Specialized reinvent Roubaix endurance bike with FutureShock suspension
Specialized's genre-defining endurance bike has been overhauled for 2017
by George Scott
The Specialized Roubaix debuted in 2004 as the original, genre-defining endurance bike - now almost every bike manufacturer has a comfort-focussed machine. And while it has evolved since then, the Roubaix has now been completely reinvented, with Specialized introducing the FutureShock front suspension unit.
Named after the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, five riders have won the Hell of the North on the Roubaix since 2004, but the model year 2017 machine bears little resemblance to the bikes that have come before it. The vibration dampening Zertz inserts in the fork and seatstays are no more.
Before we get stuck into the nitty gritty, here are the key headlines about the new Roubaix:
- FutureShock front suspension introduced
- Specialized's lightest ever frame
- Updated geometry and fit options
- Six bikes from £1,900 to £7,500
While Specialized have made changes across the Roubaix, the FutureShock suspension is undoubtedly the standout feature - said to offer a 4,538 per cent improvement in front-end smoothness. That's a simply astounding figure, so what exactly is FutureShock?
In developing the latest Roubaix, Specialized once again teamed up with McLaren Applied Technologies, the Formula One engineers who also helped design the Venge ViAS aero bike, in an attempt to 'truly understand what 'smooth' actually means'. Together, McLaren and Specialized developed a piece of software called the Rolling Efficiency Simulator in an attempt to understand the effect of compliance (or, as the rider understands it, comfort) has on the efficiency of the bike.
That process told Specialized that all compliance is not equal - or, rather, there are two types of compliance: splay and axial. Splay refers to how the frame and fork is allowed to bend for and aft of the front axle, and is typically where road bike engineers have focussed their efforts. Axial compliance, on the other hand, comes from the fork being allowed to move vertically, relative to the front axle, like the suspension on a mountain bike, and makes for a far smoother ride.
The key with FutureShock, however, is that Specialized have placed the suspension above the headtube, in order to suspend the rider, rather than the bike, and avoid the inefficient 'bobbing' effect familiar on mountain bikes. Instead, when the Roubaix hits rough terrain, the bike moves towards the rider. On top of that, unlike a traditional system, the bike's wheelbase isn't changing throughout the suspension's travel, so the handling remains more predictable. 'Smoother is faster' was Specialized's goal in developing the Roubaix and comfort has to come in hand-in-hand with efficiency and speed.
FutureShock itself is a cartridge system placed within the steerer tube and provides 20mm of travel. The unit contains three springs, and the upper spring can be changed, with three options available with varying spring rates, so the rider can tweak the feel according to personal preference and the road surfaces on which they typically ride. Check out the video below for a closer look at how FutureShock works.
Specialized have focussed on front-end compliance with the Roubaix and say that adding to much compliance into the rear can affect stiffness - undoubtedly important for a bike designed for Tom Boonen to race at Paris-Roubaix, as much as it is for the rest of us to take on bashed up country lanes at the weekend. Still, Specialized haven't completely forgotten about the rear-end compliance and have dropped the seatpost clamp by 65mm, to the junction with the seatstays, to allow for most seatpost flex, without impacting on the stiffness of the rear triangle. The CG-R seatpost itself is also designed to offer a little more shock absorption. All things considered, Specialized say the Roubaix is considerably stiffer than before.
The Roubaix is also the lightest frame Specialized have ever produced - lighter than the Tarmac. The flagship S-Works version of the frame weighs a claimed 900g, compared to 966g for the Tarmac. Step away from the top-end S-Works platform and the Roubaix frame weighs a claimed 1,050g. Bear in mind, however, that the FutureShock suspension adds a claimed 295g to the overall weight.
Specialized have also tweaked the geometry, lowering the stack to bring the Roubaix closer to the Tarmac race bike, so it's possible to achieve a more aggressive position. However, Specialized have also ensured the fit is highly adjustable, with a number of headset top covers and riser handlebar options, so you can still easily achieve a relaxed, upright position.
The Roubaix is designed specifically for disc brakes, so you won't find a rim brake bike in the range - it also has room for 32mm tyres. Specialized have also developed a new set of wheels. The Roval CLX 32 carbon clinchers are specifically designed for use with a 26mm tyre (while most tyre manufacturers produce 23mm, 25mm and 28mm tyres, Specialized's road rubber comes in 24mm and 26mm widths) and comes in at a claimed 1,340g.
The final thing to know about the Roubaix, before we get into the line-up of bikes, is that some bikes will feature a 'SWAT' box at the bottom of the downtube. SWAT stands for storage, water, air, tools, so basically, it's designed to hold any ride essentials (tube, tyre levers, CO2, multi-tool etc).
For more on the new Ruby, Specialized's female-specific endurance bike, head over to our sister-site, Total Women's Cycling.
Specialized Roubaix 2017 bikes
The 2017 Roubaix range will be made up of six bikes: two made from Specialized's top-end FACT 11r carbon fibre, whereas the rest of the bikes in the line-up are constructed from Spesh's second-tier FACT 10r carbon. The S-Works chassis will also be available as a frameset only.
Here's the line-up:
Specialized S-Works Roubaix eTap - £7,500
Specialized Pro Shimano Ultegra Di2 - £5,500
Specialized Roubaix Expert Shimano Ultegra Di2 - £3,800
Specialized Roubaix Expert Shimano Ultegra - £3,200
Specialized Roubaix Comp Shimano 105 - £2,400
Specialized Roubaix Elite Shimano Ultegra - £1,900
Specialized S-Works Roubaix frameset - £2,750
- See the Specialized website for full specs.