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Now you’re just a Roubaix bike that I used to know

Move over suspension, you can win with just a 'regular bike'

This weekend is the 120th edition of the men’s Paris-Roubaix, and the fourth women’s event.  Riders are doing their last-minute preparations for the race, and the weather appears to be favourable for Sunday. The temps look warm, which means the cobbles will be dry and fast. Also, there are going to be chicanes before the craziest part of the race.

Nowadays, bikes are relatively more straightforward for the race. Chainring and cassette choice is tinkered with, or bar tape and wheels, and there are still special bikes unveiled.  This year, some riders will be able to regulate their tires on the fly. Mathieu van der Poel has done just fine on essentially his stock bike. The need for weird, specialized bikes is gone. No more suspension. Just lower tire pressure.

In years past, there were some radical bike choices. Legend has it that in the old days, mechanics bemoaned the weekend as riders would have so many requests, from double bar tape or prototypical suspension forks that would require last minute tinkering.

Here’s a list of some of the wild rides of yesteryear.

1. Gilbert Duclos-Lasalles’s RockShox

In 1992 and 1993, the French rider and teammate of TdF winner Greg Lemond, would use suspension forks to take the win. Although he was not the only one to do so, he was one of the few to win on them. Note that the mechanic would have to swap out the regular Delta brakes for an older Cobalto caliper to fit the fork.

2. Johan Museeuw’s dual suspension Bianchi

In 1994, the Belgian would mount one of the most spectacular bikes seen at Roubaix, a custom dual suspension Bianchi. Although he would win the race in 1996 year with the dominant Mapei team, in 1994 he would end up in 13th.

3. Steve Bauer’s super-relaxed Eddy Merckx

In 1993, Canada’s superstar Steve Bauer, riding for Motorola, would ride a particularly distinct bike. Also known as the “chopper bike,” the ride had such extreme geometry that it looked like he was pushing even harder with his legendary thighs. Although the Fenwick Flash wouldn’t quite match his best result from 1990, where he was beaten by just a hair, he still finished a respectable 23rd.

Listen: When Steve Bauer was 1 cm away from winning Paris-Roubaix

4. Greg LeMond’s Grip Shift lockout

The American was always at the forefront of technological advances in cycling. From aero bars to Oakleys, helmets or carbon fibre, LeMond was always trying to find ways to go faster. Over his storied career LeMond had several great Roubaix results, although a victory would elude him.

In 1994 he had a Grip Shift shifter installed that would control the rear suspension. Although this sort of tech would become commonplace on mountain bikes, at the time for a road bike it was unheard of to have it on a road bike. He could turn on the suspension on the pave, then lock it out on the faster asphalt sections.

5. Mario Pieri’s Cannondale Silk with Headshok

Although many of the riders who would use front suspension would opt for Rock Shox, Cannondale-sponsored riders would roll with their proprietary option. From the late ‘90s to early 2000s, you’d often see Saeco classics riders using a road bike equipped with a Headshok.