2018 Specialized Roubaix Expert Review
What does define a modern endurance bike for an XXL rider? For me, the top 3 are:
- Comfortable, non-jarring ride -- even when you go over chopped up surfaces
- Ability to get going fast quickly and without too much of a frame / component flex
- Fun with hills -- easy to climb and safe to descend
And then there aesthetics. I like a classy look that stands out from the sea of look-alike shapes and colors.
2018 Specialized Roubaix Expert in Chameleon Purple / Blue delivers on 90% of these requirements.
2018 Specialized Roubaix just glides over road imperfections and small potholes. It is smoother than any road bike I have ridden and tested. The difference is even more pronounced when you do back-to-back tests rides on various bikes. I tested 2016 Bianchi Infinito CV vs 2018 Trek Domane SL6 vs 2018 Specialized Roubaix Expert.
The riding impressions may be different for lighter riders, but for an XXL cyclist weighting 230 lbs, Roubaix was just amazing. Trek Domane was very bouncy and somewhat jarring. In fact, I returned the demo bike after just two miles, cutting my planned 15 mile test ride short. Bianchi Infinito CV was smoother, but a little flexy, giving me a feeling like it is battling me when I try to get going.
Specialized Roubaix was just amazing! Smooth, comfortable, fairly fast, and controllable.
Future Shock. The future shock, which is a spring-based system right under the stem, absorbs the shocks and makes a huge difference.
Just like many other people I spoke with, I thought of future shock as just a gimmick. I was sarcastic until I actually rode the bike. It truly does smooth out the ride and makes it much more enjoyable over both short and long distances.
This became even more pronounced during last week's Tierra Bella metric century, which was the 5th time I have done it -- each time on a different bike. This ride was by far the smoothest. The Roubaix absorbed road cracks, imperfections, and little potholes. You almost don't feel them. Larger potholes were much more gentle on the body as well. It all added up to a fun, smooth, and fast ride.
I swapped it out on my previous Roubaix (SL4) in favor of a regular carbon seat post. That made my ride more precise and less "floaty", where I could feel the road without flexing too much.
On this version of Roubaix, Specialized has moved the seat post clamp lower, reducing the flex a bit. So far, I like the ride. There is still a little flex, but that may be a good thing, where it takes road vibrations out and makes the ride really smooth. I will be able to test it more during this weekend's Sea Otter 91-mile Gran Fondo ride.
Frame. The Specialized Roubaix 10r carbon frame is noticeably stiffer than my previous 2014 Roubaix SL4 9r with Zertz, making it easier to get rolling and keep the speed without wasting a lot of effort. It is also noticeably faster (due to geometry changes) than SL4 Roubaix.
This stiffer frame makes it is easy to get the bike moving, accelerate, and maintain the speed. My only gripe is that it doesn't accelerate quite like a race bike, e.g. Specialized Tarmac or Pinarello F10 or Colnago C64. But for me, it is 90% there in terms of acceleration, which is fantastic for a "performance endurance" bike.
Climbing is surprisingly easy on this bike. While I haven't tried overly steep grades or long climbs yet, Category 3 ad 4 climbs were surprisingly fun on this bike. While it is not a feather-light climbing machine, it is not heavy and with the smaller rear triangle, you can get in the rhythm quickly and get going. In fact, the Tierra Bella Gilroy Springs climb was easiest on this bike, even though I am in a little bit less prepared form than 2 and 4 years ago.
Descending is really good as well. The bike is easy to control, doesn't flex a lot, and the disc brakes do wonders for heavier riders.
Design and Looks
Specialized did a really good job with redesigning Roubaix. There are some classic colors, like matte black with white or dark letters and white frame with black letters. But this time around there are some really cool colors as well, like Chameleon Purple, Hyper Green, Gallardo Orange, Sunset Chameleon, and some other frames with bright red colors.
I ended up getting the Chameleon Purple / Blue, which is really cool. It looks either purple or blue depending on your viewing angle.
It still looks very classy, but with an element of coolness in it.
After riding Roubaix for a week, I ended up buying a second one for commuting. This one is 2017 Specialized Roubaix Comp Gallardo Orange.
2018 Roubaix Expert comes with a complete Shimano Ultegra 8020 Hydraulic group. It is rock solid in every sense. The shifting is smooth. There is no flex I can feel. The wheels are Roval SLX 24, which are 1,515g, which is very light for disc wheels.
All in all, it is a really good performance endurance bike for an XXL rider that achieves a great balance of speed, acceleration, comfort, and good looks.