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Paris-Roubaix or an ordinary Saturday gravel ride?

Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Paris-Roubaix or an ordinary Saturday gravel ride?

Old 04-17-19, 03:36 PM
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TimothyH
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Paris-Roubaix or an ordinary Saturday gravel ride?

I don't know.

There seems to be a disconnect between the way people talk about Paris-Roubaix and the video's I'm seeing.

Comments like "Brutal" and "toughest race" and "cobblestones are vicious" but the videos don't show anything more difficult than an ordinary Saturday gravel ride.

I understand that they are riding 250 km when I might ride 125 km on a great day. I also understand that they are at a level of intensity that I couldn't maintain. I'm talking about the course though. What makes cobblestones so much tougher than what we do?

This could very well be ignorance on my part and I welcome reasonable explanations of why this course is any tougher than the mud, rocks, stream beds, singletrack, bulldozer tracks and rocky descents we do every weekend.

My one snarky comment is that we do tend to crash less.



-Tim-

Last edited by TimothyH; 04-17-19 at 03:47 PM.
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Old 04-17-19, 03:51 PM
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Paris-Roubaix has a faster pace than most gravel races (28 mph vs. 20 mph for Land Run 100), so riders can't afford the aero penalty of a 40mm tire. So maybe on the cobbles they're more underbiked than a typical gravel racer.

(I'm not saying Paris-Roubaix is "tougher", just different.)
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Old 04-17-19, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
I don't know.

There seems to be a disconnect between the way people talk about Paris-Roubaix and the video's I'm seeing.

Comments like "Brutal" and "toughest race" and "cobblestones are vicious" but the videos don't show anything more difficult than an ordinary Saturday gravel ride.

I understand that they are riding 250 km when I might ride 125 km on a great day. I also understand that they are at a level of intensity that I couldn't maintain. I'm talking about the course though. What makes cobblestones so much tougher than what we do?

This could very well be ignorance on my part and I welcome reasonable explanations of why this course is any tougher than the mud, rocks, stream beds, singletrack, bulldozer tracks and rocky descents we do every weekend.

My one snarky comment is that we do tend to crash less.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cfIjaCZ9NM


-Tim-
Do you ride them on 25-28mm tires at 25mph+? I've ridden gravel with road tires and my ass is straight puckered and not at these types of speeds.
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Old 04-17-19, 04:21 PM
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Not convinced yet.

So they go fast. So what? I'm talking about the course.

I still say a typical gravel course is tougher than Paris-Roubaix for any given rider, or at least I don't see a huge difference based on the videos out there.

I'd love to put half a dozen P-R pro riders on Niner BSBs and Jamis Renegades, launch them on a 130 mile race through the Alabama countryside with the fellas then see what they say. Maybe that former CX world champ in the video would dig it but I'll bet most would be pretty beat up.

But yeah, keep trying to convince me. I'm open.


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Last edited by TimothyH; 04-17-19 at 04:26 PM.
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Old 04-17-19, 04:24 PM
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It's reputation is as the hardest ride in its category - a single day road race. I think that's accurate.
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Old 04-17-19, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
Not convinced yet.

So they go fast. So what? I'm talking about the course.

I still say a typical gravel course is tougher than Paris-Roubaix for any given rider, or at least I don't see a huge difference based on the videos out there.

I'd love to put half a dozen P-R pro riders on Niner BSBs and Jamis Renegades, launch them on a 130 mile race through the Alabama countryside with the fellas then see what they say. Maybe that former CX world champ in the video would dig it but I'll bet most would be pretty beat up.

But yeah, keep trying to convince me. I'm open.


-Tim-
Probably the only person who's qualified to compare them, Ted King. Neither appears to be a walk in the park or Sat gravel ride https://blog.strava.com/dirty-kanza-...roubaix-12029/
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Old 04-17-19, 05:26 PM
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Hint: They aren’t riding 45 mm tires in Paris-Roubaix.
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Old 04-17-19, 05:29 PM
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I don't think you'd want to ride over these with road bike and road tires.

https://images.app.goo.gl/utoYErG2Jg2krhoG8
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Old 04-17-19, 05:56 PM
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Cool report by Ted King! It's interesting that with over 1000 entrants, the 14th finisher was over an hour behind the winner. Pros are truly a different species
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Old 04-17-19, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by redlude97 View Post
Probably the only person who's qualified to compare them, Ted King. Neither appears to be a walk in the park or Sat gravel ride https://blog.strava.com/dirty-kanza-...roubaix-12029/
This was a really, really good read.

Thank you.


-Tim-
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Old 04-18-19, 06:25 AM
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Wet cobblestones would be treacherously slippery.
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Old 04-18-19, 12:04 PM
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Try your gravel ride on 28s, going full gas, with 150 other riders, for 6 hours. Good luck with that.
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Old 04-18-19, 12:29 PM
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You canít just look at a course without factoring the speed.

The PR as a full day casual cruise. Maybe stop a time or for a beer would not be hard. To absolutely hammer the same thing at 5% below your absolute threshold for hours is probably hard.

Look at a downtown crit. Itís not hard to ride around the block. That sure doesnít make crits easy.

There are only a handful of rides that are extreme regardless of pace. Like those death defying red bull vids from southwest Utah.
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Old 04-18-19, 03:08 PM
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I don't know. There are lots of courses which are really difficult at any speed.

This past Saturday I rode on buldozer tracks, up a running streambed, jeep trails, mud pits, fresh chunk on 15% grades, a road covered in slag from a marble quarry (that was cool) and an extended climb over a mountain.

To be fair, there were miles and miles of beautiful gravel and paved roads but every rider suffered regardless of how fast they were going.


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Old 04-18-19, 05:38 PM
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I think comparing road racers, on road race bikes riding cobbles to what most of us do on gravel is not a good direct comparison.

Really I think it comes down to two things.

1. How many watts/kg are you forcing yourself to put out.
2. How much of a beating is your body is taking from the course.

Recently I rode the Beltgrind loop a few times with a casual group. Some parts were ridden fast but mostly we meandered. It's not a hard course, can be a little bumpy and muddy but it was nice and relaxed and I was chatting almost the whole time. Day after the rides my body felt fine and I went out on regular hard rides or whatever.

Then I did the Beltgrind race. It was probably the top 5 hardest rides I've ever done. Riding at high speed exaggerated the bumps, there was massive mental focus required for finding the best line and even staying upright at times and there was intense race pressure as I had other riders behind and ahead (coming opposite direction) keeping me at maximum output the entire time. I bet my butt was actually touching the saddle only half the time. 65% of the course was bumpy sidepath singletrack, gravel, sand, dirt or mud. When I finished I wasn't able to do much than sit on the ground right off the finish line for almost 20 minutes. I was sore all over for a couple days after even though I was on a hardtail.

Much different than the casual reconnaissance rides I had done. I rode at an intensity I can barely touch riding on my own and for much longer than I could ever manage riding by myself. It was brutally difficult and I hope my regular gravel rides do not approach the same level of difficulty. Maybe there's a third point too.

3. Racing in a pack with others is always harder than racing alone.
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Old 04-18-19, 06:28 PM
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I think I'm about to block Tim.
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Old 04-18-19, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
I think comparing road racers, on road race bikes riding cobbles to what most of us do on gravel is not a good direct comparison.

Really I think it comes down to two things.

1. How many watts/kg are you forcing yourself to put out.
2. How much of a beating is your body is taking from the course.

Recently I rode the Beltgrind loop a few times with a casual group. Some parts were ridden fast but mostly we meandered. It's not a hard course, can be a little bumpy and muddy but it was nice and relaxed and I was chatting almost the whole time. Day after the rides my body felt fine and I went out on regular hard rides or whatever.

Then I did the Beltgrind race. It was probably the top 5 hardest rides I've ever done. Riding at high speed exaggerated the bumps, there was massive mental focus required for finding the best line and even staying upright at times and there was intense race pressure as I had other riders behind and ahead (coming opposite direction) keeping me at maximum output the entire time. I bet my butt was actually touching the saddle only half the time. 65% of the course was bumpy sidepath singletrack, gravel, sand, dirt or mud. When I finished I wasn't able to do much than sit on the ground right off the finish line for almost 20 minutes. I was sore all over for a couple days after even though I was on a hardtail.

Much different than the casual reconnaissance rides I had done. I rode at an intensity I can barely touch riding on my own and for much longer than I could ever manage riding by myself. It was brutally difficult and I hope my regular gravel rides do not approach the same level of difficulty. Maybe there's a third point too.

3. Racing in a pack with others is always harder than racing alone.

I understand this and everyone keeps bringing it up by my original post was about the course. My post even mentioned that they ride at a different intensity. I'm talking about the course.

Put those guys on a typical gravel or CX bikes and have them ride a typical gravel course of the same length and at the same intensity as Paris-Roubaix and I'll bet they say that gravel is more difficult.

I'm not talking about the racers or the bikes. "All else being equal"


-Tim-
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Old 04-18-19, 09:05 PM
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There's a factor you're not considering. Think of the Tour de France. While it is not the hardest course used in a three week stage race, it is the hardest 3 week race; by a lot. Why? It is the pinnacle of the sport, the dream of road cyclists since they were kids. Paris-Roubais has a 120 year history. The biggest thing a Belgian cyclist can ever achieve is to win that race. Now figure that every rider in the peloton knows full well that to win P-R, you have to enter the 4 and 4 stars at the front. So you have every rider who thinks they have a chance riding crazy to get to the cobbles at the front. They sometimes hit those cobbles at nearly 30 MPH simply because they were working so hard to get to it. Then you have the greats of the cobbles making it a point to force a pace that causes flats, crashes and splits the field. Remember, the cobble sections are short, the rest is paved and being in a well placed group and being in the draft is just as important as any road race.

Tires: you choose tires that will not lose you a 135 mile race on pavement against the best in the world - and can survive the 30 miles of cobbles including 10 miles of 4 star and 5 miles of 5 star.

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Old 04-18-19, 09:14 PM
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Oh that makes sense. Just from reading the Paris-Roubaix race reports and my own limited experience on cobbles, I can't think of a gravel road course that mimics what the pros (and various amateurs who have ridden the course) describe.

Roubaix is unnatural. Itís inhumane. Itís riding a jackhammer at 50 kph while fighting tooth and nail for every spec of pavement beneath you
Roubaix is physical. That pave isnít pave; itís bike racing through a football teamís defensive line. At dayís ends, you feel brutally damaged.
I don't think I've ridden a gravel course yet that comes close to these descriptions from the Strava article. Sections of singletrack within a gravel course? Yes a couple times, but gravel road? I really can't think of anything that I would describe as that intense. Even if they were riding at pro race speeds the roads I'm familiar with just aren't rough enough to mimic the high speed oscillations that comes from the cobbles. 50km+ of cobbles and 200km of road seems to me to be harder than 200km of regular gravel roads.

Strada Bianche has quite a bit of gravel and a much lower overall winning speed historically, it seems to lack the reputation of Paris-Roubaix. Regardless, interesting to think about. Makes me want to look up the alley cross routes and see how many cobbles are left in Atlanta.
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Old 04-19-19, 06:13 AM
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In ĎRado, they like to attach Roubaix to the name of gravel events. The one in Boulder is long standing and a sanctioned event. Iíve done it in the past on 23s. 25 would have worked but youíd be getting dropped instantly on a gravel bike.

Im signed up for 3 other Roubaix rides this summer. Two of them, Iíll take the road bike. Itís like the real one, simply too fast of a course with too much road to justify 40mm tires and a heavier bike.
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Old 04-19-19, 06:53 AM
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We have cobblestones here in NYC (both new ones and old ones). I love riding gravel, but hate riding cobblestones. They're no fun w/ 40mm tires, I can't imagine trying to do them at speed on 25mm tires. I can totally see where "brutal" and "vicious" would be apt terms…
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Old 04-19-19, 07:24 AM
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So basically there's no convincing Tim. His roads are the roughest on the planet.
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Old 04-19-19, 07:59 AM
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Originally Posted by JayNYC View Post
We have cobblestones here in NYC (both new ones and old ones). I love riding gravel, but hate riding cobblestones. They're no fun w/ 40mm tires, I can't imagine trying to do them at speed on 25mm tires. I can totally see where "brutal" and "vicious" would be apt terms…
Originally Posted by Spoonrobot View Post
I don't think I've ridden a gravel course yet that comes close to these descriptions from the Strava article. Sections of singletrack within a gravel course? Yes a couple times, but gravel road? I really can't think of anything that I would describe as that intense. Even if they were riding at pro race speeds the roads I'm familiar with just aren't rough enough to mimic the high speed oscillations that comes from the cobbles. 50km+ of cobbles and 200km of road seems to me to be harder than 200km of regular gravel roads.

Strada Bianche has quite a bit of gravel and a much lower overall winning speed historically, it seems to lack the reputation of Paris-Roubaix. Regardless, interesting to think about. Makes me want to look up the alley cross routes and see how many cobbles are left in Atlanta.
OK, this is what I'm after.

Team of rivals. Prove me wrong. Educate me.

So I could very well be wrong, or at a minimum, basing my assumptions on videos which don't really show things as they are.

I'd love to try the cobbles and see for myself. @JayNYC, I recall some cobbles in Queens NY and walked down a cobblestone street downtown in Manhattan last Christmas. Your real world experience is appreciated.

Next we can talk about whether the pros are crashing on purpose to make it look hard.



-Tim-

Last edited by TimothyH; 04-19-19 at 08:03 AM.
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Old 04-19-19, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
OK, this is what I'm after.

I'd love to try the cobbles and see for myself. @JayNYC, I recall some cobbles in Queens NY and walked down a cobblestone street downtown in Manhattan last Christmas. Your real world experience is appreciated.
I should probably be a little more specificÖ

I've seen gravel that's worse than cobblestones. I can think of some gravel roads "up country" in Ontario (Northeast of Toronto) that had really coarse gravel that was worse than cobblestones. And when I encounter a patch of loose gravel (recently spread, or which has settled at the bottom of steep hill) I consider that worse than cobblestones (or at least more potential for danger). And IMHO, sand is worse than cobblestones as well. But the average gravel road or gravel trail is pleasant to ride on where cobblestones are always harsh unless you have massive tires.

And I should say my experience with cobblestones is basically just a block here or there in Manhattan (Chelsea, TriBeCa, SoHo have old cobblestone streets), and then large sections of new "decorative" cobblestone in Long Island City. In both cases I just slow down, grin and bear it, and then I'm glad when it's over.
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Old 04-19-19, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
OK, this is what I'm after.

Team of rivals. Prove me wrong. Educate me.

So I could very well be wrong, or at a minimum, basing my assumptions on videos which don't really show things as they are.

I'd love to try the cobbles and see for myself. @JayNYC, I recall some cobbles in Queens NY and walked down a cobblestone street downtown in Manhattan last Christmas. Your real world experience is appreciated.

Next we can talk about whether the pros are crashing on purpose to make it look hard.



-Tim-
You need to find cobblestones, then wet them down with a hose. Then ride them as fast as you can. That will answer all your questions. Old cobblestones that have gaps almost as wide as your tires.
Also use no bigger then 25m tires. Try 23's. It's so bumpy you can't keep your speed up. And can easily break things. The only long stretch of cobbles I have been on was on Nantucket island.
The cops don't let cyclists on them. I didn't really understand until I rode them. Even when dry, too many crashes.
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