Creating a real stir on the women's cycling forums, Specialized's Ruby is the much-anticipated sister to the men's Roubaix, which won the coveted C+ 2005 Distance Bike of the Year award. The 'Comp' version released in the UK, has a full carbon frame and fork, a complement of 105 kit, a weight of under 18lbs and a price tag of £1,500. What's more, it features female-specific geometry and componentry, which could make all the difference to lasting comfort on long road rides.
The heart of the Ruby is Specialized's FACT 7r triple monocoque frame: the chainstays, seatstays and front triangle are three separate carbon pieces wrapped with a layer of carbon at the joins, and moulded into one structure. The idea is that this achieves maximum lightness, strength and efficiency, while still being comfortable to ride. Additionally, there are Zertz dampers in the seatstays and fork legs to help absorb road dimples.
Geometry is specifically tuned for women. This means that there are smaller sizes available (down to a 44cm), and crucially, the top tube is at least 10mm, or as much as 17mm, shorter than an equivalent-sized Roubaix. Standover height is also lower for women, and each size has been tweaked to minimise toe overlap. This generally leads to smaller frames having steeper seat tube angles, and head angles that are slackened off to keep top tubes short. The headtube is also extended for a more upright riding position.
It's worth reiterating that women's geometry won't work for all, and is focused towards the 'average' female shape of longer legs and shorter torso. As someone with a longish upper body, I'd have preferred to jump up a size in order to get the reach I like. As it was, the 51cm frame felt upright and comfortable but cramped in the drops. The seat tube angle is also noticeably steep, leading to an over-the-pedals position that many triathletes or time triallists will like. We'd have preferred a laidback seatpost and a longer railed saddle for a better long distance riding position, though.
Specialized has struck a fine balance of comfort and performance with the Ruby. The position to the bars is fairly upright, and it's accessible and confidence-inspiring for riders new to the road. What's more, it's supremely comfortable over long distances. At the same time, the bike is lightweight, quick to accelerate and easy up the climbs, though I did yearn for more room to stretch out when cranking up the speed.
A light bike is not a replacement for fitness, but for a competitive, petite rider, it can make a huge difference - as the bike's weight is a greater percentage of the body mass than it is with most males. In this way, saving weight gives more of a boost to performance than a heavier rider might appreciate.
The comparison to Trek's Pilot 5.2 WSD is inevitable. Steering on the Ruby is predictable and confidence-inspiring, but considerably livelier than the Trek. It's also a stiffer frame overall, and while it's extremely comfortable, doesn't feel quite as über-smooth as the Trek. This pays off on the climbs though, where the Ruby's direct nature comes to the fore, with its frame far more responsive overall. All round comfort is very good, with no sore back, hands or neck at the end of a long day's ride.
Being the 'lowest' spec in the lineup of Rubys (above it are the Expert and Pro), the Comp comes with 105 10-speed mechs and shifters, along with 105 brakes. It's a great groupset for the money.
Specced with an FSA compact, it's aimed at performance riders, and on a small bike, two rings give better chainlines than three. For the most part it proved suitable, with the 36T x 27T low end enough to propel the lightweight Ruby up steeper hills while out of the saddle. However, we'd have liked to see a 34T inner chainring for longer climbs. Alternatively, you could always get your dealer to fit a triple if you want extra gears in reserve.
It's in the details that the Ruby really shines, and Specialized are particularly good at equipping each size. Cranks are drilled out to 168mm for the 48cm and 51cm frames, dropping to 165mm or increasing to 170mm depending on frame size. Aside from the benefit of being easier on the knees, this helps with toe overlap issues. Saddle is a women's Body Geometry Dolce, with rather bulbous sit-bone pads. It's comfortable and aimed at a more upright position to match the bike - performance riders may prefer a sportier perch, though. Although also comfortable, the carbon seatpost is fiddly to adjust. There's women's specific Zertz Pro handlebars, which range from 38cm to 42cm in width, with these being a good fit at 40cm. An elliptical spacer gives four different positions for the stem - it's 100mm with an oversized clamp. The best bit of kit is the controls, though. Specialized use shims between the hoods and levers that bring them 20mm closer. Combined with the low drop and reach of the bars, this is great for confidence and control.
Shimano's reliable 105 wheelset matches up to the rest of the components in terms of quality. It's a great training and day-to-day wheelset, though an upgrade for racing would lighten the bike up even more. The rear wheel has 20 Sapin spokes. These are laced twocross on the non-drive side and radially on the drive side, while the front uses 16 radially laced spokes - mainly for good looks. Nipples at the hubs help to reduce rotational weight and they're relatively well placed to access with a spoke key. Hubs use cup and cone bearings, which are also easy to service.
Specialized's All Conditions Pro tyres are 23c wide and a good choice for faster riding.
The Ruby is a road bike that achieves excellent performance without a sacrifice to comfort. Specialized's attention to female specific componentry is second to none, and it's as good in terms of value as the Roubaix - even though it sees a downgrade in the rear mech - primarily because it gains a whole host of female specific parts in return. This said, while the Ruby is aimed at the performance rider, it does have a noticeably upright position that will suit some women more than others.