Flanders is a big day out in the Sportive calendar with over 17,000 people riding it every year. I’ll be giving it a miss this year as I’m going to have a crack at Roubaix (although I need to sort the logistics out, anyone going and got a spare place give me a shout on twitter) but as I’ve done it a few times I want to pass on what I have learnt over the previous rides.
Bike: stick to what you know, there’s no need for a special frame for this. I’ve ridden Carbon frames every time I’ve done it, no issues at all.
Tyres: I’ve run Pave’s and last year Vredesteins. Zero punctures on both brands. The 24mm of the pave offers more comfort, but if you don’t like Vittorias try a brand you know and like and go for a 25mm tyre. The extra volume it provides aids comfort and allows extra purchase on the cobbles, especially if they are wet. Run the pressure lower than you would usually, try 10-20 psi as this helps the tyre deform more and grip the surface while adding comfort. As many of Belgiums roads are pretty crap it won’t detract from the long flat sections too much.
Handlebar Tape: I’ve tried different options over the years and I’m still not 100% certain which option is best. Either double taping (with normal thickness tape) or Gel Pads with Regular tape seems to have worked best. So much of the comfort will depend on the gloves chosen to do the job. Castelli gloves seem to be pretty good over the pave.
Wheels: I’ve used Mavic Kysrium Elites and Handbuilts. The Kysrium wheels where mighty strong but you lose a little comfort, particularly over the long flat sections of pave. The Handbuilts offered more comfort due to rim flex/spoke count.
Bottle Cages: switch them out for alloy rather than carbon, save those for Liege Bastogne Liege later in the year. You can bend an alloy cage if you need to if the bottle is looking for some flying lessons. Some Teams have taken to using a plastic/resin cage but have added skateboard grip tape on the inside to hold the bottle secure.
As far as the bike goes that’s all I have ever done. Small changes but they make a huge difference over the stones. For those going, have a great time, and remember beers on the Saturday night no not the Friday.