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What’s The Fastest Bike For Riding The Cobbles Of Paris-Roubaix ?


– Have you ever looked at
the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix and wondered whether or not a road bike is actually the fastest type of bike? Well, we have. (laughing) (rock music) – We’re going to put three types of bike through their paces here, on arguably, one of the most infamous sectors of pave in the world. The Carrefour de l’Arbre, in France, made famous of course, in Paris-Roubaix. – Yeah, we are each gonna ride a road bike, a cyclocross bike, and a cross country mountain bike through this tough sector
as fast as we possibly can, to see which one is the quickest. We’re gonna record our power on each run, with the same set of PowerTap P1 pedals and simply swap them between the bikes. Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt computers
will collect the data, in addition to speed and time. The road bike is the Orbea Avant. A fast, light bike, but with endurance geometry, and ample space for the 28mm wide continental tyres. It’s the very bike that
will be used in fact, by Team Cofidis in Paris-Roubaix itself. (techno music) Right, here we go, run
number one, on the road bike. Not gonna lie, I’m a little
bit nervous actually. Hitting pave at full tilt, ready, go. So here we go. Run one of the road bike in
the Carrefour de l’Arbre. ** (upbeat music) Effort’s starting to bite. Coming towards the end. Going pretty deep. The bump intake, it was really high. Got into a rhythm now. Rattly and constantly feeling like you’re trying to push to keep your speed up. Pinching still, the bigger tyres. Our cross bike today is the Trek Crockett. We fitted 35 millimetre
wide, semi-slick continental cyclocross speed tyres and other than the road pedals, this is ready to race. (techno music) okay, run number two, cyclocross bike. This one, I’ve got high
hopes for actually. Let’s see how it goes and go. Carrefour de l’Arbre, on a cross bike. Let’s see how she fairs. (techno music) This does feel better, than what’s expected. (techno music) No idea what the time difference is, but this bike, a cross bike, definitely feels better over the cobbles. Smoother, faster, potentially faster. It feels faster, is it faster? Only one way to find out. Okay, last but not least, it’s our mountain bike. A Canyon Exceed CF SLX. A 29er with big semi-slick
continental speed king 2.2 inch wide tyres. (rock music) Here we go then, run number
three, the mountain bike. I’m looking forward to this. This should be fun, let’s go. Run number three, MTB. That’s mountain bike for short. I’m not gonna lie, this is smooth, woohoo. I’m in top gear now,
I think that’s 38, 11. (rock music) That hardly feels like
pave on a mountain bike. It’s just kinda fast, slightly bumpy. A totally different experience. I cannot wait to see the time. Right, our pave interval
session is now over and results, very conveniently, have uploaded straight
to the Wahoo ELEMNT app. – They have indeed and I must admit, I’m just a little bit surprised. So here are the results.
– Go on. – Brace yourself.
– Yup. – In third place, therefore
the slowest of the three bikes, was the road bike. – The road bike? – And that’s for both of us. In second place, second
slowest or the second fastest, whatever way you look at it, was the cross bike and that leaves only one winner, the Canyon Exceed CF SLX mountain bike. That is a little bit of a surprise. – Yeah, isn’t it? – Should I drool down
a little bit further? – Go on. – For you, Si, the mountain bike was five seconds quicker than the cross bike and 10 seconds quicker than the road bike and for, it was slightly closer. The mountain bike was two seconds
faster than the cross bike and five seconds faster
than the road bike. Pretty surprising results. – Yeah and even more
interestingly perhaps, was that my average power
on the mountain bike was lower than on my cross bike. Despite the fact that I was going faster. So you may have thought, given the lack of aerodynamics
on a mountain bike and the wider tyres that again, you may think would roll slower, actually it was more efficient and I think it’s the secret, is down to those wider tyres and also the suspension because the vibration from the road doesn’t translate half
so much to your body and so effectively, there’s much less resistance to your progress as you hammer across the pave. – I think it’s also worth mentioning, this particular section of
pave, Carrefour de l’Arbre, is quite technical. There’s some nasty,
twisty turns at the start. A lot of them are off camber as well and then you got this
famous 90 degree left hander and I must admit, I was thrown really wide on the road bike and on the cross bike, but had so much confidence
riding those turns, those technical sections
on a mountain bike and also, even riding on
the crown of the road, I felt that my projectory
was far straighter. I’ve thrown all over the
place on the other bikes, bit weirdly, I did feel like
I was actually going slower on the mountain bike, which is slightly counter intuitive. – Yeah, I felt like that was possibly the slowest bike as well. So yeah, very weird indeed. Now, I think we probably need to mention, that although the mountain bike is clearly faster across the pave, Paris-Roubaix itself,
has what, 50 K’s of pave and about 200 and something
kilometres of road. So Matt, would you ride a mountain bike for 200 kilometres on the road? – As comfortable as it was on the pave, that’s a lot of tarmac. So, I’m sticking to the road bike. – Sticking to your road bike– – well that’s it, of course, for the right tyre pressure,
right tyres, et cetera. – Of course, do you just wanna ride that back to the hotel, it’s 20 odd K away? – Nah, I’ve just the saddle and this is just dialled for me now, so I’m just gonna– – I quite wanted to– – No, thanks for the offer though, but I’ve made my choice. – In your own time.
– Got my feet in and I’m off. See ya later. – Right, well, on that note. Firstly, I’d say, make sure you subscribe to GCN. If you haven’t subscribed already, then I don’t know what’s stopping you. It’s very easy and it’s free. Just click on the globe. And if you’re after some more content from these gritty roads
of Northern Europe, why not click just up there for a very special retro vs modern from the cobbles of Flanders? Or indeed, click just up there for our Flanders challenge. Has he clipped in yet? Possibly not actually.

Yvette Parker

100 Comments

  1. Could you make a comparison between the old front suspension road bike (Rockshox Roubaix) of the 90's and the brand new Specialized Roubaix with front suspension and how it compares to current Roubaix bikes without front suspension? Thanks.

  2. Million dollars idea for Paris – Roubaix 2018: MTB with drop bars. John Tomac's style

  3. Every time that I watch you .. you make me laugh =D … thanks for the enjoy =D .. Words from Valdivia, Chile!

  4. I have always asked myself how fast would be mtb over this crappy road when watching Paris Roubaix! 😀 Guys you made my dream come true. 😀

  5. Would love to see the new Specialized Roubaix compared. "Smoother is faster" is now proven.

  6. run them head-to-head on bitumen now …? once Matt gets clipped maybe…

  7. you two look ridiculous on mountain bikes 😋😂 wise choice sticking to the road bike, leave the mtb to MTBikers 😂

  8. For roadies, you certainly know how to pick the cream of mountain bikes, and it was the quickest!!

  9. so the answer is a road bike with MTB tires and front suspension

  10. So, what if you'd use a 29er mtb with a double front crank? Say somethink like a 40 or 42 in front for bigger top end speed for the road? Small ring wouldn't matter in this case. Now try the longer course and see what the difference is.

  11. so the aerodynamic shit is a marginal gain against enduro bikes

  12. you should have tested a full suspensión MTB as well. If the explanation given here is correct, the full suspensión will be even faster…

  13. So maybe CX bike (or something similar) is best compromise over the whole event?

  14. why 28mm tyres, won't the roadies be using 25mm or 23mm. What tyres did Merckx and De Vlaminck use?

  15. you comment this as a bad road. wait until you visit Indian ones

  16. getting used to that difficult surface is also a crucial factor, train for some time on cobbles and you will be faster for sure

  17. Is it possible to make a video comparing a time trial bike vs road bike vs cyclocross vs mountain bike on a smooth surface for a 3 mile ride with Si and Matt? I would love to see concrete numbers presented on your channel ending the debate on which bike is fastest. It would also provide good data to compare and contrast your results with bikeradar.com

  18. How could you test a road bike on cobblestone without using the Trek Domane? That's specifically a cobblestone road bike with crazy vertical compliance integrated into the frame, feels like a missed opportunity.

  19. You guys talk about road bikes, mountain bikes and cyclocross bikes. But what's a hybrid bike then?

  20. Not a surprise to me. Back in '97 I bought a Specialized Rockhopper FS Comp. Over 2 years I changed almost everything. XT groupset except for SLX sifters. Mavic Ceramic Rims with 26r 18f spokes. 1.9" Panracer SS/SK tires. KORE 420mm bar/160mm stem/ski bar ends. 10-28 cassette and 50/42/36 chairing. Carbon seat post and Selle Italia Flute saddle.
    Weighed just under 19kg and went like stink over broken pavement, and down gravel tracks. 😀

  21. I wondered if you guys could make a review about the "Koga Colmaro Allroad Race Disc" I saw this bike on the internet and I think it can be a really great bike to test.

    Greetings from bill nwangwu, Holland

  22. soon the pros will have transformer bicycles that increase their tire size and reduce the pressure upon reaching the cobblestone sections of the race

  23. Contact time of rubber to cobble might played a role too. Even if you have 900hp, if you can’t put the power down. Similar to Wheel hop in drag strip only makes you slower. Mix of efficient suspension and suppleness of big tire both played a role. Nice hair cut both of you haha

  24. To GCN why not use Pedal Your Blues Away {Cheap Suit Serenaders ) for the music track?

  25. Curious how the new breed of suspension road bikes from Trek and Specialized would fare in this test against these bikes. Clearly suspension works.

  26. The results shouldn't have been surprising — they weren't hitting speeds where aerodynamics dominate. The feel of being slower they mentioned is because we're accustomed to interpreting high-frequency vibration as feeling faster. I bet that a "gravel grinder" with 50mm supple slicks would be even faster, at least in the dry.

  27. "Riding across the cobbles" – YES. "Riding across the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix" – NO. So many road sections that the CX and the MTB are much much slower overall.

  28. Interesting video. Feeling faster and being faster are two very different things, when a bike feels very fast (with tires pumped up to the max) is often because it transmits more roadbuzz, making you actually slower, as YOU are "absorbing" those road irregularities. You should have tried running the cross bike with 26"x2.35 superlight tires and lowering the bars with a negative angle stem to get as aero as possible, it would have literally destroyed the rest of the bikes.

  29. Well, I just put some XC racetires on my V10. 216mm of rear travel should be enough for your average road 😉

  30. Had been interresting see a test between hard tail and full suspension bikes.
    Most fun in the clip was when Matt pass Simon in beginning. It sounded as they had give Simon Matt's laugh 🙂

  31. Not surprised at all. This is my experience too. I am selling my CX bike and keeping my hard tail which now has 4 kinds of tyres. I have bar ends on the hard tail, its very fast on the road with slicks.

  32. Fastest bike over le Pave (Paris Roubaix cobblestones) ?
    Simple………….ask Roger (Brooklyn also)

  33. The two times I rode the Roubaix: Once on Airnimal Chameleon and other on full on Tourer- Condor Heritage: Have not found a video that describes how Diabolical it is to ride on the Carrefour de l'arbre. Only way is to ride it.

  34. Wouldn't it have been more interesting if they had tacked the same distance on smooth pavement on to the cobble section?

  35. Kind of odd the didn't change kit when they went to the mountain bike (MTB) for short! =)

  36. By some reason people always fight me when I say best do it all bike is high end XC MTB. It is reasonably fast, very comfortable, light and can roll jump over everything. Slap drop bars on carbon 29er. Sky's is the limit.

  37. I think it is du to the wideness of the tire and its low pressure so the tire touch more the road and you use power more effectively to push the ground instead of the air.

  38. The Mtb is faster because of the bigger overall diameter of the tyres…mostly anyway,this is why fat bikes are so fast.

  39. what if you use the tyres of the road and cyclocross bike and put them on the MTB?

  40. Probably Mr. Matt and Mr. Simon are not accustomed rough roads. Impossible any mountain bike fastest than cx and road bike. I use road, cx and mtb together. Mtbs are slow than any road and cx bike on flat road conditions. Mtbs are fast on cross conditions.

  41. Ok. If u lok at the start where the bike brushes near. It really wasn’t the chemistry btw the two that made it work. That was just coincidental. The real reason they pulled it off was that the rider was going slow and wold have been able to avoid the hit even if si hadn’t adjusted. I am looking at it for the umpteenth time and I now understand that I cold have done it just as well. The secret is to slow down, concentrate and b ready for what ever the reaction. At no time was si in danger of being slammed. Trust me.

  42. So true. When i did Paris Roubaix there were quite a lot of dudes on MTBs giving it big beans on the pave…..

  43. I have a feeling a hybrid equivalent to the exceed on 2.2 tires would be quicker still

  44. Interesting. Really good test. I was expecting the bike that was designed for the Paris rubaix race to win…. However, I have a light weight full suspension mountain bike and can understand how it won on this surface. A good full susser mountain bike will smooth out those bumps leaving the rider able to pedal in comfort.

    Great video lads

  45. Cool. Just goes to show, the huge amount spent on marketing the fastest road bikes, in the real world, on UK roads, looks like we all need suspension, disc brakes and wider tyres. Good to hear Matts laugh again 🙂

  46. not surprised with the results, never underestimate the powers of a hardtail

  47. "Have you ever looked at the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix…" No si, I haven't. I live in the middle of North America.

  48. I don't know alot about the famed Paris-Roubaix race but GCN's test results are no surprise to me. I wonder how a rigid SS (52:18) 29" MTB would do?

  49. 2017.. so maybe you guys just didn't understand this at the time…. didn't have a good understanding of how this works… on a road like this, this is not down to rolling resistance, mostly 'impedance'… when a wheel hits a bump in the road or even tiny imperfection, a portion of the force on the wheel when hits that bump pushes the bike backward.. you could imagine that if you were going REALLY, REALLY slow, hitting a pebble could actually stop the bike with that small force… well the you're going fast, the pebble still pushes the bike backwards, it's just that you have enough momentum and the bike goes up and over the pebble.. but, still, every time you hit a cobble or bump or tiny imperfection, the bike is being pushed back a little bit… bigger bump or more frequent equals more force pushing backwards… BUT if you can add suspension as in bigger, softer tires and/or shocks of the mtb… the tire (and/or shock) squishes around and up and over the bump or imperfection absorbing the backwards pushing energy of the impact and then 'un-squishes' releasing the energy back into the road again… BUT… because the tire is not totally elastic, you don't get ALL the energy back and some is lost as heat and sound.. 

    so for every road roughness, picking a tire and pressure is balancing so that the sum total of the energy lost to the squishing (rolling resistance) + the energy lost to the wheel impacting bumps and imperfections and pushing bike backwards (impedance) is a minimum… the softer the tire, the less the bike gets pushed back, but the more energy is lost to the tire squishing… the harder the tire, the more the bike will get pushed back when impacts a bump or imperfection, but the less energy lost to rolling resistance… the bumpier the road the more impedance is a factor and the softer your tires need to be to stop the bike being pushed backwards when it hits those bigger or more frequent bumps…

  50. I just bought a stiff fork mtb as my daily commuter (with street Big Apple tyres). It is super comfortable and feels much faster than my roadbike on the not perfect streets of the city.

  51. “Those technical sections” he says to a flat left hander 😂😂😂 ps I’m a mtb rider

  52. Should do the same test with a lightweight gravel bike. 43 – 47c tyres would be a perfect compromise.

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