The Roubaix bagged second spot in our Bike of the Year Superbikes category in 2017, so how does this bike, the cheapest model in Specialized’s all-carbon, ten Roubaix range, compare to its similarly priced competition? The two entry-level Roubaix machines share Specialized’s FACT 9r carbon frame, with costlier models getting the FACT 10r, up to 11r for the Roubaix Pro and above.
Specialized Roubaix frame
The model-defining feature that debuted on the Roubaix, Specialized’s Future Shock, is shared across the range, but even along with a less expensive carbon frame, does cost. Because of this, our first rung on the Roubaix ladder comes equipped with Shimano’s 10-speed Tiagra groupset and TRP Spyre mechanical discs. These, in turn, add weight that isn’t offset by the carbon fibre, and the Roubaix’s 9.71kg mass in 56cm size is relatively high.
Its endurance geometry shortens reach a little, and the stack height will always be limited by the 30mm or so required for the Future Shock. But with no spacers, I managed a position that felt low and long enough.
The beauty of the Future Shock system is that it allows the frameset to work normally
The dropped seatstays cleverly incorporate the seatpost’s twin bolt clamp, and the slightly oversized seat tube above it allows the alloy 27.2mm post an additional 65mm of length to flex along. It doesn’t soak up road vibrations and bumps as well as a carbon seatpost, or the CG-R post fitted higher up the range, but a big tyre and comfy Toupe Sport saddle help.
Numerically, the FACT 9r carbon used for the frame may sound lowly compared to the S-Works model, but it’s extremely stiff, and very efficient at transmitting rider inputs. The fork too, especially with the benefit of a thru-axle, is stiff enough to maintain your line, even when things get gnarly.
The beauty of the Future Shock system is that it allows the frameset to work normally, with no extraordinary flexing or splaying of the fork or other parts to provide shock absorption.
Suspending the cockpit on a stiff spring maintains perfect control while almost completely soaking up impacts. There is a definite difference between front- and rear-end comfort, but the rear is still at least as good as most bikes in this category.
Shimano Tiagra looks classy, and the levers feel just like 105. You don’t realise it’s only 10-speed most of the time, although with the wide-ranging 50/34 and 11-34 ratios, I did find a couple of gear jumps that felt a little wide.
At its lowest end, it’s 1:1 and the match for almost any road, and the low gears are welcome on climbs as this Roubaix is definitely one to sit and spin rather than hustle upwards in a hurry.
Specialized Roubaix ride experience
Out of the saddle, I’d ride as normal, and the frame felt as if it was responding in kind, but from the chain onwards, my efforts seemed to get dulled by the recalcitrant Axis Sport Disc wheelset, and the 28mm Espoir Sport tyres. They’re happy to spin along quickly when gradient and wind are favourable, but factor in some resistance, and things slow down.
On the plus side, the tyres measure 30mm on these rims, giving additional welcome volume, comfort, reduced flat risk and the option to significantly lower tyre pressures. I tested at between 75-80psi on the road and some hard-packed gravel, which didn’t feel too firm, but 60psi would’ve worked just as well.
You rarely feel the Future Shock working (and only a little when out of the saddle or traversing broken surfaces), but it’s not intrusive and doesn’t require any change to your riding style, it just does its thing without fuss.
It’s a great help when descending or cornering on rough surfaces, as it allows the front tyre to maintain better contact with the ground, and therefore more grip and control. It’s a real confidence builder, and worth the additional cost and mass. Mechanical disc brakes are never as effective as hydraulics, but the Spyre Cs do a good job, hauling the bike to a halt efficiently, but without the same immediacy.
Additional third bosses on the down and seat tubes mean Specialized’s triangular SWAT spares storage box can be fitted below your bottles, and all internal cabling helps keep the lines clean.
Specialized Roubaix overall
The cheapest Roubaix options have much of the excellent ride character of its loftier siblings, but additional component weight and sluggish wheels govern its potential for all-round speed. Still, if you’re willing to upgrade the wheels, this Roubaix is an easy bike to like.
Interested in what else is available at this price point? Have a look at the following list of tried, tested and reviewed bikes.