I’m sure we’ve all geeked out over the pages and pages of tech coverage of the pros bikes at Roubaix.
With special frames, wheels, tubs, extra brake levers etc, its easy to enter the Roubaix sportive to think that you can’t possibly do it without a Trek Domane equipped with 27mm FMB Paris-Roubaix tubs.
If you are in the position where you have access to that level of equipment then great, go for it as it will make a difference, but for the rest of us we need to make do with what we already have, or what we can change easily and cheaply.
I found it relatively straightforward to convert an existing road bike to tackle Roubaix. Full disclaimer here: I do work for Canyon so have access to a few more bikes than most but my choice of steed was pretty standard. I would normally ride an Ultimate CF SLX Di2, so instead I opted for an Ultimate CF SL 9.0 which has a slightly heavier frame and more robust Ultegra mechanical shifting. Switching the standard 23mm tyres to 28mm Continental Gatorskins was the first change and with more clearance to spare in future I could go even wider with the same frame and brakes. Using a wider rim profile such as a DT Swiss R 23 or going tubeless would also be a great option.
But anyway, back to not needing special equipment. 28mm tyres on Mavic Ksyriums did a great job. Punctures can be a real issue in Roubaix and I almost got through unscathed aside from a Johan Vansummeren-esque slow puncture on the front wheel in the last 20km.
Next up I swapped my standard bottle cages for some Arundel Stainless Steel ones, which can be bent slightly to grip the bottle’s tighter. This did the trick as I got through the whole event without losing any water bottles. Double-wrapped bar tape and my most comfortable Fizik saddle with alloy rails completed the rig.
Clothing choice was relatively standard aside from the challenges of the event starting at 7am (four degrees) and finishing at lunchtime (16 degrees). I went with shorts, plenty of embrocation on the legs instead of knee warmers, a short sleeved jersey, arms warmers and a gilet, which proved to be just about warm enough for the first few hours, leaving a few layers to peel off once the sun came out.
Full finger gloves were essential given the cold start, and put on over a pair of regular finger-less gloves provided a bit of extra padding. Forgetting my Oakley sunglasses was not the smartest move given the dust from the cobbles, but step forward my roomie for the trip and legendary bike shop owner Guy Pearson, who lent me a pair of retro Rudy Projects.