It won BikeRadar Women's Bike of the Year in 2016, but the Specialized Ruby has gone through some serious changes for 2017. It's got new wheels, new bars, new geometry and even suspension. Yes, you read that right.
- 2016 women's road bike of the year - the Specialized Ruby Comp
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- Best women's bike saddle: a buyers guide
Specialized Ruby highlights
- Future Shock handlebar suspension system on carbon models
- Wide range of bikes available in the Ruby model line
- Roval CLX32 wheels
- SWAT box
- Frame is available in 44 to 58cm
In July 2016, Specialized invited a group of female cycling journalists out to Paris for two reasons, one overt, and one slightly secret. The clear purpose of the trip was to watch and report on La Course, the hard-won women's race that takes place on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on the same day as the final stage of the Tour de France. The covert purpose was to introduce us to the brand-new Specialized Ruby.
BikeRadar was especially interested to hear about the new Ruby because the 2016 version won the overall BikeRadar Women's Bike of the Year Awards title, and we test rode the Ruby Pro Di2.
What we found was a bike that's had a serious overhaul. Specialized has put a lot of time, attention and money into redeveloping both this bike and the men's/unisex equivalent, the Roubaix. The result is a bike that's visually stunning, packed with some eye-catching performance bling, and a few very surprising features.
Investing in the women's market
The Ruby is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, the bike itself — and we'll get on to our first impressions shortly. But secondly because Specialized is clearly spending time, attention and actual cold hard cash on developing products for the women's market.
If you're into cycling, you'll have probably heard it frequently repeated that the numbers of women cycling is increasing at a much faster rate than the number of men. It seems to have taken a bit of time for the cycling industry to catch up with this though, but with a large company like Specialized investing heavily in women's cycling the viability of the market is starting to be realised.
And where there's money to be made and business growth to be had, greater investment in research and development is made, and the market in question reaps the benefit. It indicates that catering for women is becoming a core market rather than an afterthought, as well it should.
Finally, Specialized has also produced a wide range of bikes under the Ruby model line, from entry-level options right the way up to high-end, electronic shifting, performance componentry bikes that mean business.
This indicates two things. Specialized reckons that women are willing to spend big on the right bike, in contradiction to some of the comments we've heard anecdotally that 'women don't spend money on bikes', and Specialized thinks that female riders benefit from a bike with a specific and separate geometry to men's/unisex bikes, right up to those riders who may be competing or riding 'seriously'.
Specialized stated this itself when presenting the new Ruby to the gathered female journalists, aiming for a 50/50 vision of cycling: "When we say 50/50 we mean equal representation of men and women on the road, on trails, on the start line, and equal representation in brands."
The theory behind the Specialized Ruby
The Specialized Ruby is a carbon-framed endurance bike, designed for comfort over long miles — and this core function hasn't changed.
This is in slight contrast to the redesigned and updated Roubaix, the 'brother' bike to the Ruby and traditionally one that occupies the same cycling niche, albeit it with a men's/unisex geometry. The Roubaix is now more performance endurance and aimed more towards the aggressive race-end of the endurance spectrum.
So why the difference? Specialized's approach to bike design is based around what they call the 'rider first' concept. It has access to bike-fit data from thousands of fits, conducted by either its own Body Geometry fits or the Retul fit system, which it now owns. This means access to a vast database that not only charts the vital statistics of a large number of cyclists, but also what adjustments they had made and what kind of cycling they do.
The results, says Specialized, is that many riders today aren't looking to get into racing necessarily, but comfort is a key issue — though not at the expense of performance. For many women, the sense of achievement comes from the distance travelled or the number of hours in the saddle, rather than necessarily what time they got or where they placed.
The concept behind the Ruby is that "smoother is better." Yes, you may be looking for a comfortable bike, but actually, says Specialized, a bike that's more comfortable to ride and feels more secure and stable in descents will also be a faster and longer ride, because you'll feel more confident, comfortable and fresher for longer.
Specialized Ruby suspension
The headline feature of this new Ruby (and the Roubaix) has got to be the suspension system. Yes, you read that right and yes, this is a road bike we are talking about. Specialized has created the Future Shock, a coil shock spring system that runs on needle bearings within a cartridge that sits inside the headset. The result is 20mm of travel on the handlebars.
The suspension is always active with no damping and has an adjustable spring rate, modified by swapping in a more or less active spring — the longer travel spring provides greater compliance and the shorter spring a stiffer feel. Changing the spring can be done quickly and easily in store and we tried the mid-level spring.
The idea is that the shock effectively suspends the rider, cushioning them from road buzz and uneven surfaces — along with the familiar CG-R seatpost with its spring-like folds and compliant polymer inserts, and the newly dropped seat clamp which provides further vertical compliance (more on that below).
The fork steerer on the Ruby is oversized to accommodate the shock, and this system is currently only available on the Ruby and Roubaix, though Specialized did comment that it might in theory adapt this for other models.
Specialized states that the shock adds 295g to the weight of the bike, but that it has been able to reduce the weight of the rest of the bike using things like size-specific carbon layup — which means only as much carbon as is actually needed for the frame size is used.
Specialized Ruby geometry and new finishing kit
Specialized develops its women's specific bikes on a case-by-case basis, based around that Rider First approach and using the data from those bike fits. In practice, what this means is that each model of bike gets its own geometry depending on what's needed and where. For the Ruby, that's a specific geometry designed from the ground up.
The Ruby is also fitted with the brand new Ruby saddle and new Hover bars.
The Ruby and the Roubaix are also fitted with new Roval CLX32 wheels, which Specialized claims are the lightest wheel in its class. With the disc versions fitted to this bike the weight is a reported 1,350g and for the rim brake version is a claimed 1,280g. The wider rims mean that a 26c tyre measures 28 when fitted, according to the company.
And the features just keep on coming. The Ruby also comes with SWAT. SWAT stands for Storage, Water, Air and Tools, and is essentially is a storage solution that's integrated into the bike. For the Ruby, this means a detachable compartment that attaches at the bottom of the main triangle and is big enough to stow an inner tube, tyre levers and CO2 canister. The box, when fitted using the lower of the three bottle cage mounts, also provides aero gains, the company says.
Specialized Ruby fit
Specialized has also produced each bike with a size-specific carbon layup and frame design, rather than simply scaling one size up or down to fit. The result, the company says, is a lightweight frame that performs equally well no matter what size you choose.
The Ruby frame is available in 44 to 58cm, which means that taller women (who often have little choice but to go for unisex frames ,whether or not they want one) now have the option to ride the Ruby.
This is another interesting point on Specialized's approach; many brands view women's bikes as bikes for smaller people, whereas Specialized is saying that taller women, who were traditionally told that unisex bikes were better suited to them, will actually benefit from a women's specific bike too. We're interested to see how this is received by the market and how this approach pans out.
Lastly, we can't help but mention the colour of this bike. There are no patterns, no decorations, and only subtle branding. Instead, there's a somewhat hypnotic two-tone blue to purple paint job that elevates this bike up the list of 'most beautiful bikes we've seen'.
Specialized Ruby ride impression
Our first ride impressions of the new Ruby are favourable. We weren't sure what to expect with the Future Shock in the headset. If you push on the handlebars when standing, or stationary, the movement is clear. However, in practice when riding we didn't really notice the suspension moving at all — though we know it was active as we've got GoPro footage to prove it.
And that's really the intended outcome. It should be effective enough that you don't notice anything other than a much smoother ride, but one of the instances we could feel a clear difference was when we hit unexpected or unavoidable pot holes.
Usually you get a jolt through the bike and then your body when you hit something like that. With the Ruby, although there was movement, it was significantly softened giving a smoother, more rounded feel to the extent that such obstacles no longer felt they were in danger of throwing us off course.
The smoothness also translates into a secure, confident feel when descending. The various suspension features greatly reduce the jarring, buzzing feel of rough road surfaces and the aforementioned effect when riding over potholes meant that we felt confident descending significantly faster than usual.
This is also aided by the fact that the bike comes with hydraulic disc brakes, and the modulation these provide mean you have a much more subtle control over braking power. A slight squeeze and you get gentle braking to trim your speed, but pull harder and there's lots of power for harder stops and more rapid deceleration.
We also found the Ruby climbed well, with smooth Shimano Di2 shifting making up and downshifts an electronic doddle. However, this was one area where we felt we detected a little unwelcome up and down movement on the suspension when standing up and pedalling. We'd need a longer test to check this out and will be bringing you a longer review in the near future. Watch this space!
Specialized Ruby pricing and availability
- S-Works Ruby eTap — £7,500 / US$10,000 / AU$11,500
- Ruby Pro UDi2 — £N/A / US$6,500 / AU$N/A
- Ruby Expert UDi2 — £3,800 / US$4,600 / AU$6,600
- Ruby Expert — £3,200 / US$4,000 / AU$TBC
- S-Works Ruby F/Set — £2,750 / US$4,000 / AU$4,500
- Ruby Comp — £2,400 / US$3,200 / AU$4,100
- Ruby Elite — £1,900 / US$2,600 / AU$3,300