Specialized S-Works Roubaix review

The 2019 Specialized S-Works Roubaix has a new look, a new direction and a faster ride, is it better?

Specialized S-Works Roubaix
Cycling Weekly Verdict

A great bike that'll have you flying across all of the UK without much hinderance. The new hydraulic actuated Futureshock works well to damper the ride up front but the rear feels stiff and a bit harsh. Overall the bike is agile, light and fun! I do have questions over how close all three of Specialized's road bikes are and I feel that the Roubaix needs to be a little more to differentiate it from the Tarmac.

  • +

    Fast ride

  • +

    Relatively comfortable up front

  • +

    Capable on multi terrain

  • -

    Rear end is harsh

The latest update to the Specialized Roubaix happened in spring 2019, with a new direction and in a racier form. But has the line between each model in the Specialized haul of bikes become too muddled?

Although, it looks slightly different to the others, it took a few reads of Specialized blurb to realise exactly where it sat in relation to the Tarmac and Venge.

The American giant even said that the new Specialized Roubaix is more aerodynamic than the current Tarmac and lighter than the current Venge to slightly confuse things a little further.

To put that into context, Specialized claims that the older version of the Roubaix, on which Peter Sagan won the 2018 Paris-Roubaix, is around 20 to 24 seconds slower compared to the new version, that's around eight to 10 seconds faster than the current Tarmac. Amazing I hear you cry, but that is a 30mph (or thereabouts) over 24 miles. I don't know about you but I'd be very hard pushed to hold that!

Before we continue, this isn't an out-and-out racing machine, so that is something to differentiate between the other two models.

Whilst the aerodynamics would suggest it is a racing model, the geometry is a little slacker and more 'comfortable'. For example in the equivalent 52cm size the Tarmac has a stack of 527mm and a reach of 380mm and the new Specialized Roubaix has a stack of 570mm and a reach of 368mm. That is 43mm higher and 12mm shorter than the racing bike. Other key handling measurements like wheelbase and front centre demonstrate what Specialized wanted to do with the Roubaix - i.e making it more stable.

Tarmac, wheelbase: 975mm, front centre: 577mm. Roubaix, wheelbase: 986mm, front centre: 586mm. So longer in both cases to help corner stability in fast and slow corners; but that doesn't mean it's a couch potato.

Of course weight is a factor here, with our 52cm sized S-Works model weighing 7.06kg. Frames average out around 900g according to Specialized, saving around 200g from the pervious version. That is thanks to the 11r carbon fibre used by Specialized and it is no small feat taking off that weight, especially when you consider the Futureshock inclusion up at the front.

For the high-end models like the Specialized S-Work Roubaix, the new hydraulics used are similar to how a mountain bike suspension fork would work. Oil flows through the circuit and compression and rebound are adjusted simultaneously via the dial. You don't really notice the 20mm of travel, even out of the saddle, which is an improvement on the older progressive spring model, which still can be found on the lower forms of the Roubaix.

It does however, take the sting out of the road, that is otherwise transferred to your hands and wrists. Unlike, previous versions of the future shock I've tested, I didn't notice any bounce from the suspension whilst riding out of the saddle and I wouldn't say I was losing anything when it comes to performance whilst riding.

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I've seen the Roubaix raced in a crit, without skipping a beat and I have no doubt at its ability to go fast, although I'm a little confused to why you can do that and does it take away from what the Roubaix is? An endurance bike?

With wide feeling Specialized S-Works Turbo Cotton tyres (reading 28c) the Roubaix felt effortless to ride and the front end absorbed most of the noise from the road, meaning I would say the front is very comfortable. However, the rear feels harsh, and I understand why, you need to have a bit of stiffness to improve performance. But has the Roubaix gone to far over to the performance side here? I think so.

I understand the brand's desire to move away from the arguably humdrum Roubaix of the past, but I do feel that it is stepping on the toes of the already great and already established Tarmac. If you wanted a fast ride that is capable anyway, why not look in that direction.

I feel the Roubaix needs to be a little softer, if only to differentiate from what Specialized already has.

That is not to say the new S-Works Roubaix isn't a good bike, it is a great bike, it rides really well, it is super rapid and ultimately puts a smile on my face. My issue is that it does what the Tarmac does, although, we are expecting an update from the American brand in 2020 when it comes to the Tarmac. So will that be a more aggressive racing machine?

Specialized has done what it set out to do and that was to make the Roubaix faster, for that it has done a grand job, just don't expect all day comfort at the rear.

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