Specialized virtually invented the Sportive bike with the Roubaix range. For 2008 the range has been expanded to include the Expert with medium moculus FACT 6R carbon tubes.
The frame is complemented by a full carbon fork, which contains Specialized's shock absorbing Zertz insert. The head-tube is longer than average for a sportive bike, though the ProSet stem incorporates a shim that converts the stem from a 10 degree drop to a far more acute 17 degree drop so there is a greater than average scope for raising or lowering the riding position. The Roubaix Expert comes in six sizes, but oddly there is a jump from a 54cm to a 57cm top-tube.
Specialized is a master at adding small details to its finishing kit components to woo customers, and the Roubaix Expert is no exception. It already has a carbon fork in its favour and when the ProSet stem and excellent tight-bend anatomic handlebars are considered, Specialized has a winner. The Zertz Pro carbon seatpost stayed put during testing and the BG Toupe gel saddle strikes a truly rare balance of minimalist good looks combined with comfort. With an entire Shimano Ultegra SL groupset completing the line-up, the Expert is tops for spec.
The Specialized has the excellent Roubaix Pro 25mm tyres which can be run safely down to 90psi to provide a bit more comfort than a 23mm tyre gives. Shimano Ultegra wheels are a turning point for the Japanese giant which has, until now, ploughed its own furrow with radical new designs. The new wheels are more traditional in design in that the nipples come through the wall of the rim so can be adjusted without needing to first remove the tyre.
Specialized pampers the rider's senses with the Roubaix but balances this very well with a sense of pace that is hard to understand given the high level of damping present in the ride. Stamp down hard and the Roubaix's limitations can be found with a vaguely indistinct reaction to sudden bursts of power, and it is possible to fluff a gear change. However, what it does well is eat the miles in a way that leaves your body contact points in a better condition than they have a right to be on longer rides and, when asked to, the steering responds quickly to rapid direction changes.
Specialized could almost have coined the phrase 'just go ride' with the Roubaix. Very careful thought has been put in about every aspect of rider comfort for long periods in the saddle. While it might lack the verve of a titanium bike, we can't think of a better bike than the Roubaix to soften the blow of the fatigue factor that can be an unwelcome aspect of a long distance sportive. Though lacking in technological details, the Roubaix has a clear identity and costs less than some direct competitors.