Out of Excuses?

by Chikashi

In anticipation of this Saturday’s 170 km Paris-Roubaix sportive with 51+ km of cobbled sectors and based on collected advice on riding the cobbles, few bits of components were installed. I am generally very pleased with them.

They have so far been tested on some Belgian cobbles here and there. This past Saturday was the Ronde van Vlaanderen / Tour of Flanders sportive during which these components proved their worth albeit the ride itself turned out to be my worst performance to date. My calves, quads and even hams kept seizing up repeatedly, so I ended up abandoning just before the Berg ten Houte climb and took the direct route back to Oudenaarde. I suspect that it had something to do with standing outdoors in the freezing cold for nearly an hour before setting off, particularly since all the usual suspects can be eliminated…

Lizard Skins DSP 3.2 mm
Perhaps the most prominent piece is the Lizard Skins DSP 3.2 mm bar tape. The DSP 3.2 mm provides sufficient comfort when riding over the cobbles. Because it is of a much thicker foam layer, it requires a little time to get accustomed to the resulting larger bar diameter, but one short outing is enough to get used to it.

It also has a surface finish that prevents it from becoming slippery in wet conditions. It took a bit of getting used to, but I like it, particularly since it does exactly what it claims to do, allowing me to have a secure grip on the handlebar in the rain without having to apply a death grip. However, its stickiness is not selective. I chose the white version, and given its stickiness, it is very difficult to keep clean. Lizard Skins recommend that, in order to preserve the sticky finish, cleaning should be done with alcohol. However, I found that alcohol is not aggressive enough to clean the sort of soiling I seem to cause. I do not want to have a sparkling white bar tape, but I might choose a darker colour next time for practical reasons.

Continental Grand Prix 4 Season Mavic rim Sapim spokes Campagonolo Record hub built by Gilbert Cattoir

A sticky set of wider, puncture resistant tyres inflated to medium pressure is reassuring as well as helps dampen the constant vibration. I installed a pair of 700 x 28 Continental Grand Prix 4 Season, which does its job very well on the cobbles. Given the priorities for which it was designed, it feels a bit slow on dry tarmac, but I am happy with my tyre choice for the job at hand.

As recommended by Gilbert Cattoir, I am rolling on low profile rims for suppleness.

Campagolo Record low flange hub Sapim spokes Mavic rim built by Gilbert Cattoir

Also contributing to the suppleness are low flange hubs and double butted spokes. On the other hand, the high spoke count (36) ought to help give the wheels the requisite robustness to withstand the abuse.

Deda dog fang chain catcher

The chain catcher is a funny device. If the Deda Dog Fang does not work, I will know. If it does work, I’ll never know, to be perfectly honest. I do not actually recall having the chain jump off in the front although I do remember it happening in the back as a result of inadequately adjusted rear derailleur. In any case, the little plastic piece weighs as much as a fart, so I might as well have it, no? That said, there was a nice chap on the Ronde sportive last weekend, on a carbon Merckx rig, who gave me a push on the Koppenberg climb. Shortly thereafter, on another climb, his front derailleur over-shifted and the chain came off. The shell-shocked look on his face after he pulled over to the side of the road told me that his bottom bracket probably got chainsawed…

All these installed on a steel frame set with a geometry that is neither very relaxed nor very tight ought to provide a reasonably comfortable ride through the Hell of the North albeit I am not sure if ‘comfortable’ is ever the right word in this context. Therefore, I think that I am appropriately equipped, depriving me of any excuses to blame the bike for my poor performance. It’s now all up to my legs and my little mind, isn’t it? Why did I put myself in a corner like that…

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