Paris - Roubaix
SURVIVING THE COBBLES
The cobbles of the Paris-Roubaix Challenge provide one of the toughest races in the cycling calendar. Our very own Ross has ridden the cobbles on 4 occasions. Here's his advice on how to ride and survive the journey.
Bib shorts & saddle
Even though my cobble technique is definitely lacking and my speed is too slow to skip over them, I didn’t have trouble with my saddle or bib shorts. My advice here, is to wear really good bib shorts and only ride a saddle that you’ve ridden plenty of times before.
Bike & Tyres
In 2016, I rode an aluminium race bike with 27mm clincher tyres at 100 psi. Looking back this made it even tougher! In 2017, I rode a steel bike with 28mm tyres at 90 psi. Last year a rode a carbon cyclocross bike with 30mm tyres at 80psi and this was the best yet. So my advice here is go for the biggest tyres that will fit the frame.
Also, don’t underestimate the difference a cobble specific bike will make. I had the chance to try the offerings from a couple of manufacturers this year and compared to riding an aluminium frame as I did in 2016, it felt like I was cheating!
bottle cages, saddle bags & pockets
On hitting the first sector of cobbles, there were numerous bidons that had been ejected from cages and many other items (full saddle bags, pumps, sunglasses, energy gels, bananas, inner tubes etc) that had fallen from saddle bags or jersey pockets. If you can swap your cages to some MTB ones do, but if you can’t put a wrap or 2 of duct tape around the bottle to help it stay put. Also ensure your saddle bag is secure, (clips work better than velcro) and ensure your jersey pockets are well packed.
TAPE, TAPE & TAPE
Firstly, double tape your bars. This really, really works – it allows you to rest your hands on the bars loosely instead of having to grip hard around a much narrower bar. I double taped the tops in 2016. In 2017, I double taped everything and triple taped the tops, but I couldn’t reach the brakes easily! In 2018 I double taped tops and drops and that worked fine.
Double tape your hands as well as your handlebars. Tape anywhere you think might rub with decent physio tape. On my practice ride in 2016, I ended up with really bad blisters on the palm of my hands and on my thumbs. So I taped them all up, and then put more tape over the first bits of tape to stop them from coming off, then slid my hands inside some mitts. I didn’t go for much padding in the mitts, as that seemed to increase the friction for me (I’d worn padded gloves for the practice). I went for thin leather mitts, which I’ve used when it’s been warm enough. I’ve also used non-padded full finger, which has also worked well.
The 2021 Paris-Roubaix Challenge gives you the opportunity to ride most of the Paris – Roubaix route including all of the cobbles of one of the oldest and most significant of cycling events. Sports Tours International offer a variety of hotels for 2 or 3 nights in Roubaix with guaranteed entry as well as various other travel options to this enormously popular, mythical race.