It’s a brutal but simple problem: the 27 cobblestone sectors of Paris-Roubaix are hell to ride across on a normal race bike. Over the years we have a seen a number of technologies to combat this emerge, from pivoting frames to elastomer rear suspension to front suspension forks. But the most effective solution is also simple: fat tubulars with low pressure.
While 28mm has become the standard width, last year John Degenkolb won Paris-Roubiax on 30mm tubulars, showing that even fatter isn’t necessarily slower. While Degenkolb didn’t return to defend his title, his entire Giant-Alpecin squad followed suit, riding 30mm tubulars marked with a simple smiley face.
Normal road racing pressure is around 6-7.5 bar / 85-108psi, depending on rider weight and conditions. For Paris-Roubaix, riders will start out much lower, in the range of 4.8-5.2bar / 70-75psi, and the tubulars will lose a little air over the course of the 6+ hours of racing over 258km.
- Meet the aero bike that won Paris-Roubaix: Matthew Hayman’s Scott Foil
- Peter Sagan’s Paris-Roubaix bike switch: thin and digital to fat and mechanical
- Tom Boonen’s Specialized S-Works Roubaix SL4
At the start, many riders compare air pressure. Here, Astana’s Gatis Smukulis checks out the cushioning on Roy Curvers’ 30mm Vittoria setup
As with most bike tech choices, it’s a balancing act with tubular pressure: riders want comfort on the stones but speed and efficiency on the tarmac.
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