Specialized’s new Roubaix first-ride review: Performance, soothed
“Lighter than our Venge and more aero than our Tarmac.”
That’s an attractive statement for anyone seeking a new race bike. In this case, it applies to Specialized’s all-new Roubaix, the company’s long-standing endurance platform.
Announced just in time for its namesake race, the new Roubaix retains and improves on a number of the platform’s pre-existing comfort features, such as the suspended steerer tube and flexible seatpost, and blends that marquee feature with aerodynamic tube profiles and reduced weight in the goal of performance.
Both Dave Everett and Caley Fretz have spent time hammering the new bike on Belgium’s finest cobbles and provide their thoughts below. But first, the details.
- What: New Specialized Roubaix endurance bike.
- Key updates:New Future Shock, more flexible seatpost, aerodynamic design, lighter, tweaked geometry, gender-neutral models.
- Features: Disc-only, room for 33c rubber, threaded bottom bracket, Power saddles as stock.
- Frame weight: Sub 900g (painted, 56cm).
Specialized kept the Future Shock concept that uses a sprung telescoping steerer tube to suspend the bike’s stem from the forces below. Sticking with 20mm of suspension travel, the all-new Future Shock 2.0 (equipped on Roubaix Expert and higher) features a hydraulic damper for a more controlled ride.
With a third of a turn, a dial above the stem provides control over the compression dampener, allowing a choice between having the suspension open or closed. In its closed position, the shock offers a threshold for where it’ll let oil flow through, mitigating the risk of damper damage and excessive shock.
This all spells a significant update over the original Future Shock which uses a series of metal springs and bumpers; whereas the new version sits more inline with current mountain bike suspension technology with oil-damped compression and rebound.
The Roubaix Comp and below gets an updated Future Shock 1.5. It’s a more basic sprung system like the original, but with added top and bottom out bumpers for better feel and control. Whereas the FutureShock 2.0 has its spring and damper preset, the FutureShock 1.5 offers a choice in three spring weights.
The new Future Shock brings with it a new stem, something that is found on Comp models and up. The FutureShock 2.0 cannot be retrofitted to older models, officially.
Looking to the rear of the bike, Specialized retained a flexible seatpost and its lowered clamp design in order to increase the post’s lever length. However, both are all-new and aerodynamically-optimized.
The new D-shaped carbon Pave post flexes along its entire exposed length. While it looks simpler than Specialized’s previous CG-R (Cobble Gobbler) seatposts, Specialized state the new post is in-fact more compliant. The carbon layup is effectively divided into three zones, with a unidirectional fibre in the middle portion designed to promote rearward flex. The post flexes in an arc, and doesn’t impact on saddle height.
Within the bulge at the top of the seattube sits a dropped seatpost clamp, which increases the amount of flexible exposed seatpost by clamping at a lower point.
Ready to race
The Roubaix uses Specialized’s “FreeFoil Shape Library Tubes”, an advanced computer-generated solution that was used extensively on the new Venge. According to Specialized, the new Roubaix is more aero than its Tarmac SL6 (also aero-optimized), a bike that was already equal in aerodynamics to the original Venge.
The new Roubaix is available in two tiers of frame. The S-Works frame uses FACT 11r carbon, a fancy name for Specialized’s use of a high modulus carbon mix (The S-Works Tarmac SL6 features FACT 12r, an even higher mix). And as used for the Expert, Comp and lower models, the second tier frame features a mix of lower modulus carbon, dubbed FACT 10r.
Weight wise, the new Roubaix is now lighter, too. A black painted 56cm S-Works frame is said to dip under 900g, with complete bikes starting from 7.2kg. Specialized claim there’s a 115g difference between its two levels of frames (56cm), placing the Pro and Comp frames at around 1015g.
The Roubaix gets an updated geometry that now sits somewhere between the previous Roubaix and the Tarmac. Compared to the Tarmac, the Roubaix’s stack sits on average 40mm higher, chaninstays are 3-8mm longer, and the bottom bracket is 3-4mm lower. Those two latter figures are related to tyre clearance, with the Roubaix offering space for 33mm rubber (28m provided stock on all models).
Specialized has also taken a cue from a direct competitor’s handbook with offering the S-Works model in both Team and regular geometry. The Team geometry offers shorter head tube lengths and a resulting increased reach and reduced stack (to closely mimic the Tarmac), but is limited to an S-Works frameset and only in 53, 57 and 59cm sizes.
Helping shed some grams, Specialized has removed its SWAT box storage concept from the bike. And more minimal again, the new Roubaix can be used with a front bag (Future Shock 2.0 only), but isn’t compatible with Specialized’s Burra Burra Stabilizer seatpack. The Diverge is still the best pick of Specialized’s catalogue for loaded riding.
More premium models feature relatively traditional handlebars, while lower-level models come equipped with variations of Specialized’s Hoverbar with a small amount of rise from the stem. The base models come equipped with Specialized’s Adventure Gear Hover bar, combining a little rise with a 12-degree flare, short 70mm reach and 103mm drop.
No more gender specificity
Using data from years of global Retul fitting services, Specialized has come to the conclusion that there’s no clear link that defines male versus female body types. And with that, gone are the gender-specific models, formerly the Roubaix and Ruby for men and women respectively.
Now, Roubaix component spec is simply sized proportionally. Whether female or male, a rider on a 48cm likely needs shorter cranks and narrower handlebar, and the opposite is true at the other side of the size scale.
Specialized will be producing most Roubaix models in seven sizes, starting from 44cm. There is also an eighth frame size, a 64cm, only available in the Expert model and limited to certain markets.
We rarely mention saddles in bike releases, but it’s worth noting that Specialized will equip all new Roubaix models with its snub-nose Power saddles. This saddle was originally designed for women, before finding wide acceptance with males. It’s proven to be Specialized’s top-selling aftermarket saddle and makes sense to be equipped on a gender-neutral model range. Again using data from Retul bike fits, the two smallest bike sizes (44 and 49cm) will come with a 155mm-width saddle to best fit female riders, while all other sizes will feature a 143mm version.
|ROUBAIX SW Di2 SAGAN||N/A||$ 12,000||£ 10,00.00|
|ROUBAIX SW ETAP||$ 17,000||$ 11,500||£ 9,500.00|
|ROUBAIX SW DI2||$ 16,200||$ 11,000||£ 9,500.00|
|ROUBAIX PRO FORCE ETAP||N/A||$ 7,000||£ 6,400.00|
|ROUBAIX EXPERT UDI2||$ 8,500||$ 6,000||£ 5,400.00|
|ROUBAIX COMP UDI2||$ 6,500||$ 4,400||£ 4,400.00|
|ROUBAIX COMP||N/A||$ 3,600||£ 3,400.00|
|ROUBAIX SPORT||$ 4,000||$ 2,900||£ 2,600.00|
|ROUBAIX SW SAGAN FRAMESET||$ 6,000||$ 5,000||£ 3,500.00|
|ROUBAIX SW FRAMESET||$ 6,000||$ 4,500||£ 3,500.00|
|ROUBAIX SW TEAM FRAMESET||$ 6,000||$ 4,500||£ TBC|
The new Roubaix: first ride review
Caley Fretz here, stepping into Dave Rome’s excellent rundown of the Roubaix’s updates to throw in my own two cents, based on about thirty hours of riding the new Roubaix in and around my hometown of Boulder, Colorado. I took the new bike on dirt roads, paved climbs and descents, even a bit of light singletrack, all in an effort to get a feel for this bike’s personality in the real world.
The real world is key, you see. It’s where the last version of the Roubaix kind of fell flat for me.
The first time I rode the old Roubaix was on the actual cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, starting at the Arenberg and finishing at the velodrome. The bike was phenomenal. I’ve ridden the same route a number of times, on a bunch of bikes (a Trek Domane and my own Ti bike included), and the old Roubaix was far and away the most enjoyable of the lot. It made the Roubaix cobbles fun, almost, as my hands floated above the chatter, isolated by real suspension.
Then I rode the bike at home, and I hated it. The original Future Shock, so lovely on the Carrefour, was a something of a bouncy mess climbing Flagstaff. The cobbles of Roubaix are a long way from real use case of a bike like this, and it showed.
Specialized told us, and I believe them, that the movement of the Future Shock wasn’t actually slowing us down. But it was the sensation I didn’t like, not the speed or lack thereof. A road bike with bars that bounce when you’re out of the saddle, that clunks when the shock tops out after you hit a big seam in the road, that road bike isn’t for me.
It was within this context — that of a Future Shock sceptic — that I set out on the new one.
It is clear, immediately and emphatically, that the new one is better.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s better in the same way that modern, damped suspension forks are better than, well, anything from the 1990s. That’s roughly the leap in technology that the Future Shock took: From a basic spring, adjustable only by swapping out the spring itself, to real suspension technology including damping circuits that control movement.
Control is the key word here. The new Future Shock feels controlled. When you sit on the bike, it drops a few millimeters into its travel, and hovers near that position as you roll along. As with the old version, if the road drops a bit from underneath you, the bike can go with it while your hands stay level, and if the road has a bump, the bike comes up while your hands stay level. The difference between the old Future Shock and the new one comes in the moments right after those events. Where the old bike would sort of bounce back to its starting point, the new one settles back, carefully.
On the Roubaix cobbles, there are so many bumps that the somewhat uncontrolled feel of the old Future Shock made little difference. It’s a matter of priorities: removing the harsh input of each cobble comes first and foremost, and the old Future Shock did that. That’s why I liked it in Roubaix. But on a more realistic surface, the details start to matter.
The details, in this case, are that damping circuit. Even when open, it controls the action of the Future Shock in such a way that what movement there is goes largely unnoticed. The shock simply does its thing, and if you don’t look down you can hardly tell it’s doing its thing. Your hands just hover. As anyone who has ever mountain biked knows, this is the mark of well-tuned suspension.
The old Future Shock had me begging for a lockout knob. Its movement was too sporadic, and I found it irritating whenever I got out of the saddle, or spent long stretches on good road surfaces. Ironically, the new Future Shock has a lockout (or close to it), and I hardly used it. That’s not because I suddenly decided it wasn’t necessary, it’s because the movement of the new Future Shock is controlled well enough that it doesn’t feel as necessary, even when out of the saddle. Yes, you can feel it move, but that movement is less jarring, less irritating. And then it still does its job (in fact, it does it much better) when you come across a real impact, or series of impacts.
None of this should be surprising. As I said, the technological leap the Future Shock took from Version 1 to Version 2 is roughly equivalent to about 30 years of suspension development. For the first time, the Roubaix is a bike I’d actually ride, and enjoy, on real roads.
Did I dislike anything? Yes. The headset still came loose on me, after a couple of rides. But a little nut they’ve added should have fixed this issue, in theory. It never came loose on me a second time, once I tightened it. And the rubber boot around the seat post worked itself up and out of the frame on a day when it was very, very cold. Specialized says this is because I had a pre-production model and the rubber was too hard. I don’t know if this was the case, but when we rode the bikes again this week, in slightly warmer weather, it didn’t happen.
I appreciate the other updates to this new Roubaix — the aero tuning, a better seat post clamp system, the addition of pro geometry, the use of a threaded bottom bracket — but really, it’s all very much secondary to the Future Shock. Suspension works. In fact, it overwhelms the rest of the bike. It makes all the tiny little nitpicky ride quality details we usually talk about with road bikes sort of irrelevant. Frame compliance? Please. If you truly want to be separated from road impacts (and I’d say that’s not yet a definitive “yes,” at least for me), then real suspension is dramatically more effective.
Want more? Check out the RoubaixCast
Just like with the Venge last summer, we wanted to dig deeper. So we asked for an early test bike, rode it, and then flew to Specialized headquarters in Morgan Hill, California, sat down with the engineers and product managers behind the bike, and recorded it all.
This podcast goes deep into the development of the Roubaix, from early mistakes to tricky fixes to final product. Available below and wherever you find your podcasts.