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Paris-Roubaix tech: Tubeless tyres, new Trek Domane, and is Canyon launching a suspension headset?

Rim brakes, old Ultegra, a new Trek Domane and something intriguing from Canyon are tech highlights from this year’s Paris-Roubaix

Joe Robinson
19 Apr 2022

This past weekend saw the men’s and women’s Paris-Roubaix which is not only the best race in the annual cycling calendar, but traditionally the best place to spot some pretty out-there bike tech.

For the hellish cobbles of Roubaix, teams, riders and mechanics go in search of any hack to make the ride a touch easier and negate the increased risk of mechanicals out on the course.

Throughout history we’ve seen everything from full suspension road bikes to titanium frames, and as ever the 2022 edition served up some interesting tidbits for us to muse over.

Cyclist headed to the start of both the men’s and women’s races to see what we could find.

Notably, we found the women’s race to have more interesting tech than the men’s where a lot of the big name riders were opting for pretty standard setups save for wider, tubeless tyres, the odd Allen key attached to a seatpost and, despite all the pre-race hype, no adjustable tyre pressure hubs.

New Trek Domane

The biggest tech news of the weekend was a brand new Trek Domane, which broke cover initially at the women’s race, where it was piloted to victory by Elisa Longo Borghini. The new bike also feature at the men’s race courtesy of Trek-Segafredo.

For its fourth generation, the Domane features a whole host of changes, most notably an overhaul of its Isospeed decoupler compliance system.

Trek has remained tight-lipped on details however we could see that the front decoupler has been removed wholesale while the rear decoupler has been redesigned into a more compact form next to the seat cluster as opposed to along the bike’s top tube.

Other changes include the switch away from a seat mast to a classic post, a beefy bottom bracket and a more refined head tube shape similar to the aero Trek Madone. Another point of note is that all of the Trek-Segafredo women’s team riders ran 1× SRAM Red eTap AXS groupsets.

Is Canyon launching a Future Shock rival?

While hanging around the start of the men’s race on the Sunday, we spotted the Alpecin-Fenix team, who were almost all riding the Canyon Aeroad CFR aero bike.

The exception was Belgian sprinter and cyclocross star Tim Merlier who opted for the lightweight Canyon Ultimate CF SLX.

On closer inspection, there’s something unusual about the headset spacer arrangement on Merlier’s bike – the Ultimate is normally fitted with aero spacers that match the profile of the stem but Merlier’s bike is fitted with something that looks more like a standard round headset bearing cover with a round spacer on top. 

There’s also a curious gap visible between the cover and the spacer.

It’s entirely possible this was simply a make-do option – perhaps the team mechanics didn’t have enough of the matching aero spacers to hand to suit Merlier’s preferred stack height, so they resorted to rooting through the parts bin.

Alternatively, could it be that Canyon is testing out something new here? It’s not inconceivable that Canyon might be trialling some sort of headset or steerer-based suspension system in a similar vein to the Future Shock Specialized uses on its Roubaix endurance bike and Diverge gravel bike

We know Canyon has been innovating on the handlebar front – BikeRumor took a look at an interesting patent from the brand for a new stem and steerer arrangement last year. The Aeroad bar failure debacle may have concentrated minds too.

In any case, the Ultimate is overdue an update, although a new frameset has yet to appear on the UCI's approved list.

We’ve asked Canyon to comment on Merlier’s setup, but we doubt any secrets will be revealed just yet. 


Tubeless, tubeless and more tubeless

In the women’s paddock, tyre choice was a hot talking point due to the sheer variety on show. We saw tyres widths from 25mm up to 32mm with tubeless, tubular and clincher rubber all in use.

For example, the FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope team had a mixture, with team leader Marta Cavalli opting for a set of Continental Competition Pro Ltd tubular tyres, the ones us regular folk cannot buy, and Grace Brown preferring a set of tubeless Continental Grand Prix 5000 S TRs.

Likewise, the Ceratizit-WNT team were running a mixture of tubular and tubeless Wolfpack tyres throughout their squad too.

More than just a mixture of tyres, the newly established AG Insurance-NXTG team were running a mixture of tyre brands on their fleet of Pinarello Dogma F bikes.

Some were riding Continental GP5000 S TR tyres while others were on Specialized’s S-Works turbo tubeless tyres, which we suspect came from the QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl team’s service course, given the two teams’ connection.

While some in the men’s peloton, like Bahrain Victorious’ Matej Mohorič, were running old 11-speed Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 disc groupsets, some within the women’s peloton were riding second-tier Ultegra groupsets.

The AG Insurance-NXTG team were using new 12-speed Shimano Ultegra R8100 groupsets on their Pinarellos while British team LeCol-Wahoo were spotted running old 11-speed Shimano Ultegra R8000 on their spare bikes with aftermarket SwissStop disc rotors.

Then there was the Parkhotel-Valkenburg team that were not only running 11-speed Shimano Ultegra R8000, but also rim brakes on their Factor Ostro bikes.

And even more interesting was team Stade Rochelais Charente-Maritime who were riding Time Alpe d’Huez bikes with rim brakes and an assortment carbon tubular wheels.

Cameras were also commonplace on bikes this weekend. Team Bike-Exchange-Jayco’s Teniel Campbell had a small GoPro attached under her out-front computer mount while others had bulkier camera units attached under the saddle.

The final quirk of note we noticed was from the Canyon/SRAM team which had two fleets of Canyon Aeroad CFR aero bikes, one in the beige and paint splatter colourway, and one in matt black.

On the black frames we noticed that each individual rider’s saddle height had been written on the bike’s frame to make life easier for the mechanics. A classy touch.

Still buzzing from Paris-Roubaix? Don't miss our round-up of the weekend’s comedy highlights