The massive crowd in the old square of Antwerp, Belgium went silent at the announcer's request, then began a slow clap that sped into a frenzied cheer before Tom Boonen rolled up onto the carpeted catwalk to the stage of the Tour of Flanders. Belgium's big star started his final Ronde van Vlaanderen Sunday morning aboard a new Specialized Roubaix that has a suspension cartridge under the stem.
The new Roubaix Future Shock is a spring cartridge that suspends the handlebar and stem. The consumer model can be bought with three different spring weights, but Specialized team liaison Gianpaolo Mondini said the team has been experimenting with others. I felt Boonen's bike and the spring is very stiff, likely more so than the stiffest consumer option.
Also notable on Boonen's Roubaix — it's a rim-brake bike. All the new Specialied Roubaix models are disc only. Specialized still has the older-style Roubaix SL4 available in some rim models, but those do not feature the Future Shock.
The geometry also looks to be a custom setup for Boonen, allowing him to stay low with the Future Shock in between the head tube and the stem.
Another piece missing from the Roubaix is the stock CG-R seatpost. Its cobra design with a Zertz insert allows for about twice the flex of a normal seatpost. Specialized pitches this as a comfort feature for consumers; some pro riders equate comfort with inefficiency. Whatever the case, Boonen choose not to use it.
Boonen did go with Specialized's new Hell of the North 28mm tubulars, though, as did a few of his teammates. Most riders at the 101st Tour of Flanders went with the now-pro-standard 25mm option. Only a handful were on 28mm tubulars, which we will see in multitude at Paris-Roubaix next weekend.
Boonen raced a disc-brake Specialized Venge for the opening races of Belgium's cobbled classics season.
Check out the gallery above for a closer look at Boonen's Specialized Roubaix.