I mentioned recently that it was Specialized's third straight victory in a row. I'm not sure if another manufacturer has managed this feat before, and currently I don't have the time to research it more fully. But the point of the article today is not to marvel in the big American Super Power Bike Brand, but it is to revel in the little guy who also has become the first name in quality tubulars.
Francois Marie Boyeaux is the man behind the the tubulars that bare his initials. Like many artists it acts both as a signature and a brand. It seems fitting that a French tyre should be the one that should be used to tame the pave. Boonen used the Paris Roubaix Pro tyre to great effect. You can't really hide the manufacturer as it screams FMB, even with no logo's on them. Tom used the 25mm version which is made with a cotton carcuss with added protection coming from a 0.2mm thick latex covering. This is a process used by a lot of Pro mechanics to help protect and speed up the ageing process of maturing tubs, plus it adds some welcome protection from side impacts when applied to that area. For those who have ridden a matured tub and a latex treated one say that the performance and feel is the same. The big benefit is the time gain, you no longer have to wait 3-5 years for some bombproof tyres.
What was different was this year many Teams choose to use the regular Roubaix version, albeit in the 27mm version. If you take a look on Fabian's bike it may be rebranded as Specialized, but it is clearly an FMB (the base tape and block style printing are giveaways). Roubaix requires special equipment, and as the major element in reducing the effects of the cobbles is a well made tubular is crucial. This isn't the first time SAXO Bank have used them, as they turned up to Roubaix last year with these on, minus the logos. To be honest FMB where a bit off the radar, but with Teams like SKY and SAXO being a little more open about the equipment they use it has shed a spotlight upon the brand.
These tyres really are handmade. The photo shows the Team SKY ones being made.
Between the Pro and the Regular version it's only the latex strip that is the obvious difference, tread appears to be the same. There is no mention of what inner tube is in the respective versions, but if I where to hazzard a guess it would be that the Pro version also uses a latex tube while the Regular version has a butyl tube (but maybe a trick ultralite one). Looking at the other versions of the tyres in the range it looks like the treads are taken from some of the best brands around, Continental, Veloflex and Vittoria all look to be represented. Construction is by hand and I think the attention to detail is what the vetran mechanics look for. The backing tape (where the glue mounts the tyre to the rim) is thicker than average allowing more glue to be soaked up, while at the same tyre allowing the mechanic to straighten them on the rim with more ease.
The first win of the year went to SKY using them. Frankly they look so Pro on the bikes it is ridiculas. There is something about a black tyre with an amber wall that just shouts class. I was impressed with the choice of these tyres by SKY, and although I am sure that Vittoria (SKY's official tyre sponsor) was a little miffed I have to say that in the pursuit of the win to gain that little bit extra they where prepared to ruffle a few feathers. If Vittoria are sensible they will build a tyre as good for next season for the Team.
Fabian has a bit of a reputation for having an eye for detail, and maybe it's that subtle 'look at me' he was after, rather than the 'LOOK AT ME' that the Pro tyre screams. The whole look of the Stealth Black bike was really finished off nicely with the tyres. FMB seems to have taken over from Dugast as the Pros (not so) secret weapon. The price of the Regular Roubaix isn't that bad, not considering it's pedigree. Lets not forget Fabian didn't puncture once, ok he bust a Zipp, but the tyre and wheel where intact long enough to get to a more sensible section to change bikes.
For those riders taking part in the Paris-Roubaix Randonee in June it may be a sensible idea to consider tubs. The better puncture resistance it offers could be very welcome for us budding amateurs, and maybe for one minute or so flying across the pave you too can pretend you are the King of the Pave.
thanks to C3 Products for the FMB images