"The Racer" Extract Two: The Tyres of Roubaix

"The Racer" Extract Two: The Tyres of Roubaix

We're treating CHPT3 followers to exclusive, full extracts from David Millar's book, "The Racer". Winner of the Cycling Book of the Year, David writes from the perspective of a professional, preparing for the race and providing an enthralling look inside the crazy race with no details left out. Ensure you're signed up to our newsletter to be informed each time a new extract is released.

Published with consent and thanks to Yellow Jersey Press

The tyre pressure is Andreas Klier’s domain. Nobody questions his decision – not even the head mechanic, Geoff. The tyres we use are not those of our sponsors, they’re artisan creations – most teams choosing those from the French maker François Marie, or FMB (the B standing for boyaux, French for tubular). They’re wider and tougher yet also more supple, the finishing touch being the traditional natural cream-coloured side walls. If you’re into tyres, these are beauties. I used to buy my time- trial tyres from François Marie, as he also makes lightweight silk tyres which really are something special, although they’re so delicate they wouldn’t even make it to the first section of cobbles in Roubaix.

These handmade tyres are one of the few things left in modern cycling that hark back to an earlier age, a time when artisans holed up in nondescript barns or outhouses were the go-to for the latest and best tech. Nowadays nearly everything we use is generic, almost all churned out by giant factories in China or Taiwan, whereas there is something so special about the feel, smell and look of these beautifully crafted pieces of cotton and rubber. It’s ironic that perhaps the most carefully constructed and cherished piece of equipment we use all year will have the shortest life because each tyre will race only once in its brief existence.

We run approximately 6-bar pressure – maybe a bit less on the front, and even lower in both when wet. The larger diameter of the tyre means there’s more air volume, allowing us to run these lower pressures. The lower pressure gives us more shock absorption, and the wider diameter also gives us a larger surface area at the point of contact between the tyre and the ground, which means we’re not ricocheting around so much and have more grip. It’s also much more forgiving on the bike and therefore the body, with the wrong tyres you'll hate Roubaix, get it all right and you might just love it.