Tech features Paris-Roubaix tech, part 1: Tyre Roubaix
With so much focus on rubber, pressure, and inflation devices, it might as well be called Tyre Roubaix
The dust, mud, and nerves around along the scenic route from near-ish Paris to Roubaix have all long since settled. But thanks to a stomach bug, a delayed flight, and a drive through the night, I am only getting to my Roubaix tech galleries now.
In this first instalment, we take a look at all the tyres and tyre inflation tech on show at the Hells of the North. We take a look at the tyre trends across the men’s and women’s peloton, similarities and differences, and a few surprises we spotted along the way.
Tyre inflation management devices were the talk of the week in the build-up to Roubaix. Both Team DSM, in partnership with wheel brand Scope, and Team Jumbo-Visma – who had partnered with Gravaa – came to the race with the tyre-inflating hub tech. While both devices offer on-the-fly inflation and deflation, they do so in very different ways.
Team DSM first unveiled the Scope Atmoz tyre pressure management system before Roubaix 2022. Scope developed the €4,000 system in partnership with Team DSM and later unveiled it with more detail at Eurobike 2022. The main visible elements of the Atmoz system at the wheel include the proprietary tubeless valve stem at the rim and the hub attachment, which houses the electronics, a reservoir inflation/deflation valve, and a USB rechargeable battery. Two air lines run along the spokes connecting the hub attachment and tubeless valve stem. The hub attachment communicates wirelessly with this stem-mounted control box, which in turn is wired into two control buttons on the handlebars, one offering front tyre control and one for the rear. The buttons offer inflation and deflation control for front and rear tyres. Riders can alternate between pre-set tyre pressures or manually adjust tyre pressure on the go with just the touch of a button. The system also pairs with Wahoo head units to display current tyre pressure. The Scope Atmoz system is an aftermarket option designed to fit many hubs and wheels, and adds approximately 300 grams to each wheel with no additional drag. There are no pumps or moving parts in the Atmoz system. An air reservoir within the system is filled via the valve seen here on the lower side of the hub attachment. That reservoir is used to store air and inflate the tyres on demand. The system relies on the internal rechargeable battery, and as such, is limited by battery life. Scope estimate the system can complete six to eight inflation and deflation cycles at a race like Roubaix where the pressure delta is greater and riders are racing with 30 or 32 mm tyres. Smaller pressure differentials and narrower tyres should prolong battery life. Scope are somewhat tight-lipped on exactly how the Atmoz system works, but if we understand correctly, most of the air is stored within the tyre, obviously, in some form of proprietary tube-like reservoir system. The entire system is inflated through the hub attachment valve, with air lines carrying air to or from the tyre as required. While the system is only compatible with tubeless tyres, it is not yet compatible with tubeless sealant. As such, the two DSM riders racing with the Scope Atmoz system used the Vittoria Corsa N.ext tyres, which hold air sans sealant better than the tan-walled Corsa Pro tubeless tyres. Seemingly the proprietary tubeless valve adds enough weight to require a counter weight on the opposite side of the rim for wheel balance. Fellow Dutch squad, Team Jumbo-Visma, turned to another Dutch company in Gravaa and its take on the tyre pressure management system. The Gravaa KAPS system is “the same but different” to the Scope Atmoz. KAPS is the same in that it offers on-the-go tyre pressure adjustments but is entirely different in how it works. While the Atmoz features no moving parts and is powered/limited by battery life, the KAPS system features a mini reciprocal membrane pump inside a proprietary hub. Where the Atmoz attaches to an existing hub, the KAPS is integral to the hub and as such must be built into a wheel. The cylinders in that mini-pump are moved by a camshaft powered entirely by the rotating wheel. The pump is automatically activated and deactivated by a pneumatic clutch, so it’s only operational when it needs to be. The potential downside of this wheel-powered hub is an increase in drag when the pump is activated. Gravaa claims the additional drag is around 4 watts per wheel, while there is said to be no additional drag when not in use or during deflation. Weight wise, the KAPS system is said to add around 250 grams per wheel. The 28-hole Gravaa KAPS hub and system was previously only available within the Gravaa wheelset range, while the Reserve 40|44 wheelset launched last year featured a 24 hole rim. To pair the two together Reserve had to up its spoke count and submit the new Reserve 40 and 44 28-hole rims to the UCI for re-approval. Much like the Atmoz, the KAPS system pairs with a rider’s head unit to display current pressure. While Gravaa did say before the start on Sunday that the KAPS system offers unlimited inflation and deflation cycles, this is not strictly true. The system does rely on electronics and control communications to wirelessly connect the hub with the control module and head unit. That said, the drain on the rechargeable battery by these functionals is minimal and the heavy-lifting inflation and deflation work does not rely on battery power. Again, the system is only compatible with tubeless tyres and setups, but in what must surely be a point in Gravaa’s favour, the KAPS system is compatible with tubeless sealant. The proprietary hub is larger than a standard hub and as such Gravaa designed its own proprietary seven-bolt brake rotors to fit. The Gravaa KAPS system also includes a proprietary tubeless valve stem and a single airline. Gravaa has made a few updates to the system software. Chiefly from a consumer point of view, the system now features a safety stop. In the event the inflation button gets jammed on, during transit for example, it will automatically shut off rather than inflate to the point of exploding the tyre. Secondly, and more importantly for the Paris-Roubaix rider, should a puncture enforce a wheel change, the remaining wheel will sense its partner is missing and revert to a preset default pressure. The Graava system seemed the finished article as far back as Eurobike 2021, but the software updates and hardware integration for Jumbo-Visma necessitated this new and still pre-production communications module. The system can now also inflate at a rate of 1.5 bar / 21 psi per kilometre and deflate the same pressure in just three seconds. See those Di2 satellite shifters on the bar tops? Those are actually the inflation and deflation buttons, respectively, for the KAPS system. In another difference to the Atmoz, the KAPS system inflates or deflates both wheels simultaneously. Moving away from on-the-go pressure management and back to more traditional tyre tech, let’s take a look at the tyres teams were riding for the Hell of the North. UAE Team ADQ were the only squad I spotted opting for different front and rear tyre widths. The entire squad had opted for 30 mm front tyres and 32 mm at the rear. There is something cool about varying tyre widths, if you ask me. “32” was a common sight around both pelotons, with most teams and riders opting for the wider setup front and rear. But as popular as 32 mm seemed, plenty still opted for 30 mm. Again, UAE ADQ opted for both. Just like at Flanders a week earlier, Intermarché-Circus-Wanty opted for Continental’s new All-Season tyre. While tubeless almost enjoyed a monopoly in the men’s peloton, Cofidis kept it classy with these 32 mm, retro-looking French tubulars. Also, just like Flanders, the EF Education-TIBCO-SVB women raced with tubulars on Saturday, upping to 30 mm with the Corsa Controls for Roubaix … … while the men over at EF Education-EasyPost again opted for tubeless tyres. Team Jayco AlUla raced on Cadex 42 tubulars with Vittoria Corsa Control 30 mm tubs at Paris Roubaix Femmes avec Zwift on Saturday. Tubulars seemed slightly more popular within the women’s peloton. One team mechanic explained the riders preferred tubular on the Roubaix cobbles because the even lower pressures some of the women would race with meant tubeless tyres could bounce and burp more, leading to deflation across the cobbles. How low, you ask? This 3.5 bar / 50 psi the mechanic settled on for Teniel Campbell’s tyres was, anecdotally, higher than the average figure we heard within the women’s paddock. Liv Racing TeqFind, who also race with Cadex wheels, opted for the Cadex 42 Tubeless wheelset with Cadex’s 28 mm tubeless tyres. Team Flanders-Baloise ran against the grain with the entire squad on 28 mm tubular tyres. Narrower and tubularer than most. Makita’s tyre pressure-management device. Want. Q36.5 Pro Cycling Team stuck with the same tyres as they had used for Flanders (30 mm Pirelli P-Zero Race TLR) but switched from Zipp 454 NSW to Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels for Roubaix. At 25 mm, the 303s are 2 mm-wider internally than the 454s. That generous internal width would likely puff up the 30 mm (marked) Pirellis to a 32 mm actual width for the rougher cobbles at Roubaix. It was 32 mm tyres on the same rims over at Team Movistar on Sunday. But on Saturday, the Movistar squad had opted for 30 mm GP 5000 S TRs. This sticker on the wheels of the Uno-X Pro Cycling team helps mechanics track when sealant was last replaced. Intermarché-Circus-Wanty do the same. Ag2r-Citroen had opted for an odd-looking tubeless front and tubular rear setup at Flanders, but went fully tubeless for Roubaix. It wasn’t all tubular in the women’s peloton though. Canyon-SRAM raced with these seemingly “cobble” specific prototype Schwalbe Pro One 32 mm tubeless tyres. The Uno-X squad also opted for tubeless Schwalbes and again 32 mm width. Israel Premier Tech Roland were another team who had opted for tubular tyres with these 30 mm Maxxis Velocita, while the men’s squad opted for tubeless. A blast from the past on the Arkéa Pro Cycling Team wheels. Those were the days. Team DSM were one of the few within the women’s peloton on tubeless tyres, and fewer still on 32 mms. Team Jumbo-Visma presumably have access to the same tyres from Vittoria but chose the 30 mm-wide option. Audrey Cordon-Ragot’s new Human Powered Health team was the only squad on Goodyear’s Eagle F1 tubeless tyres. Just checked … the only change to Fenix-Deceuninck’s bikes from Flanders was wider tyres. Last but not least is a new Mondo tubeless tyre from Specialized. The S-Works Mondo 2BR sees the return of the Mondo name last seen more than a decade ago. While Specialized couldn’t comment yet on the new tyre, a listing has already appeared online. If the listing is accurate, “the Specialized S-Works Mondo 2Bliss Ready clincher is designed for Endurance and E-bikes with a high level of performance and durability, with extra puncture protection.” The tyre features Specialized’s faster-rolling T2 compound on the centre tread while the shoulder features the brand’s T5 compound for cornering grip. The tyre also features a 120 tpi nylon casing, and a claimed 8% improvement in puncture protection “thanks to Kevlar BlackBelt hybrid technology under the tread.” Unsurprisingly, the the new tubeless tyre is hookless compatible, but interestingly, the listing claims the tyre “exceeds hookless pressure standards by 200%” thanks to a Zylon-reinforced bead. It seems the tyre will be available in 32 and 35 mm widths. I measured this 32 mm at 33 mm mounted to Roval Rapides. Every Specialized-equipped team in both races was on these new tyres. A rare moment of similarity in spring when we have seen Specialized teams opt for a range of the brand’s wheels and tyres. The opposite side of the tyre features an S-Works hot patch. A closer look at that tread pattern. What did you think of this story?
😐Meh 😊️Solid 🤩Excellent