Specialized’s Roubaix has always used some form of bump erasing technology, but the latest version takes isolating the rider from the ride to a new level, and it works.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the Roubaix is a comfort bike at first because the FACT 10r composite frame and straight tapered leg fork are seriously chunky and muscular.
However, the head tube is low and fat to allow room for Specialized’s Future Shock cartridge, which uses roller bearings, a coil spring and an elastomer damping bumper to give 20mm of vertical stem and bar movement. A medium strength spring and elastomer are fitted as standard, but softer and harder options are supplied with the bike.
The oversized seat tube, top tube and seatpost clamp below the seatstays mean the skinny shaft, fat shock-absorbing elastomer-impregnated seatpost is also free to flex more than normal when you hit a bump. A screw-in bottom bracket, 12mm thru-axles and room for up to 32mm tyres, hidden mudguard mounts and neat internal cabling finish a radical but practical chassis.
The frame technology means you’re only getting Shimano 105 at an Ultegra price and it’s £200 more than the very similar 2017 ‘Comp’ model. The 24-spoke DT Swiss wheels are quality though, and while they’re listed at 28mm the Specialized Turbo Pro tyres are almost 30mm wide with surefooted Gripton compound and Black Belt puncture protection.
The 160mm rotors add grunt to the Shimano 105 brakes, and the fact the lumpy lever haters on our test team whined much less on the Specialized than other bikes is a clear indication that the Future Shock really works to increase comfort.
Yes, you can make the stem bob climbing out of the saddle, but it’s also easy to ride a bit smoother so it barely moves. There’s no obvious vagueness or movement in the steering, just smooth, boosted-grip surface tracking as the bike moves over irregularities without your hands getting knocked about.
Because your hands aren’t getting knocked off the bar or the steering kicked offline by potholes you can thrash it down properly rough trails without the steep steering angles and relatively short wheelbase feeling sketchy.
While it’s not as smooth as the cockpit isolation, the seatpost flex is visible when following the Roubaix from behind and definitely soothes back and butt on punishing pavé sections.
The way the Roubaix feels like a proper race bike compared to more damped bikes when you stand up and sprint is awesome. The disparity between the lack of hand fatigue and the sharp feedback coming through your feet takes some reconciling, particularly on longer rides or when full throttle cobble charges had me hovering above the saddle.
Because the front end encourages you to ride harder into rougher bits the back tyre has to cope with more abuse too, so be prepared to find it kicking about offline more than normal.
On typical back roads the fast tyres, light wheels and serenely isolated feel of the Roubaix really are very impressive, and converted even our most cynical testers into grudging fans by the end of testing.