Specialized originally created the 'Roubaix' to conquer the cobbles of Northern France. Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara and Niki Terpstra have all ridden Specialized's endurance bike to success at Roubaix.
Far from being an endurance only bike, the latest edition of the Roubaix may very well be the future of professional cycling. All of the recent developments in pro cycling can be seen in the Roubaix - electronic shifting, wider tyres, suspension and disc brakes. Let's take a look into the future, with a review of the Specialized Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race Ultegra Di2.
Key features of the Specialized Roubaix
High-modulus SL4 FACT 10r carbon frame and fork
The Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race frame and fork is constructed from high-modulus SL4 FACT 10r carbon. Only recently, the high-modulus SL4 FACT 10r carbon was reserved for Specialized's S-Works models, highlighting the superior performance capability of this frame and fork combo. Specialized has since developed a higher grade 'FACT 11r' for their current S-Works bikes, but your average Joe would be hard pressed to notice the difference.
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The SL4 FACT 10r frame was surprising light and stiff. The addition of hydraulic disc brakes adds significant weight to the feel of a bike, but I didn't get that sense at all on the Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race. It felt like a high 6kg bike and had no troubles going uphill. Many endurance or comfort bikes tend to feel very sluggish, but the Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race is not one of them. The Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race responded very well when standing up out of the saddle on steep climbs, and equally as responsive on sharp descents.
One of the test rides included the Australian Nationals Road Race course, which features a tight and technical descent down Fiskin Rd. I launched the Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race down the tight decent a handful of times, but no matter how hard I pushed, it never got out of shape or felt sketchy. Obviously the high-modulus frame and fork had a hand in that, but with a longer head tube, S-Works Turbo 26mm tyres as standard and longer wheelbase, the Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race was built to provide control and stability.
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Roval Rapide CL 40 Disc SCS wheels
The Specialized Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race comes standard with Roval Rapide CL 40 Disc SCS wheels and were a delight! They are almost identical to the top-of-the-line Roval Rapide CLX 40's, minus the ceramic bearings and a small weight penalty. The Roval Rapide CL 40 Disc wheelset tips the scales at just below 1,600 grams, and offers everything you could ask for in a wheelset - light, aerodynamic and durable. The Roval Rapide CL 40's are deep and wide enough to provide an aero advantage without being pushed around in the cross winds. I couldn't be happier with how they performed.
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Shimano BR-785 hydraulic disc brakes
As the name suggests, the Specialized Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race comes with Shimano BR-785 hydraulic disc brakes. If you have never ridden with disc brakes before, they will change your life! Even more so if you run carbon clincher or tubular's regularly. Disc brakes offer powerful braking that isn't compromised in the wet. I would suggest setting them up with a bit of play so that you don't end up over the handlebars from grabbing too much brake. After some getting used to, you can quickly see why the UCI are keen to include them in the World Tour.
How does the Roubaix stack up against the Tarmac?
A quick comparison with the Specialized Tarmac showcases where the Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race's stability comes from. The head-tube length for a 56cm Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race is 190mm compared to 160mm for the Tarmac. The Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race's wheelbase is 1011mm, over 20mm longer than the Tarmac at 987mm. The Specialized Zertz inserts (unique to the Roubaix range) in the fork and seat stays reduce road vibration, adding another layer of comfort and control.
Shimano Ultegra Di2 and a Specialized Pro Crankset
The Specialized Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race comes equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and a Specialized Pro Crankset. Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting is precise and durable, making it the perfect drivetrain choice for almost every rider. My only gripe with the standard set-up of the Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race is the 50/34T crankset. For most lower spec bikes that are targetted to recreational riders, the traditional compact 50/34T crankset is ideal. For riders looking to challenge themselves and perform at a higher level, a pro or mid-compact crankset would be much more applicable, especially when you consider the rear cassette is an 11-28 as standard.
The high-modulus SL4 FACT 10r carbon frame and fork, Roval Rapide CL 40 Disc SCS wheels, and Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain suggests this bike is targetted at more serious riders who will appreciate the larger chain ring.
A huge tick for the Specialized Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race is that it doesn't look like an endurance bike. The white gloss frame with black on black decals stand out from the crowd without being in your face. Disc brakes are not legalised for racing, so if you are looking for a race bike, unfortunately, you need to keep looking. However, if you are looking for the perfect all purpose bike that can do everything, then the Specialized Roubaix SL4 Pro Disc Race needs to be on your list.