Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert Disc - first impressions
I've seen very few reviews of the new Roubaix online, particularly the disc edition apart from the SRAM Red version that isn't available in the UK. There aren't many models around in the UK at the moment from what I understand, but I took one for a test ride last week before deciding to take the plunge and buying it before heading out on it at the weekend.
It's a very interesting bike. There are plenty of reviews that talk about how the Roubaix takes the sting out of roads, potholes and bumps, and I've been pretty impressed with the comfort of it. Whereas on my Ritte I would actively avoid any slightly rough parts of road, or in the case of stretches such as Critten Lane in Surrey just suck it up, it didn't really matter what the Roubaix was going over - it just took it all in its stride. All I had to do was think about pedaling rather than looking up the road for cracks and holes. The mix of the Zertz inserts, CG-R seatpost and 23/25 tyres all did they job very efficiently.
It does feel more upright than most bikes, although given my lack of flexibility that's no bad thing. It is also superb at tracking along the road - it just inspires confidence, with no wobble at all regardless of speed. I imagine this is mostly down to the longer wheelbase, but also the Roubaix tyres may have something to do with as they feel very sticky.
The key thing for me though was the brakes. I've read a number of posts across various forums, and disc brakes on a road bike are marmite to say the least. Zipping down White Down and Coldharbour Lane on Saturday though I really fell in love with them. I am the first to admit I am a terrible descender, so having the discs inspire much more confidence in me. I was worried at first as there was way more travel in the brake levers than I'm used to, but I understand why now - it allows for progressive braking and stops you snatching them on to full power. There was very little squeal on them despite them being brand new discs.
The discs and the Axis wheels do add weight though, and the whole set-up weighs about 8.4kgs. Not really an issue, but I did notice that the wheels took a long time to get up to speed - it's not a bike for expecting immediate results when jumping out of the saddle and laying the hammer down. The wheels feel slightly flexy too, particularly when climbing out of the saddle. That said, with 11 speed Di2 including a 11-32 cassette you can happily sit and spin on pretty much anything.
I'm also not a fan of the FSA SLK cranks, particularly the way they flair out. They'll be the first thing I swap out, hopefully to Rotor 3D cranks and some Q rings (I also prefer shorter cranks to the 172.5s that came with the bike).
It is a risk buying the first generation of tech, but I am very happy with the Roubaix so far. It is a lot for a bike just to have hydraulic disc brakes, and I know that there are better value packages for carbon frames with Di2, but this is the kind of bike I wanted to have in my arsenal for winter rides and Classic-style sportives. Don't get this if you want a super-responsive ride that kicks like a mule - this is more like riding a trusted shire horse that can handle anything and doesn't spook easily.
Finally, fair play to Evans in Clapham for not only getting me the bike 3 weeks before it was due in stock, but for swapping out the handlebars (for no extra charge) and getting everything set up according to my bikefit measurements. There was also no quibble over getting my LCC 10% discount on the bike, which was a significant saving. I've always avoided buying bikes from Evans and other major shops, but I was very impressed with my experience.