The Specialized Roubaix arguably kicked off the ‘comfortable race bike’ genre. With vibration-damping Zertz inserts, it was designed for cobbled races. Away from racing, it appeals to sportivists and anyone doing long rides at a decent clip.
HIGHS: Race heritage, super-smooth ride, trustworthy handling
LOWS: Gappy gear setup, quirky headset, spec could be better
BUY IF… Comfort is everything and you don’t mind upgrading a few bits over time
While all the Roubaix frames look the same, they differ in grades of carbon. This entry-level bike is inevitably the heaviest, but the overall weight is 9kg so ‘heaviest’ isn’t actually all that heavy.
The Zertz inserts are the most obvious feature, but you’ll also find an interesting tapered head-tube: 1 1/8 to 1 3/8in, rather than 1 1/2in. The idea is to add stiffness over a straight steerer without too much weight; the downside is limited headset choice.
The zertz elastomer inserts add comfort to the roubaix’s ride: Robert Smith
Clearly a lot of the price is tied up in the frame. We’d expect at least Tiagra at this price, but the Roubaix can only muster 9-speed Sora. There is nothing wrong with the latest Sora. The budget group now has the same double-lever shift arrangement as its more expensive brothers, and it has a pretty slick action.
You have to put up with exposed gear cables, although the lever-mounted barrel adjusters are useful. And we weren’t all that impressed by the Axis brakes, which work in a slightly grudging fashion.
There’s a huge gear range, with the compact chainset driving an 11-32 cassette. It’s debatable who needs that much range – and hard to imagine that a rider who needs 34×32 getting much use out of 50×11. It’s a big range to get out of a 9-speed cassette, too, giving significant gaps that make it harder to maintain an even cadence at times.
While the Roubaix is marketed on its race heritage, comfort is its big thing. The 25mm tyres, Zertz inserts, gel pads under the bar tape and a 27.2mm carbon seatpost mean that the Roubaix scores highly on ride quality.
Specialized roubaix sl4: Robert Smith
You don’t get the alacrity of some of the competition, though. It’s a perfectly acceptable weight, and handles fine, but it’s more about rolling along than charging.
Somewhere between the high front end, sturdy tyres and slightly gappy gears, the impetus gets lost. But it’s a bike that lends itself to long rides of the sort that make sprinting performance a little moot.