There were many factors that have led me to taking ownership of a new 2017 Specialized Roubaix, a ‘special’ birthday, riding further and longer over rougher roads, a not-so-small amount of Di2 envy and anyway my current “best bike” had been the “best bike” for a couple of years...
Originally my plan had been to pick up a 2016 model during the summer sale but there were no 52cm frames across the whole range and this is when Mark suggested that I wait for the 2017 range as the rumour was they were going to be a bit different... he wasn’t wrong.
The thing that makes the Roubaix different from the rest of the road bike range is that it’s designed for endurance and rough surface handling and in previous years this has been achieved by using flexible Zertz inserts in the forks, seat-stays and seat-post. For 2017, these have gone and replaced by more flexibility in the seat-tube/seat-post and a steerer tube suspension system that Specialized are calling Future Shock.
The Future Shock adds front-end suspension between the top headset bearing and the stem, allowing the frame to remain stiff but damping out the rough stuff from reaching the bars. I did wonder if this may feel a little odd, but the first impression was good. After a couple hundred miles, I can say it works well. The bars do move fairly freely but once your weight is on them, they load up and I honestly don’t think you would notice if no one told you once you’re moving.
My usual route from home to club HQ in Westerham takes me along some of the worst stretches of Pilgrim’s Way, sections of road that do their best to loosen your fillings and pump your forearms. This is where the Roubaix is supposed to shine and it certainly does, much less tiring and faster over the rough stuff.
Despite the Future Shock unit, Di2 and hydraulic discs, the overall weight is impressively low (approx. 7.5kg for S 52cm version) and when the road surface improves it zips along easily a match for my Argon 18.
I haven’t had the chance to test it out on the local hills yet so we’ll have to see how well the Future Shock system works out. It’s supplied with hard, medium (fitted) and soft springs that can be swapped in 5 minutes to tune it to your preference.
It’s still early days but I’m pleased that it seems to be giving me what I want - a good handling road bike but with the comfort that my advancing years demand. I must admit after a couple of hours the saddle was starting to get uncomfortable so I’ll be swapping that for my favourite perch, but given saddles are so personal it’s not that surprising.
The stats tell me that Specialized have reduced the stack by 30mm and the reach by 10mm over the 2016 model and is essentially the same geometry as the Tarmac.
Specialized have a SWAT box (Storage, Water, Air, Tools) designed for the Roubaix, it is supplied with some models and an optional extra on the others. It holds a tube, CO2, adapter, tyre lever and mini-tool and sits in the frame above the bottom bracket and whilst it seems to work well I’m not completely convinced about the look but if it saves me having to carry either a saddlebag or stuffed jersey pockets, then I’m sure I’ll get used to it.
Westerham Cyclery has a test bike (Specialized Roubaix Elite) available and I strongly recommend you speak to Mark or Michael about trying it out.