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November 24, 2017
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  • Ralph

    Thanks for the review MW – nice photography too. Can I ask subjectively whether you prefer discs and how it gels with the road bike experience, I guess in other words what would you chose, rim or discs?

    • For me, it comes down to the ergonomics of the brake levers. I prefer the feel of conventional levers since they lack the bulk required to accommodate the master cylinder for the hydraulic system.

      • Ralph

        I was wondering this as it’s the first thing I noticed on a disc system. Any news on whether there’s an update coming to the R785 system maybe with slimmer hoods?

        • None. I think the next revision will come once Shimano introduces series-specific levers and calipers.

          • MBB

            For what it’s worth, I’ve been riding the R785s for 9 months now, and I’ve found the hood shape to be superb over the longer term. They might not be pretty, but they’re pretty functional. A few minor bugs, such as horrendous rattling due to the lever itself not having the cable tension to keep it in place, but a simple fix with some soft-side sticky velcro. The R785 hydro system with Dura-Ace Di2 has been a god-send. I’d be reluctant to go back to mechanical shifting or non-hydro disc braking.

  • VerticallyCompliant

    Specialized must save the fancy coloured models for Wade

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  • Simon

    I’m wondering if the Roubaix, which is more comfort/sportif oriented, can take wider tyres that would extend its range onto rougher gravel roads?

    • 28mm tyres won’t be a problem, there are some reports that 30mm can be too wide though, depending on the rims they’re mounted to.

    • Martin English

      I run 28 roubaix tires on my Roubaix disc. Perfect for any gravel, mud etc…. Hell, it did single track just fine on Ol’dirty and regularly gets a gravel hit out in the nongs.

  • TimM

    Interesting review. Good job.

    One comparison between these two bikes that I think has been missed is the internal routing for the front brake hose or lack thereof.

    The picture of the Roubaix with the long length of brake hose wrapped around the fork is making me cringe. The Tarmac, while I can’t tell definitively from the pictures but a quick google search reveals, has the hose internally routed through the top of the fork and then out the bottom near the calliper.

    Obviously the Roubaix can’t route the hose the same way as the “Zertz” insert probably prevents this.

    I’m not sure if I’m weirded out about this for aesthetic reasons or safety concerns. I’m not sure I like the cable through the fork either but there’s no real alternative given the calliper placement.

    I’m not a discs on road bikes opponent, just an observation. Give it time and if we are riding a new-ish bike from a non-boutique manufacturer I’m sure we’ll all be using them. I’m just happy to wait for the manufactures to work out some standardisation and for a larger range of wheels.

    • Yes there are differences in cable routing for each bike, where the Tarmac is much tidier, front and rear. Definitely agree with you from an aesthetic point of view. Most suspension forks use the same kind of external routing so any safety issue would have been revealed years ago.

  • tobyshingleton

    Was switching the rear wheels between the two bikes a PITA with the Tarmac’s rear hub. I understood it was offset 5mm to compensate for it’s short stays? (405mm)

    • Not at all, the disk caliper just needed minor re-aligning.

  • Ben

    It will be interesting to see which manufacturers disc standards emerge as the “standard” (Trek thru axle vs Specialized QR, disc caliper/wheel/hub sizing, etc) over next 12 months in lead up to UCI sanctioning disc brakes in 2017 (?) – could make neutral race service and after market components (disc wheelsets) interesting…

  • Gavin Adkins

    I’m sure they ride great and all, but they don’t look like much for what is really quite a lot of coin.

  • Michael

    Thanks for the timely review as I’m waiting for my tarmac disc to arrive. How did you find the performance of the QR as apposed to the thru axle? Were they stiff enough and did the wheels ever move at all in the drop outs the drops causing the brakes to rub?

    • Zero issues for me. I read a comment recently that the lawyer tabs on the forks can be very effective at keeping the QR skewer in place.

      The debate over QR skewers versus thru-axles is an interesting one. It feels very much like an election campaign.

  • velocite

    Slower steering? My own experience of differing frame geometries leaves me interested but vague. I would have thought quick steering resulted from less trail, a function of head tube angle and fork offset/rake, but you don’t quote trail – or fork rake. I am currently switching between two bikes with distinctly different geometries: head tube angle/fork offset/trail for old/new are 74,5/53/40 and 73/45/60. They feel different, in fact when first got out of the saddle on the ‘new’ bike I thought the headset had seized because it felt so different, but they both lean into the corners without effort.

    Enjoyed the review though. Discs great, Roubaix for me.

    • Take a look at this piece Wade wrote a while ago: https://cyclingtips.com.au/2011/02/the-geometry-of-bike-handling/

      • velocite

        Yep, remember that, made sense, identified trail as the determinant of steering ‘quickness’. The two bikes I’m swapping between these days have similar, though not identical trails, but achieved through a different combination of head tube angle and fork offset. Out of the saddle they feel quite different, I have concluded because when pulling up on the bars, as you do out of the saddle, the slacker the head tube the more the bars will turn. Which is why when I go back to the (newer) bike with the smaller angle it feels like the bars are resisting.

        Wheelbase is different by 45mm for these two bikes, but I can’t map that onto my experience of the ride.

        I do think it would make the geometry tables more meaningful if they included fork offset and trail as well as head tube angle.

        • Sean Doyle

          but you also have BB drop, front centre, stem length, bar width, CofG, wheel weights, tyre size/ pressure, etc ALL influence how a bike handles. You cannot single out a small part of the equation and define a bike by that.

          • velocite

            Firstly, I don’t think trail is a small part of the equation and secondly, I didn’t say that it defined the bike. But the challenge surely is to identify the contributions of the various elements. My two bikes have different bar widths but I think I can identify the effect of that. BB drops are identical, but I have no idea how varying that translates into rider experience anyway. I’ve swapped between different types of wheels in the past and noticed differences in comfort but not handling. Not to say wheels don’t affect handling, just that I haven’t noticed it. But if you can’t relate particular characteristics to particular geometries then the tables are of no value at all, other than in relation to fit.

            FWIW I can’t see that CoG of the bike is a significant parameter, partly because most of the weight is in the rider, and partly because the bike leans into corners, unlike a car, so what difference does CoG height make? I know Robbie McEwen for one says that getting into the drops when cornering is good because it lowers CoG, but I don’t get it.

            I’m interested in any contrary thoughts.

            • Sean Doyle

              I meant C of G of the rider not bike, too far forward and it weights the front wheel too much. Too far back ie. too short a chainstay and it unweights the front wheel too much. Getting on the drops actually weights the front wheel a touch which helps with adding to cornering feel and confidence. Having a high C of G changes the dynamic because it’s like have a big weight swing around up in the air. If you rode in the good old days when saddles were a fair bit heavier you noticed the bike move differently when you put that new light weight saddle on. Getting down low in the corner keeps the package compact and direct instead of waving around like a slinky (exaggerating).
              BB height affects the way your C of G works with the contact patch on the ground and in part to the front wheel. Higher and from my experience and the bike changes direction easier and lower a touch slower but gives a more planted feel when cornering. Heavier wheels need more countersteering to initiate cornering and then subsequently more to change direction. Couple a heavier set of wheels with a low BB and a slightly long trail and you’l have a pig of a bike. Conversely some stupid light wheels, with a high BB, a twitchy trail set up and short front center and you’ll end up bouncing like a pinball in the bunch at the slightest hint of a bump.
              Like I said you can’t isolate one data point and I wasn’t suggesting you were singling out on just one but there are a whole bunch of things going on that determine how a bike rides as an overall package. Even having a frame that is too stiff or too soft for a particular riders weight can affect the whole package.

              • velocite

                I have a $30 wine palate. There’s no point in me spending more than that or thereabouts because my ability to distinguish the extra qualities is nil. You may well have a finer bike palate than I. But regardless, if you can’t identify the effects of individual characteristics you can’t purposefully design a bike, it will be endless trial and error.

                • Sean Doyle

                  I understand your analogy but I would suggest that because you are even asking about it you probably understand more than you think. I’ve tasted many wines that were great for much less than $30 but I digress. If you can, grab as many of your mates bikes an give them a burl and take note of some of the set ups etc. some bikes will be too big or small and that will always temper some of the feedback but at least you will start to feel different dynamics and you may start to get a feel for it. Also be careful of published geometry tables. Often they are not correct. Plus you’ll get others, like Colnago which don’t give you trail or even head angle but front centre instead.

  • Frank Cheshire

    What i can tell you (from painful experience) is that the S-Works Tarmac Di2 disc frame can take a hit! Managed to put mine into a stone wall at 75kph (disc brakes can’t compensate for gravel in the middle of an off-camber corner it seems ;) – unlike me it sustained no damage to the frame and fork despite ending up about 25m from where i was lying (and yes I’ve had it x-rayed :)

    Only problem is both wheels were destroyed by hitting a small ditch before the wall and the Roval Rapide CLX40 SCS Disc wheels are proprietary meaning (I’m told) i cannot use another rear wheel due to the hub – Specialized (Switzerland and inquiries in Oz too) tell me that there are no 2015 CLX40 SCS Disc clinchers left in stock and the 2016 model isn’t out yet, so no replacement wheels.

    Just as well I can’t get back on the bike until early 2016 i guess…

    • Sean Doyle

      I was just checking this whole SCS thing out. What a crock of shite that system is. If they used normal CS length, like 410 and up they wouldn’t have to resort to silly little ideas like this. If the hub is not damaged just get the hub built into another rim. Just get a different hanger for the RD,or use a 2.5mm thick washer on the hanger and run a normal wheel set with a 135mm disc hub, space the hub accordingly on the axle. There are solutions if you are willing to play around with it.

      • I have to agree. What’s wrong with longer stays anyway? It appears that the cassette can end up against the chainstay when installing a non-SCS hub to these frames. A proprietary hub/stay design is not going to work in race situations. The prospect of disc brakes is already going to be a big challenge for neutral race support, but this threatens to make it unworkable.

        • tobyshingleton

          I did allude to this situation above when I questioned the swapping of wheels between bikes.

          Specialized wanted the shorter stays to preserve the handling that the Tarmac is famous for…

          I think last year the Roubaix didn’t have the SCS wheels as well, but at least they have ‘standardized’ that.

          • Sean Doyle

            Shorter stays have such a small impact on handling for most people and too short screw it up completely on some bikes.For example big sizes do not need the same CS length as small frames. That is the first error that Specialized make. If they went for a little longer and even went to a 73mm bottom bracket to move the front chain rings out or even a 68 with a wider chainring spacing they could circumvent the whole issue. You could argue that having the cassette sitting 2.5mm further out improves the situation when you have big big combo going which if you’ve raced a hilly road race does happen when the gun goes.

      • Frank Cheshire

        thanks for the info Sean – the hub looks undamaged so looks like a
        rebuild – time to go rim hunting :) But yeah, the SCS system is a PITA for sure!

  • Albert

    I’d love for you to include BB drop in your geometry charts. For me, it’s a huge influence on how a bike rides.

    • Sean Doyle

      They did link to the Specialized website tables in the text….


      Having a look at the table for the Tarmac for a production bike it’s not to bad ie. in trying to cover lots of different body shapes. I would bump the CS all out by 5mm and reverse the BB trend but other than that it’s not out of the norms. You can see where they opt to save money with only one fork rake but thing like front centres and stem lengths are in acceptable ranges for a confident bike. Only the most flexible would want lower head tubes really.

  • Neil Blyberg

    I Ride the Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race (non Di2) and love it coming from a Cervelo R3. I also installed Specialised Aero Bars and Vittoria Evo Corsa 25mm tyres. Ride actually feels stiffer than the R3 but both of equal compliance. I rode this bike while visiting the TDU in January and really loved it on the coarse roads with potholes and man holes everywhere. I think Wade may have been riding the Tarmac whilst there, I saw him in the Specialised truck with a Tarmac parked outside. I don’t think comparing different layups is fair on either bikes, as it increases the differences between the 2 bikes in this example.

  • Phil

    I have a 2015 Roubaix SL4 Disc with SRAM – I have ridden 1750km. The longest day ride has been 136km. Yes it is a good ride and I have recovered well after the ride the next day. However I do have a couple issues. First the bike is on the heavy side for a carbon bike and secondly realigning of the disc in the brakes can be annoying when refitting the wheel. The issue of lateral movement can be a pain. I wished it had a through axel set up.


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