Specialized launched its Roubaix sportive/endurance bike at the turn of the century and chose the hardest race on the professional cycling calendar to name it after. Today, completing the circle, Specialized has become the official sponsor of both the Paris Roubaix Classic race as well as the Paris-Roubaix Challenge, in a deal that will run until 2021.
“The Specialized Roubaix will now become the official bike of the Paris Roubaix,” says Specialized in its announcement today. And there’s a good chance the Roubaix could be the winning bike given the incredible form the Deceuninck - Quick-Step team is enjoying and is surely one of the favourites heading into the race in a couple of weeks time unless Peter Sagan does the double following his spectacular victory from a 54km break last year?
Specialized also reminds us that its Roubaix bike has actually been ridden to victory six times in the Paris-Roubaix race. “Big stars like Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara, Niki Terpstra, and Peter Sagan saw their dreams come true by crossing the finish and holding their well-deserved cobblestone trophy in the air. They all had one thing in common: They won their races aboard their Specialized Roubaix. No less than six times, the Specialized Roubaix bike piloted these riders to a win.”
We’re not sure which other bike brand has won the race on more occasions than this, but if you know the answer do let us know please.
“Paris-Roubaix is an icon in the world of cycling. It’s the ultimate testing ground for the world’s best cyclists and we’ve been dedicated as technical partners to develop the smoothest and fastest equipment for the race. We’re excited to partner with the ASO to celebrate this monument with athletes all around the world,” says Mark Cote, CMO of Specialized.
"We are delighted to welcome aboard to Paris-Roubaix a brand that has such a great history with the race. Specialized is one of the leading cycling brands in the world and we are proud to present them as one of the partners for Paris-Roubaix for the next three years.” – Thierry Gouvenou, Race Director Paris-Roubaix
The Roubaix was a key bike when it launched at the turn of the century, one of the first sportive bikes designed to bring all the speed and performance of a race bike to a wider audience with a more relaxed geometry, typified by a tall head tube. Specialized recognised there were lots of people getting into cycling that don't have the flexibility of a pro rider doing 30,000km a year.
It was also designed to meet the demands of the 54km of pave the riders must dabble over in the race dubbed the Hell of the North. The racing helped to shape the development of the bike, allowing Specialized to produce a bike to meet not only the demands of its sponsored athletes but also regular Joes.
The original used Zertz inserts and wavy tube shapes to provide a bit of cushioning for the rider, while the geometry was also more upright, a move intended to market the bike to the growing interest in cycling from enthusiast cyclists who wanted the speed and low weight of a race bike, but didn’t want the aggressive slammed position of a race bike.
It was a successful bike, helping to spawn the sportive and endurance category which is probably the biggest seller for most bike brands these days, with more people taking up cycling as a hobby, fitness pursuit and for commuting.
Over the years the bike has evolved, getting lighter, growing tyre clearance and adding disc brakes along the way. The most recent update was a radical ground-up redesign, with the Zertz inserts shown the door and a novel Future Shock introduced, a spring cartridge hidden under the stem inside the steerer tube. It was wrapped up with a frame made lighter, stiffer and of sportier geometry. Disc brakes were the only option, unless your name was Peter Sagan of course and you get a very custom bike.
Peter Sagan’s winning Roubaix bike last year also had something else the production bike doesn’t: a lockable Future Shock. Watch the race highlights and you can see Sagan turning a dial atop the stem which clearly has to be a way of adjusting, or locking out, the spring in the Future Shock. Remember that while the pave dominates the conversation and bike setup for the race, there’s lot more road, so it’s a balancing act of providing a setup to combat the cobbles without compromising speed on the road.
It’ll be interesting to see if and when this makes it to the production Roubaix, which going by the typical 3-year model cycle for modern road bikes means we could be in for an update this year, as the current Roubaix launched in 2017.
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. 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, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.