For riders looking for an endurance specialist that does a great job of killing road shocks then the Specialized Roubaix Comp fits the bill incredibly well. It's good looking, dependable and has the sort of component list that will stand the test of time. Just don't expect it to light up the roads with a blistering turn of speed or an anti-gravity level of climbing prowess.
Future shock does a good job of smoothing out the road
Heavy wheels suck away potential speed
By James Bracey
*NB - at time of review, this bike retailed at £3,400.
A lot has been said about Specialized's long standing endurance road bike in the years since it was first debuted in 2004. It's been through many changes in the sixteen years since and this latest version has seen the brand push the emphasis back towards the performance end of the market. In fact this new version is supposed to rival even the race oriented Tarmac and Venge bikes in terms of aerodynamic prowess.
We have already tested (and really liked) the top S-Works Roubaix but this Comp version sits very much in the more affordable camp at just over a third of the price of the S-Works. So does it share the same performance or is anything lost in translation?
The Roubaix Comp shares an identical frame design as all other bikes in the range, the main differentiator being the grade of carbon fibre used in the construction and the suspension system used in the fork. The Comp uses FACT 10R carbon, the same even as found on the £6,400 Pro version. In fact, it's only the S-Works version that uses the lighter and stiffer FACT 11R carbon.
It follows a design that Specialized call 'Rider First Engineering'. This approach tailors tubing profiles and lengths as well as tuning stiffness and compliance characteristics dependent upon frame size. It's not a unique approach, other brands follow a similar system but what it does ensure is no matter your frame size, frame performance should be optimal for you. It should also be noted that Specialized are offering the Roubaix Comp in an impressive range of sizes, from 44cm all the way through to a 64cm frame.
With Specialized boasting of the aerodynamic improvements of the Roubaix, figuring every rider can benefit from a faster bike, it comes down to the frame measurements to start differentiating the Roubaix from Specialized's racier bike ranges. As to be expected the reach and stack figures build the classic picture of the Roubaix being shorter and taller. The same can be said for the longer chainstays for increased stability, although interestingly even though the wheelbase increases by a corresponding 5mm on the 56cm tested, bigger sizes see the wheelbase increase by much larger amounts.
The head tube length is actually shorter on the Roubaix when compared directly to the Tarmac but this leads neatly on to the Roubaix's USP, the Future Shock. This clever unit sits underneath the stem and extends down into the frame and fork and provides up to 20mm of suspension movement at the stem and handlebar. The Comp comes with the more basic 1.5 version that lacks any form of external adjustment to change the amount of movement. The bike is provided with three springs to tune the movement to rider weight or preferred feel. It's also a simple procedure to swap springs so anyone can do it at home. It does add height under the stem and in the lowest setting still adds 45mm to the stack height, thus making the minimum stem height for the Roubaix much higher than the equivalent Tarmac.
Finally, it's really good to see Specialized has reverted to a threaded bottom bracket for the Roubaix. This should hopefully eliminate the inevitable creaks associated with the alternative press-fit BB's.
Shimano's reliable Ultegra R8000 mechanical groupset takes care of shifting and braking on the Comp. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this groupset (apart from noisy brake rotors in the wet) but the Roubaix is one of the most expensive bikes that comes with the mechanical version. Many of its rivals are offering a similar spec for at least a couple of hundred pounds cheaper.
The Roubaix Comp's DT Swiss R470 Disc wheelset is, like the groupset, a reliable workhorse. They don't add any razzle dazzle to the performance, in fact they imbue the Roubaix Comp with a ride feel that seems to actively discourage hard efforts. Feeling more at home at a more sedate and steady ride speed, they have been chosen to add a level of durability that means the Roubaix should feel safe and solid even riding on forest tracks if you so wish.
The Specialized Turbo Pro tyres offer reliable levels of grip and technically should be quite fast but this version has a very stiff carcass that lacks the supple nature of more expensive versions so making it deflect easier and just feel a little wooden. It's also disappointing to see the tyres aren't tubeless compatible, something that should be encouraged with this type of bike.
As is usual with Specialized, the rest of the component list is all in-house. I'm not a fan of the aesthetics of the Hover bar but can see why riders who want a taller position without resorting to a huge spacer stack like it. The proprietary carbon Pave seatpost, in conjunction with the unique seat clamp, does a great job of dissipating road shock and is easy to adjust, although if you want to run an oval railed saddle you need additional parts. A highlight for me is the inclusion of the frankly excellent Power saddle. In this instance a more heavily padded Sport version that offered plenty of cushioning and comfort.
If you have read our review of the S-Works Roubaix, our main gripe with that bike was the incongruous 'stiff back-end', fortunately the lower grade Roubaix Comp doesn't suffer from the same issue. Yes of course the frame and build is heavier and the Future Shock is less refined but in most aspects this model retains the comfort and road smoothing ability the Roubaix built its reputation on.
It's not a bike that blows you away with a blistering turn of speed, although it is capable - with a few choice component changes - of mixing it in a local road race or fast club run. It's more Rolls Royce than Lamborghini in terms of performance and the emphasis is most certainly on getting you to the end of the ride and still be able to walk and function afterwards.
The Future Shock is an impressive addition and really does help to take the sting out of the roads. It effectively feels like you are running a much larger volume tyre on the front and even running through large potholes that normally jar your wrists are dealt with with very little feedback through the bars. Make sure you play around with the spring rate as this can have a big impact on how refined the movement feels.
Climbing on the Roubaix is dealt with without fuss. Thanks to the wide gear spread it can tackle any climb you fancy and in most cases still have gears in reserve, leaving you a little fresher to attack the rest of the ride. Due to the slightly chunky overall weight and wheels it does feel better climbing in the saddle than trying to attack out of the saddle when it just felt like there wasn't enough forward momentum for the amount of power put in.
One aspect of the Roubaix Comp that is really positive is the handling. It errs just to the right side of neutral and descends very predictably; exactly what you need from this style of machine. As stock, with the high Future Shock position and the tall Hover bar, the front end is very comfortable but at the expense of steering response. After lowering the Future Shock and running it with the lower cover the Roubaix felt much more engaging and I was able to really push on descents without the feeling the bike was going to understeer around corners.
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