Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Road Gear

Paris-Roubaix tech: Tire liners, straight chain lines, and big rings at EF Education-EasyPost

Veteran mechanic Jac-Johann Steyn explains his team's gearing and tire configurations, and the thinking behind them.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Tires and gears got bigger in 2022 for EF Education-EasyPost, and not just for Paris-Roubaix. Veteran mechanic Jac-Johann Steyn walked VeloNews through what’s changed this year for the team in terms of how the bikes are set up, and what’s been done special for Roubaix on Sunday.

Also read:

Tires: 28mm with liners is the new standard

“In previous years we were on a 26mm for normal stages and a 28 and in the classics,” Steyn said. “Now we changed this year, and we are on 28s all around throughout the year, then obviously we change to 30s, the bigger tire, for Roubaix.”

EF Education has been working with tire sponsor Vittoria for a few years and has been collaborating on the tire-liner project now called Air Liner for four years. A few companies make a similar product, where a foam insert sits inside a tubeless tire to make the tire rideable in case of a flat. Sealant of course is the first fall-back plan, but if a puncture is large enough to cause a tire to completely lose air, then a foam liner feels like riding with about 15psi in it.

Vittoria’s foam Air Liner goes inside every tubeless tire for EF Education. (Photo: Ben Delaney)

“We first started with the liner in the classics and built it up, built it up until everyone was happy with it,” he said. “Now we use it on all the tubeless wheels on the time. We use it, A) for safety, so the tire cannot come off on the pavé or on normal stages. And B), if you have a flat tire, you have the feeling that you have a little air in the tire, and you can ride to a point, especially in the classics, you can reach a service point riding on a flat tire. It’s a really nice product.”

Steyn said the team changes the liners every month or two.

As for tires, mechanics swap in fresh ones as needed.

“It really depends how long tires last,” he said. “You can have a brand new tire today, you race it tomorrow and you have a cut or something and you take it off. So it all depends on the road surface and conditions and everything. We control it every day to see how the tires are. Sure, for most consumers it’s fine to have a few little cuts that sealant fixes. But for the riders, we want to have the best. So if we have it, we put it on.”

EF Education has tubular and tubeless tires at the ready. (Photo: Ben Delaney)

For Paris-Roubaix, the team has a whole set of wheels and 30mm tires that only see action for this one day out of the year.

“For the Roubaix tires, we put on the tires and put the liners in, but we don’t put sealant in until race day gets close,” he said.

54/40 is the new 53/39

With the change to 12-speed Shimano, EF Education-EasyPost jumped up a tooth on the big and small ring. Instead of a 53/39, the riders all use a 54/40, paired to either an 11-30 or, for particularly steep days, an 11-34.

“It’s a big difference. The big thing is going towards the marginal gains, and it’s all about having the straight line in the chain and minimizing friction on the chain,” Steyn said. “That’s where the bigger chainring in front comes in.”

Direct mounts for better shifting

Like many WorldTour teams, EF Education removes one of the stock joints of the Shimano Dura-Ace rear derailleur and the stock derailleur hanger on the frame, then replaces both with a solid direct mount.

“We only have one linkage point, instead of the standard two for the normal consumer,” he said. “Every year we get a new batch made in different colors. It works really well. The shifting is more direct. There’s no delay on it. With the pro riders, you need it.”

A soft derailleur hanger comes stock on consumer bikes as a crash absorber of sorts. If you crash or even accidentally knock over your bike on the drivetrain side, the derailleur hanger will absorb some of that impact, and will often bend, likely saving your frame or your derailleur from braking.

“For us, it’s the opposite,” Steyn said with a laugh. “If the rider crashes hard, either the frame or the derailleur breaks.”