A Bike for the Epics

A Bike for the Epics

The one time of year I still make a point to look at pictures of bikes is during the spring classics, more specifically Paris-Roubaix. Static shots of riderless bicycles are otherwise pretty boring. No faces, no scenery, no drama, just a bike going nowhere. But during the spring, all the tricks come out and most of the magic is performed during the Queen of the Classics:  the custom tubulars, double wrapped bars, one race frames, chain watchers, calipers with extra clearance. It’s a sideshow to the actual race but to gear heads, Paris-Roubaix is an equipment fun zone.

For us mortals, we are seeing more rides and races that push our equipment to its limits. Bike setup has become a crucial component in preparing for epics like the Tour of Battenkill and Rouge Roubaix. For me, this spring, it was the Belgian Waffle Ride and the King Ridge Dirt Supreme.  Both would be five-plus hours in the saddle, have dirt roads, possibly mud and steep climbs. A bike for the epics was needed.

If it was someone else’s money then my shopping list would have looked a lot different. But this was my investment so I used some of what I had and bought only what I needed. Wheels, contact points and groupset were on hand, so I began a search for a willing frameset. One that could take a thrashing, could hold steady on a sketchy loose descent, was agile enough to carve down switchbacks, was comfy over 100+ miles and was light enough to tackle long climbs. A frame with a lower BB, longer HT, slacker front end and enough clearance for 28mm tires. Some people and manufacturers call them endurance frames. Whatever.

I went with something I knew. When Specialized first introduced the S-Works Roubaix, I snatched one up. I would still have it were it not for a crack around a water bottle boss. Team sponsorship took me away from the big “S” for a few years but I always wanted to get back on a Roubaix. So with two hardcore events as an excuse, a Roubaix SL4, S-Works was ordered. Size: Large. Color: Flat black with red highlights.

There were two things I was determined to do with the build: run tubeless and shallow drop bars. Tubeless road has struggled to catch on but it seems to be finding a place in multi-surface events. The rough conditions and potential for puncture lend to running lower pressures and sealant as a safety net. I like being in the drops during a rough descent but there’s no reason to be aero. Shallow drops allow for control while maintaining an upright posture.

The wheels I had. HED Belgium C2 Rims with DT Swiss 240s. 24 2X front and 28 3X rear. The rims are not factory tubeless so this would be a conversion.  I wrapped two layers of Stan’s rim tape on each and mounted a pair of Hutchinson Sector 28s. Stan’s sealant was injected through the valve cores. They sealed on the first try and during a training ride, the sealant saved me from stopping when a rolled over a shard of glass.

The bars and stem came from FSA, both aluminum. The bars are Wing Pro compact. 127 drop and 80 mm reach. The reach is a little longer than I’d like but not a deal break. 42cm width. Stem length, 120mm. Bar-hooks double wrapped with Lizard Skins 1.8mm tape, single wrap on the tops. I like the volume of the bar to feel the same whether I am on the tops or in the drops so I only double wrap the lowers. The FSA’s have a flat top section and double wrapping them make them too bulky.  It’s one of my quirks.

I maybe one of the few people that actually like Shimano’s last Dura-Ace 10 speed effort, the 7900 gruppo. The front shifting was great, no trim and the shifters had a nice, short throw. But truth be told, the 9000 group blows it away. Everything is better. I especially like the crankset. The switch to a  universal bolt diameter makes it a breeze to switch from standard to compact to ‘cross,  just change rings. And 11 speed means you can run a climbing cassette without big jumps during rear shifts. My two spring classics would feature about 20-thousand feet of climbing so up front was a 50-34 with a 12-28 on the rear hub. Yokozuna cables and housing because I already had them.


All that gawking at the bikes of Paris-Roubaix did remind me to add a chain watcher. I love that SRAM ships these standard.  With all the jostling I was certain to encounter, it was a no brainer to grab a K-Edge chain catcher. A real peace of mind, piece of equipment.

Specialized ships the Roubaix with the CG-R seatpost. It is designed to offer vertical compliance with 18mm of travel. But it is an offset post and my short femurs need a more forward position, so I swapped it out for a Specialized Pave post.  A Prologo Nago, 141mm width, mounted in the single bolt clamp.

The build was spot on for the King Ridge Dirt Supreme. The dirt sections were rougher than what we got at the Belgian Waffle ride. So the sturdier wheels were a good call for the roads and trails of west Sonoma County. But I could have gone with something lighter for the north San Diego county route of BWR. That course was 50 miles longer, had 2 thousand feet more climbing and pretty smooth dirt. Tubeless was still a good call for flat avoidance but probably could have gotten by on 25s.


I did get proof that punishment would be an element this bike would be put through. At the end of the King Ridge Dirt supreme my rear tire showed signs of a massive hit. I don’t exactly remember where (probably on the dirt finale) but the end result was a bulge that looked like the tire had developed a goiter. With tubed tires, that was probably a blowout and an uphill walk to the finish line. Score one for tubeless.

A Bike for the Epics:

  • Frame: Specialized S-Works Roubaix, Large
  • Wheels: HED Belgium C2 series, DT Swiss 240 hubs, 24F/28R
  • Tires: Hutchinson Sector Tubeless 28mm, Stan’s Sealant
  • Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace 9000, 50-34 chainset, 12-28 cassette
  • K-Edge chain catcher
  • Shift cables and housing: Yokozuna
  • Brake Pads: Swissstop BXP
  • Bars: FSA Wing Pro Compact, 127mm drop, 80mm reach, 42cm width
  • Bar Tape: Lizard Skins DSP 1.8mm, drops double wrapped
  • Stem: FSA OS-99, 120mm
  • Seatpost: Specialized Pave zero offset
  • Saddle: Prologo Nago, 141mm width
  • Pedals: Time RXS Carbon
  • Computer: Garmin 810 with silicone protection
  • Misc: Lezyne Flow Cages HP, Lezyne Road Drive Pump



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    1. Mark Hespenheide

      Hotten spends only three sentences talking about the frame. Perhaps you could comment more substantively, rather than appearing to dismiss the entire post?

  1. hiddenwheel

    Such rides (both the route and the sled for it) are terrific developments. I second tubeless and add that Shimano A-600 pedals are fantastic for this sort of riding. SPD cleat, but a bit of a platform and one-sided. You can walk in your shoes (Giro Republic, or similar) and still have roadie vanity. And they’re cheap.

    1. Hugh

      I have found that the BXP pads noticeably improved the performance of the canti brakes on my cross bike. It is not critical for a cross race or similar ride, but on steeper and longer downhills on gravel/dirt road rides (D2R2), they are great. Better control (still not great) but they can actually stop the bike, which the stock pads struggled to do in the past.

  2. Scott G.

    Any word on what happen to the tire ?
    I’ve had similar failures by over inflating lightly built 32mm clinchers.

  3. Michael Hotten

    A lot of guys at BWR went to mtn pedals because of some overnight rain. Turned out to be overreaction. Course was solid. But you are spot on with your suggestion. How about Speedplay Paves?

    Modulation with those pads is great. SwissStop says they provide greater stopping power with less force. My forearms and hands concur.

    Pretty sure it was on the last section of the King Ridge Dirt Supreme. There’s a rough road that leads to a dirt climb. Lots of pot holes. I banged through a couple. The tire felt smooth over the previous 80 miles so figuring it must have been in that final stretch. I has since been replaced.

  4. John

    What about the specs of the rider? A 150lb rider at 6′ is a lot different that a 180lb rider of the same height.

  5. Jay

    I read an article once that advised that it makes more sense for non-pros to ride what the pros ride at Paris-Roubaix, not the ultralight machines they use most of the time. Everyone wants durability, the pros want it especially at P-R.

    1. Craig P

      I’ve enjoyed my Roubaix a lot since I got it last fall. Similar build except Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and HED Ardennes + wheels with IRC tubeless tired ( 25’s ). Great riding bike !

  6. Mark

    The Swissstop BXP over stock pads: Not cheap, but powerful and smooth pads with the knowledge that these pads are being kind to your rim. Previous standard issue kit pads were ineffective and created a lot of ‘dust’ that getsinto nooks and crannies

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