We’ve waxed lyrical about the Roubaix since the original test back in 2016, and the self-same Roubaix Comp was the 2017 Bike Of The Year.
- The Specialized Roubaix Comp 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.
A few things have changed in the year since the Roubaix took the crown, first the price has shifted upwards considerably. For the extra money, you get the new Shimano Ultegra disc groupset, which is a step up from the Ultegra/BR505 mix from last year.
The wheels have been upgraded too from the DT Swiss mid-range model to an all-new rim from Roval, the SLX24 built onto Roval hubs with top-quality DT Swiss 350 internals using top-grade DT Swiss spokes. The new rim is much wider than the previous DT unit, bloating out the 28mm Turbo tyres to close to 30mm wide.
The Roubaix’s frame combines the Future Shock-equipped front, which effectively suspends the rider, with the low-slung seatstay/seatpost clamp that allows the elastomer-infused CG-R seatpost to move for and after more than a centimetre. The zig-zag clamp design eliminates road buzz at the rear completely.
The ride position is very much endurance biased, but a tad more aggressive than the previous Roubaix’s. The 1011mm wheelbase is solid endurance stuff too, but the frame angles of parallel 73.5 degrees put it in more racy territory. The front end is adaptable with a choice of three springs, which alter the speed of movement, so if you prefer a firmer front-end, spend 20 minutes fettling to switch between springs. It’s worth exploring the options.
If you prefer a more traditionally upright sportive position, or a flatter racier setup, then the distinctive ‘hover’ bar design comes in three heights — flat, mid and high. A bike fit with your Specialized dealer will sort that for you.
What really sets the Roubaix apart from other endurance bikes is the ride quality. Even on the best endurance bikes you still have that instinct to protect it — you’ll steer around ruts, scarred surfaces and pot holes to avoid the inevitable jolt and potential pinch flat to your tyres or worse.
In contrast, the Roubaix has been built to protect you, and because it suspends the biggest weight in this moving mass (you), it also protects itself from those heavy forces enacting upon it when you hit an obstacle. The overall feeling is a bike with a magically smooth ride.
The Roubaix can look a bit odd when unpiloted and that front end does look tall, but like any good suspension it works in both directions, compressing to suppress bumps and extending to suppress holes. When you get on, the front-end compresses (on a mountain bike you’d call it sag) giving you that extension in reserve when you hit a pothole.
Specialized has taken advantage of Ultegra’s range with a super-wide 11-32 cassette, which means you’ll feel comfortable climbing pretty much any gradient. When it comes to coming back down, those new wider rims and fat tyres give you so much confidence in the grip available and the smooth action of the chassis meant I really pushed the Comp on descents.
Despite the fact Specialized has upped the overall spec, it has still cut a corner or two — the brake rotors are standard 160mm Shimano units rather than the classy IceTec Ultegra units. I didn’t experience any adverse noises or rub from these standard units, but I’d still like to have the superior rotors at this price.
The only other divergence from Ultegra is the Praxis Zayante crankset, but this doesn’t feel like a downgrade. The Zayante is light, thanks to its hollow construction, and superbly stiff. The flat matt black finish and squarer design, compared to the smooth, high-polished Ultegra, may not be as bling, but it’s proven to be hard wearing, and the Praxis rings offer superb shift quality.
The Roubaix Comp 2018 does improve on the 2017 Bike Of The Year model, it’s better equipped, albeit a bit heavier because of those wider tyres, and retains the same sublime ride, but at £3,100, it’s £700 more than its predecessor.
There are plenty of factors at work with that, none more so than the weakness of the pound following the Brexit vote, but I still think Specialized could try a bit harder on the value-for-money front.
With the pros and cons weighed up, I’d sum up the Roubaix simply as the ultimate bike for taking care of you. It’s just so blissfully comfortable that you feel like you could keep riding for days, and that’s what any great endurance bike should do.