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Paris-Roubaix pros' tubulars of choice - Gallery

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Team Giant-Alpecin ran 30mm Vittoria tubulars at Paris-Roubaix. The team edition 30mm tubs were marked with this simple smile

Team Giant-Alpecin ran 30mm Vittoria tubulars at Paris-Roubaix. The team edition 30mm tubs were marked with this simple smile
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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These Vredestein-branded tubulars have a similar casign to the boutique FMBs

These Vredestein-branded tubulars have a similar casign to the boutique FMBs
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Team Katusha rode 27mm FMB tubulars

Team Katusha rode 27mm FMB tubulars
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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At the start line, riders felt each others' tubulars. Some let out even more air from their own

At the start line, riders felt each others' tubulars. Some let out even more air from their own
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Wanty-Groupe Gobert pumped and checked each tubular with a track pump, then double-checked the pressure with a digital gauge. Pressures on the sheet ran from 4.8-5.2bar (70-75psi)

Wanty-Groupe Gobert pumped and checked each tubular with a track pump, then double-checked the pressure with a digital gauge. Pressures on the sheet ran from 4.8-5.2bar (70-75psi)
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Like the smiley faces, handwritten directional arrows are another sign of special-edition tubulars

Like the smiley faces, handwritten directional arrows are another sign of special-edition tubulars
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Mechanics use electric pumps and digital gauges; riders use their thumbs

Mechanics use electric pumps and digital gauges; riders use their thumbs
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Sagan's plan for the 27 sectors of cobbles: 30mm of plumpness

Sagan's plan for the 27 sectors of cobbles: 30mm of plumpness
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Peter Sagan had two Specialized bikes ready to race: this Tarmac with 26mm tuibulars on 64mm wheels, then a Roubaix with 30mm FMB tubulars on 40mm wheels. The plan was to switch after the first ~100km of racing, before the cobbles began

Peter Sagan had two Specialized bikes ready to race: this Tarmac with 26mm tuibulars on 64mm wheels, then a Roubaix with 30mm FMB tubulars on 40mm wheels. The plan was to switch after the first ~100km of racing, before the cobbles began
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Like many teams, Movistar ran Conti's 28mm Competition Pro LTD tubulars. Clearance was tight on the Canyon Aeroad frames

Like many teams, Movistar ran Conti's 28mm Competition Pro LTD tubulars. Clearance was tight on the Canyon Aeroad frames
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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While about half the WorldTour teams race Continental, we only saw one rider, AG2R's Sebastian Minard, on a cyclocross bike this year

While about half the WorldTour teams race Continental, we only saw one rider, AG2R's Sebastian Minard, on a cyclocross bike this year
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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An aggressive tread on the 28mm Hutchinson tubulars of Direct Energie, which raced on disc brakesAn aggressive tread on the 28mm Hutchinson tubulars of Direct Energie, which raced on disc brakes

An aggressive tread on the 28mm Hutchinson tubulars of Direct Energie, which raced on disc brakesAn aggressive tread on the 28mm Hutchinson tubulars of Direct Energie, which raced on disc brakes
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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27mm is about the skinniest you will find, with 28mm being the standard for Roubaix

27mm is about the skinniest you will find, with 28mm being the standard for Roubaix
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Giant-Alpecin uses an extra cable tension adjuster to quickly clear the 30mm girth for wheel changes

Giant-Alpecin uses an extra cable tension adjuster to quickly clear the 30mm girth for wheel changes
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Air pressure is always a hot topic among mechanics and riders alike at Paris-Roubaix

Air pressure is always a hot topic among mechanics and riders alike at Paris-Roubaix
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Team Giant-Alpecin ran 30mm Vittoria tubulars at Paris-Roubaix. The team edition 30mm tubs were marked with this simple smile

Team Giant-Alpecin ran 30mm Vittoria tubulars at Paris-Roubaix. The team edition 30mm tubs were marked with this simple smile
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Lotto-Soudal, like most teams, carefully prepared each tubular to the front and rear specifications of the rider

Lotto-Soudal, like most teams, carefully prepared each tubular to the front and rear specifications of the rider
(Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)

This article first appeared on Bike Radar

It’s a brutal but simple problem: the 27 cobblestone sectors of Paris-Roubaix are hell to ride across on a normal race bike. Over the years we have seen a number of technologies to combat this emerge, from pivoting frames to elastomer rear suspension to front suspension forks. But the most effective solution is also simple: fat tubulars with low pressure.

While 28mm has become the standard width, last year John Degenkolb won Paris-Roubiax on 30mm tubulars, showing that even fatter isn’t necessarily slower. While Degenkolb didn’t return to defend his title, his entire Giant-Alpecin squad followed suit, riding 30mm tubulars marked with a simple smiley face.

Normal road racing pressure is around 6-7.5 bar / 85-108psi, depending on rider weight and conditions. For Paris-Roubaix, riders will start out much lower, in the range of 4.8-5.2bar / 70-75psi, and the tubulars will lose a little air over the course of the 6+ hours of racing over 258km.

As with most bike tech choices, it’s a balancing act with tubular pressure: riders want comfort on the stones but speed and efficiency on the tarmac.

At the start of the 2016 Paris-Roubaix, world champion and recent Tour of Flanders victor Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) opted not to compromise. Instead, he started the race on a Specialized Tarmac with 26mm tubulars on 64mm rims, then planned to switch after about 100km of racing to a Roubaix with 30mm tubulars on 40mm rims before the cobbles started.

Before the race, mechanics worked to prepare every bike with the front and rear pressure specifications of each rider. Most used a digital pump to set the pressures handwritten on a team sheet. Others used a track pump for inflation and then double-checked the pressure with a digital gauge.