Specialized 2017 road bikes – first look: Venge ViAS Disc, Tarmac Disc, Allez Sprint, Sequoia, Roval wheels and more
Specialized's 2017 range includes something for everyone, whether you're a racer, sportive rider or planning an adventure
Specialized have been busy over the past 12 months, with the Venge ViAS Disc aero bike, Roubaix endurance bike and Sequoia adventure/touring bike all introduced as part of a revamped model year 2017 line-up.
Add to that the arrival of the race-bred, aluminium Allez DSW SL Sprint in the UK, and the existing Tarmac and Diverge models, and there’s just about something for everyone from Specialized.
So we stopped by the American firm’s UK headquarters in Chessington to check out what’s new. There’s plenty to ogle over, so strap yourself in for a tour of the highlights of Specialized’s 2017 road bike range.
Specialized Venge ViAS Disc
Specialized launched the Venge ViAS ahead of the Tour de France – and now it’s available with disc brakes. In fact, Specialized say the Venge ViAS was always meant to be a disc-equipped bike, but with the UCI stalling on the legalisation of disc brakes in the pro peloton, the rim brake bike launched first.
Now, however, the Venge ViAS Disc has arrived on the scene and it’s very much the jewel in the crown, as far as Specialized and aero bikes are concerned. Specialized haven’t just dropped disc brakes on the rim brake frame, they’ve completely reworked the chassis in their own wind tunnel to negate any potential aerodynamic deficit caused by disc brakes. In fact, Specialized say the Venge ViAS Disc is just as fast in the wind tunnel as the regular Venge ViAS.
Changes to the frame include a new, smaller rear triangle, as well as a completely revamped front end – and those changes mean the frameset’s actually lighter than the rim brake Venge ViAS, mostly because Specialized have been able to lose a lot of material needed to hide the proprietary integrated brakes on the rim brake frame, so any weight gain from using disc brakes has been offset, too.
Otherwise, Specialized have opted for 12mm thru-axles to secure the wheels and the now ubiquitous flat mount standard to fix the disc brake calipers to the frame. Questions have been raised about the braking power delivered by the existing Venge ViAS’ integrated calipers, but disc brakes will solve that in a heartbeat.
Lighter, just as fast and with better braking? All that means it’s little surprise the Venge ViAS Disc takes centre stage in the Specialized aero range for 2017, with three disc-equipped bikes, compared to two for the rim brake Venge ViAS.
The S-Works Venge ViAS Disc eTap pictured here tops the disc range, with a SRAM Red eTap groupset and Roval Rapide CLX 64 Disc wheels for £8,500. Step down a level and the Venge ViAS Pro Disc UDi2 comes with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and Roval Rapide CL 64 Disc wheels for £6,000.
The Venge ViAS Expert Disc Ultegra is the most affordable bike in the range and comes with Shimano Ultegra and DT R470 Disc Pro hoops for £3,900. You can also put together your own build, with the S-Works Venge ViAS Disc frameset costing £3,000.
If you want a rim brake Venge ViAS, then the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2-equipped S-Works Venge ViAS Di2 comes in at £9,000 with Roval Rapide CLX 64 wheels, while the Venge Pro ViAS costs £6,000 with Shimano Dura-Ace and Roval CL 64 wheels, and the S-Works frameset costs £3,500.
The Roubaix has been a stalwart of the Specialized range and has gradually evolved since it was first launched back in 2004 – now Spesh’s endurance bike has had its biggest update yet, with the introduction of the ground-breaking Futureshock front suspension unit.
We covered the launch of the 2017 Roubaix in detail – head this way for the full story – but will cover the key details again here. As we’ve already mentioned, the Futureshock suspension is the headline-grabber here. It’s a spring-loaded unit placed above the headtube, designed to suspend the rider and offer up to 20mm of travel in order to soak up the vibrations served up by rough roads.
Specialized say the axial compliance (or, in other words, vertical movement) delivered by Futureshock is far more effective than the splay compliance (whereby the carbon tubes are engineered so they’re allowed to flex fore and aft) which bike manufacturers typically focus on – to the tune of a 4,538 per cent improvement over the existing Roubaix.
Futureshock aside, while Specialized say front-end compliance has the biggest impact on a bike’s comfort, they’ve also sought to soften the rear by lowering the seatpost clamp to the junction with the seatstays, while the CG-R seatpost itself is also designed to offer a little more shock absorption.
The geometry has also been updated, with the Roubaix now having a racier slant than ever by placing the rider in a slightly more aggressive position, though Specialized have also developed a riser handlebar for the Roubaix, so endurance/sportive riders can still achieve a relaxed, upright position if they want to.
The frame is said to be significantly stiffer than its predecessor. It’s also Specialized’s lightest ever frame, at a claimed 900g for the top-level S-Works frame (the regular Roubaix weighs a claimed 1,050g), though the Futureshock unit adds 295g. The final thing to mention is the Roubaix is now disc-only.
On to the bikes, and there are six models in the 2017 Roubaix range, with varying levels of frame to account for the rise in price, alongside upgraded components. The £1,900 Roubaix Elite (Shimano 105) is the most affordable bike and the line-up then moves through the £2,400 Roubaix Comp (Shimano Ultegra), £3,200 Roubaix Expert (Shimano Ultegra), £3,800 Roubaix Expert UDi2 (Shimano Ultegra Di2), £5,500 Roubaix Pro UDi2 (Shimano Ultegra Di2) and £7,500 S-Works Roubaix eTap (SRAM Red eTap).
The Tarmac is Specialized’s all-round race frame and the bike you’re most likely to see their sponsored pro riders on. The current version of the frame was launched ahead of the 2014 Giro d’Italia, when Specialized introduced their ‘Rider First Engineered’ design concept, whereby a specific tube shape and carbon layup is applied to every frame size, to ensure a consistent ride quality regardless of whether you’re riding a 49cm frame or a 61cm frame.
Specialized were also ahead of the game then in launching the Tarmac in both rim brake and disc brake versions. However, such is the fast-moving disc-equipped road bike market, the Tarmac Disc has become a little dated.
At the time, the industry hadn’t quite settled on axle standards, so Specialized stuck with quick releases and moved the cassette inboard to account for the switch from a 130mm standard road hub to a 135mm disc hub, while retaining the Tarmac’s short chainstays. That requires the use of wheels from Spesh’s own Roval brand, so, with 12mm thru-axles developing as the standard for disc-equipped road bikes, we expect Specialized to update the Tarmac Disc next year.
Let’s focus on the current Tarmac Disc range for now, though. At the top-end there’s the S-Works Tarmac Disc eTap, which comes with, you guessed it, a SRAM Red eTap groupset for £7,500. The Tarmac Pro Disc Ultegra Di2 is next, for £5,000, before you’ll find the Tarmac Expert Disc with Shimano Ultegra for £3,000 and the Tarmac Comp Disc, again with Shimano Ultegra but using a lower grade of carbon fibre on the frame, to drop the price to £2,600.
As for the rim brake bikes, the S-Works Tarmac eTap comes in at £7,000, then there’s the S-Works Tarmac Dura-Ace for £6,000 and, if you step down a level, you’ll meet the Tarmac Expert eTap for £4,500.
Move down again and the latest version of the Tarmac frame is now available at Comp level for 2017, coming with Shimano Ultegra for £2,400. Beyond that, the old (but still very good, as our review from earlier this year proved) SL4 frame takes over, with two bikes on offer: the £1,800 Elite (Shimano Ultegra) and £1,500 Sport (Shimano 105).
The Allez has been Specialized’s entry-level, aluminium road bike for as long as we can remember – and very popular it is, too. But over the last couple of years, the Allez has added another string to its bow as a high-performance race bike.
Aluminium has enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent years as a metal – and alternative to carbon fibre – from which to make a lightweight but affordable race bikes, and Specialized have been among the brands leading the charge with the Allez DSW SL – described as a “reliable crit-racing weapon”. The Allez DSW SL was only available in the US last year, but now it’s coming to the UK.
It’s the most advanced Allez frame in the range and uses Specialized’s SmartWeld whereby the ends of the hydroformed top and downtubes are rolled and then welded inside the headtube to create a significantly stiffer front-end, while also helping to keep the weight down. In fact, the claimed frame weight is just 1,150g for a 56cm frame.
All in all, Specialized say this is the stiffest aluminium frame they’ve ever tested and that’s also due to the innovative bottom bracket design, where two hydroformed sections are brazed together to create an oversized shell, which has much more in common with a carbon bike than an alloy one.
Add to that the aero-profiled tubes and the Allez DSW SL is undoubtedly an alloy machine built with one thing in mind – speed. There are two bikes available, with the Allez DSW SL Sprint Expert coming with a mix of Shimano Ultegra and Shimano 105 components for £1,500, while the Allez DSW SL Sprint Comp is equipped with Shimano 105 bits for £1,300.
Otherwise, the ‘regular’ Allez is still available, with an entry-level alloy frame aimed at new riders. Choose from the Allez E5 (£525, Shimano Claris), the Allez E5 Sport (£675, Shimano Sora) and the Allez E5 Elite (£800, Shimano Tiagra).
Until now, the Diverge has been Specialized’s adventure bike, based around a carbon frame with a relaxed, all-day, go-anywhere geometry and clearance for 35mm tyres. Now there’s a new addition to Specialized’s adventure stable – the Sequoia.
While the Diverge has more of a performance edge, the Sequoia is designed for true adventures. “Consider the open road a blank sheet primed for a tale of adventure, and the Sequoia, your pen to write it with,” say Specialized. “It blurs the lines of convention, finding itself equally well versed on the road, in the dirt, and 200 kilometres deep into a bike tour.”
The Sequoia is based around a hardy chromoly steel frame, with mounts for mudguards, racks and a third water bottle, plus even more tyre clearance than the Diverge (all bikes come with 42mm tyres) – this is a bike for the long haul.
Specialized say the geometry ‘skews the line between a traditional road bike and a dedicated touring rig’, with a long wheelbase and low bottom bracket to add control, but relatively short chainstays and traditional tube angles to ensure the Sequoia is still a lively, quick ride.
Specialized are offering the Sequoia in three builds. The regular Sequoia comes with a steel fork, Shimano Alivio/Sora groupset, Tektro Spyre mechanical disc brakes, dedicated Specialized Adventure Gear Hayfield wheels and Specialized Adventure Gear Sawtooth 2Bliss Ready tubeless tyres for £950.
Step up to the £1,500 Sequoia Elite and you get a carbon fork, Shimano 105 groupset, hydraulic disc brakes and the same wheel/tyre combination as the entry-level model, while the £2,500 Sequoia Expert comes with a SRAM Force/Rival groupset, hydraulic disc brakes and upgraded Specialized Adventure Gear Cruzero wheels.
While the Sequoia has rack mounts, you’ll notice in our photos that it’s equipped with Specialized’s new Burra Burra bikepacking bags. Bikepacking is an emerging trend – which makes sense given the rise in versatile adventure bikes – and bags like this are designed to offer plenty of capacity, without necessarily having to use a fully-fledged rack.
The name Burra Burra comes from a trail in Specialized’s native California and the bags are designed to be highly water resistant. They’re made from a tough nylon fabric, with welded seams and weather-resistant zips. The range is primarily made up of a seatpack (20-litre and 10-litre options), frame pack, toptube pack, handlebar pack and, our favourite, a pizza bag. See the Specialized website for more.
Roval CLX 32 and SLX 24 wheels
Finally, let’s take a look at two key new sets of hoops from Roval, Specialized’s in-house wheel brand.
The CLX 32 is completely new and replaces the old CLX 40. It’s a carbon clincher designed, Specialized say, to be tough enough for cyclo-cross racing and light enough for mountain climbing.
How much do they weight then? A claimed 1,280g for the set. Specialized have also developed a new rim profile, which is wider (measuring 21mm internally) and said to offer improved performance with a 25mm or 28mm tyres, as well as boosting aerodynamics.
As disc brake bikes become more and more popular, there’s an even wider range of disc wheel options for riders and the CLX 32 is evidence of that, while Specialized have also introduced the Roval SLX 24 Disc as a “no nonsense” alloy wheelset. It’s still light, at a claimed 1,515g, and measures 20mm internally to once again provide a solid footprint with a wide tyre. Yours for £550.
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