 2012 - 17:28

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Why not just go over to Belgium for a weekend?

Not too expensive on train, and if you go on a friday night you could easily get two rides over some cobbles in.

There are probably some cycling specific b&b's as well.

Google...

Sir Velo

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posted by Raleigh [1728 posts]
19th October 2012 - 18:39

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