Tubular tricks and stones: “Paris-Roubaix” tech at the Tour de France

Gallery of the gear riders used to tackle stage 4 of the 2015 Tour

There is no such thing as the one perfect bike for a race day that encompasses tarmac and cobblestones.

As the Tour de France again returned to the pavé this year, riders and mechanics from the 22 teams chose a wide spread of bikes, tubulars and even tubeless setups for stage 4, which many were calling “Paris-Roubaix day” for its resemblance to the spring classic.

Some trends emerged among the teams, with endurance bikes being more common than aero bikes, for instance, and fat 27-30mm tubulars generally carrying the day. But while we did see some of the tall gearing configurations of Paris-Roubaix, such as 54/46-tooth chainrings, there were no triple-wrapped handlebars or knuckles wound in tape to ward off the stones’ harsh vibrations.

And a view of the fmb paris-roubaix treads on the rest of the garmin-cannondale bikes: and a view of the fmb paris-roubaix treads on the rest of the garmin-cannondale bikes
And a view of the fmb paris-roubaix treads on the rest of the garmin-cannondale bikes: and a view of the fmb paris-roubaix treads on the rest of the garmin-cannondale bikes

Many teams treated stage 4 very much like Paris-Roubaix

On more than a couple of teams, the main sprinter and team leader had 25mm tubulars while their teammates chose 27 or 28mm options.

There was also talk of riders switching bikes mid-stage, as the 13.3km of pavé came almost entirely in the latter half of the race.

Other teams just tinkered with tire pressure, setting it at slightly lower than normal at the start with the reasoning that about half a bar (roughly 7psi) would leak out by the time riders hit the cobbles.

Etixx-Quick Step mechanics were setting one rider’s 26mm tubulars at 5bar, but asked us not to take pictures.

As at Paris-Roubaix, FMB’s handmade tubulars were en vogue. Many were on full display while some were dressed in Specialized treads. Still others were used with the FMB logo and markings blacked out with permanent marker.

Why no, this isn't an fmb paris-roubaix casing on an fdj bike. why do you ask?: why no, this isn't an fmb paris-roubaix casing on an fdj bike. why do you ask?
Why no, this isn't an fmb paris-roubaix casing on an fdj bike. why do you ask?: why no, this isn't an fmb paris-roubaix casing on an fdj bike. why do you ask?

No, these aren't FMB Paris-Roubaix tubulars. Why do you ask?

Many sprinters rode their preferred aero bikes. Green jersey holder Andre Greipel set out aboard his green Ridley Noah with 25mm Continental Competition tubulars. Mark Cavendish reverted to his old green Specialized S-Works Venge instead of the brand new Venge ViAS he rode for the first two road stages. He also had narrower casings than his teammates. Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff also held the aero line, piloting the same Canyon Aeroad CF SLX he commanded to wins this spring like the Tour of Flanders, and which he also rode at Paris-Roubaix.

Garmin-Cannondale went the biggest for stage 4, with everyone rolling out on their 30mm FMB Paris-Roubaix tubulars. Team mechanic Alex Banyay said the team used the identical setup from the Hell of the North: Cannondale Synapse bikes with a non-series Shimano front brake installed on the rear for extra clearance. Ryder Hesjedal had a sharply negative mountain bike stem installed to get his desired 17cm of drop on the tall Synapse head tube.

GoPro’s new HERO4 Session showed up on a few rider’s bikes, too.

While the new gopros are smaller than previous iterations, they are still pretty easy to spot: while the new gopros are smaller than previous iterations, they are still pretty easy to spot
While the new gopros are smaller than previous iterations, they are still pretty easy to spot: while the new gopros are smaller than previous iterations, they are still pretty easy to spot

GoPro's new HERO4 Session

Click through the massive gallery above for a closer look at the bikes and gear of stage 4 of the 2015 Tour de France. And check out the particulars (that we could discern) for each of the teams' tubular selection here:

Team Tubular type and widths used
Orica Continental Competition 25 and 28
Lampre-Meria Continental Competition 25 and 28
Lotto Continental Competition 25s for leaders, 28s for others
MovistarContinental Competition Pro LTD 28s
Tinkoff-SaxoFMB Paris-Roubaix 26s
Team Sky FMB Paris-Roubaix 27s
Trek Factory RacingFMB Paris-Roubaix 27s
FDJ FMB Paris-Roubaix 27s (blacked out), some A. Dugast
Garmin FMB Paris-Roubiax 30s
EuropcarHutchinson Pro Tour, width unknown
CofidisKenda SC, width unknown
Katusha Mavic, width unknown
MTN Qhubeka Schwalbe 25 and 27s
AG2RSchwalbe One 28s, Dugast 27s
IAM Cycling Schwalbe Tubeless Pro One 28s
Etixx Specialized 26 and 28s with FMB casings
Astana Specialized 26s with FMB casing
Bretagne-Seche Challenge Strada 25s for leaders, Paris-Roubaix 27s for others
BMCUnbranded wide tubulars, width unknown
Lotto Jumbo NL Vittoria Corsa 25s
Giant-AlpecinVittoria Corsa CX Pro 25s
Bora-Argon 18 Vittoria Corsa SC and Pavé 25s
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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