A bike with women's-specific geometry, rather than just a shrunken men's frame, Jocelyn Mack got to grips with the Specialized Ruby Elite Disc
It is only recently that manufacturers have started to take the female bike market seriously. The days when a bike maker’s nonchalant shoulder shrug was followed by an exclamation of ‘shrink it and pink it!’ no longer cuts the mustard in a market where savvy shoppers are demanding more comfort and performance from their machines.
Specialized is one of the few companies that has put much research into its women’s range, with all models offering female-tailored geometry and contact points. The Ruby Elite Disc is marketed as an endurance bike and promises comfort over any road.
While the Ruby may look like a shrunken version of the men’s Roubaix, it is far from it. The female-specific geometry offers a taller head tube, longer seatstays and a shorter top tube: especially good news to the more petite rider.
These welcome features bring a degree of comfort to long rides and result in a more upright position, as you would expect to see on an endurance bike.
Composed of Specialized FACT 9 carbon, the Ruby is a touch heavier than others in the women’s range made from the lighter FACT11, but surprisingly that doesn’t hold it back. You may not leave the peloton behind in a cloud of dust, but the bike has some poke when required.
The Zertz vibration dampers on the forks and seatstays are effective, and though riding over the potholed roads of the UK will never be vibration-free, this bike does a good job at smoothing out the ride.
It’s not just the geometry that makes this a comfortable ride. It is enhanced further with female-specific contact points: handlebars narrower in width and with shallower drops, a women’s saddle and shorter, 165mm cranks for more efficient power transfer.
As with many bikes across the Specialized range, an FSA chainset deviates from the rest of the groupset, which is SRAM Rival in this instance. Shifting wasn’t totally without fault, with a few derailments out on the road.
The 34/50 up front complemented with a 11/32 will see you up tough gradients in the Lakes, take the edge off Alpine climbing and see you hold your own on the club run.
Some may argue that a compact isn’t needed on UK roads. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and I found a use for it. Stronger riders may want to upgrade this but it certainly does the job.
The real head-turner on the Ruby are the disc brakes.
While they do add weight, this minor disadvantage is outweighed by their more responsive performance, which is unaffected by inclement weather. Disc brakes are a welcome addition on an endurance bike, especially if you plan on taking your bike on long Alpine rides or use it with chunkier tyres on bridleways.
The Specialized Ruby Elite Disc took on the Étape du Tour
The Ruby Elite Disc offers a stable ride, and even though it only just scrapes in under the 9kg mark, it is reassuringly responsive.
Riding it on this year’s Etape du Tour was the ultimate test. The Ruby held its line well on the descents, sweeping around tight hairpin bends and riding well out of the corners. It even felt stable under slower climbing conditions.
The tricky descent off the Croix de Fer felt solid with the discs instilling extra confidence. Just a touch of the brake lever and the bike comes under command.
Resisting the urge to swap in a tried-and-tested saddle, I gave the Lithia Comp Gel a fair shot and was pleasantly surprised with its degree of comfort. The cutout section is a defining feature to staying happy on long miles.
If you’re looking to move away from entry-level models, this is a solid bike that will see you to the end of whatever ride you choose to tackle.
This sits well in a competitive market at the £2,000 price point. With a few key upgrades, such as lighter wheels, you could have yourself a decent all-year-round machine.
With each fiercely sweeping descent in the Alps, with each tough gradient on Dartmoor and with each tight hairpin bend on the island of Majorca, this bike impressed. It’s clearly a well thought-out machine that hits the nail on the head when it comes to female geometry and endurance riding. The disc brakes are the show-stealer, and with disc brakes now being tested in the professional peloton, will we one day look back fondly and laugh over rim brakes? To me, discs are a no-brainer: they offer the extra degree of control and confidence on long descents and, more importantly, in all weathers. The only downside to the Ruby was the odd missed gear — as the set-up needed tweaking — and the occasional dropped chain