Ask Nick: Clinchers for Paris Roubaix sportif

Also: Gearing for Mt. Washington

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Editor’s Note: VeloNews tech editor Nick Legan is a former ProTour mechanic who most recently wrenched for Team RadioShack at the 2010 Tour de France and elsewhere. His column appears here every Thursday. You can submit questions to Nick at, and be sure to check out Nick’s previous columns.

Just a response and reinforcement to your answer concerning junior gears for anyone who is interested.  We (Hincapie Development) used the 45×12 combination for our junior riders in 2009 and our kids really liked it. We were in a way forced into this situation because we were on the Scott Addict frames which would not accept a 14T largest cog due to rubbing of the chain on the seat stay with that large of a cog. Our choice was the Salsa ring and we had no issues with shifting on SRAM Red.  The lack of ramps and pins seemed to be insignificant as well since the small-large jump was only 39-45 so that shift was quick regardless. 
Also, as you point out it was the largest possible mathematical gear combination we could ride. I remember one situation where we ended up leading out a junior on our squad in a criterium in Johnson City, Tennessee who finished 2nd in a fast downhill sprint on this combination (AJ Meyer, who is now back with the BMC-Hincapie Continental Team).  When we went to roll out we were told “that barely passes” and my response was “that’s kind of the point”.  With junior riders being exposed to faster races in upper categories (men 1/2 and women 1/2/3) it makes sense to go with the largest combination that still fits within USAC rules.
Just a real life example of what has worked for us. Feel free to share my comments.

Steve Carpenter
USA Cycling Coach
Assistant Director, BMC-Hincapie Development Team

Thanks for your email. It’s always good to hear what is going on out in the field. Congrats on a great program.

I am setting up a new (or at least new to me) cyclocross bike and I am thinking I will run full-length housing for the front and rear brakes.  Are there any reasons why this is a bad idea?  The only disadvantage I can think of is that I won’t be able to use the cable stops on the top tube and I will have to secure the housing with zip ties.  Am I missing something? – Perry Brown

You’ll have less cable contamination if you run full-length cable housing, but you’ll also have more housing compression to deal with. You may end up with a pretty mushy-feeling brake. I have a couple bikes that run full-length brake housing and I’ve had good luck using Gore, SRAM and Shimano cables. Friends have used Nokon cables when a long section of housing was necessary. A clean cable and a bit of lube can get them running well. You might consider upping the spring tension on your brakes as well. That’ll help them snap back.

So, you can go either way. Personally, I’d use the stops and a sealed cable system. But I get stuck on aesthetics on my bikes.

Paris Roubaix is coming up and I’ll be riding the ASO cyclosportif version of the race.  I have a sweet BMC team elite with Easton EA 90 SLX clinchers on it. I weigh 150 lbs. What are some good wide clinchers to go with for this race? What pressure? What about tubulars for less chance of pinch flats? I would like to try a carbon rim, like the pros, but will I likely trash them? – Michael

I may have answered this question in the past, but it’s a good one. I rode last year’s Roubaix sportif on 25mm Michelin Pro Optimum clinchers. They were great. I ran 65/70 psi (I also weigh 150 pounds) and never punctured. The Michelins seem to be a nice fat 25 in a world of 25mm tires that measure closer to 23mm.

Another good, robust option is Continental’s Grand Prix 4-Season in a 28mm (they run narrow). They are virtually bulletproof. I’ve also used Challenge’s massive Parigi-Roubaix open tubular (clincher) tire. It’s listed as a 27mm, but inflated to 80 psi on a DT Swiss RR415 rim, I measured them at 29mm. They barely fit inside my Enve fork so beware. Your BMC may have tighter tolerances.

Tubulars certainly decrease the chance of a pinch flat for a given pressure. A good quality tubular is usually more supple than a clincher, something nice for the day of abuse you have ahead of you.

I don’t think I’d personally ride carbon rims at Roubaix, unless I was filthy rich! I don’t think you’re gaining all the much. Really, the Roubaix sportif is about the experience of riding the same roads as the pros. You won’t be as fast or as skilled over the pave as the pros (and more importantly, you won’t have a follow car with a spare wheel!).

Many of us in New Hampshire spend a lot of time researching gearing for the Mt. Washington hill climb. I would love to hear your thoughts on gearing for MT Washington.
Many folks say go with a 11-36 cassette (a.k.a. the Frying Pan) or 11-32. Then  use 34/24 mountain bike crank up front. I have gone up in a car and hiked it. I did GPS measurements of inclines. We’re talking 12- 15 -18 percent grades sustained in some of the first several miles. And yes the famed 22 percent at end, but that is a short burst.
While I have tried some hills in my area of 10 to 18% with a compact and 11-32, Mt. Washington is a beast and unfortunately we can only pre-ride it once before the race.
I guess my question is: 11-28, 11-32, or 11-36? With what up front?  Would 30/24 chainrings be too small upfront and just be spinning or would a 34/28 be more reasonable pairing??
I know it depends on weight to power and conditioning, but all of us out here who are training a year in advance to do the BUMPS series in New England would greatly appreciate your input on MT Washington and hill climbs in general. – Kris

Tough question, especially as I’ve never ridden Mt. Washington (though it’s on the bucket list). In talking with several friends, I don’t think you can go too low. After all, you aren’t allowed to even descend back down the mountain!

In years past, many riders used the 30-tooth chainring on road triple cranks (without the larger two rings) with the largest cassette they could get their hands on.

SRAM is making lower gears on road bikes much easier because its Double Tap shifters are compatible with its mountain bike derailleurs. Shimano’s latest shifters are not compatible with its mountain bike derailleurs.

I don’t think that a compact and a 28-tooth cassette setup is sufficiently low, at least not for mere mortals. Most people recommend a 1:1 ratio as a bail-out gear. So, with your compact crank (50-34) you’d need a 12×34 cassette and a mountain bike derailleur. If it were me, I’d go all in and get a 12×36 cassette and have no worries (okay still plenty to worry about, wind being at the front of my Mt. Washington mind).

If you ride SRAM, that’ll entail buying a rear derailleur, a cassette and a chain. If your bike is Shimano equipped, it’ll be tougher. You might consider a mountain bike crank and then use your current cassette. The most “compatible” system will still be the SRAM setup.

I would encourage those who have participated in the hill climb to add their two cents in the comments section. Maybe include your category and setup recommendations. Best of luck Kris!

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