The Specialized Roubaix is widely regarded as a superb sportive bike, but is this entry-level version as impressive as its better-specced brothers?

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 9
Weight:
Weight:

Pros:

  • Excellent frameset
  • Very comfortable ride quality
  • Sensible spread of gears

Cons:

  • There are better specced bikes out there for the same money - but that's not the whole story
  • DT Axis wheels are heavy and flexy

Product:

Specialized Roubaix SL4

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£1,300.00

The Specialized Roubaix, in all its variations, is one of the most popular bikes among serious leisure road riders — it’s a real MAMIL favourite. This, though, is a bottom-of-the-range version, so some compromises have been made — not least in weight.

Professional cycle sport might be all about marginal gains, but in the Roubaix’s case that works against it: the cheaper gearset, brakeset and wheelset have gained it plenty of mass and it weighs in at a relatively lardy 9.2kg.

The reason the Roubaix is so noticeable popular is due to its distinctive frame shape. The gentle curve of the top tube is now copied by a few imitators, but its lightning-flash shock-absorbing Zertz inserts remain exclusive to Specialized.

Even in this basic version, the Roubaix is an exceptionally refined product. Internal cable routing is used throughout. It has a classy matt grey finish. And the top of the top tube proudly displays its Paris-Roubaix-winning credentials.

Gently sloping top tube of the Specialized Roubaix SL4

Gently sloping top tube of the Specialized Roubaix SL4

Simple surprises
On paper, against most bikes costing £1,300, the Roubaix SL4 looks woefully under-packaged. If we accept Shimano 105 is the default gearset for serious road riders, then Sora — two steps down Shimano’s range — should be a disappointment. However, it works securely; it switches gears without worry, and there are no nasty noises. OK, it’s only nine-speed, the brake levers are a tad creaky, and it’s not as refined as 105, but it’s far from a let-down in practice.


Watch: Groupset buyer’s guide


Rather than Sora brakes, DT Axis 1.0 calipers are fitted. They look a bit like Campagnolo brakes that have been on the pies but, again, they work without fault. There’s also a set of DT Axis wheels, which were slightly less impressive — out-the-saddle efforts made them ping and flex. The Specialized finishing kit is all good stuff, especially the chunky bar tape, and there’s a quick dash of luxury with a carbon seatpost.

Shimano Sora groupset on the Gently sloping top tube of the Specialized Roubaix SL4

Shimano Sora groupset on the Gently sloping top tube of the Specialized Roubaix SL4

Perfect composure
From the off, the Roubaix’s level of comfort is quite staggering. Every lump and bump — up to substantial potholes — can be brushed off as just a minor annoyance. In terms of day-long escapades, it’s hard to think of a more forgiving machine.

It’s not like wallowing in marshmallow, though, there’s still a very direct nature to the Roubaix. Through the turns it’s great fun, although less a point-and-shoot, more a stable platform to sweep through bends. And climbing is made easy with the 32-tooth biggest sprocket, compact chainset, and the impressive tracking of the back wheel.

In fact, in the saddle, you soon forget about any losses on the spec sheet. At this price point, for the sportive-friendly market, the Roubaix is still the standard by which all others must be judged.

Zertz inserts aid comfort on the Shimano Sora groupset on the Gently sloping top tube of the Specialized Roubaix SL4

Zertz inserts aid comfort on the Shimano Sora groupset on the Gently sloping top tube of the Specialized Roubaix SL4

See the Specialized site for their road bike range, specialized.com

Verdict

Bargain hunters may argue that no bike costing more than £1,200 should be fitted with Shimano Sora, but in the Roubaix’s case you have to make an exception. This is simply a beautifully smooth, near-perfect ride.

Details

Frame:Carbon with Zertz inserts
Fork:Carbon with Zertz inserts
Gears:Shimano Sora 11-32 cassette
Chainset:Shimano Sora compact
Wheels:DT Axis 1.0
Brakes:DT Axis 1.0
Tyres:Specialized Espoir 25c
Bar/Stem:Specialized Comp shallow bend aluminium / Specialized Comp-Set aluminium
Saddle:Specialized Body Geometry Riva Road
Seatpost:Specialized Comp carbon
Size range:49, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61cm
Weight:9.2kg / 20.3lb (56cm)
Contact:www.specialized.com
  • peter

    BIKE NUMBER 1: Frame cracked under front derailleur bracket after a few months. It wasn’t visible but caused all sorts of problems with gearing and performance. Had it back 5 times to bike shop but they couldn’t find the problem. Finally I found evidence of the crack, which turned out to be almost 3cm hidden underneath the bracket. Thankfully Specialised replaced the frame under warranty.

    BIKE NUMBER 2: Brand new late 2015 frame delivered and bike shop built up with gear from 1st bike. Going beautifully until 5th ride and loud noise at about 35km/hr – the frame cracked 1/2 around the seat tube in almost a straight line. Thankfully the crack was about 6cm above the seat post which held the seat tube together otherwise a very dangerous crash would have resulted.

    BIKE NUMBER 3: NOT A SPECIALISED ROUBAIX SWORKS

    (note – neither bike had been in an accident or impacted)

  • Brendan Delaney

    I upgraded mine too (a SL4 Sport Triple).
    – Full Ultegra 10 speed Triple
    – 3T Carbon team compact handlebars
    – Mavic Ksyrium Elite S.
    I could have just gone with the SL4 Elite, but I wanted a triple, and all in with the bike on sale and all the bits on offer too from Wiggle etc it came in at £2,300.

  • Gkiter

    I have the 2014 SL4 Sport, after replacing the Axis wheels with 38mm carbon clinchers, race tyres and tubes and Ultegra break calipers it’s a great bike at 18Lbs. With inflation around 85-90Lbs the bike is super smooth but when I ride with a group I inflate at 110 to avoid pothole punctures then it’s not as smooth anymore. I also got a new seat, hated the stock one. Wish they would sell the frame alone (they only sell the pricey S-Works) so it can be personalized. For the next one, I’ll go with disc breaks though.