Names aren’t given by chance, so by christening this bike as the ‘Roubaix’, you’ve got to either possess bags of unflinching confidence or just really believe in the product. Specialized obviously have both in abundance, and the Roubaix has a great story to tell.
Essentially, the precursor to these performance-orientated long-distance bikes, the Specialized Roubaix united its propensity for endurance and a high level of comfort when it first hit the market a few years ago, becoming somewhat of a pioneer in the field of endurance bikes and unlocking the slowly emerging trend for upright and comfort-focused touring bikes. Road cycling was no longer inhumane, forcing you to adopt a painful streamlined position on the bars. Regular riders with a bit of a belly and a passport that puts them on the other side of 35 could ride this bike. They could explore the world with their head held high, without having to fight for breath. What liberation!
But as any educated person knows, revolutions eat their own. And there aren’t many exceptions to this rule – although it’s only half true in the case of the Roubaix. As endurance bikes shook off the shackles of being labelled a tourer or touring bike, geometry and technology has come on in leaps and bounds. Now don’t get us wrong: the Roubaix is still a meticulously constructed bike, showing its strengths of stability, reliability and exceedingly sorted handling.
But the latest generation of road bikes want more. They need to be rockets on the climbs, transferring every single watt onto the tarmac. On gravel sections, they need to rival the comfort offered by the Canyon or the Trek, which both happen to retail for significantly less. Plus, of course, the bike can’t be too gruesome, and in the ideal case it’ll be held up as an example of design excellence. Innovate or die!
So while the Specialized Roubaix is no longer top dog, it does deserve a step on the podium. It climbs well, although it’s no match for the best in the group test. It is definitely stable and can handle the cobbles – although again, other bikes on test outdid it here. We couldn’t verify the comfort benefits of the so-called Zertz inserts that are housed in the seatstays and the forks, which break the frame’s aesthetic lines and any design enthusiast’s heart.
Specification of the Specialized Roubaix
Drivetrain: Shimano Ultegra Di2 | 50/34, 11 – 28
Wheels: Roval Rapide CL 40
Brakes: Shimano BR-RS785
Tires: Specialized S-Works Turbo
Weight: 7.94 kg
Price: € 6,599
More info: specialized.com
As we kept testing, more and more aspects on the Roubaix gave us cause for concern: the misguided saddle choice, which is too short and thereby scuppers any chance of a slight weight shift on its nose; the weird seatpost and untidy disc brake integration on the front wheel highlighted by the paintjob. Admittedly, these are all fairly minor, but considered en masse, we’re not convinced. The cobbles of Roubaix may not have changed much over the years, but it’s time this bike moved on.
The Specialized Roubaix still enjoys a decent reputation but it’s really time for the American brand to knuckle down. Given its competition (particularly from Canyon, Trek and Giant), it’s about time that the creators of the once so revolutionary Roubaix come up with a new model – maybe the next revolution? Until then the market has better options on offer.
- balanced handling package
- Zertz inserts are both aesthetically and technologically a bit of a letdown
- Once an icon the Roubaix now feels dated
To get an overview about the bikes we tested, check this article: What’s the best road bike to conquer the Alps? 7 bikes on test
All bikes in test: Trek Domane SLR 7 | Merida Scultura Disc 6000 | Giant Defy Advanced Pro 0 | Cervélo C3 SRAM Force 1X | Canyon Endurace CF SLX | Argon 18 Krypton XROAD Disc
This article belongs to the GRAN FONDO Issue #002. For the full interactive experience we recommend reading it in our magazine app for iPhone & iPad – it’s awesome – and free!
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Words: Thomas Seidelmann, Robin Schmitt Photos: Klaus Kneist, Noah Haxel, Robin Schmitt, Julian Mittelstädt (Post production)