Paris-Roubaix tech gallery: how pros cope with cobbles

Taped wrists, myriad satellite shifter positions, bar-top brakes and more

Paris-Roubaix is a race like no other. With more than two dozen sections of brutish cobblestone roads littering the 258km race, the Hell of the North batters bikes and bodies without discrimination. Every year riders and mechanics employ various strategies to mitigate the rattling effects of the rocks.

While certain frames and saddles can help, a rider's primary aid is fat tubulars run at relatively low pressure. Continental and FMB were the most popular choices.

This year electronic gears were everywhere at Paris-Roubaix. This year a pair of teams each rode SRAM eTap and Campagnolo EPS, while more than a dozen squads had Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. There were notable mechanical exceptions to this digital rule. Pre-race favorite Fabian Cancellara rode mechanical Dura-Ace is his final Paris-Roubaix while world champion Peter Sagan switched mid-race from Di2 to mechanical. But the entire podium of Mathew Hayman, Tom Boonen and Ian Stannard used Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, putting to rest the notion that electronic shifting isn’t up to snuff for the cobbles.

While digital shifting has solidified its presence in the pro peloton, a consensus on where and how to mount satellite shifters has not. Shimano sprint shifters and SRAM Blip shifters were affixed all over various parts of the handlebars, sometimes mounted bare, sometimes buried beneath handlebar tape and sometimes wrapped with electric tape.

Good old-fashioned tape was also used to keep computers strapped to stems and cheat sheets of the cobble sectors plastered to top tubes and stems. Many riders wrapped their fingers and wrists with kinesiology tape to reduce the vibrations from the cobbles.

A few teams had riders on two different bikes. Team Sky, for instance, used a mix of the K8-S with the elastomer suspension and the unreleased K8 that has a traditional rear triangle. AG2R had seven road bikes and one cyclocross frameset.

Despite all the cobblestone-mitigation attempts of various technologies, it was the man with the combination of the best luck, the best head and the best legs who won the day. Mathew Hayman captured the 2016 Paris-Roubaix aboard a Scott Foil aero bike.

Check out the deep gallery above for a close look at the bikes and gear of the 2016 Paris-Roubaix, and be sure to visit our sister site for complete coverage of the Hell of the North.

Ben Delaney

US Editor-in-Chief
Ben has been writing about bikes since 2000, covering everything from the Tour de France to Asian manufacturing to kids' bikes. The former editor-in-chief of VeloNews, he began racing in college while getting a journalism degree at the University of New Mexico. Based in the cycling-crazed city of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids, Ben enjoys riding most every day.
  • Discipline: Road (paved or otherwise), cyclocross and sometimes mountain. His tri-curious phase seems to have passed, thankfully
  • Preferred Terrain: Quiet mountain roads leading to places unknown
  • Current Bikes: Scott Foil Team Issue, Specialized S-Works Tarmac, Priority Eight city bike... and a constant rotation of test bikes
  • Dream Bike: A BMC Teammachine SLR01 with disc brakes and clearance for 30mm tires (doesn't yet exist)
  • Beer of Choice: Saison Dupont
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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