Cycling Plus magazine tested the higher spec Roubaix Comp in their 2011 Bike of the Year supplement and were sold on its charms: smooth riding, quick and, more than anything, comfortable. The elite shares the same quality FACT carbon frameset and some of the 105 drivetrain – but without the Comp’s £350 premium. At 8.72kg the Roubaix is carrying a little more than its rivals, though out on the road we were hard pushed to notice any difference.
The ride is smooth but not as cosseting as the higher spec versions; they come with a Zertz carbon seatpost whereas here a standard carbon post is supplied. We actually prefer the elite’s slightly harder ride – it transmits more road buzz through the seat and shallow drop aluminium bar but it’s never uncomfortable, and getting a feel for the road surface, especially in fast corners, gives confidence when you’re approaching the limits of grip.
We don’t know whether the damping ability of the Roubaix comes from the Zertz fork and seatstay inserts or the kinks in the fork and stays adding more surface area to take and disperse vibration. What we can be sure of is Specialized tyres: yep, they say 23mm, but get out the vernier callipers and you’ll see they’re closer to 26mm. That increase in volume adds plenty of cushioning with little difference in rolling speed: an ideal choice for a bike of this type.
With a 225mm head-tube on our large (58cm) test bike, it’s the most upright on test. It’s a lovely comfortable position when seated, but on more aggressive out-of-the-saddle climbs, honking on the bar, it feels less stable, and when you’re climbing steep sections while seated, the front wheel can feel over-light. On long, less technical descents the tall, upright position results in flowing, smooth handling, but on tighter, twisty sections, especially corners that tighten through their radius, that same tall nature shifts the balance of the bike and made us much less confident than we’d like.
We are still impressed with the Roubaix as an endurance bike – for high miles you’d be hard pushed to find a better place to be – but if you mix your long days out with occasional fast blasts or races, you might find the Roubaix too much of a cruiser.