Cobble Classic Survival Guide
A New Year and a new cycling season. In a few months we enter the one day Classics that kick off the UCI calendar in Europe. This is some of the best bike racing on the planet and luckily some of these courses are open to the public as a Sportive, often the day before the race! Experience born from 2 Tour of Flanders, Gent Wevelgem and Paris Roubaix, here is Precision Cycles guide to surviving the Cobbles.
Before you go:
Make sure your bike is in good condition!! If there is anything on the bike not torqued up, it WILL come loose. Anecdote - Flanders 2016, 2 of my chain ring bolts were missing at the end of the race, shaken out by the cobbles.
If your bike frame can accommodate 28C or more tyres, it is highly advisable! Air volume is key, and having pneumatic damping from a larger capacity tyre, will fatigue you less and make it more enjoyable.
If you have mudguards, remove them. All bets are off when getting rattled around. If you don't remove them, the cobbles will do it for you.
Beef up you ride pack. a few extra inner tubes are worth it, as well as tyre patches to fix sidewall splits. If unsure, take an extra tube instead of gels, there are lots of well stocked food stops.
Prep the outside of your water bottles! If you don't, they are likely to exit your bottle cages on a sector, and you will not even notice they have disappeared. The picture below shows the Precision Cycles solution (Industrial rubberised tape, holds bottles in perfectly and is removed without leaving sticky residue. On sale via request firstname.lastname@example.org.
Riding the cobbles:
The best area to ride on a cobble sector is on the crown (middle) of the road. The cobbles tend (not always) to be less broken up and flatter. The left and ride side are OK to ride most of the time, but just keep your wits about you, as it can change in an instant.
It sounds counter intuitive, but hit the sectors hard and fast. This allows the bike to skip over the deeper ruts and "flattens" the feeling of the cobbles.
You may be a purest and want to ride all the cobbles on every sector, however, the gutter of the road is often rideable and can be a glorious mid sector rest-bite.
Most importantly, enjoy the Flemish country side, its beautiful riding and the cobbles are fun!! Promise.