Specialized’s Roubaix platform has evolved from the relaxed original to iterations with elastomer inserts, to the 2017 version that introduced the idea of a damper unit mounted on the steerer.
Now it comes armed with the updated version of its Future Shock, the radical suspension system that provides up to 20mm travel between the stem and top tube.
By positioning it above the headset, the unit ‘suspends’ the rider rather than the bike. That means not only a 5 per cent improvement in vertical compliance over the previous Roubaix, says Specialized, but the fork can be made stiffer, too, thus improving handling. It’s also lighter than the standard fork design it replaces.
Bike of the Year 2020
The Specialized Roubaix Comp Ultegra is part of our annual Bike of the Year test.
Head to our Bike of the Year hub for the full list of winners, categories and shortlisted bikes, as well as the latest reviews – or read our behind-the-scenes feature on how we tested Bike of the Year 2020.
The D-shaped S-Works Pavé seatpost anchors 65mm into the frame for plenty of movement. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The Roubaix frame features the modern phenomena of a D-shaped carbon post for lateral stiffness yet retains fore-and-aft flexibility.
The frame design, which lowers the seat clamp 65mm down into the frame (there’s a long bolt hidden under the rubber cover), further aids movement.
Specialized’s new S-Works Pavé seatpost is also particularly compliant. The result is a bike that’s balanced and bump-smoothingly efficient out front and back.
Specialized’s Turbo Pro Gripton 28c tyres provide a smooth ride. David Caudery / Immediate Media
The Fact 10r carbon frame’s not solely about suspension and comfort, though. Specialized has developed the bike in the wind tunnel, and it shows.
The Roubaix’s aerodynamically on par with the original Venge. Even more impressively, data suggests it betters the Tarmac SL6.
The ride is so smooth you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re cruising aboard seriously fat rubber, rather than the impressive Turbo 28s.
The position is in the endurance camp with a 392mm reach and 630mm stack, though some of the stack’s diluted by the sagging Future Shock. In effect, the Roubaix is a sporty sportive machine that pretty much hits the design brief spot-on.
The Roubaix possesses a swiftness of handling that’s up there with the best. I’m talking Giant Defy, Cannondale Synapse territory.
The Future Shock provides up to 20mm travel between the stem and top tube. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Subtler but equally revealing is the active front and rear, which delivers an awful lot of grip.
To begin with, mentally you feel slow, but as you become accustomed to the grip, your confidence soars. I often hear that endurance bikes are a bit safe, a bit boring even, but the Roubaix is one seriously fun and exciting bike, especially when the road turns rough or heads downhill fast.
We’ve said it a thousand times, but Ultegra’s mechanical setup works brilliantly. Here, it’s arguably even better because it’s been adapted and enhanced for rougher rides thanks to the clutch-equipped RX rear mech.
It stabilises the mech, not only preventing bounce over deep cobbles and rough surfaces, but also stopping chain slap or dropping the chain when shifting. Braking includes those all-important Ice Tech rotors.
Specialized’s own equipment is worthy of praise. Its ergonomic Hover handlebar is light, stable and comfortable, while the clever Pavé post is topped by the brilliant Power saddle – arguably the best ‘short’ saddle on the market.
The bike comes with Specialized’s popular short saddle, the Power. David Caudery / Immediate Media
It’s only when it comes to the wheels that marks roll away. It’s not that there’s anything bad about DT’s workhorse R470DB wheelset – the 20mm internal rim width is a nice match for the Turbo 28 tyres, for instance – but the same combination is found on the £900 cheaper Roubaix Sport.
And for a bike with the DNA to tame the road, cobbles and even gravel, it’s almost criminal not to at least offer tubeless-compatible tyres.
Braking is topped off with these Ice Tech rotors. David Caudery / Immediate Media
Despite those shortcomings, the Roubaix’s still a very fine bike. It consumes rough ground with assured superiority, and the combination of stability and swift handling is simply mesmeric.
If Specialized could only reel in the price/value ratio that won the Roubaix the 2017 Bike of the Year award, which had similar equipment (Ultegra and DT Swiss RB470s), it would have another nailed-on winner on its hands for less.
Specialized Roubaix Comp Ultegra geometry
Size (*tested): 44, 49, 52, 54, 56, 58*, 61, 64cm
Seat angle: degrees
Head angle: degrees
Seat tube: 50.5cm
Top tube: 57.9cm
Head tube: 17cm
Fork offset: 4.4cm
Bottom bracket drop: 7.45cm
Bottom bracket height: 26.8cm
With thanks to…
BikeRadar would like to thank 100%, Q36.5, Lazer, Garmin and Facom for their support during our Bike of the Year test.