Cobbles-Tech: The Rims of Flanders

For the bike tech nerd, there’s no part of the season more exciting than the cobbled classics. France and Belgium in April is a time for crazy equipment – tires, rims, frames and miscellany that you may or may not ever see again. King of Tech is the Queen of the Classics, Paris-Roubaix, where bike and rider undergo punishment unlike any they’ll see the remainder of the season – at least, on the road.

Rather than hedge their bets on unproven technology, however, most teams opt to experiment a little prior to Paris-Roubaix. Whether you call it de Ronde, Vlaanderens mooistem or simply Flanders, the Ronde van Vlaanderen is a place you can expect to see many of the little tech gems teams are playing with. They aren’t always pretty, and sometimes they’re out and out low-tech, but the homogeneity of bog standard carbon fiber frames and deep carbon rims is out the window.

Speaking of rims, let’s see what different teams were up to with them at Flanders. Far less punishing than Paris-Roubaix, the short sections of cobbles seen at Flanders are less of a concern when it comes to equipment failure. That said, many teams still pull the box-section aluminum rim shod wheels out of the service course, and use them at Flanders – perhaps its because the weight and aerodynamics penalty is considered low, that they mate better with the wider tires often employed, or maybe just to give a field test and break them in before they hit the craggier stuff. That said, the quality and durability of carbon fiber rims has been proven in battle, and many teams are willing to use them in situations they might not have in the past.

All Photos by Jered Gruber / jeredgruber.com

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