What is it?
The latest version of Specialized’s endurance- focused Classics racer. Made to thrive in the wet and grimy environment of the season’s early races, it’s just had a serious makeover. First launched back in 2004, it’s hard to remember how revolutionary the original Roubaix was. Copied many times since then, it was one of the first racers to prioritize comfort.
The idea being that a less fatigued rider might actually arrive faster. Single- handedly spawning the genre of the ‘Classics Bike’ while also promoting the relaxed geometries found on many modern sportive bikes, previous consumer models have been slightly hedged towards sedate riding. Not anymore.
This new version aims to be comfortable on rough roads, but still deadly fast. To do this, while also taking the sting out of rough riding, it uses a unique Future Shock system to provide 20 mm of movement between the top of the headtube and the stem.
So, what’s up with this Future Shock?
First developed for Specialized’s off-road going Diverge bike, this clever gizmo insulates riders from knocks and bumps. Hidden inside the steerer, it comprises a spring stack and damper to stop it bottoming out. This cartridge unit then provides a degree of movement between the headset and stem to isolate the bars from what’s happening beneath the bike.
So even if the front wheel is chattering away over the cobbles, the rider up top should remain relatively unaffected. On posher models, the stiffness of the spring stack can be adjusted, or even made rigid depending on the conditions. The version here is a little more basic, and so does without the extra adjustment, although the concept remains the same.
And the seat tube?
A similar story to the front of the bike. Holding to the maxim ‘smooth is fast’, the frame’s new drop-clamp design allows more of the seat post to sit proud of the top tube. This allows the bike to eke as much flex from it as possible.
There’s even additional space around the flexible frame cowling to allow for extra movement. The post itself is a new carbon model that replaces the functional, but fugly looking model found on the old versions. Using the same D-shaped profile found on the brand’s Tarmac bike, it should be both flexible and aerodynamic.
And the weird looking bars?
Called the Hover bar, you’ll now find these on most of Specialized’s bikes. Their aim is to keep the controls and contact points where you’d want them, even as the headtubes on the bikes get lower. Take the Roubaix, despite the space taken up by the Future Shock mechanism, they actually raise the tops by 15mm, making it easier to hold onto all the different elements of the bar.
With the front end of the bike having been dropped slightly on this latest model, if you want to further slam the front end, you also could switch them out. This would certainly be an easier and cheaper option than changing the frame. Apparently, they’re also quite aero.
What about the rest of the build kit?
Each Roubaix comes with wider-than-average tires, in this case, 28c Turbo Pro models.
The idea is to further boost smoothness, improve grip, and reduce the risk of flats when running at lower pressures. With teams often running 30% lower pressure for stages containing cobbles or gravel sections, you’ll need their extra volume to stop you cracking a rim. In fact, the maximum you can fit in is a girthy 33 mm, enough to transform the bike and its handling, but not quite wide enough to take it off-road.
With a compact 50/34t chainset and a wide 11-34t cassette, this model has all the gears you’ll need to get up the famously difficult Koppenberg climb without pushing. In fact, it’s geared as much for the big mountains as the punchy hills of Paris- Roubaix itself. By comparison, Specialized’s top-end S-works model comes with SRAM’s equally wide RED eTAP AXS 12-speed groupset, which uses 46/33t chainrings paired to a radical 10-33t cassette.
Won’t this slow it down in the final sprint?
Not really. Specialized makes three main road platforms. The general purpose Tarmac, the aero-racer Venge, and the Classics-orientated Roubaix. The Roubaix may give away a little in terms of weight to its siblings, but Specialized claims it’s as aero as the Tarmac. Certainly, it’s comfier than the Venge, and better adapted to rough roads than the Tarmac.
In terms of its Future Shock bobbing around when you yank on the bars, we haven’t found this to be a problem. It’s no less stiff side-to-side and, unless you have a very odd sprinting style, you won’t find yourself activating the shock when out of the saddle. And as the idea is to arrive fresher, you’ll have more in the tank for that final explosive finish. Even if, heaven forbid, you’re not actually a pro racer, the Roubaix is still a great option for longer rides when road conditions are unpredictable.
None of this has helped Peter Sagan much though, has it?
No, it hasn’t. He’s had a right ’mare at this year’s Spring Classics on his Roubaix. On the other hand, Specialized’s other sponsored team, Team Deceuninck-Quick-Step, has won everything in sight, including Paris-Roubaix itself. Belgian hero Philippe Gilbertwas first over the line in the famous velodrome, having sailed over the cobbles aboard this, the bike Specialized designed for that very task.
Overhauling a fading Sagan in the closing stages, he made it to the finish with only Nils Politt for company, before seeing off the Katusha-Alpecin rider in the final sprint. A first win in Roubaix for Gilbert and a sixth for Specialized. How’s that for marketing?
Weight: 7.5 kg
Frame: FACT 10R Carbon with Future Shock1.5
Groupset: Shimano 105 11-speed
Brakes: Shimano 105 R7020 hydraulic disc
Chainset: Praxis Alba 50/34t
Cassette: Shimano 10511-34t
Bars: Specialized Adventure GearHover
Stem: Specialized 3D-forged
Saddle: Specialized Power Sport
Seatpost: S-Works Pave
Wheels: DT R470 Disc
Tires: Specialized Turbo Pro 28c