Thursday, June 18, 2015

Specialized Roubaix SL4 Disc Review - 2,000 miles


If a bike = freedom, then Specialized Roubaix Disc = adventure!

For a guy that weighs 215 pounds, Specialized Roubaix SL4 with disc brakes is a really good do-it-all bike.  Here is the breakdown.
Specialized Roubaix SL4 SRAM DIsc



It's great for:
  • Weekend / group rides
  • Commuting 
  • Light / moderate offroad
  • Bad weather rides
  • Small/moderate climbs
  • Fast descents   

Not so great for:
  • Moderate / Serious climbs
  • Long commutes
  • Racing / going very fast
  • Hilly centuries
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Offroad.  This bike shines when you go offroad and hit gravel trails.  It dampens enough vibration to make you forget how fast you are going.  At some point I was going around 25 mph for 7-8 minutes on a gravel trail on 25mm road tires.  It just felt rock solid and comfortable.  Just slow down around turns and Roubaix does its magic!  And the hydraulic brakes do their job when its time to reduce speed or stop.

Road.  Just jump on the road and Roubaix performs.  It is fun to ride.  It's comfortable, stable, and precise.  It's really enjoyable to ride it for 10-15 mile rides or occasional weekend 20-30 mile group rides.

However, disc brakes and disc-specific wheels come with a weight penalty, which makes it harder to push the way you would a similar caliper-equipped carbon bike.  While you don't notice this during a 5 or 7 mile ride, you feel it in longer rides.  I get noticeably more tired on my 20 mile commute on Roubaix vs. Bianchi Vertigo, which is 1.5 - 2 pounds lighter.  And I end up going 2-3 mph slower on Roubaix.



Descending.  That's another area where Roubaix disc absolutely shines.  First, it's fast!  It's just like a rocket when it goes downhill.  Second, the steering is super precise.  Third, it's very stable on turns - no twitchiness at all.  Finally, with the hydro disc brakes you don't need to plan turns a mile ahead.  

Climbing.  This bike is not a natural climber.  You definitely fight the weight a little on steep climbs.  This said, it's not terrible and it does a good job climbing.  It just takes more effort and time to climb. IIt does a good job when the climbing is not combined with a century-type ride.

Centuries.  While Roubaix Disc does a decent job on longer flat rides, it's harder to push than lighter bikes. I did a 85 mile ride with 5,000 feet climb on it.  I would have been fine if the need for speed and need to race was not a factor.  It was just frustrating at times how much effort it took to get it going fast to compare with my other bikes.
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UPGRADES.

   





Brakes.  With SRAM hydraulic disc recall,  this bike was modified with SRAM Force shifters and BB7 Road mechanical disc brakes. This was my second bike with BB7s.  They were pretty noisy. They  also rubbed forcing me to adjust these brakes constantly.

I ended up swapping them to TRP HI/RD.  These are hydraulic brakes that work with your existing shifters.  They are fantastic.  Much better stopping power -- both in dry and wet conditions.  They are self adjusting, so there is almost no squeaking or grinding noise.



Wheels.  The stock Axis 2.0 wheels were ridiculously heavy.

During the process of looking for replacement wheels, I discovered that it is hard to find a good disc-specific wheelset that can handle a heavier person and is not outrageously expensive.

I ended up going with Easton EA 90 XDs that weigh 1,620 grams for $700. They are still not very light, but they are at least 300-400 grams lighter than the stock wheels.

These wheels roll well, handle offroad very well, stop well, and are known for being "bombproof".  The only negative is that it is extremely difficult to mount / unmount tires.  So fixing a flat can become a bigger chore that it needs to be.


Crankset.  The stock crankset was OK, but I felt a little flex (and they were not pretty), so I ended up going with the SRAM Red, which looks fantastic and rides well.

Besides these, I upgraded the front derailleur to SRAM Red, the saddle to Specialized Romin Evo Pro, and the bar tape to Lizard Skin.

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All in all, it's a great bike that I enjoy taking offroad, on short rides, and occasional long rides.  It gets frequent compliments on its looks of a "Batman bike".

The bottomline is that this is a great bike if you are looking for a single bike that can do it all - offroad, commuting on the road, group rides, and just venturing out!






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