Boulder Roubaix test: What worked, what came up short, and what matters

With the passing of a young rider and neighbor, I present a slightly different take on the race gear test.

Boulder Roubaix is a dirt road race that celebrated its 30th anniversary this Saturday in Boulder County, Colorado. With a 60/40 mix of dirt roads to pavement, if it were launched today it would probably be called Boulder Gravel. But instead it’s of course an homage to Paris-Roubaix, with dirt washboards being the closest thing we have to cobblestones. (For the record, they’re not that close.)

Like many dirt-road and gravel races, part of the fun is trying to figure out the ideal gear or at least tire set-up. (If you’re an Olympian, it doesn’t matter.)

The day before Boulder Roubaix, my 20-year-old neighbor Martha Riedel passed away after a seven-year battle with cancer. Talk about putting a local bike race into perspective.

As a matter of fact, one of Martha’s brothers, Sean, did talk to me and my wife that day about the importance of community around athletics. For Sean, a collegiate runner at UC Santa Cruz, his team coaches and other runners have formed a supportive bond that pays dividends well beyond the race course.

For Martha, the Boulder High mountain bike team was a part of her community. She would do races even while on chemotherapy, finishing the course no matter the time, cheered on by her teammates. On Thursday, the Boulder High team came and paraded around her house to give her one last cheer.

For me, cycling has been my social fabric for two and a half decades now. When Covid shut down racing and group rides, my social life evaporated. What I thought was just pedaling was actually a lot more.

The morning before Boulder Roubaix, I taped Martha’s name to my bike. I didn’t know what else to do.

Brand and community connections

It takes a global village to build a bike, and a local village to put on a bike race.

For Boulder Roubaix, I raced an Enve bike with Enve SES AR 3.4 wheels, an Enve saddle, 32mm Cadex Classics tubeless tires, a Giant Dash L200 computer, a Shimano 9150 group, and Stages power meter. Beyond the simple assembly of parts, there’s also collaboration between many of these brands. For instance, Giant’s Dash is designed by Stages Cycling (which in turn uses Giant’s massive manufacturing to build the Stages Bike smart bike). The Cadex tires are made by Maxxis, Enve’s saddle is made by Selle Italia, and Stages builds its power meter onto a Shimano crank.

There’s no shame in collaborating with specialists.

I’m friends with people at many of these brands, and race with the Stages Cycling club. For years I declined to join Stages because I was worried about the perceived conflict of interest as I tested product (first for BikeRadar, and now for VeloNews). Recently I decided, hey, these guys and gals are my friends whose company I value — why pretend otherwise? So now I simply put a note into any article I write about Stages. Integrity is important to me and everyone on the VeloNews editorial team.

For sure I enjoy the adrenaline and the endorphins and whole game of bike racing. But I’m also trying to take a moment to appreciate the personal connections that come from bike racing, too, whether that’s catching up in the beer garden or just enjoying the chat on the way to and from the races.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. Here are my takes on the gear I used, and other thoughts on the day.

What worked, what came up short, and what matters