The Specialized Roubaix was first introduced in 2004, and has continuously evolved ever since. As Specialized implemented the latest technological advancements, it always stayed true to the Roubaix’s roots — to be an endurance road bike light enough to race, yet rugged and comfortable enough to excel on the roughest roads.
What Roubaix is right for you?
Though the Specialized Roubaix has its roots in pro bike racing, it’s become a versatile bike great for just about everyone. Here we’ll cover technology, evolution, notable models, and why this bike is such a great pick for a wide variety of riders. Depending on your budget, there’s an option for everything from entry-level, to the same bike the pros are riding in Northern France.
History of the Roubaix
First run in 1896, Paris-Roubaix is one of the oldest bike races in the world. The one-day spring classic features mud, wind, and tons of (sometimes wet) cobblestones. Specialized created its Roubaix with the course in mind — a bike that would make such a ride a little less abusive.The Specialized theory has always been that a smoother ride means a faster ride, and decreasing fatigue means an overall stronger performance.
Rodney Hines, the inventor of the Specialized Roubaix, knew that riders could be faster with a bike more equipped for the terrain. Road racing bikes in the late 1990s were stiff with steep angles and short chainstays. This made them great for climbing, but not great for rough surfaces. Plus, they couldn’t fit wide tires. With the Roubaix, Hines hoped to improve comfort after many hours in the saddle.
The first-generation Specialized Roubaix.
The 2004 version of the Roubaix featured a longer, more stable wheelbase than had been seen on road bikes before. Initially, “suspension” on the bike came from Specialized’s Zertz technology. Zertz inserts are elastomers inserted into the fork legs, seat stays, and seatpost. They helped dampen vibration and increase comfort. Then, in 2017, some big changes came with the fifth-generation Roubaix. Specialized did away with the Zertz inserts and introduced Future Shock. Built into the headset, Future Shock provided 20mm of active suspension at the front of the bike. Rear compliance was improved as well with a longer CG-R seatpost paired with a low twin-bolt seat clamp to allow for more flex.
The evolution of the Roubaix looked like this:
-Create a bike with a longer wheelbase that could fit wider tires and generally lessen rider fatigue from rough roads
-Use of Zertz technology throughout
2008-2010 Roubaix SL2
-Improved overall torsional and rear-triangle stiffness
Zertz inserts were a hallmark design feature of the early Specialized Roubaix bikes.
2011-2012 Roubaix SL3
-Lighter carbon frame
-New and improved Zertz visco-elastic dampers
2012-2017 Roubaix SL4
-Tapered fork and head tube to improve torsional stiffness
-New carbon tubes and lay-up tuned for each size
-Disc brakes introduced
-CG-R seatpost introduced
2017-2019 Roubaix with Future Shock
-Switch from Zertz to Future Shock and tuned seatpost flex
-Clearance for bigger 32mm tires
-Added S.W.A.T. storage container
The SWAT storage box was a clever addition to late-model Roubaix bikes.
-Lighter, more aerodynamic frame
-CG-R seatpost replaced with aerodynamic Pavé seatpost
-S-Works and Pro builds use Future Shock 2.0
-Other build levels an improved Future Shock 1.5 system
The latest Specialized S-Works Roubaix is state of the art.
Specialized tweaked the Roubaix several times for various athletes and with the constant goal to improve the bike for the varied conditions of the famed race. Here are a few of our favorite builds that we’ve seen at TPC.
The SL4 brought upgrades that included a curved brake bridge which allowed for more flex. It also moved to a tapered fork and headtube to balance stiffness and compliance. Finally, this model introduced the CG-R seatpost, a carbon post that offered more flex, literally. When the wheels hit a bump, the seatpost flexes and the saddle moves back. It’s not quite like mountain bike suspension, but does offer noticeable relief on bumpy roads. The new seatpost, with a cobra-shaped mount, provided 18mm of vertical compliance to improve ride comfort.
Perhaps the most notable upgrade came in 2017 with the addition of Future Shock, 20mm of active suspension positioned above the headtube. But unlike a mountain bike, with suspension in the fork legs, Future Shock is positioned under the stem, isolating the hands and upper body from the fatigue of rough terrain.
No other bike has been used to win the Paris-Roubaix more times than the Specialized Roubaix, and in 2018 Peter Sagan rode the bike to its sixth victory. This signature trim features the same 20mm travel Future Shock, a CeramicSpeed bottom bracket, CG-R seatpost, and a full SWAT™ box — a repair kit integrated into the frame.
This version of the Roubaix is made with FACT 11r carbon fiber, making it incredibly light. And the Rider-First Engineered™ construction means that every size is consistent in terms of performance.
Like the Sagan Superstar line, this bike has all of the updates that make it fast and smooth, plus the SRAM eTap wireless shifting and featherweight Roval CLX 32 carbon wheels.
The 2020 model is more aero, even lighter, and has geometry closer to a classic road racing bike. But, it’s still comfortable and smooth like its reputation. They also added the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, which, compared to SRAM AXS’s smaller chainrings and wider cassette range, is a more traditional combination.
Possibly one of the nicest bikes money can buy. With a revamped version of the Future Shock (2.0) that allows a lockout option on the suspension, a new Pavé seatpost, aerodynamics equal to all out performance racing frames, lighter than ever, and somehow still comfortable on the cobbles.
Endurance bikes allow riders to go farther and explore all kinds of roads. While the Roubaix was designed with elite racing in mind, the technology and comfort make it an exceptionally versatile bike. It’s far less aggressive than most road racing bikes, so it’s great for both a casual cyclist who wants a smooth ride, and a racer who often trains and competes on rough terrain.
Overall, if you want the more active compliance of the Future Shock, you’ll want bikes newer than 2017. If you want the aerodynamic features, the upgraded carbon fiber, and the latest electronic shifting, you’ll want 2020 and 2021 models.