Specialized, like Trek, are firm believers in trickling down technology. With that in mind, it’s worth considering that the all-carbon Roubaix frame featured on the £1,500 Sport is the SL2.
Just a few years ago this was the flagship frame and fork in the company’s endurance bike lineup, and the full asking price of the 2013 Sport wouldn’t have paid for it. The new Sport hasn’t been available before, but a similarly specced bikewould have set you back more than £400 more last year.
Equipment: Intelligent spec on established frame
The spec is where Specialized have been clever. The drivetrain, for instance, comprises 105 shifters and mechs but drops the chainset down to Tiagra, as is the case with the brakes. Both aren’t quite as good as their more expensive 105 cousins, but only in the weight stakes – performance-wise you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference. Shifting is still Shimano smooth, and the braking has ample power and a great feel.
Specialized have partnered with DT Swiss for wheels in 2013, and the Axis 1.0 is a good-looking set of hoops. Simple cup and cone hubs run smoothly and are easy to maintain. The tension in the wheels is good rather than exceptional, and we could induce a little brake rub when sprinting hard, but the slim-profile rims and quality spokes help add to the smooth ride.
We were surprised that Specialized have chosen the 23c version of the competent, puncture resistant Espoir tyre, though. The Roubaix is an out-and-out endurance bike, so we’d prefer to see some supple 25s fitted as standard.
Ride & handling: Endurance machine with ability to climb
Get on board the Roubaix and it’s as familiar now as it was radical when it first arrived. The debut model changed the game for comfort-oriented road bikes. Its combination of racy light weight, tall head tube, long wheelbase and short top tube worried the hardcore sprint brigades, and us to some extent too. It was only when you got out for a seriously long ride that it started to make sense. The same is true today.
We tested the Roubaix in some of the year’s most inhospitable riding conditions – torrential downpours, flooded roads and cold temperatures, and mainly on our own. Yet its super-smooth ride was just where we wanted to be.
The short, compact riding position is perfect for pounding on the pedals if you’re not worrying about riding rapidly, just going for longer and longer without getting uncomfortable or being concerned about the bike’s reactions.
The Roubaix isn’t sluggish, by any means, but ride it back to back with a race bike and the differences are paramount – it’s stable rather than flighty, compliant rather than stiff, and geared to cover the ground rather than shoot across it.
By combining a 50/34 compact with Shimano’s new 11-30T Tiagra cassette, Specialized have created a bike that’s biased towards cruising. But with a 34/30 bottom gear you’re never going to be caught out by a climb, no matter how steep the gradient becomes.
If we took a moment and thought about the ideal bike for riders who are improving but aren’t interested in racing, just covering more and more miles, the Roubaix is where we’d arrive. If that’s you and your style of riding then this bike could be just the bargain you’ve been looking for.