With Mathew Hayman’s unexpected victory in Paris-Roubaix, the cobbled Classics are over for another year. However, for us the consumers, the pros’ choice of equipment could govern what we’re buying for the next year. So what trends did we spot that you could be following in the next 12 months?
Wider tyres than ever
We’ve known for a while that wider tyres are faster than narrower tyres, but the pros’ use of anything up to 30mm tyres at Paris-Roubaix shows that you shouldn’t be scared of going even wider than the 25mm rubber that you’re probably using already.
Yes, you might not be taking in the Trouée d’Arenberg on your typical weekend ride, but you will still benefit from using 27 or 28mm tyres. They might be a little heavier, but this downside will be outweighed by the better grip you’ll have through the corners and the increased comfort, especially when riding over rough roads, which should leave you fresher and therefore faster at the end of long rides.
Disc brakes have arrived (like it or not)
Having first been used in road races last August, this spring has been the first time that disc brakes have been used in some truly big races. Roompot-Oranje Peloton and Lampre-Merida used the new technology in the Tour of Flanders, with Direct-Energie also making the move across for Paris-Roubaix.
The fact that the pros are now beginning to embrace the new technology says a lot, especially as they have to worry about a lot of things that we don’t, namely rapid wheel changes, compatibility with roof racks, and safety in mass pile ups. As amateur riders who don’t need to worry about such issues, so with the pro endorsement, does this mean we have fewer excuses for not embracing the better braking?
Watch: Paris-Roubaix 2016 highlights
Vibration dampening frames are here to stay…
Cycling finally seems to have found the happy medium between producing bikes which are great for the pros to ride over the cobbles, and bikes which you and I might actually want to buy and ride for the rest of the year over normal tarmac.
Bikes such as the Specialized Roubaix, the new Pinarello K8, and, above all, the adjustable Trek Domane SLR that Fabian Cancellara used for his cobbles swansong, all feature vibration-dampening technology that improve comfort whether you’re riding over the cobbles or just some rubbish British tarmac, showing that such technology isn’t going anyway anytime soon in endurance bikes.
…Although you don’t necessarily need one
That said, one many who wasn’t using a frame with vibration-dampening technology at Paris-Roubaix was Mathew Hayman. The Australian was riding a standard team issue Scott Foil, a decision that was partly down to Scott not making a racy endurance frame (such as the Domane SLR or K8), but was also due to Hayman wishing to ride the same bike that he has been comfortable on through the early season races and his pre-season training.
Following on from Alexander Kristoff’s win in the 2015 Tour of Flanders on a Canyon Aeroad, Hayman’s win on a Foil shows that the latest aero bikes aren’t as brutally stiff as you might expect, offering a balance been comfort and speed that you might not have associated with such bikes in the past.
Mechanical gears aren’t dead
Despite being around for seven years now, electronic groupsets still haven’t completely taken over from mechanical on pro bikes, even in the cobbled races where you would’ve thought they’d offer the biggest benefit. After all, using electronic gears lets you position shifters all over the handlebars, so you never have to move your hands to shift when riding over the cobbles.
However, after experiencing gearing issues with his Di2 setup at last year’s Paris-Roubaix, Peter Sagan stuck with plain old Shimano Dura-Ace, showing that whatever sort of riding you’re doing on whatever the terrain, top-end mechanical groupsets are still more than up to the job, and their reliability can still not be equalled.
Aero road helmets are now the natural choice
Ok, so a flat Northern European race in spring is a long way from a sweltering mountain stage of the Tour de France, but you can’t help but you can’t helpt but notice how almost the whole of the pro ranks have embraced aero road helmets for the Classics this year. You have to go down to Imanol Erviti in ninth place to find a rider wearing a standard road helmet in Paris-Roubaix.
For most amateur riders, especially those living in Britain, an aero helmet (or at least a semi-aero helmet such as the Giro Synthe or the Kask Protone) now seems like the natural choice. You might be a little warm for a couple of days at the height of summer, but you’ll be faster all year round and have extra protection if you’re using the same helmet through the winter too.