One Year On My Roubaix Part 2

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As outlined in my previous post, One Year on My Roubaix, the S-Works Roubaix rides on top of something along the lines of a cultural shift. To pay the required AUD$17,000 Specialized are asking for this bike, you are buying into more than a bike and your decision is likely to be more complicated by factors than might apply when looking for, say, the latest Giant TCR, or Scott Addict. 

With that out of the way, I do have some observations on how the bike coordinates with all the marketing hype Specialized uses to explain this bike and what I hoped for from its performance. After riding my 2018/19 version for 8,300 plus km I am in a good position to offer some conclusions.

First to the brief. The performance of any road bike is informed by its collective response to the three core dimensions of bicycle design: bike weight, bike stiffness and bike compliance. Weight, stiffness and compliance interact to define the way a bike rides. Compliance is not often included as one of those dimensions, but it needs to be. 

Weight is easy. Total bike weight is hugely important to how well a bike climbs, and, let us not forget, how well it does other stuff like going down hill and resisting cross winds. So too, let us never forget, is the rider’s weight. There is absolutely no point in buying a fly-weight bike if you are a porker with a 25 plus BMI. That’s just a fact. Fatties are better off buying heavy, and using that heavy to help accelerate body weight loss and only then buying light, once you enter the realm of marginal gains.

Stiffness is also critical to climbing prowess, and to how well you can sprint. It is also a characteristic that can shock your body into early fatigue and misery if you choose to ride on anything worse than hot mix.

Compliance is a design feature that bike makers are finally talking about and designing around these days. You hear about nano tubes in your carbon or rubbery layers in carbon layouts; seat posts designed to flex, and wider rims and tyres to provide for a more ‘airy’ ride. That’s why 28mm tyres are now all the rage. 

I’d propose that absolutely no one has fixated on the compliance dimension more than Specialized in relation to the S-Works Roubaix (and all the other models of Roubaix in that family). No other bike maker is currently offering suspension up front to add compliance to a ride (other than Lauf with its Grit but that is directed more at gravel biking than purely for the road). 

We all know about this bike’s sprung head tube as a solution to riding on rough roads or pave. But Specialized has also been careful to point out that the S-Works Roubaix frame, itself, is the lightest frame they actually make. And, indeed, it’s also proposed to be the stiffest. Even more than for the Tarmac.

Normally, compliance, stiffness and lightness are at some odds. To suggest that you can max out all three seemingly without compromise is an interesting claim. But that’s where the suspension comes in. Without the ‘headshock’ and the strange Z shaped seat post, you would not be able to ride this bike on any normal road; it would be a chiropractic assault after just a few km. Rather, the intention of this bike is to offer a ride that is as un-fatigueing as you’d get from a really good endurance bike, while still being a bike that’s competitive for serious racing. Most people I have spoken to seem to be under the impression that the Roubaix is actually an endurance bike (and thus a bike intended for old guys past it for speed). That’s because of all the focus on ‘suspension’ and a softer forgiving ride. And they are all totally wrong. No, what this bike is about is outright serious pro-level speed enhanced by and, really, as an outcome of all that compliance. You don’t really get this from Specialized’s marketing pitch. I think that is a shame. But I do need to assert, the S-Works Roubaix is NOT an endurance bike. Though it would serve a cyclo-tourist well (and what is wrong with that?), it is primarily intended for racing on rough roads (like all the roads where I live and, probably, where you do too). 

You see, there has been some seriously clever thinking in relation to the suspension designed into this frame. Which explains the link with Mclaren because the design took some serious computing power to figure during its development (Mclaren has some massive super computer grunt to assist with the CAD stages that gave birth to the Roubaix). The key is that this uber stiff frame offers all the benefits you can get from that trait: it climbs like a Giant TCR and you can sprint it like a Propel. Putting the suspension spring in the head tube (rather than in the fork like the Lauf Grit) ensures all that frame stiffness connects directly to the road without any kind of suspended insulation (or suspension caused efficiency losses). Because locating the spring where it is only suspends your wrists, not the rest of the bike. That is clever. You are not going to loose any pedalling efficiency through suspended wrists. The same goes for the flexy seat post design. 

Which is not to say that these suspended disconnections from the road don’t affect the way the bike rides. They do. You do feel some real removal from the spring interface between your handlebars and the furies passing through your forks and wheels. That does feel ‘different’ from what you might be used to with a conventional road bike. Some might find that disconnecting a touch disconcerting and that happens most when climbing out of your seat. You do notice it. Even after, as in my case, nearly 10,000km of getting used to riding this bike. I am a climber and I have always connected climbing with how directly I feel the front wheel is connected to my arms. (The feeling is along the lines of using your arms to grab that road with your fingers and claw yourself up a hill until you pass out; with your forks becoming arm extensions. The notion of sticking a suspension interface between your bars and the forks is a bit like what might happen if your arms turned into rubber enroute; not an attractive thought).  I am used to the sensation of furious rigidity and discomfort as the price of killing a hill. Which is why I so detest riding mountain bikes on sealed roads. All of which kind of describes where it is that a rider needs most to adapt when riding the S-Works Roubaix furiously up a hill. Which is NOT to say that it won’t be riding as efficiently as a pure climbing bike (like, say, the Giant TCR). This is all a mental adjustment thing, not a matter of any inefficiencies. You do need to mentally adjust. But rest assured, the headshock is not going to slow you down or erode your climbing efficiency in any way. It just feels like it does. This is a critical point and a real challenge for Specialized’s marketing challenge to sell this bike. 

So, I do most certainly assert that this is a serious climber’s bike. It as light as any disk brake frame out there despite the suspension bits and it certainly is stiff. Full marks for pulling this astonishing achievement across the light-stiff-compliant arc.

And yes, you are riding a little higher than you might be used to if you usually ride slammed. There is no prospect for lowering your bars because of the sprung head tube. Yes, if you equate riding higher with endurance riding, you might equate this ride with that which you’d get from an endurance bike. But again, that is a mental thing. Yes, riding higher is less aero than you’d be on a full aero bike, but no one said or claimed that the Roubaix is an aero machine. Just like a climbing bike is not an aero bike. Which is why I have emphasised climbing (rather than say, time trialing, on this machine). If you want an aero bike, don’t buy the S-Works Roubaix. I don’t and am glad for it because I live in the hills. It’s useful to keep this context in mind when thinking about the Roubaix.

But you can see why so many people are so quick to write this bike off as an endurance ride. It kind of looks like such a bike, but is most emphatically does not ride that way. Rest assured, you CAN win the Paris Roubaix on this thing (as has been the case in recent times).

The real missing link offered up by this bike is what you get from all that compliance. I doubt that anyone would ever object to a more comfortable ride than you’d be getting from bikes like a Giant Propel or the infamously bone shaking Basso Diamente (or from any modern aero bike). At least some heroic riders might keep such thoughts to themselves if they consider a softer ride also softens their sense of masculinity – the ladies don’t usually bother with inane posturing of this kind. But who, really, would object to surviving longer into a ride than your aero crushed mates? Here is the thing. A more comfortable ride means less fatigue. Less fatigue means you can ride faster for longer. And probably win more races over rough roads or for a course that extends past 100km. Compliance feeds into faster average speed over a longer ride. It’s a mathematical fact. This is one result I have proved over and over to myself over the past year. I have riding logs going back 30 years for the roads I ride. My total ride times are never, ever, longer on the Roubaix than for my more conventional road machines (I have 20 road bikes at the latest count including a Giant TCR, a Propel, a Colnago C59, a Bianchi Oltre, a Wilier Zero.7, a Trek Madone, a Merida Scultura, and three top-end Pinarello’s, none of which are demonstrably faster than my Roubaix over longer rides). 

Actually, I love the way that the Roubaix challenges mental models and smashes convention at every turn. That’s feeding all those anarchical predilections that got me, effectively, kicked out of my academic career (I detest linear thinking professorial bog dwellers who switch off their brains once their tenure has been secured). The Roubaix excites an excitable mind! It’s a regular chaos machine! If you are as exciting as a cabbage, perhaps this is not the bike for you. 

And finally, I can report that over a year of some serious Roubaix riding over our manically marginal local roads, nothing, but noting has gone wrong with any part of this bike. I have no issues to report. None at all. Other than the usuals of punctured tyres and worn out chains. Yes, The 2018/19 Specialized S-Works Roubaix is one magnificent bike. 

It is, though, to be noted that the bike was re-designed for 2020. The new model has a revamped headshock (now with adjustable compression but otherwise basically the same) and a new seat post that looks more conventional but, apparently, flexes even more than before. I can’t comment except to say that I will be getting the new one sometime in the new year. I will report back then, but am not really compelled to write the old model off because a new one offers even more of what makes my own bike so great. That might end up being too much of a good thing? I do think, though, that the newest model looks too conventional for my taste. Specialized have tried to make the 2020 model look almost identical to its Tarmac. I am not sure why. I am pretty sure that every conclusion I have made with respect to the 2018/19 Roubaix will also apply to its 2020 counterpart. Certainly, the inherent iconoclasm of this machine is very much still intact. It’s just that Specialized seem to think it important to do some redesigning to make it seem less radical than it actually is. Maybe they think the new model’s more conventional looks will sell more bikes. That’s a bit of a shame. 

 

 

 

One Year on My S-Works Roubaix

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It’s exactly a year since I purchased my violent orange/yellow Mclaren Special, Specialized S-Works Roubaix: a bike fully dressed in Top-Of-The-Line. On this bike alone, to date, I have ridden 8,625km.

Specialized don’t (just) pitch the Roubaix at feeble old men with bulging stomachs and hairy legs.  But then again, most cyclists I have ever met who do have bulging stomachs and the cycling prowess of an overfed horse with two too many legs, seem to imagine themselves as being in training for the very next Tour de France. Apparently, anyone in training for the Tour de France (and thus, most cyclists who wear lycra without a pro contract) would never contemplate a bike like the Roubaix. Which kind of cuts the market down a bit. Which is a tragedy and a shame. Because, once all the delusional types have self-exited themselves from the market for bikes like the Roubaix, it’s only the pros who do tend to buy bikes such a this. Isn’t that a perversity!. The Roubaix has done very, very well, at Roubaix, but not so much at local club roadie rides… That’s the very essence of what economists describe as a misinformed marketplace. Or as Behavioural Economists would have it, the predominance of behavioural delusions and psychopathy constructing market perceptions out of touch with scientifically interpretable reality. Which, really, is why we have Global Warming and tossers like Donald Trump and his Australian analogue, Barnaby Joyce, empowered to reinforce these negative feedback loops of destruction in the first place. Which also explains how Pinarello can get away with selling so many Dogma F12’s and why so many golfers keep on wearing shirts that are three sizes too small…

It’s also why, probably, the S-Works Roubaix costs so much: too small a market place for too much of a bike. And that Specialized is being a bit greedy. The latest version of the S-Works Roubaix is now at AUD$17,000.  

This bike is a response to a complexity of problems. It’s a solution to a bunch of issues. It’s a bike that addresses the reality of seriously crap roads. 

Bike buyers seem to face a conundrum. They can realise their delusions of podium proficiency through riding the latest Giant Propel or Focus Izalco Max on roads even a goat would avoid, or they can suck it up and match wheels to corrugated realities and ride something more compliant with the roads they ride rather than with the delusions of self-image. I blame Mathew Hayman. 

When Mattie Hayman won Paris Roubaix on a Scott Foil back in 2016, the whole world marketplace for the misuse of aero torture bikes for real world road riding was reinforced and validated. See, you can win Roubaix on an ultra stiff sprinters bike. He did, therefore, so can I. Or so should I, if appearances are to be maintained. All this without considering that Mathew Hayman rode said bike because he was paid to do so seems to escaped the attention of those who ride for image rather than traction.  The fact that Peter Sagan went on to win the same race two years later on the S-Works Roubaix seems to have escaped most folks’ attention. See, Sagan can ride anything! Isn’t he amazing…

Really, non-pros need to stop informing their bike choice though what the pros ride and all go get an Open UPPER instead. There’d be so many more smiling faces in the non-pro peloton via fantasies such as that. 

Anyway, all this fertiliser composts the observation that there are very few S-Works Roubaix’s out there on the roads despite the technical reality that most roads are better suited to a Roubaix than to silly stiff sprinter’s bikes. After enquiring at the two official Specialized dealers covering the region where I live (the New England Region of New South Wales, Australia), for example, I am told that I am, apparently, the only S-Works Roubaix rider in a region the size of a Balkan State… 

Real roadies don’t ride a bike with head tube suspension!  That’s only for blokes with big guts and hairy legs. Despite the fact that I have neither and ride 25,000km per year, which is way more than anyone else around here. And no, that is not pride speaking here. I ride because I can’t stop and by the end of each year, 25k is where it ends up. Or am I trying to project and validate some kind of uber-cool self-objectivity here? Too deep yet? I really don’t mind if you do go out and buy a Basso Diamante and a new set of dentures after the first two sets fall out enroute to your own personal vision of cycling glory.  

I started not to care about this perceptual malaise of keeping up with invalid social constructions of delusion on the day I bought this bike. After a year, if nothing else, my S-Works Roubaix has facilitated me to care even less. Perhaps my Roubaix is all about validating a perverse intent to be a radical or an anarchist. But I don’t think so. Having a stable of top end Italian super bikes all aging away in my shed, I don’t care what anyone thinks about such things, or really, anything at all, these days. Which is kind of why I gave up Facebook and am planning on going full private on Strava from Jan 1 next year. 

Or maybe I should simply abandon all I’ve said above and simply say, when you are forced to ride crap roads, the S-Works Roubaix is the best bike I have ever owned and would probably be so for you too if you had to ride roads like ours to the extent that I do.

So, there you go. If you don’t like thinking deeply, just match your roads with bike compliance/stiffness ratios and buy with sublime technical objectivity. You may well end up with an S-Works Roubaix yourself.   

But I have yet to meet any half-serious cyclist who informs decision making with any kind of demonstrable objectivity. That’s the problem!

We are all unguided missiles in perpetual search of self-validation.  If you are sure that the identity you are trying to self-validate is true and correct against some kind of objective metric, go forth and inform your decisions in accordance with the constructions of your delusions. Because there is no objectivity out there. All identities are self-constructions around delusions. Go reference contemporary philosophy (I recommend a jolly read of Hans Georg Gadamer as a good starting point but that’s a seriously subjective choice in a universe of subjective possibilities…). Or become a Buddhist. 

All you have to do, in the face of philosophical conundrums like this, is to accept that your decision processes are made on top of philosophical oceans of usually unconsidered complexity. Know, simply, that there are infinite realties out there, mostly in conflict with each other and that your own is merely a figment of your imagination subject to the push and shove you open yourself up to whenever you interact with other humans and their own constructions. When you are confronted by n+1, think of where you are going to ride first rather than be guided by what your inner mirror is trying to tell you. 

We philosophically-bent academics call this reflexivity. Or critical thinking. It’s free to do but painful to apply. I have a theory. Most S-Works Roubaix riders out there will probably be happy little Buddhas all really, seriously enjoying their ride… Are you? 

Hence my singular conclusion after 25,000km of riding this year: if your wrists hurt from riding too much on crap roads, do yourself a favour. Go forth and buy the first S-Works Roubaix you can find. You can still win Roubaix. And survive to ride another year. The Roubaix is one fine bike. 

Decision Made Easy: the 2018 S-Works Roubaix

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 Way back in the early 1980’s, our Local Council (called Armidale Regional Council these days), did some maintenance on our local sealed road. We only have the one… And it resembles a single lane cycleway gone to the weeds; also resembling Cormac McCarthy’s post apocalyptic road of desolation in his book, appropriately called The Road.  Riding on this road has killed my wrists (well, that and riding on the same Council’s endless gravel road network – which did not help). For decades, I’ve followed the alluring and evidently compelling social construct that, for a road bike at least, stiff is good and stiffer is better. Part of this construct is that the very best road bikes are a statement of frame inflexibility, but with, perversely, and probably via wishful thinking, with just a touch compliance as well. It is a compelling argument, at least if you don’t think to critically. Frame flex means that all your super powers are absorbed in bike bending rather than being thrust into the road like the interstellar rocket launching pad most of us seem to think we need. Bike bending bad. Stiffness good. 

Living with this meme is something else. Especially if you ride LOTS and ride on roads like the one I am forced to ride (because, as I said, it’s the only sealed road we have around here). 

Living with this meme and doing the kind of miles I do (25,000km per year) is pushing the meme way past it’s event horizon of reason.

I have ten wonderful road bikes, each, at one time range toppers and a statement of road bike art. So long as you live on great roads and ride more sensible miles. 

So, I have two broken wrists (or so it feels) and every bump is a jolt of piercing pain. This is killing my Strava KOM’s…

I checked out the local medical scene for advice and the advice I got was along the lines of re-building my wrists via something along the lines of a Dremel saw. Quacks.

It then seemed compelling to self-medicate via procuring a more ‘compliant’ bike. 

My explorations along these lines started to reveal some fascinating insights into the ‘prevailing road cycling wisdom’ that, for so many, has each and every manifestation of a serious and genuine religion. Here are a few core tenants:

  • Elite cyclists need an elite bike or at least something that looks like one
  • An elite bike is defined by how stiff it is, and by how many pros ride it in pro races
  • Stiffness equals speed
  • Compliance is nice so long as it does not, ever, compromise speed
  • Road bikes and their riders can be sorted into different camps, with road and endurance cycling as the two main cults that are, emphatically, not the same
All these elements of roadie culture mesh to drive bike choice. But when you do some deconstructions around the tenets, we might all be free to make more lateral choices when we decide to buy a bike. Take the elite cyclist thing. Almost no one would claim to be elite but most of us at least aspire to be so. The real test is how often you find yourself race facing cyclists plodding along in the opposite direction or those you pass via a humungous burst of ego-fuelled speed. Race facers are usually attracted to highly conventional bike choices: whatever the pro teams are on is what they choose to be on too. The chances of an excited race facer of even looking in the direction of the new S-Works Roubaix are virtually zero. Unless all you have around your place is pave. 
 

Fullsizeoutput 1e31I admit to total failure over the meme concerning the utter necessity for a ferociously stiff bike. Yes, I did buy a Giant Propel. Yes, that would have to be the single dumbest thing one could ever choose when all you have are desolation roads like those where I ride. Yes, a high tech aero bike is a thrill on hot mix. No it’s not on potholes and patched-up roads of neglect. Lesson learnt and no, I am not going to ever buy a Pinarello Dogma F10 or a S-Works Venge. But here’s where things get complex. Think on this. The S-Works Roubaix is, actually, the stiffest frame Specialized have ever made. Yes, really. But, it is designed around compliance at every single interface between that frame and the world around it. That’s also the story for my number one favourite bike, the Open UPPER. That gravel bike has a seriously stiff frame, as does the 3T Exploro. But these gravel bikes are also designed to mesh with compliance at every interface to present a superbly controlled, compliant ride. So, frame stiffness is kind of a deeper, more complex story through which to select a bike. It really shouldn’t be the number one metric of choice. 

An ‘endurance’ bike has become, in the popular mythology of cycling, a euphemism for bikes that ‘real roadies’ would choose to ignore. Or, in whispered-so-as-not-to-offend terms, endurance bikes are for slow riders, old riders, slow old riders, riders who do not make the ‘grade’. The presumption is that an endurance bike is a slower bike, a heavier bike or a cheaper bike: a bike on the losing end of the old Fast-Strong-Cheap, choose two equation. However, just like bike frame stiffness, the concept of endurance versus road (racing) bikes and their riders is a touch more complex than you might think. Someone who rides a Curve Belgie from Perth to Sydney in one go is, by definition, an endurance rider and that bike is an endurance bike. I bet he or she can outride me, or you, unless you are into that continent crossing game as well. It annoys me when bike retailers try to partition off endurance machines when they smell an interest in riding criteriums. I have been directed away from endurance bikes time and time again by misinformed bicycle retailers. I blame them for the state of my wrists…  Are there any $10,000 plus endurance bikes out there? Does Peter Sagan ride an endurance bike?! Actually, the answer to both those questions is yes! And the answer is the Specialized S-Works Roubaix. 

I should have remembered all this as my wrists started to disintegrate via the continual, never ending road-shock of too many miles on abject roads. The re-birth of my cycling obsession some ten years ago happened via a Specialized Roubaix Comp.Knowing no better, I started out on this bike because I thought it might handle our appalling local roads better than my old Vitus 979 racing bike (hail be its name, for ever and ever, amen). Which was seriously true. I put in over 10,000km on that bike and lost 30kg in the process (in six months). They were good days. But then I got religion and decided to follow the mantra of Italian Carbon and got into the cult of Pinarello. Somewhere along that story line, I must have had a heretical regression, because I recall buying the first of the S-Works Roubaix’s sometime between one Pinarello and the next. That was the old Zertz (elastomer) insert machine (with the strange lightening bolt shaped forks and seat post). It was the lightest bike I ever owned. But Zertz was a fiction perpetrated by marketers of the most cynical kind. That thing was anything but compliant. But it was fast and light. And definitely not cheap. Memory fades. I recall lots of frame creaking and a recall on the Mavic hollow carbon spoked wheels. And then it was gone. But I can’t recall to who or how. It just faded out of my Italian carbon fixation of the time. It left little impression.

By the end of 2018, I was lined up to buy the latest Bianchi Oltre XR4, with frame additives for compliance, or so the advertising suggested. This very bike did so well in the last grand tours, and, impressively, at Paris Roubaix (my favourite race of all). It’s a climbing bike, a sprinters bike, an everything bike. Lovely. That’ll do. But there was a small voice floating around my cult-of-the-road bike mind. Who won Paris Roubaix in 2018? What did he ride? Yes, you know too. Peter Sagan on an S-Works Roubaix. The voice faded and Bianchi fever built, along with the pain in my wrists. Even I started to wonder about the prospect of being forced to give up cycling. Despite ordering a Lauf Grit front end for my 3T Exploro Ltd gravel racing bike…

In mid December, I picked up the phone. Rainbow Cycles at Coffs Harbour was the local Specialized dealer. Yes, there was one Roubaix left in size 56. It was a Mclaren special and the last of its kind in stock. Reading a credit card number out over the phone is so very easy…

I decided to merge the concept of buying this left-field bike with a holiday at the coast. And so it was. And here are my impressions. 

I have travelled a paradigm shift. Again. 

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The first insight is to ignore the advice you’re going to get when thinking about an S-Works Roubaix (or the more sensibly priced Specialized Comp Roubaix if you are happy with Ultegra and a lack of pretension towards glow-in-the-dark orange yellow – or Mclaren Classic Orange to be precise).

No, this is not a classical road racing bike. Yes, it is. Yes, it has leanings towards endurance geometry. No it doesn’t. Yes, it has real suspension between the handlebars and the frame. Yes, you can feel a touch of spring when you hero attack the hills via an out-of-the-saddle assault. No, this does not, in any way, take away speed or the application of power to the wheels. Yes, it is and does look different (to, say, a S-Works Tarmac or, indeed, a Bianchi Oltre XR4). But what road bike does not look different to other road bikes when it’s owner passes over $10k plus? You might not like the Lord Voldermort lightening strike shaped scar of a seat post. But it grows on you. You might not like the Cannondale-like Head Shock inspired Future Shock under this bike’s handlebars. But it grows on you. Or maybe you hate the look of Specialized’s strange storage box that straddles the bottom bracket junction rather than hanging off the saddle like on every other bike. Or perhaps the notion of a 15mm winged rise on the ‘Hover’ handlebars is just too much hearsay for your purist roadie inclinations. It was for me. But hey, this IS a paradigm shift we are riding here…

What is this bike supposed to be?!

Between you and me, it’s not really a dedicated solution to riding the Paris Roubaix race or cobbles anywhere else for that matter. A gravel bike is best for that, or a standard road bike when enough pro rider pay compensates for the aching wrists you’re going to get when your dreams are to be a rouleur. 

No, despite its name, the S-Works Roubaix is not a dedicated cobbles racing bike. But the name is suggestive of the bike’s real intent. This is a bike for crap roads. Or aching wrists. Or aching wrists from crap roads. Or, in other words, it’s just what I need.

My bet is that Specialized is using the Roubaix handle to emphasise the fact that this machine is a seriously competitive racing bike. It is not a toy. It is not a bike for roadies who have given up or have yet to arrive. It is a bike that retails for $13,500. It is dressed with the best including the latest Dura Ace Di2 and disc brakes. It is state of the art. It is also odd. As in different. Which explains why most folk don’t really know what to make of it. It’s not the bike you’d usually put on your short list if that list includes bikes like, say, the Bianchi Oltre XR4 or a Giant TCR Advanced SL 0. Or a Pinarello Dogma F10, or anything else exotic enough to race up the Col du Tourmalet. 

I am stunned by this bike.

The Future Shock front end really works. And that is not just me trying to validate a left-field purchase. Or pretending like I might have with the old Zertz inserts on Roubaix’s from the past. The Future Shock is a testament to engineering brilliance. It removes the pain from road shock but preserves all your power and speed. I am unable to detect a compromise. You still get the full measure of ‘road feel’ and ‘connection’. It’s not like riding a mountain bike on the tar. Nothing at all like it. This shock is above the frame. Unlike a mountain bike fork, the frame takes in all the shock of the road and transmits all your power back. It’s only your hands that are suspended. This magic is where the Mclaren deal came in. The computing grunt needed to work out the astounding precision of a shock absorber that absorbs shock but not power or feel was provided by the Mclaren team (and their super computer). This is not a trivial achievement! It’s actually, a bit of an Everest peak. Well done, Specialized.

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And let’s definitely not forget the similar achievement of that oh-so-strange looking seat post (the one like Harry Potter’s forehead scar). This thing looks like nothing else so is bound to put the purists off-side. That’s how paradigm shifts work. But it works, just like the Future Shock on top of the head tube. If you look closely, you will notice that the seat post clamp is in an odd spot: way down under the top tube, operating via a series of slits in the seat tube. It is unique. It’s purpose is to provide ‘lateral flex’ (as opposed to the axial action of the Future Shock). Just like the flexy posts on the Trek Domain and the Giant Revolt (and even the flexy rear end of the KTM Myroon hard tail MTB if you want to extend the analogies), the Roubaix’s post flexes with the road. Again, it is also precisely engineered to remove shock but neither power or feel. It’s a perfect rear end to match the brilliance of the spring up front. I can’t begin to imagine the amount of testing and calculation this suspension design has involved. All I can say is that this bike is sprung by engineering rather than marketing. For once, the engineers have had their say and this bike’s looks is what a bike looks like when engineering is given free reign. 

The bike tracks like any of my other exotic roadie machines. It descends with a precision that removes all thought of the need for brakes. It climbs like a pro climbing bike. It climbs as well as my Giant TCR Advanced SL 0, and by all that’s holy, that Giant is brilliant at climbing. At least once you acknowledge that there will be touch of ‘spring’ at that point where you stand to power your climb. The sensation is simply different, not of lost power or inefficiency. Just different. There is no cost to climbing power. 

Yes, the dedicated roadie will notice, at first, being just a bit higher on the bars. Not to the degree of a usual endurance ride. More like, say, riding an H2 Trek Madone. If that means anything to you. You get so used to this slight elevation that you stop noticing it after a few minutes acclimatisation. I do notice that I spend more time in the drops when riding this new Roubaix than I might than on my Wilier Zero.7 or my Giant TCR, but as I said, this position is about the same as when riding my Trek Madone. 

And then there are the wheels! At least on this S-Works version. Those Roval CLX32’s are a match made by the same engineering team that gave us the rest of this bike’s astounding ride. Especially when you clad them with Specialized’s Cotton Turbo 28mm racing tyres. Oh yes. These are good. And testimony to the concept of the total design integration this Roubaix evidences all over and every where else. 

I do continue to care that my local Council refuses to maintain my single sealed road. Especially when I pay them more in rates per year than my new S-Works cost. That bothers me. A lot. But I am not feeling like I am held hostage to this Bogan Council’s contemptuous road maintenance regime. My road rage, in this regard, has been suspended via a rather perfect engineering work-around. My recommendation is that this Armidale Regional Council should be forced to provide an S-Works Roubaix to every cyclist who lives along my road by way of compensation. But then again, there’s only a handful of us so that would be a cheap fix for that mob of Mafia wannabes.  Well done Specialized. You have hit the target this time around. Pass with High Distinction.