There’s a strong tradition of bike manufacturers creating custom bikes to meet the demands of the brutal cobbled sectors of Paris-Roubaix, which takes place this Sunday, and Canadian company Argon 18, supplier of bikes to the Bora-Argon 18 team, has built the Gallium Classics Edition just for the race. This is the bike British rider Scott Thwaites will ride.
Most teams opt for an ‘endurance’ bike where possible, such as the Cannondale Synapse or Bianchi Infinito CV, both of which have longer wheelbases and bigger tyre clearance than their regular out-and-out race bikes. Argon’s endurance bike, the Krypton XRoad has been built with disc brakes which rules it out, as disc brakes aren’t currently allowed in UCI regulated races.
That has left Argon 18 with no choice than to take the Gallium and make a few changes to make it more suitable for the cobbles. Interestingly the company has used the older Gallium and not the newer and lighter Gallium Pro. The biggest change will be a new fork and rear stays to accommodate the bigger tyres most teams run, with 30mm tubular tyres a common sight, but the Bora-Argon 18 team opting for 28mm Vittoria Pave tyres on Vision Metron 40 wheels.
As well as modifying the fork and chainstays to squeeze in the bigger tyres than the regular bike can take, Argon 18 says the new layup has been made to improve vibration absorption from all the impacts that occur when barreling over cobbled roads. The team tested a number of different prototypes on the roads of Paris-Roubaix before settling on this one. It’s likely they’ve also increased the rake of the fork to lengthen the wheelbase to increase the stability.
Other common changes that the team will make to this Classics Edition bike will include double wrapped bar tape, a fairly standard option for most of the riders in this race. Teams don’t usually reveal the tyre pressure they’ll use, that’s the most closely guarded secret at the race, but the team tells us it’ll go for 5.5 to 6 bar - that’s about 80 to 87 psi. Not a lot at all, and such a low pressure that you can only get away with really with bigger volume tyres.
What other kit stands out on the bikes? Well there are the Di2 bar-mounted shifter buttons giving the riders the option of being able to change gear when riding on the tops, a preferable position when riding on cobbles. They’ll use Speedplay’s new Pave pedals, which have most of the body removed to increase mud clearance and prevent issues with clipping in, should they be forced to dismount. Bottles can easily be shaken loose on the cobbles, so they use Tacx Deva bottle cages to hopefully retain their bottles.
The rest of the kit is pretty much standard, a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset with an FSA K-Force Light chainset, with a 53/44t chainring setup - because of the flat nature of the Paris-Roubaix course most teams ditch the 39t inner chainring for a 44t, which is a more usable alternative to to the big ring if they need it. The team are sponsored by Power2Max and use the company’s crank-based power meter.
The team are the only outfit using TRP brake calipers. FSA supply handlebars and stems, and it’s cheaper aluminium parts rather than carbon fibre. Weight isn’t a concern for the teams, especially on a course like Paris-Roubaix, and the strength and durability of aluminium, especially in the event of a crash, which are common on the cobbles, is preferable.
“Paris-Roubaix is such a special race that it’s simply required to have special bike setups,” said Ralph Denk, Team Manager at BORA – ARGON 18. “One must find the right balance between handling and comfort on 50km of cobblestones as well as the rigidity you need on the other 200km. But then you can’t experiment in the race itself.
“Once a rider lines-up in Compiègne he needs to trust completely in his material. We are more than happy that Argon 18 provided us already back in February with different classic set-ups that we tested in diverse races. The classics edition turns out to be very reliable and to go as smoothly as possible with the various components.”
Gervais Rioux, President of Argon 18 adds: “We wanted to be proactive and get in front of the team’s needs by providing bicycles adapted to the unique race conditions at Paris-Roubaix, and to the Northern Classics before that race. It is important for us that athletes approach every event with absolute confidence in their equipment. By providing the most competitive bike possible, we ensure a favorable environment for them to perform and, therefore, to obtain results.”
Photos copyright of BORA – ARGON 18 and reproduced with permission.
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