From the cobbles of northern France and the iconic race it's named after, to the roads of the Cotswolds, the latest generation Specialized S-Works Roubaix offers unmatched comfort and near-race bike speed. Granted, this lavishly equipped S-Works model is eye-wateringly expensive, but there are more affordable options in the range that inherit all the key changes.
My first ride on this latest generation Roubaix took place on the very roads and cobbles of the race, Paris-Roubaix, to which this bike owes its name. Over the ferocious pavé of the Arenberg and other key sectors that make up the classic route, the new Roubaix was deeply impressive. It was comfortable, shielded my body from the brutal impact forces, and above all was fast.
Following several months of testing on more familiar roads, it's clear the Roubaix isn't a one-trick pony. The Future Shock works overtime to smooth out the wrinkles, cracks and holes that are abundant on my local roads, and which on a stiff race bike can lead to a bumpy ride.
The 20mm of suspension is buttery smooth and quiet during use. You don't notice it, apart from the smoothness you're feeling through the handlebar and when you look down to see the protective rubber boot being constantly squashed.
Should you come to a smooth road or a steep climb requiring some out of the saddle antics, the top dial lets you almost totally lock out the suspension. It's not completely solid – hit a big enough impact and the Future Shock will still work – but it's a lot firmer than open. It's an on/off dial, there are no levels of adjustment.
When you first ride the Roubaix, you're forever turning the dial to suit different roads and situations. After a few rides, however, I realised it's better to just leave it open. There's no real trade-off to leaving it open all the time, other than a full bore sprint for a town sign perhaps. The handlebar doesn't feel detached from the bike – it doesn't bob incessantly on steep climbs.
The Future Shock works particularly well on coarsely surfaced roads, the sort where the top layer of tarmac is peeling away to leave a rubbly texture. It's like the road is being resurfaced ahead of you. The Future Shock delivers a level of smoothness that few bikes, even those with fat tyres, can match.
Any fear that the bike would ride like a hardtail mountain bike (one with a very rigid back end) proved unfounded on account of two things: the new Pave seatpost with built-in flex, and the oversize seat tube into which the post slots with a lower integrated clamp, serving to increase the amount of bending force for the seatpost.
As such, seated comfort is the equal of any other endurance bike on the market, such as the Trek Domane or Canyon Endurace, if not a touch more impressive. Combined with the Future Shock, the result is a very balanced bike that dishes out silky smoothness over the coarsest roads.
Speed and handling are highly favourable with this new Roubaix. The riding position is very comfortable, with a higher stack than a race bike, ensuring you can ride on the hoods or drops for hours on end without incurring a bad back. If you find it a touch too high, you can swap the Hover handlebar for a regular handlebar so there is some adjustment available.
Philippe Gilbert's win in the 2019 Paris-Roubaix is proof that the bike is fast. And before you rush to comment, yes I know it's more than just the bike, it's having good legs on the day, tactically being in the right place at the right time, avoiding crashes and mechanicals and the many other pitfalls that make this race so brutally hard.
The handling is a nice blend of sportiness to indulge your inner Sagan, but super-relaxed when you just want to ride steadily for five hours. Make no mistake, it's a fast bike; it doesn't always feel it on the road, but Strava never lies. Compared to Specialized's two other key road bikes, it doesn't have the same snap and agility as the Tarmac nor the outright savage speed of the Venge, but unless you're racing the comfort of the Roubaix is a very compelling reason to choose it.
The original Roubaix was launched in 2004 and has been through many changes, but most significant was the replacing of the previous Zertz inserts with the Future Shock suspension system in 2016.
This new bike builds on that design with an updated Future Shock 2.0 with rebound and compression damping and on-the-fly adjustment, a lighter 900g claimed frame weight, increased tyre clearance up from 28 to 33mm and a good old threaded bottom bracket. The top of the range S-Works models are made from the highest-grade FACT 11r carbon fibre, while the Base, Sport, Comp, Expert and Pro models use a FACT 10r carbon fibre frame.
The Future Shock 2.0 provides 20mm of vertical movement at the handlebar, positioned as it is below the stem and above the head tube. This is important because it's about suspending the rider, not the bike: only about 15 per cent of a rider's body weight is on the handlebar – which is where the Future Shock suspension system comes in. As well as providing more comfort, it also promotes the benefits of increased traction, with a claimed 5.8 per cent improvement over a rigid front end.
Previously, Future Shock could be tuned for different roads and riders by swapping out the springs, but that adjustment has been simplified with a turn dial. Now, you can twist it anticlockwise to open the shock for taming bumpy roads, clockwise to firm it up. It's not fully locked out in this position, but firm enough that it doesn't move under your body weight when sprinting or climbing out of the saddle. Impacts of sufficient force will still activate it to a small degree.
The other key design focus was ensuring a suitable balance from the front to the rear of the bike. The new Roubaix maintains the same 65mm lower seatpost clamp – in relation to the top tube – to allow the seatpost to deflect when the back wheel smashes into a cobble.
Specialized has tidied up the design, swapping from a two-bolt external clamping setup to an internal wedge design. This is aimed at allowing easier adjustment, with the bolt hidden underneath a tight-fitting rubber seal. The rubber is designed to be flexible to allow the post to move back and forth. It's easy enough to adjust saddle height, and once set I experienced no post slippage issues.
Then there is the new Pave seatpost which replaces the long-running CGR post. It's a smarter looking design – there weren't many fans of the CGR post – but it maintains the same level of compliance. It's also aerodynamic owing to the fact that it's the same profile as the Tarmac SL6 seatpost and is 80g lighter.
The new Roubaix has also spent time in the wind tunnel, with the claimed results that it's more aerodynamic than the current Tarmac SL6. This is achieved via new profiles for the head tube, fork blades, down tube, seat tube and seatpost, and the enlarged seat clamp area.
By using the same computer modelling software and expertise gained in developing the recent Venge, the new Roubaix is more aerodynamic: a claimed 24 seconds faster over 40km compared with the current Roubaix. It's not just racers riding at those speeds who will benefit either, cyclists travelling at lower speeds also stand to because they are on the road for longer.
If you want a Roubaix with the new Future Shock 2.0, you have to look at the Expert, Pro and S-Works models, with prices starting at £5,400 and rising to £9,500 for the S-Works bike on test here. The Comp and Sport use the older but slightly updated Future Shock 1.5 and prices for complete bikes start from a more reasonable £2,600.
There's nothing on this bike you'd want or need to change. The SRAM Red eTAP AXS 12-speed groupset with a 10-33 cassette and 46/33 chainset offers highly impressive shifting performance. It provides a wide range of ratios – I found the right gear to suit all my local Cotswolds hills, and the steps between sprockets ensure you can maintain optimum cadence at all times.
You can read a more detailed account of the new groupset here, but briefly: shifting is fast and precise and the buttons intuitive. The brakes are powerful and only occasionally noisy in the rain, but flawless in the dry. The integrated power meter delivers accurate and consistent data and works seamlessly with Garmin and Wahoo computers. The durability of the groupset has been without issue during my time testing it.
The Roval CLX 32 carbon fibre wheels help on the weight front, weighing a claimed 1,350g thanks to the shallow 32mm rim. They're tubeless-ready and the 21mm internal width works nicely with the 28mm-wide tyres the bike comes fitted with. The wheels provide good aerodynamics with no drawback in windy conditions; they feel direct and precise when cornering and sprinting, and the freehub engages with no delay.
Specialized's own Turbo Cotton tyres in 28mm width not only look the part with the tan sidewalls but offer a silky-smooth ride feel on all road surfaces, backed up by loads of reassuring grip in all conditions. If there's one complaint it's that they do tend to wear out quite fast and are a little more prone to punctures than some tyres. I would go tubeless if I was buying this bike.
The contact points have been nailed in typical fashion by Specialized. The S-Works Power saddle with its stubby shape and carbon rails is fantastically comfortable and has become my fave bike saddle.
The S-Works Carbon Hover handlebar provides a higher position than a conventional flat topped handlebar, but I did replace it with a regular flat Specialized bar to gain a lower position – I just found it a touch too tall.
The Future Stem looks good, and even the Roubaix S-Wrap bar tape is worth a mention, being cushioning and grippy.
Before we look at how the S-Works Roubaix compares with other brands, it's worth looking at more affordable models in the Roubaix range. The Roubaix Comp costs £4,000 with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and looks a top pick. You even get to choose from three fetching paint jobs.
If you're on a tighter budget, the £2,600 Roubaix Sport gets you a decent looking bike with a carbon frameset and Shimano 105 11-speed groupset.
Elsewhere, the Roubaix compares well on price with the brand new Trek Domane SLR 9, £9,550 in Dura-Ace Di2 trim, or £9,650 with SRAM eTap AXS. The Domane has been totally updated and delivers more claimed comfort and aerodynamics with space for whopping 38mm tyres, and also has a threaded bottom bracket. I've not ridden it so can't comment on how it compares from a ride and handling perspective.
The Roubaix does look a bit pricey compared with the venerable Cannondale Synapse Hi-Mod Red eTap AXS, which costs £7,999.99 with a full SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset and Cannondale's own Hollowgram carbon wheels. The Synapse frame is a proven performer, offering a silky-smooth ride quality, but it's perhaps showing its age a little – this model was launched in 2017.
Canyon's Endurace CF SLX Disc 9.0 eTap combines an endurance-focused carbon frame with carbon wheels and SRAM Red eTap groupset for £6,699, but the Endurace frame, launched in 2017, is also perhaps starting to show its age compared to the state-of-the-art Roubaix.
Another more affordable option is the Ribble Endurance SL R SRAM Red eTap AXS (£6,399), which I was very impressed with earlier this year. Ribble also lets you customise the bike as each is built to order.
Whether you need the Future Shock is down to whether you want the smoothest bike that will isolate you from lots of jarring impacts. It's a big improvement over the original, being smoother and better controlled, leading to a much nicer ride quality. That, along with all the other changes to the new Roubaix, ensure that it's fast, comfortable, efficient, precise, rewarding and fun to ride everywhere. It's one of the best endurance bikes currently available.
One of the best endurance bikes available with impressive speed and comfort, though this model is alarmingly expensive
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized S-Works Roubaix
Size tested: 56cm
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: FACT 11R, Rider First Engineered™ (RFE), FreeFoil Shape Library tubes, threaded BB, 12x142mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc
Fork: Future Shock 2.0 with Damper, Smooth Boot, 12x100 mm thru-axle, flat-mount
Stem: S-Works Future Stem with Integrated Computer mount
Bars: S-Works Carbon Hover Drop, 125x75mm
Front Brake: SRAM RED eTAP AXS, hydraulic disc
Rear Brake: SRAM RED eTAP AXS, hydraulic disc
Front Mech: SRAM RED eTAP AXS, braze-on
Rear Mech: SRAM RED eTAP AXS, 12-speed
Shifters: SRAM Force eTap AXS
Rims: Roval CLX 32 Disc
Rear Hub: LuHai_RVT66L-K5-B25-AN2-N4-F0, Tubeless valve stem for CLX 50 Tubeless wheels
Front Tyre: Turbo Cotton, 700x28
Rear Tyre: Turbo Cotton, 700x28
Seat Post: S-Works Pave
Saddle: S-Works Power, carbon rails, carbon base, synthetic leather
Chainset: SRAM FC Red DUB, Power Meter, 12-speed, 46/33T
Bottom Bracket: SRAM DUB BSA 68
Chain: SRAM CN Red 12-speed
Cassette: SRAM RED XG-1290, 12-speed, 10-33t
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Specialized says: "With seven wins at Paris-Roubaix, our Roubaix has proven that Smoother is Faster. Until this moment, however, smooth has admittedly come with some compromises. But not anymore. The all-new S-Works Roubaix now delivers compliance without compromise by introducing a radical new Future Shock 2.0 that gives you more control and damping options, a new Pavé seatpost that creates our most balanced Roubaix to date, aerodynamics that equal the Tarmac, and a Rider-First Engineered™ frame that tips the scales below 900 grams (Size: 56cm - Black). Is it still comfortable? Sure, but don't call it a comfort bike, because performance was behind every engineering decision we made. This is the new Roubaix.
"You wanted the best bike money can buy, and this S-Works delivers. We spec'd it with the full SRAM Red eTAP AXS 12-speed groupset, our World-Tour-level Roval CLX 32 carbon fiber wheels, the all-new S-Works Pavé seatpost, and S-Works from head-to-toe on everything from the Power saddle to the 28mm Turbo Cotton tires. It's absolute perfection.
"The new frame delivers compliance without compromise via the perfect balance of aerodynamics, light overall weight, compliance, and Rider-First Engineering™. With tube shapes that were born in our FreeFoil Shape Library and validated in the Win Tunnel, the new Roubaix's as aero as the Tarmac SL6. Meanwhile, to ensure the weight and ride quality, we turned to a Rider-First Engineered™ design to deliver optimal stiffness and compliance across all sizes, from 44 to 64cm. Of course, the frame also stays below 900 grams (Size 56cm | Black). And to prep you for your own Hell of the North, we've made room for 33mm tires.
"To go along with the new frame, we've also developed a totally-new S-Works Pavé seatpost. Not only is it the first compliant seatpost that's ALSO aerodynamic, it does so without any additional weight or finicky contraptions. Starting with the same D-shape design found on the Tarmac, we took its compliance a step further by building additional flex into the upper and developing a new drop-clamp design in the frame. This provides plenty of compliance, while staying perfectly balanced with the front-end, so you get a smooth, balanced ride no matter how rough the road.
"The Future Shock 2.0 is the result of our pro riders' demands for the cobbles of Roubaix. It's smoother, faster, and gives you more control via a knob atop the stem. This knob adjusts compression from fully-open to stiff, while hydraulically-damped internals control rebound. Add it up, and this latest version will reduce fatigue and increase your speed, no matter the terrain. The new Smooth Boot, top cap, and Future Stem also enhance the aesthetic, so you get a clean transition from head tube to stem."
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
It's £500 cheaper than the £10k Sagan Collection bike which has a fancy paint job, but otherwise, it sits atop the latest Roubaix range. You can also choose a Dura-Ace Di2 model for the same price if you prefer Shimano groupsets.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The build quality is top class.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
It uses the company's highest-grade FACT 11R carbon fibre with a claimed 900g frame weight.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is a bit slacker for more comfort and stability than a race bike like the Tarmac or Venge, good for pounding out the miles on crappy roads.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It's very similar to many other brands' endurance bikes. Specialized also offers three pro geometry versions with a longer top tube and shorter head tube if you like it aggressive, but most people will be well served by the regular geometry.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Comfort is the ace card of this bike – it deals with rough roads, pavé and potholes extremely well.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The frame is stiff where it matters, giving excellent power transfer when needed.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Predictable.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The handling is on the relaxed side for tackling long rides in comfort, but it's still lively enough when you want it to be.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
All the components shone on this bike.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
There's nothing I would change.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
Maybe changing to tubeless tyres.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The main contact points provided excellent comfort.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? If I could afford it. I'd consider one of the cheaper models...
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's at the upper end of the price scale for sure and there are cheaper ways to buy a SRAM Red eTap AXS-equipped bike, but the frame is the bigger talking point here. So many changes from the previous model stand it apart from many of its rivals, some of which are showing their age in this competitive endurance bike market.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's almost the perfect bike, but the price of this top-end model is going to be too rich for most tastes. Lower down the range there are some attractive options that offer much of the tech and performance for much less outlay.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.