Tom Boonen won the 2012 Paris -Roubaix classic aboard the ultimate Specialized Roubaix model. My test ride was on a much more modest rig. (Photo: Specialized)
I’m continuing my quest for the perfect value-for-money endurance (AKA granfondo) road bike — and my latest test ride was a $2,100 2013 Specialized Roubaix (Sport Compact model). This bike is one of a dozen different frame and component combinations of the Roubaix that Specialized prices between $1,750 and $12,000.
My test ride: 2013 Specialized Roubaix off the floor at Life Cycles in Abbotsford, B.C. (Photos: CyclingWest)
My previous test rides for this project include:
- “Endurance bikes: TREK Domane 4.5 is a comfortable and versatile entry bike”, June 8, 2013; and
- “Endurance bikes: The Volagi Liscio2 delivers the expected shock absorption and braking, but also unexpected jump and comfort”, May 13, 2013.
The Roubaix Sport Compact model has some of the same shock absorption technology used on the rig that Tom Boonen rode to victory over the cobbles in the 2012 Paris-Roubaix professional classic race (known as the Hell of the North).
My brief two-hour test ride obviously doesn’t make me an expert on this bike. And my test course over a few stretches of poor pavement and several repeats of some sketchy railroad crossings doesn’t compare with the cobbles of northern Europe. Nevertheless, here are my views.
Bad news, good news
Let’s begin with the bad news:
This is not the same frame as used by Tom Boonen. Same name. Similar appearance. But Tom’s bike is the $12,000 model at the top of the price list. So, you wouldn’t expect to tame the Paris-Roubaix cobbles with this bike. I did, however, expect better shock handling capabilities than I found on this bike.
I think replacing the alloy handlebars and stem with carbon would help. So would replacing the Specialized Espoir Sport 23 mm tires with wider Specialized Roubaix Pro 25 mm tires and running 80 to 90 pounds inflation, although it would be a tight fit on this frame.
(What is Specialized thinking? They build an endurance bike frame called Roubaix that only barely accommodates 25 mm tires? In fact, why wouldn’t they build the frame to accommodate 28 mm tires that would extend the bike’s capabilities to gravel roads and perhaps some easy double-track fire roads and trails?)
And now for the good news:
This bike is a lot of fun to ride on good roads. Smooth, nimble, solid. It was 18+ pounds (that’s heavy, in my view) but it felt lighter than that. It was well balanced and felt responsive out of the saddle. It also handled the descents well.
This would be a great bike for anyone getting into road cycling with the objective of riding long distances for fun and fitness — and for entering events such as granfondos. The handling and power transfer is excellent for a bike of this price. Gearing and braking with the combination of Shimano 105 and Tiagra components work flawlessly.
Bottom line, forget all the marketing promotion about this being a cobbles-taming rig, but don’t count out this bike as a good value granfondo ride.
Some additional notes:
- The Roubaix line of 12 different frame/component combinations actually has three different frames. The Sport Compact model I tested is built on Specialized’s FACT 8r carbon frame (FACT= functional advanced composite technology).
- The next step up is the FACT 10r frame. The lowest-priced bike with this frame is the SL4 Export Compact with Shimano Ultegra components and DT Axis 4.0 wheels with Specialized Roubaix Pro 25 mm tires at MSRP U.S. $3,800.
- The top-line frame is the FACT 11r version used on the top-end S-Works SL4 models, which begin at MSRP U.S. $8,000 equipped with SRAM Red components. This is the frame that Boonen actually rode in the 2012 Paris-Roubaix, according to Specialized.