Although Paris-Roubaix's 'Hell of the North' moniker originally referred to the bombed-out state of post-war Northern France, many riders today consider the description perfectly apt for the bone-shaking cobblestone race. With more than 57km of pavé during the 253km event from Compiegne to Roubaix, team mechanics broke out fat tubulars, handlebar gel and extra bar tape, and bar-top brake and shift levers of various configurations. IAM Cycling star Sylvain Chavanel took the start on a cyclocross bike with new 30mm Schwalbe G-One tubeless tyres.
At first glance, 2015 Paris-Roubaix champion John Degenkolb of Giant-Alpecin had a fairly straightforward machine with a Giant Defy Advanced SL frameset, Shimano C35 wheels, Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 group and Pioneer power meter. But a closer look revealed a few tricks, like 30mm Vittoria-branded tubulars with clincher treads glued on, a single bar-top brake lever, a Di2 climb switch mounted next to the stem and a little good luck, 'knock on wood' token glued to the frame. MyKnoaky is a good luck charm product created by former pro Andreas Klier.
While Cofidis won the award for most ridiculously fat handlebar tape job — their triple wrap brought bar circumference to nearly 15cm and dwarfed the hoods — perhaps more surprising was the appearance of aero bikes at Paris-Roubaix. Both Tour of Flanders champion Alexander Kristoff and the entire Movistar team rode the Canyon Aeroad CF SLX, with wide tubulars the only concession to the stones. Movistar rider John Gadret rode the Canyon integrated aero handlebar with most of the tops bereft of any tape at all.
With an eye to the chance of wet, muddy cobblestones, weather is always the number one topic at Paris-Roubaix (it was dry this year). But a close second is tyre pressure. While every rider is different — based on their weight, plus weather, tyre size and personal preference — all riders run much lower tyre pressure than at any other road race of the year. Most riders were in the 4.5-6bar/64-86psi range.
As with his teammate Chavanel, IAM Cycling rider Matthias Brändle told BikeRadar that he had mechanics put 5bar/72psi in his 30mm tubeless Schwalbes.
Click through the massive gallery above for a look at the unique bikes of The Hell of the North.
Paris-Roubaix champion John Degenkolb's good luck charm