Wide tyres, big chainrings and gravel bikes: Paris-Roubaix 2024 tech round-up

All the tech on show during the 2024 Paris-Roubaix weekend

Gone are the days of Paris-Roubaix being a hotbed for new, innovative technology that helps riders get over the cobbles comfortably. The 2024 edition of the Hell of the North was one of the quietest years in history for new tech, with wider tyres and big chainrings largely being the main headlines of the weekend. Israel-Premier Tech made the most noise by using a Factor Ostro Gravel bike during the race, but this choice didn’t end up paying dividends in terms of performance, with the team’s highest finisher Tom Van Asbroeck ending up seven minutes behind eventual race winner Mathieu van der Poel. So, what’s happened to all the Roubaix tech?

Yves Lampaert of Soudal–Quick-Step explained that Paris-Roubaix is becoming all about speed. His team opted for the Tarmac SL8 rather than Specialized’s specific Roubaix bike, arguing that aerodynamics are the main priority: “The biggest change from the past years is going from tubular to tubeless, almost everyone now uses tubeless. This year we will ride on the normal Tarmac. Last year we rode on the Roubaix suspension which is a good bike to ride on for comfort, but aerodynamically not the best to perform on,” Lampaert said. “To train on it, it's a nice bike. But nowadays it’s all about speed in a race.”

With Van der Poel and Jasper Philipsen riding a standard set-up on their Canyon Aeroad models, and Lotte Kopecky winning the women’s race on a normal – albeit with a 1x drivetrain – Specialized Tarmac SL8, it seems that team’s priorities are changing for Roubaix, especially as the speed of the race increases year on year –Van der Poel’s average speed was a record-breaking 47.802kph. 

Still, as Rouleur skulked around the team paddocks before the men’s and women’s races in this year’s Paris-Roubaix, we spotted some noteworthy pieces of kit and changes to rider’s usual set-ups. This is all the tech we spotted in the Hell of the North.

Lorena Wiebes and all of the SD Worx riders had opted to put SRAM wireless blips on the tops of their handlebars in order to change gear easily on the cobbles. Wiebes normally has the blips on the inside of her drops to aid shifting in her sprint position, but it seems the Dutch rider valued easy changes on the cobbles rather than in the velodrome for Roubaix. Both Wiebes and Kopecky opted for a two-piece bar and stem over the Roval Rapide integrated handlebar they would normally use.

SD Worx-Protime also were all using 35mm Specialized S-Works Mondo endurance tyres. Interestingly, Specialized states that the maximum tyre clearance for the Tarmac SL8 is 32mm, so the team were pushing the limits with this wide tyre. The entire SD Worx team was riding the Specialized Tarmac, opting for this bike over the Roubaix model due to the favourable aerodynamics.

Team DSM–Firmenich PostNL had ditched the carbon bottle cages for Paris-Roubaix, instead going for an old-fashioned steel option to lessen the risk of bottles flying out on the cobbles. Even with soigneurs placed all around the course, Roubaix is a race in which it is notoriously tricky to get any assistance from the team car or roadside, so keeping bottles on the bike is essential. 

The majority of SRAM sponsored teams were riding a 1x set-up in the Hell of the North, with mechanics stating that this is more reliable to avoid chain drops over the bumpy terrain. Given the race’s flat parcours, an easy gear to get over climbs isn’t necessary in Roubaix. 

Grace Brown’s Lapierre Xelius SL 3 had unreleased Prologo bar tape on it, seemingly with added gel and padding in order to make the cobbles more comfortable. Prologo has already released Energrip Gloves which are supposed to give riders enhanced grip and absorb ground vibrations, so this, combined with the bar tape, should make for a comfy Roubaix ride.

EF Education-Cannondale team bikes featured Elite bottle cages with small patches of sand paper on the inside to help grip the bottles. The defending champion Alison Jackson was also using Prologo’s new bar tape on her special-edition Canadian national champion team bike.

Israel-Premier Tech were one of the few teams to opt for a special bike for Roubaix, using the Factor Ostro Gravel in the Hell of the North. The team argued that the race-focused gravel bike doesn’t have any sort of aerodynamic disadvantage but is more comfortable and reliable for riders. Despite having plenty of room for wide tyres on the Ostro Gravel, Israel-Premier Tech riders still only ran 32mm tyres. 

Marco Haller looked to be using a prototype Specialized saddle on his race bike. 

British national champion Fred Wright and all of his Bahrain-Victorious teammates decided not to use their usual Vision Metron 5D integrated bars at Roubaix, opting for a more traditional option, presumably for added comfort when riding on the tops. The team were also using wide 35mm tyres. 

Mads Pedersen’s Trek Madone looked to be close to his standard set-up, the Lidl-Trek rider has an extremely aerodynamic, aggressive position on the bike and uses the Madone one piece handlebar with a -17 degree tilt. The women's Lidl-Trek squad mostly were riding the Domane RSL, a bike that features IsoSpeed technology which is said to absorb the worst of the cobble shock. 

We spotted Josh Tarling’s dinner plate 62T chainring from Digirit on his race bike at the start and he also had a 60T chainring with a K-Edge chain catcher on his spare bike. Using a single ring prevents mechanical issues but a big front chainring is also said to help with drivetrain efficiency as the straighter path from the chainring and cassette ensures no watts are wasted.

Since Lidl-Trek’s race bikes were relatively standard apart from wider tyres and a 1x set-up, we were easily distracted by this cute balance bike lining up next to the rider’s race bike.

John Degenkolb’s race bike featured a photo of his family on the top tube, no doubt to motivate the 35-year-old on the cobbles. Degenkolb is a former Roubaix champion having won in 2015 and eventually finished in 12th place in the 2024 edition.

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