Speed & Comfort: 2020 Specialized S-Works Roubaix From Issue 93

The Venn diagram of ride qualities for Specialized’s three high-end race bikes—the Tarmac, Venge and Roubaix—becomes seemingly more intertwined with each bike’s newest update. The most recent Roubaix has muddied the distinction even more. It used to be that one was a twitchy and light race bike, one was a fast aero bike and one was a compliant, comfort-oriented bike. Well, that’s still sort of true. But with the Roubaix now faster and much lighter than before, and Specialized even claiming it’s faster than the Tarmac SL6, the Roubaix steps into a bigger spotlight, and may just end up making the most sense for an even larger group of cyclists.

THE DETAILS

One of the biggest overhauls to the S-Works Roubaix is the new Future Shock 2.0. Located in the head tube under the stem, it’s a shock with hydraulically damped rebound that absorbs the impact of the road without changing the wheelbase, like other forms of suspension do. This means momentum is maintained and handling remains consistent, even on the roughest tarmac or cobblestone roads. Suspension helps relieve fatigue, allowing you to ride for longer, whether it’s at the Hell of the North or a gran fondo. Future Shock 2.0 improves over the first by adding the ability to control the level of damping with a knob on the stem, even allowing you to lock it out.

Compliance is further added through a new S-Works Pavé seat post, which has extra flex built in. The seat-post clamp is recessed into the frame, exposing more of the seat post so it can flex, absorbing more of the road chatter. That’s the reason for the wider junction on the seat tube between the seatstays and the top tube.

To make its spring classics machine even better, Specialized dropped the previous version’s frame weight to sub-900 grams for a size 56 in black. Our size 54 test bike came in at a respectable 16.12 pounds (7.3 kilograms). Clearance for 33mm tires is a welcome addition, and should be more than enough to satisfy the most ardent volume freaks. But like anything with an S-Works logo, be prepared to pay. This bike comes in at $11,500 built up with SRAM RED eTap AXS and Roval’s CLX 32 wheels.

THE RIDE

We may have come in with a slight bias about how fast a “comfortable” bike should be, but any preconceived notions were soon sent right out the door. From the moment you first throw a leg over the top tube, the new S-Works Roubaix surprises with its zippiness. It simply takes off and then holds on to speed. Shaving frame weight is likely a big factor in making this latest Roubaix feel so peppy. And Roval’s CLX 32 wheels, just 1,350 grams, certainly add to the light and fast feeling of the bike. But when cornering, the Roubaix reveals its true origins as a comfort-oriented bike—it just doesn’t quite handle like top road racers and climbing bikes in this department.

Having tried the latest Future Shock 2.0 on two different models now, the Roubaix and Creo, we’re ready to vouch for its efficacy. It works, and we wouldn’t be surprised if this technology finds its way in some form or another into more of Specialized’s line. Being able to tune the shock with a simple twist of a dial, which provides a nice tactile feel even at speed, and being able to lock out the shock for going uphill or technical descending, is a meaningful update over the original version.

The Tarmac-versus-Venge debate has been roiling for a while now. But let’s add one more to the mix. Improving in nearly every way, the latest S-Works Roubaix, with its all-day comfort and speed, makes a strong case for being chosen over its two S-Works road bike counterparts.