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Specialized S-Works Roubaix review

26 Jun 2020

Page 1 of 2Specialized S-Works Roubaix review

Verdict:

The 2020 Specialized S-Works Roubaix is as comfortable as previous generations while matching the speed of the Tarmac SL6

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Nipping at the Tarmac's heel in terms of performance, but with much greater comfort and increased versatility at the turn of a dial • Impressively light • Fantastic control
Against 
To buy an S-Works means nearly £10k, but cost is subjective...

The 2020 Specialized S-Works Roubaix is the latest in a long line of the Specialized Roubaix family. Over a decade and a half it has established itself as the bike of choice for those seeking a comfortable, lightweight, endurance road bike with a tall front end.

On the afternoon of Sunday 14th April 2019, Philippe Gilbert and I had something in common. As Paris-Roubaix reached its climax, we were both riding the same brand new Specialized S-Works Roubaix at more than 50kmh.

Where we differed was that Gilbert was on his way to adding a fourth Monument to his palmarès in northern France while I, according to Strava, was on my way to an unremarkable 891st place on some random segment as I descended from the mountains in Mallorca.

Gilbert was not the only one riding the Roubaix bike at Roubaix. There were three in the top five: Gilbert’s Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate Yves Lampaert in third and Peter Sagan in fifth.

In fact, there were five inside the top eight – the stuff of dreams for Specialized, which had only launched the bike to the public a few days prior. For me, though, that didn’t come as a huge shock.

Buy the Specialized S-Works Roubaix Di2 from Rutland Cycles for £9,499

It is about the bike

Having had a month or so road-testing the new S-Works Roubaix prior to its launch – including a week in Mallorca as well as riding it over much of the Roubaix race route a few weeks earlier – I was already convinced it would provide a significant advantage in the Queen of the Classics.

By Specialized’s own admission the old Roubaix had morphed into a bike far removed from the nature of the race it was originally built for.

‘We had this bike that had these really innovative ways to deal with shock dampening and smooth out the ride, but our pros never wanted to race on it because, quite simply, it wasn’t light, fast or aggressive enough for them,’ says product manager John Cordoba.

This new version, then, was about pulling the Roubaix back into the performance sector – more aero, lighter and with geometry closer to the Tarmac – but somehow without sacrificing the comfort it had become renowned for.

I watched the final part of this year’s Paris-Roubaix in a cafe in Mallorca. The place was chock-full of cyclists, and despite many of them chattering about Gilbert’s new bike, when the race was over and people started leaving, not one of them noticed this test bike leaning against the railings outside.

My guess is that most mistook it for a Tarmac. That’s entirely understandable. By virtue of engineers targeting a racier fit and a reduction in both aero drag and weight, the Roubaix’s new aero tube profiles are almost identical to its thoroughbred sibling, but also Specialized has packaged the all-new Future Shock 2.0 suspension unit extremely neatly.

For starters, it’s barely noticeable beneath the smooth rubber cover. What is immediately perceptible on the road, though, aside from the significantly more aggressive riding position, is the improvement in the shock’s performance compared to its predecessor.

Shocking results

The original Future Shock – a spring at the top of the steerer, beneath the stem, which first appeared on the Roubaix in 2017 – felt somewhat too bouncy and frequently bottomed out as it had no damping whatsoever.

That’s been remedied, and while it is principally the same coil-sprung core with 20mm travel, there’s now an adjustable hydraulic damper to control both rebound and compression strokes.

A half-turn of the dial on the stem cap is all that’s required to alter the ride characteristics dramatically. The dial is easy to reach and use, even when bumping over cobbles. If you watch footage from Paris-Roubaix you can even see Gilbert doing this.

Turning anti-clockwise opens the damper for the springiest ride feel, while clockwise stiffens it back up.

It’s not a complete lockout – the shock can still be compressed if you use a large enough force – but it’s sufficient that even when I was hauling on the bars in full sprint mode I couldn’t notice that it was sapping my speed in any way.

In terms of responsiveness and solidity the S-Works Roubaix feels every bit the race bike. What’s more, at 7.27kg it’s firmly in race bike territory, only 470g over the UCI weight limit despite the shock and disc brakes.

It certainly never felt lacking when I attacked long climbs such as Mallorca’s famed Sa Calobra. With the shock in ‘open’ mode the effect on comfort is profound. The movement feels refined and progressive, noticeably absorbing the force of sizable impacts.

But beyond just making the ride comfier, it undoubtedly helps reduce fatigue and enhances control too, as my own 10-hour ride around Roubaix demonstrated. I was able to carry more speed on the cobbles, feeling assured that I wasn’t about to get bucked into a ditch.

The shock’s benefits extend beyond the cobbles too. It’s sensitive enough to soak up high-frequency road buzz, and hence I still found plenty to be gained on my local lanes. It’s hard to see a downside when it takes just a fraction of a second to switch the settings on the go.

Comfort at the rear is taken care of by a new, slicker D-sectioned Pavé aero post, replacing the old (and in my opinion rather ugly) C-GR post.

Here too Specialized has managed to balance the conflicting demands of aerodynamics and compliance with enough comfort provided by the post to ensure the bike feels balanced to ride.

The post is clamped 65mm lower down inside the seat tube, resulting in plenty of flex to soak up bumps in the road. Crucially, though, there’s no tangible movement during normal pedalling.

Smooth and fast

Don’t be misled. Just because the new Roubaix has an active suspension system it is not straying into gravel bike territory. Its geometry is too aggressive for that. Besides, there is only clearance for up to 33mm tyres, which limits it in that regard as well.

Compared to its predecessor, this new Roubaix feels a good deal faster. I can’t verify the data, but I’m prepared to believe Specialized when it says this bike is now a match aerodynamically for the Tarmac and faster than the original Venge.

All told, Specialized has taken lessons learned from the old Roubaix, combined them with the best bits of the Venge and Tarmac, and the result has impressed me immensely. In the past I definitely would not have considered myself a Roubaix customer, but now I’d have to reconsider.

Buy the Specialized S-Works Roubaix Di2 from Rutland Cycles for £9,499

Spec

Frame S-Works Roubaix
Groupset Sram Red eTap AXS HRD
Brakes Sram Red eTap AXS HRD
Chainset Sram Red eTap AXS HRD
Cassette Sram Red eTap AXS HRD
Bars S-Works Carbon Hover 
Stem Specialized Future
Seatpost Specialized Pavé 
Saddle S-Works Power
Wheels Roval CLX32 Disc, Specialized Turbo Cotton Hell of the North 28mm tyres
Weight 7.27kg (56cm)
Contact specialized.com

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

Price: 
£9,499

Page 1 of 2Specialized S-Works Roubaix review