As the Spring Classics are now over, you might have become enthusiastic about riding those famous tours yourself. Most of them are littered with difficult-to-ride bumpy cobbled roads, so how do you prepare your bike for this without spending a fortune? As we’re technical partner of many WorldTour teams, we’ve asked the pros for you!
In our special about Paris-Roubaix, Risto Usin the mechanic of BORA-hansgrohe, explained how he and his team set up the bikes for their pro riders, such as Peter Sagan, for rough rides like these. As they use a special frame with suspension to make the ride a bit more bearable, change the saddle rail for a titanium version and change the position of their electrical shifters, you’re probably looking for some more budget tips. That’s why we’ve asked him, Risto Usin, for simple and hands-on tips on how to adjust a standard road bike for a rough and bumpy ride on the cobbles. Ready? Here they come!
The cheapest and easiest way to give your bike a little more suspension is to lower the tyre pressure. In this way your bike won’t bump as hard on the cobbles as you would normally do with a standard tyre pressure of 7 to 8 bars. It’s important though that you don’t put the pressure too low as this might leave you with a puncture. “If you’re around 80 kg, then set your pressure to 5.7 to 6 bars. If you don’t have any front suspension, then lower the pressure in your front tyre roughly with 0.3 to 0.5 bars,” said Usin.
Everyone is talking about riding on wider tyres on the cobbles, but why is that? Well, with a wider the tyre you can ride with a lower tyre pressure without increasing the chance of getting a puncture. That’s exactly what you want, right? Usin advises to buy some wide tyres to make your ride much more comfortable: “Choose a tyre as wide as possible that will fit on your bike. A 28 mm or 30 mm tyre will do the job.”
One of the most common tricks to cope with the vibrations caused by the cobbles is to double wrap your steer. Your hands, wrists and forearms will be more than happy with this adjustment. Just wrap an extra set of handlebar tape over your existing tape and you’re done. There’s a wide variety of handlebar tapes, so you can pick the one you normally use or choose a more damping tape for an even greater absorbing result.
The vibrations on the rough cobble stones can be massive so you don’t want to lose your bottles while conquering them. Not only because you will run out of water, but it can also be very dangerous for the riders behind you. You can prevent this by using grip tape on the inside of your bottle cage. But it is even better to use the Ciro bottle cages. These are designed for great strength with minimal use of materials. They have a great clamping force under all conditions and are therefore the perfect bottle cage to ride the cobbled roads.
The vibrations, as mentioned above, can also cause your chain to come loose from your chainring and get stuck. An easy and affordable solution for this is to use a chain catcher. You easily mount this on your front derailleur between your frame and inner chainring. If your chain comes off it won’t land on your bottom bracket. The pro teams use these as well. “Yes, and we’re glad to have these! This way the chain is always safely secured. Because these catchers are so light, we use them all season on our bikes though, so not only for this race,” Usin said.
Check the bolts
And the final tip is about something that is often overlooked: checking the bolts. After all, you don’t want parts of your bike to come loose because of the shaking ride. So, check all bolts and give them an extra tighten before you start your ride on the cobbles. To improve the clamping force, you can use some assembly paste as well.
Now you’re good to go for a ride on the famous cobbled roads like the Muur, the Koppenberg, Carrefour and Trouée d’Arenberg without spending a fortune. Enjoy your ride!