The Hell of the North

Paris Roubaix is one of the oldest classic cycling races in the north of France which still appeals to the imagination. The main features of the race are the roads paved with cobble stones which are not suitable for normal people. These are the roads of the farmers where a cyclist or a normal car will not dare because of the risk of personal injury or at least serious damage to the vehicle. The weather conditions make the survival trip only heavier, more dangerous and difficult. It rains frequently during Paris Roubaix whereby the sections with cobblestones are almost impossible to ride and the number of crashes and accidents can hardly be counted. During drought the riders ride all day in dense clouds of dust which obstruct the view and suffocate the lungs. The hell for man and machine. For the riders and the people in the background. The mechanics and the masseurs. The finish on the concrete Velodrome of Roubaix is over 250 kilometer away. There is always only one winner who will be a hero for the rest of his life. And his cycling career is successful forever.

Paris-Roubaix is rightly called the infernal classic. It is the true hell for the riders, staff and equipment. At the time the material sponsors are known the preparations for the upcoming cycling year starts. This means that the mechanics are already in December around the table in order to select the right material.

Hennie Kuiper , winner of PR in 1983.
One of many crashes

The frame of Paris Roubaix.

The geometry is totally different from the normal frame; the fork is longer and wider designed as the rear suspension. This means that the head of the frame is somewhat higher which causes problems for some riders to adopt the correct position.

In recent years, more and more conductors with buffing in the frame were launched. But as a mechanic I can say that the right tire pressure and the wheels give the best buffing. For the wheel an Alum rim is still the top but on account of sponsor interests, they are now required to ride with carbon rims.

The higher the rims the more likely it is to have punctures by impacts of the rim.

Similarly, as regards the choice of the tubes also the sponsors often have the last word which in turn leads to real disasters. That resulted in my penultimate Paris Roubaix in five broken wheels and 18 punctures and the last even 24 punctures and 11 broken wheels.

Regarding the tubes for Paris Roubaix there are only two quality brands Dugast and FMB. Those are expensive tubes from natural silk with a latex inner tube with a protective layer on the sides to prevent bumping. These are 25 to 28 mm wide and are used, respectively, for a dry or a wet Paris Roubaix.

But no matter how good the quality of the tubes is, it is the pressure inside that makes the difference. The lower the pressure, the more comfortable and the longer your hands, back, feet and neck can withstand the rigors.

The champion of low pressure is Tom Boonen. Four times winner of Paris-Roubaix who always rides with a pressure of 4 bars, which is an incredible feat of concentration and techniques. Riding this low pressure requires a great mastery of the bike. The rider had to manage the art to control the bike on the cobblestones. He must let the bike dance on the cobblestones to prevent bumping. Tom Boonen had only one puncture in seven Paris Roubaix, which says more than enough.

Most riders ride with a pressure of between 5 and 6 bar. But when a rider cannot ride on the stones all these things will not help him.

Concerning the gears only the inner blade is changed, this will be a 46 or 44 depending on the preference of the rider.

At the rear an 11-25 block is mounted. Not for climbs, which are not present in Paris Roubaix, but the 25 is blocked to prevent the gear hit the spokes.

Finally, the Di2 satellite shifters can be mounted on the steering bar so that you can switch on top of the steering bar with your hands. Also, if the rider wishes, MTB brake levers are placed, but this is for amateurs, because brakes on the stones are equal to falling.

Furthermore, there is a double handlebar tape or gel applied to protect hands and prevent blisters. And just hoping that it stays straight and without damage manages to reach the velodrome in Roubaix. Whatever the result is for most riders reaching the finish is already a world-class performance.

Movie Paris Roubaix last 40 km