Designed for comfort, the Specialized Ruby Elite packs in a number of innovative features to smooth out the roughest of roads. It’s supremely comfortable to ride and you won’t pay for hours in the saddle with sore wrists or derrière.
The Specialized Ruby Elite is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
This is a bike that I could quite happily ride for hours and hours at a time without a care in the world. But, while it excels in achieving its design objective of comfort and compliance, it’s at the cost of versatility.
The Ruby is not a bike for fast acceleration or hard climbing, but then it doesn’t claim to be. It knows what it is and it does its job well.
Specialized Ruby Elite frame
Constructed from FACT 10r carbon, Specialized’s second-tier premium carbon, the frame also has a size specific layup that is designed to eliminate excess material from smaller sizes and ensure the optimal strength to weight ratio for each frame size.
The seatpost is clamped low in the seat tube allowing it to flex and absorb road chatterJack Luke / Immediate Media Co
Specialized’s approach to providing a comfortable, smooth ride involves the use of a few interesting pieces of engineering.
The first is the amusingly named Cobl Gblr (say it out loud and it makes more sense) seatpost and the engineering around the junction between the seat tube, top tube and seatstay.
The seat post clamp and seatstays are located below the junction of the top tube and seat tube, which allows the seatpost to flex more to absorb those fatiguing vibrations from the road surface. Then the Cobl Gblr, which is essentially a kinked section at the top of the seatpost that’s cushioned by a springy polymer block, acts as a second layer of cushioning.
There are different spring options on the Future Shock, which provide different levels of compliance, that can easily be switched over
I found the result to be a very smooth ride, though it does have a slight but noticeable negative effect on stiffness.
At the front end, located in the headset, Specialized has developed what it calls the Future Shock. Put simply, this is a suspension system with a spring that allows the cockpit to move vertically, thus absorbing smaller vibrations and larger hits.
Does it work? Yes, indeed it does.
The ride is noticeably smooth and it really came into its own on some of the truly abysmal road surfaces on my usual test route. It’s quietly effective to the extent that you may not think it’s actually doing anything, but as soon as you hit something bigger, like a crack or pothole and find yourself bracing for that sharp jolt, it doesn’t actually come.
As well as being comfortable, this is a real confidence booster because I didn’t have to worry too much about being jolted off line since the bike happily handled rougher surfaces.
However, I do have some reservations about it. First, the suspension it offers is fairly linear, which means that when you hit something hard it can feel like you’ve gone through the whole travel of the spring in one go.
There are different spring options, which provide different levels of compliance, so if you are riding a lot on rough ground and want something stiffer, or are a lighter rider and want something lighter, it can easily be switched over by a mechanic.
The Future Shock suspension system is concealed beneath a concertina rubber outer to protect itJack Luke / Immediate Media Co
The Ruby comes with the medium spring option, but there’s also a light and hard option.
My second reservation is that the Future Shock does add weight to the bike. Despite being a quality carbon frame, the Ruby Elite was the heaviest bike in our 2018 Women’s Road Bike of the Year test at 9.12kg / 20.1lb, though this will also be partly to do with the spec choices. However, if you’re more concerned about comfort then this is a relatively minor price to pay.
And third, there was some movement when standing up on climbs which I felt was a hindrance to the efficiency of the ride.
That said, if you’re looking for a bike that provides a very comfortable ride but in a racier package, one that would be at home sprinting and climbing fast as well, the Trek Domane SL 6 Disc Women’s is worth a look.
Specialized Ruby Elite specs
The groupset comprises a mixture of Shimano 105 — reliable, effective but not the lightest — with RS510 groupset and RS505 shifters and hydraulic brakes. At this price point, that’s a little underwhelming.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the RS505 shifters, they are bulbous and bulky. They don’t look great, but more importantly, the chunky shape is awkward for riders with smaller hands, making reaching for the brakes uncomfortable particularly over longer distances or descents.
However, I am a fan of the stopping power they provide which is reliable and has great modulation. They’re powerful, but allow a degree of subtle control that makes shaving your speed when you need to nice and easy.
The Shimano 105 groupset is robust and reliableJack Luke / Immediate Media Co
The 11-32t cassette coupled with the 50/34t chainrings provide a good, wide range that’s ideal for long rides and spinning up climbs.
In addition to the Future Shock headset, the Ruby is fitted with alloy Comp Hover handlebars that have a 15mm rise. Together with the already high front-end of the bike (taller stack) and comparatively short reach, this means that the ride position is very upright. I enjoyed this for long countryside rides, being comfortable and enjoyable.
The Specialized Ruby Elite comes fitted with a Lithia Comp gel saddle which suits the more upright riding style the bike is designed for
It’s not conducive to riding more aggressively however, for example sprinting or hard climbing. It feels very upright compared to the majority of the bikes in the 2018 Women’s Road Bike of the Year test.
That said, combined with a low bottom bracket and a set of quality, grippy Specialized Turbo Pro tyres it feels stable and confident on descents. Add the bump-softening effect of the Future Shock and the Ruby was a bike that I felt comfortable letting fly down descents, confident in the knowledge it would hold its line and, thanks to those disc brakes, slow and stop when needed.
The DT Swiss R470 alloy wheelset is a good set, being relatively lightweight, though these are certainly an area where you could shave a fair bit of weight with a future upgrade to a lighter set.
As the bike is women’s specific, it comes fitted with a Lithia Comp gel saddle which suits the more upright riding style the bike is designed for.
I was also a fan of the S-Wrap Roubaix bar tape with ‘Sticky gel’, which made for some of the most comfortable handlebars I’ve ridden to date.
Specialized Ruby Elite versus the Specialized Roubaix
Specialized has what it calls a ‘rider first’ approach to bike design that has a very particular impact on the brand’s approach to designing bikes for female riders.
It owns the Retul bike fit system and as such has access to fit data from thousands of individuals, including information such as body dimensions, gender and ride preferences.
It’s this data that informs the bike design and, while the data it has access to does suggest that there are generally distinct average body dimensions for men and women, it also takes into account the type of riding certain clusters of riders do.
Interestingly, the Ruby comes with a threaded bottom bracket rather than press-fitJack Luke / Immediate Media Co
The result is a general shift towards updated unisex frame design that takes into account female body data as well as male for a number of key bikes, such as the race-focussed Tarmac.
However, both the women’s specific Ruby and the unisex/men’s Roubaix are still in the Specialized lineup. This is because after taking into account ride preferences and the eventual fit those riders receive, the ‘rider first’ approach indicated to Specialized that women buying an endurance bike were looking for comfort, a smooth ride, and a more upright position while men were looking for a racier bike, but still wanted comfort, so the Roubaix has a more aggressive frame geometry.
So, while Specialized seems to be shifting towards unisex frames overall with gender-specific finishing kit, the Ruby and the Roubaix remain an exception.
Specialized Ruby Elite verdict
If you’re a fan of long distances, plenty of comfort and perhaps a cheeky detour to the gravel side of things, the Ruby is the bike for you, or certainly one to consider!
I feel its versatility is limited by the upright position, so while it excels at comfort it’s not going to be as well suited to more aggressive riding or racing… unless it happens to be on terrible roads. But it’s very good at what it’s designed to do. It’s a bike I’ve happily spent hours on and feel fresh afterwards.
The upright position does compromise climbing ability though if you’re looking to ride more aggressively and does take a little getting used to.
Once you are used to the geometry though, it’s a lot of fun and confidence-inspiring on descents. Take it out, ride as far as you can and explore those intriguing pothole-ridden roads that others fear to ride.
Specialized Ruby Elite price, sizes and availability
The Ruby Elite is available for £2,600 / $2,800 / AU$3,800 and is available in five sizes: 44, 48, 51, 54, 56.