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by Dave Everett
April 5, 2017
Photography by Breakthrough Media
Tom Boonen raced his last Tour of Flanders last weekend, and team sponsor Specialized made sure he was properly fitted for the occasion — both literally and figuratively. An untimely drivetrain issue spoiled the fairy tale ending, but Boonen will get one last chance for glory on this same bike at Paris-Roubaix — the last race of his illustrious career.
Specialized’s latest Roubaix has replaced its long-running Zertz elastomeric inserts with a proper suspension unit, dubbed Future Shock, that sits in between the standard stem and steerer tube. Inside is a simple steel coil spring that provides up to 20mm of movement; multiple spring rates can be used to adjust how sensitive the system is to bumps.
Boonen says that on a non-suspended bike, his technique for riding the cobbles was to lift and throw the front end where it wanted it to be — an impressive sight we witnessed in person when this latest Roubaix was launched this past June. But on this new machine, he says he can now sit down more when climbing the bergs, while also pushing more on the bars without the front end being thrown about and losing traction, which is not only faster but saves more energy.
While the consumer-spec Roubaix shares the same Future Shock mechanism, Boonen’s bike gets two critical changes: a longer and lower geometry (with a level top tube) that lets the tall Belgian more comfortably stretch out his back, and conventional rim brakes instead of the disc brakes used exclusively on standard versions.
Boonen openly prefers disc brakes from a performance standpoint, but the switch to rim brakes was nonetheless warranted by the chaotic nature of support at Flanders and Paris-Roubaix; the specific spare wheel or bike isn’t always available when you need it to be, and it’s oftentimes better to err on the side of caution to ensure the ability to carry on.
Despite those precautions, Boonen was caught out at the base of the Taaienberg with a drivetrain issue — not a tyre problem — and while the team car wasn’t far behind with his spare bike, that one had a drivetrain problem as well, and the Belgian’s fate was sealed.
None of Specialized’s sponsored riders used disc brakes at the Tour of Flanders, and the same situation is expected for Paris-Roubaix.
Boonen used tubular tyres at Flanders that were only slightly upsized over what he would normally use on the road, made with FMB cotton casings and Specialized tread caps. Expect to see something bigger — possibly as wide as 32mm tubular — at Paris-Roubaix.
Boonen’s bike was fitted with rim brakes instead of the consumer-spec Roubaix’s standard disc brakes.
The seatpost clamp is 60mm lower than on the previous Roubaix model, and the seat tube is slightly oversized up above, which gives more room for the seatpost to flex fore and aft on the cobbles.
Boonen’s choice of saddle is the Specialized Body Geometry Romin. Also notice the FSA K-Force seatpost instead of the CG-R model normally used on the consumer-spec Roubaix.
The Roval CLX 50 carbon tubular wheels get gold decals to match. There will be a fair few spares ready come Sunday.
Expect these Tacx Tao bottle cages to be swapped out for something a bit more secure for Paris-Roubaix.
The Specialized Future Shock suspension cartridge provides up to 20mm of movement via a steel coil spring.
Tom and Specialized will be hoping that the front of this bike will be the first to come across the line on Sunday.
A little detail on the top tube.
While some riders prefer to feel every last ripple in the road, Boonen prefers thick, double-wrapped tape at Paris-Roubaix.