Boonen's goodbye bike: Pro-only front suspension for Paris-Roubaix

Specialized Roubaix with custom-tuned progressive spring, low geo and direct-mount brakes

Tom Boonen's name and photos have been plastered on the roads, stores, restaurants and hand-held signs across Belgium and into northern France all week, as the cobble-racing legend prepares to retire after his final Paris-Roubaix Sunday. Here is a look at the bike he will race from Compiegne north to the aging outdoor velodrome of Roubaix.

On Monday, BikeRadar reported on the pro-only edition of the new Specialized Roubaix that Boonen raced at the Tour of Flanders, and which world champion Peter Sagan raced Wedesday at Scheldeprijs. The immediately obvious differences to the consumer bike are the long-and-low geometry, the direct-mount brakes and — if you put a hand on it — the stiffer spring in the Future Shock suspension cartridge underneath the stem. 

At closer inspection, Boonen's extreme geometry is also noteworthy, too. For instance, 38mm center-to-center handlebars for a 192cm / 6'3" man? 

Boonen's new Specialized Roubaix race bike with a pro-only frameset and spring
Boonen's new Specialized Roubaix race bike with a pro-only frameset and spring

Specialized Racing's Chris D'Alusio explained to BikeRadar today that Quick Step and Specialized worked together to test a variety of different springs for racing on the cobbles. The final product was a stiff, progressive spring that ramps at both ends of the travel; it's harder to initially engage and harder to bottom out than any of the three stock springs, but relatively softer in the middle of the 20mm of travel, like a parabola.

The hits from the cobbles are so jarring that the stiffest of the stock springs bottomed out too quickly, D'Alusio said. 

The Future Shock suspension cartridge sits atop the head tube, and the springs can be changed to tune the ride
The Future Shock suspension cartridge sits atop the head tube, and the springs can be changed to tune the ride

Boonen has Specialized's new Hell of the North tubulars in both 28mm and 30mm, but it is not yet certain which width he will race. 

The Shimano Dura-Ace direct-mount brake calipers on the Roubaix offer plenty of clearance for the fat tubulars. 

The consumer models of the new Roubaix are all disc brake bikes. Normal UCI rules state that bikes must be approved by the UCI and available for sale to the public in order to be sold. Specialized representatives said that since this new pro-version bike is only a change in brake type (and geometry), that the UCI was okay with it.

Specialized said the UCI is okay with them making a different version of the Roubaix for team riders
Specialized said the UCI is okay with them making a different version of the Roubaix for team riders

Team members also said that the primary driver for using rim brakes for Paris-Roubaix is so riders can get a quick wheel change anywhere on the course — from team cars, neutral support, roadside mechanics or even fans. Punctures are common at the rough cobbled race, and the top riders don't want to chance getting caught out with a potentially hard-to-change disc wheel.

Check out the gallery above for a closer look. 

Do any of your friends ride long cranks *and* narrow bars? Probably not
Do any of your friends ride long cranks *and* narrow bars? Probably not

Ben Delaney

US Editor-in-Chief
Ben has been writing about bikes since 2000, covering everything from the Tour de France to Asian manufacturing to kids' bikes. The former editor-in-chief of VeloNews, he began racing in college while getting a journalism degree at the University of New Mexico. Based in the cycling-crazed city of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids, Ben enjoys riding most every day.
  • Discipline: Road (paved or otherwise), cyclocross and sometimes mountain. His tri-curious phase seems to have passed, thankfully
  • Preferred Terrain: Quiet mountain roads leading to places unknown
  • Current Bikes: Scott Foil Team Issue, Specialized S-Works Tarmac, Priority Eight city bike... and a constant rotation of test bikes
  • Dream Bike: A BMC Teammachine SLR01 with disc brakes and clearance for 30mm tires (doesn't yet exist)
  • Beer of Choice: Saison Dupont
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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