Roubaix Takes The Win!

Cycling Weekly has just honoured the Roubaix Expert ‘10/10 – Endurance Bike of The Year’ and said ‘The Specialized Roubaix Expert ticks every box we’d hope an endurance bike to tick. Most importantly the suspension in the front end makes it incredibly easy to ride over rough surfaces, but it also offers excellent handling and a lightweight frame that can be ridden fast’.  Another fantastic review!

The brand new 2017 Specialized Roubaix is one of the biggest bike launches of the year because of the Roubaix’s history and legacy in helping to popularise the whole sportive and endurance bike category, undoubtedly the favourite with today’s comfort-craving cyclist.

Launched a few years after the turn of the century, the first Roubaix was something of a mould-breaking bike. It combined the carbon fibre frame and DNA of a performance race bike but wrapped it all up with the sort of geometry and comfort-boosting features that wouldn’t put your back out of joint if you’re not a skinny race whippet logging 30-hours a week in the saddle.

The big talking point with the new Roubaix is the Future Shock, so… let’s talk about that first.

There’s no doubt about it, the Future Shock works. It delivers a smoother ride than the old Roubaix SL4 and feels smoother than other endurance bikes such as the Trek Domane SLR and Canyon Endurace CF SLX. It’s really good at reducing the high-frequency vibrations normally felt through the handlebar.

It might feel soft on the shop floor  but out on the road it’s a different matter. Because the Future Shock is positioned between the stem and frame, it’s only supporting your upper body weight. That means it’s not soft and bouncy but is instead quite firm, yet soft enough to react to the smallest road buzz very well.

You certainly notice the smoothness it provides, and if you concentrate and watch the Future Shock (making sure you’re on a quiet traffic-free road to do this!) you can see the protective rubber boot gently compressing and extending. But ignore it and focus on pedalling and enjoying the ride, and you forget it’s even there, and just enjoy the smoothness it provides.

There’s also no strangeness when sprinting or climbing out of the saddle, movements that put more weight into the handlebar. When you’re leaning heavily on the bar during a steep climb there is a bit more movement compared with seated pedalling, but get out of the saddle and give it the beans in a full powered sprint and there’s no feeling you’re losing any precious speed. The Future Shock is controlled and well behaved, impressive considering there’s no damping.

Redesigned frame

So, that’s a lot of words just on the Future Shock… Time to take a look at the rest of the new Roubaix. And there is a lot to talk about: Specialized has majorly overhauled the complete frame and fork in every single department.

A big change is that it’s only available with disc brakes, there is no rim brake variant. Aside from the benefits provided by hydraulic disc brakes in all weathers, there’s drastically improved tyre clearance – it’ll take up to 32mm tyres, up from 28mm on the old bike, with 26mm tyres fitted as standard.

Specialized’s previous disc-equipped road bikes have used quick releases but the new Roubaix uses 12mm thru-axles front and rear. The 12mm thru-axle has rapidly become the standard on the latest disc brake-equipped road bikes, as have flat mount disc callipers. There’s also fully internal gear cable and brake hose routing, and it’s neatly done.

One detail many people will get on board with is the externally threaded bottom bracket. Press-fit bottom brackets have lost a lot of fans over the years, and Specialized must be applauded for listening to its customers and acting on this feedback.

The one big glaring omission on the new frame is the lack of mudguard eyelets. I’m not really sure what Specialized is playing at in not including them, it’s not like there isn’t space for mudguards. Yes, it’s a bike designed for racing, but many people (based in the UK at least) looking to buy an endurance bike will want the option to fit mudguards for winter cycling.

The other significant change is the revised geometry. The old Roubaix had a reputation for having a very tall head tube, but on this new bike, its height has been slashed. Specialized has taken inspiration from its Tarmac race bike and provided a more aggressive and racy geometry in the new Roubaix.

The head angle is steeper, the bottom bracket lower, the wheelbase shorter, the stack is 30mm lower and the reach is 10mm longer. Specialized offers a wide range of fit adjustments, through a choice of headset top caps and its novel Hover riser handlebar, so you can replicate your position on the old Roubaix, or get a much racier setup. I found it a much better fit than the old bike, and the wider range of positions will satisfy a broader audience.

The new Roubaix is also lighter than the old model. The frame weighs a claimed 700g with the Future Shock adding 200g, so the frame weight is well under a kilogram and compares well with other endurance bikes. The fork adds 300g.

This Ultegra-equipped bike in a size 56cm hit the scales at 8.35kg – a bit lighter than most other similarly equipped disc bikes, which usually come in at about 8.8kg or thereabouts. With some high-end parts, it would definitely be possible to get down to the UCI weight limit.

Specialized has also added SWAT (storage, water, air, tools) to the bike, a completely optional compartment that sits at the bottom of the down tube and is a smart alternative to a saddle bag or stuffed jersey pockets. There’s a third bolt below the bottle cage mounts on the down tube and seat tube to which the compartment is fixed.

Whats not to love about Specialized’s revolutionary invention ?