The Specialized Roubaix has been a benchmark for endurance bikes since it first appeared in the mid-2000s. The latest model uses Specialized’s Future Shock 2.0 front suspension and, in 2020 Expert spec, it offers a full Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset and some top-notch components.
The Roubaix is the comfier, less racy alternative to the Tarmac, although Specialized does also offer a Team version of the S-Works Roubaix frame with more aggressive geometry.
The Roubaix Expert is an expensive bike by any objective measure, but it’s vastly more affordable than the halo S-Works model.
As a fan of the Tarmac, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to spend some time with its bouncier sibling in 2020.
Specialized Roubaix Expert long-term review update #1
This stem really doesn’t flatter the Future Shock, but it does the job. Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media
Specialized provided me with a shim that adapts the skinny Future Shock steerer to work with a standard 1 1/8in stem, so I duly went rummaging in my box of stems and dug out a 110mm Syntace of unknown provenance to give the Roubaix an extra 10mm of reach.
As it happens, this stem is one that works with 1 1/4in steerers but comes with a shim of its own to fit 1 1/8in, so I’m now running a double-shimmed setup, which is almost certainly not something any manufacturer would endorse.
Even more upsettingly, it looks kind of terrible because of the awkward transition this creates from the Future Shock adjuster knob to the stem, but so be it.
Jumping on the bike I was immediately more comfortable, although I might yet go even longer with a 120mm stem to help stretch out my lower back. This will also look pro as hell, which is obviously what matters most.
Multimodal maketh the man
I don’t care if getting the train is cheating if it makes for more interesting rides. Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media
My cycling New Year’s resolution was to attempt some multimodal rides, by which I mean ones that take me somewhere else rather than ending where they started, relying on trains to get me home.
I finally did such a ride on the Roubaix, heading west from the Forest of Dean to Abergavenny before turning south.
I’d originally planned to ride further west into the Brecon Beacons, but I cleverly chose to do this ride on an exceptionally windy day (there have been a lot of these lately), with the breeze against me for the whole of my A to B ride, and neither the legs nor the enthusiasm were there.
Proper sports nutrition is essential when you’re pushing the limits of human endurance. Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media
Instead, after a pleasant café stop in Abergavenny, I hopped on the canal path and got extremely muddy, sliding around on my slick tyres and ducking under low bridges every few hundred yards.
After clambering through the branches of a tree that had blocked both the canal and the path, I stupidly decided to get on the road for a change of scene, and spent a very unpleasant half-hour or so riding on a dual carriageway down to Cwmbran (home of the Jammie Dodger biscuit) where I caught a train home.
It’s been windy here. Really windy. Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media
The ride wasn’t an unqualified success, but the sense of purpose riding to a destination gave me made it far more enjoyable than my usual loops.
With its blend of comfort and speed, I can’t think of a bike better suited to days like this than the Roubaix.
Older updates continue below.
Specialized Roubaix Expert specification and details
The Roubaix Expert with Shimano Ultegra Di2 shares its FACT 10R carbon frame with the SRAM Force eTAP AXS-equipped Roubaix Pro (costing £1,000 more in the UK) and several more affordable models too.
It sits one rung below the S-Works bike that starts at a mind-bending £4,100 more in the UK, and gets a top of the range FACT 11R frame.
I tried to pin down Specialized on the difference between the top-level and second-tier frames but the brand is intentionally vague on the subject, saying that the key thing is they ride the same as one another.
It was suggested that the FACT 10R frame might be in the region of 50g heavier, but I wouldn’t take that as gospel.
The Expert spec is not ungenerous, featuring a complete Ultegra Di2 R8070 disc groupset, and mid-depth Roval carbon wheels with DT Swiss 350 hubs.
The finishing kit is all Specialized’s own, as are the 28mm Turbo Pro tyres the bike ships with.
A special mention goes to the bottom bracket which, after years of press-fits from Specialized, is a good old mechanic-friendly threaded unit.
The Roubaix’s USP is the Future Shock 2.0, an adjustable coil suspension cartridge housed in the fork steerer that offers 20mm of hydraulically-damped travel, allowing the cockpit to move up and down relative to the frame and fork.
Three springs (soft, medium, firm) are supplied with the bike, and cheaper versions of the Roubaix get the non-adjustable Future Shock 1.5.
The system is lighter and more compact than a mountain bike suspension fork and it’s designed for smoothing out rough roads rather than taking big hits on rocky descents.
There’s no rear suspension, but the Roubaix’s back-end is built for compliance too, with both the seatstays and the seat clamp dropped below the line of the top tube. This means that it’s not just the visible part of the post that can deflect, it’s actually anchored 65mm below the top of the seat tube.
The seatpost is anchored well below the line of the top tube. Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
The Roubaix Expert weighs a claimed 7.9kg in standard spec and, ready to ride with chunky 32mm Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL tyres, Speedplay Pavé pedals, Arundel stainless steel bottle cages and a Garmin mount, this 54cm bike comes in at 8.6kg.
This sumptuous paint job is called, take a deep breath now, Gloss Crimson – Cast Berry Edge Fade/Dove Grey/Black. Riders seeking a less assertive aesthetic have the option of two other colour schemes for the Expert model.
Specialized Roubaix Expert full specification
Sizes (*tested): 44, 49, 52, 54*, 56, 58, 61, 64
Weight: 8.6kg (including pedals, cages, Garmin mount, Continental GP5000 TL 32mm tyres)
Frame: FACT 10R carbon, 12×142mm thru-axle
Fork: Full carbon with Future Shock 2.0, 12×100mm thru-axle
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8070
Front derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2 R8050
Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra RX Di2 RX805
Cranks: Shimano Ultegra R8000 50/34t
Bottom bracket: Shimano threaded
- Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 11-34t
- Chain: Shimano
Wheelset: Roval C 38 Disc carbon tubeless-ready clincher
Tyres: Specialized Turbo Pro 28mm stock, changed to Continental Grand Prix 5000 TL 32mm
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra disc
Bar: Specialized Expert Hover 420mm, 125×75mm
Stem: Specialized Future Stem Pro 100mm
Seatpost: Specialized S-Works Pavé, 380mm
Saddle: Body Geometry Power, 143mm, Ti rails
Extras and accessories
Pedals: Speedplay Zero Pavé
Bottle cages: Arundel Stainless Steel
Computer mount: Garmin out-front
Specialized Roubaix Expert geometry (size 54)
The Roubaix is classed as an endurance bike and as you’d expect that means it’s both shorter in reach and taller in stack than the Tarmac race machine, a matter of 8mm and 41mm respectively for a size 54.
Don’t be fooled by the head tube length, incidentally. While the Roubaix’s 125mm figure is shorter than the Tarmac’s 143mm, this doesn’t include the extra 45mm of stack added by the Future Shock 2.0 front suspension, and the riser drop bars Specialized fits as standard raise the front end even further.
The riser bar adds a bit of extra stack. Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
The Roubaix’s relatively short seat tube means there’s lots of seatpost on display. In other respects, there’s nothing terribly notable about the bike’s geometry, although it’s worth pointing out that, because the Future Shock suspends the bars rather than the whole front end of the bike (as on a mountain bike), the overall geometry remains the same regardless of how high you are in the shock’s travel.
Head angle: 72.75 degrees
Seat angle: 74 degrees
Seat tube: 465mm
Top tube: 545mm
Head tube: 125mm
Bottom bracket drop: 76mm
Bottom bracket height: 266mm
Why did I choose this bike?
I’m a big fan of the racier Specialized Tarmac but, as a 30-year-old with a moderately dodgy back and minimal competitive ambitions, I think I’m ready to sample a comfier approach to riding.
The latest Roubaix is, in my opinion, a much better looking bike than previous generations, wearing its towering stack height well.
I’ve long been intrigued by its unique suspension system, sceptical that it could really be justified on a bike that’s meant only for the road.
I want to find out how well it works in the real world, and see how the bike compares to dedicated all-road designs.
Specialized Roubaix Expert initial setup
The first thing I did to the Roubaix was break it. Yes, really.
I discovered, using the power of stupidity, that it doesn’t take a lot of force to damage the Future Shock adjuster. If you turn it counter-clockwise a little way past the end of the knob’s normal rotation and apply a modicum of force, it springs apart. In a bad way.
I managed to reassemble it, but soon discovered that I’d damaged the seat of the circlip that holds the knob assembly together, and it kept coming apart again.
I rode the bike for a while with the damaged adjuster carefully reassembled (and then left alone) but I lived in terror of it disintegrating on the road, and had to give in and write a grovelling email to Specialized UK explaining what I’d done.
The kind folk at the big S took the bike back, replaced the Future Shock, and returned it to me as though I wasn’t some sort of undeserving moron. I thought that was nice of them.
We generally test bikes as they come initially, but my first rides on the Roubaix were on holiday in Italy (see below) and I knew I wanted bigger tyres than the 28mm ones Specialized fits as standard.
The bike officially accepts rubber up to 33mm wide and there was a 32mm set of Continental’s new Grand Prix 5000 tubeless tyres kicking around the office, so it seemed rude not to take advantage.
With these set up tubeless after some rim tape shenanigans (I think it was damaged…) and pumped up to a supple 45 to 50psi, the Roubaix looked purposeful and ready for action.
I initially fitted my standard Speedplay Zero pedals, but have since swapped these for a more authentically Roubaix-esque set of Speedplay Pavés.
Specialized Roubaix Expert ride impressions
If you’re going to try out a fancy road bike, there are few better places than Tuscany. Matthew Loveridge
My first rides on the Roubaix took place on holiday in Tuscany, home to those iconic white roads, the strade bianche.
Tuscany also has endless hills and an initial foray yielded almost 1,200m of climbing over just 42km, giving me plenty of chances to assess the Roubaix’s climbing and descending prowess.
For such an expensive bike, the Roubaix isn’t stunningly light, but a stiff rear end and generous gearing make climbing a delight.
Climbing on the Roubaix is a pleasure. Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
I know that your experience of the Future Shock is likely to be influenced by how much you weigh and how much power you put through your bike, but as a light rider who doesn’t pump out many watts, I’ve been hugely impressed by how little the shock interferes with the racy, precise manners of the bike with the standard spring installed.
Cruising along over rippled tarmac, its action is imperceptible, but if you look down you can see the rubber sheath flexing continuously as the shock compresses and extends minute amounts. It’s remarkably sensitive over small bumps.
What really surprised me was how well it behaved on descents. Tuscany’s hills feature an endless series of hairpins, the kind where you pick up big speed on the straights, brake hard to kill off most of it just before the bend, and then lean right over to turn through 180 degrees for a repeat effort.
Hairpin bends and cracked tarmac are trademarks of Tuscan cycling. Matthew Loveridge
Despite leaving the Future Shock in the fully open position to do this, the bike felt wonderfully composed, with brake dive controlled enough not to be unsettling, and no hard bottoming-out.
Specialized launched the Roubaix with the tagline “smoother is faster” and I’m inclined to agree. The bike is a phenomenally good cruiser that does a sterling job of killing fatigue-inducing road buzz, particularly with the larger tyres I’ve fitted.
With no rear suspension, I wondered if the Roubaix’s ride quality would feel unbalanced, but Specialized has built so much flex into the rear end that it doesn’t.
At this point, I feel like I should say something critical about the Roubaix but I’m struggling. Okay, the cable routing up front could be neater and the steerer is an odd size so normal stems aren’t a straight swap. Oh, and it’s very expensive, but the features that really set it apart aren’t primarily those that make it so costly.
I feel feel like the cable arrangements up front could be a little neater. Simon Bromley / Immediate Media
Ultegra Di2 is lovely to have for example, but the Roubaix would still be a great bike with a cheaper mechanical groupset.
Likewise, the mid-depth Roval carbon wheels are very nice, but some standard aluminium clinchers would do just fine.
Don’t worry, of course I crashed it
Tuscany’s white roads are stunning, but the gravel can bite back. Matthew Loveridge
One thing the Roubaix can’t do is defy physics. A few days into the Tuscany trip, my girlfriend and I rode the short route of the Eroica vintage sportive, taking in some stunning views and lots of gravel and dirt roads.
For the most part, the Roubaix was absolutely in its element but, riding slick tyres on fine, loose gravel does come with risks, and I came down like a sack of baby fingerling potatoes on a gentle cambered climb at one point as the bike slid from beneath me, almost taking out my partner in the process. (She, I should point out, was rather smugly riding her Canyon Grail AL with more appropriate tyres.)
Ouch. Matthew Loveridge
Fortunately, it was my pride that suffered the most damage, with one shifter sustaining some scratches and a bit of scuffing to the bar tape.
Specialized Roubaix Expert upgrades
With such a good spec already, I don’t feel like I’ll be making many upgrades, other than that tyre swap I did right at the start for reasons of personal preference.
I am finding the Roubaix’s reach on the short side with the stock 100mm stem, so I’m going to try a slightly longer one. The Roubaix’s steerer is slimmer than the usual 1 1/8in, but Specialized has kindly offered to send a shim so I can fit my stem of choice.
I’m looking forward to spending more time with the bike, and testing the limits of its abilities off-road. The Roubaix isn’t a gravel bike, but for the gravel riding I typically do locally, I reckon it’ll cope pretty darned well.
BikeRadar‘s 2020 long-term test bikes
At the start of the year, every member of the BikeRadar team selects a long-term test bike to ride over the course of the following 12 months. Some choose a bike from their favoured discipline and ride it hard for a year, others opt for a bike that takes them outside of their comfort zone.
Our long-term test gives us the opportunity to truly get to grips with these machines, so we can tell you how they perform through different seasons and on ever-changing terrain.
We also use them as test beds for the latest kit, chopping and changing parts to see what really makes the difference – and help you decide which upgrades are worth spending your money on.
To see all of the BikeRadar team’s 2020 bikes – and stay up-to-date with the latest developments – visit our long-term review hub.