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New bike alert: Specialized launches overhauled S-Works Roubaix

Jack Elton-Walters
10 Apr 2019

Like all bikes, it's meant to be lighter and faster. But this one is also smoother and carries an important message for race organisers

Although the bike has apparently been used, unspotted, for weeks now by men's and women's professional teams, Specialized has now officially launched its all new Roubaix.

Headline claims include it being lighter than the latest Venge, more aerodynamic than the newest Tarmac and an essential next step in the brand's move away from gender-specific bikes.

Cyclist deputy editor Stu Bowers has had his hands on one for a while, his initial impressions and first ride review can be read here.

'Smoother is faster' but aero is still everything

A history lesson during the presentation of the new Specialized Roubaix takes us back to the launch of the brand's first full suspension mountain bike. Back then, riders were sure that such a smooth ride had to be slower, that comfort must come at the cost of speed.

Heart rate data and timed segments proved then that smoother was faster, but jump ahead a couple of decades and things weren't quite so simple.

The impression that a smoother ride came at the cost of power and speed was expressed by riders in the modern peloton when riding the previous iteration of the Roubaix, and this time wind-tunnel testing proved the riders right: watts were being lost on smooth roads.

This led to the development of the new Roubaix to be at least as aero as the current version of the S-Works Tarmac as a way of ensuring a fast ride on smooth roads as well as rough.

Such a feature is vital for a race like Paris-Roubaix where the peloton will cover 100km before hitting the first set of cobbles, plus riding all the modern roads between each punishing set of cobbles.

The ambition to make the Roubaix as aero as the Tarmac was surpassed, which by extension means this suspension system cobble basher is more aero than the original Venge.

'Smoother is faster' was a key phrase in the presentation, and was repeated often by each speaker from Specialized. 'Aero is everything' is the company's overarching mantra and while heard more often in relation to the latest S-Works Venge, also cropped up as a reminder that this new Roubaix is far more than simply a bike for ironing out bumps in the road.

New Future Shock

The top end of the new range of bikes on offer under the Roubaix banner will come with Future Shock 2.0. The key element of this is the control it gives riders to set exactly how much of the suspension system they wish to deploy.

During the launch event, while riding cobbles in Flanders and on their more gruelling cousins on the course of Paris-Roubaix, the Future Shock could be opened for the punishment of the pave but then closed off for the tarmac between secteurs.

This will prove vital for pro teams in this year's race (although look out for some Bora-Hansgrohe riders using Venges for the first 100km or so).

At the lower end, the bikes will come with Future Shock 1.5, an improvement on the old version but crucially without the option of locking out the shock.

Beyond gender

'We've learned that there's likely more difference between two male cyclists than between a male and female,' says Todd Carver, head of human performance at Specialized. 'This means that gender alone doesn't provide nearly enough data to specialise.

'It means that separating bikes by male or female is arbitary and outdated. It means it's time to go beyond gender.'

Eseentially the crux of Specialized's approach is 'not making a difference where there isn't one' because 'performance is performance'.

This approach is informed by the vast amounts of data the brand has access to through it's Retul fit system. Using the stats from riders all around the world confirmed the theory that 'women's specific' bikes weren't necessary.

What's more, Specialized is also using its platform and new line of thinking as a way of applying pressure on race organisers to do more to address gender imbalances.

As a closing line to one part of the presentation a video with voiceover suggested that now the bike of the same name is equally for men and women why can't the race be too: 'The Roubaix is no longer just for men, the race shouldn't be either.'

Venge vs Tarmac vs Roubaix

When the newest Tarmac and Venge models were launched in fairly quick succession, the aero gains of the former and the weight drop of the latter had some of questioning how long it'll be before one of bike can do everything and the other becomes redundant.

Now into that mix is the new Roubaix, which as mentioned above is more aero than the current Tarmac. For a professional rider at Boels-Dolmans, Bora-Hansgrohe or Deceuninck-QuickStep, it's easy to choose which bike to ride on any given day with each model at their disposal.

However, for the everyday customer a choice will have to be made. The difficulty of that choice is something brand ambassador and retired Classics champion Johan Museeuw touched on during the launch.

'For me, the Roubaix is between the Venge and the Tarmac,' he explained. 'With this bike it's agressive, good for sportives and you have some comfort if you want.

'At the back, especially, it's very aggressive and that's an advantage over the other Roubaix. The older Roubaix was all comfort but was a little bit too slow. This bike has speed, it's aggressive, and has a lot of comfort.

'This bike is the bike you need for Roubaix, but this bike is not just for Roubaix.'

Pondering the choice of machine he's go to for a weekend ride, Museeuw added: 'It's very difficult to make the choice between the Tarmac and the Roubaix.

'If you ride cobbles then it's the Roubaix, but the Tarmac is really a top bike so it's difficult to say which bike is better.'

There are 11 frame sizes starting at 44cm and including the pro-geometry framesets. Regardless of the bike's level, as detailed with prices below, each will come with the S-Works Roubaix seatpost.

Specialized Roubaix: UK prices

Specialized Roubaix S-Works eTap: £9,500.00
Specialized Roubaix Expert Dura-Ace Di2: £9,500.00
Specialized Roubaix Pro SRAM Force eTap: £6,400.00
Specialized Roubaix Expert Ultegra Di2: £5,400.00
Specialized Roubaix Comp Ultegra Di2: £4,400.00
Specialized Roubaix Comp: £3,400.00
Specialized Roubaix Sport: £2,600.00
Specialized Roubaix S-Works frameset: £3500.00
Specialized Roubaix S-Works Team frameset: TBC (MY20 launch)
Specialized Roubaix S-Works Di2 Sagan: £10,000.00
Specialized Roubaix S-Works Di2 Sagan frameset: £3,500.00
Specialized Roubaix Comp Sagan: £3,400.00

Like what you see? Fancy riding the new Roubaix? Come to the Cyclist Track Days where you will get the chance to ride the world's best bike, including the all-new S-Works Roubaix.

Tickets are available here.