We test the S-Works Roubaix SL8: more comfortable and faster than ever

Road 25/03/24 07:00 Migue A.

The Specialized Roubaix SL8 is the latest version of the most popular gran fondo bike among cycling enthusiasts, and we've had the opportunity to test it for a whole season.

When we talk about Gran Fondo, we think of rough roads, cobblestones, mud and epic. But one word stands out above all "Roubaix", either because it evokes one of the most mythical and worldwide known races, or because it is the name of the bike that started a specific category two decades ago.

Specialized Roubaix SL8, comfort focused on maximum performance

Today there are many brands that have in their catalog a road line focused on endurance, or gran fondo, but it is a segment that does not usually capture the attention of the general public, more attracted to the spectacular aerodynamic bikes, or to the ultralight climber models, which are also major players in the professional peloton. So much so that it is not so common to find one of these models with a top-of-the-range set-up like this Specialized S-Works Roubaix SL8.

It has been two decades since Specialized presented the first version of its now legendary Roubaix model, and since then it has not ceased to evolve until the present version, where we find a model that does not give up anything. Never before have they managed to combine the parameters of comfort, capacity and pure performance in a better way.

Specialized, with this bike, demonstrates the importance it gives to this segment, offering this S-Works version, with its best carbon fiber, the most sophisticated technology and a luxury setup.

Starting with the frame, we see lines that do not compromise on aerodynamics. We find areas with truncated profile both in the seat tube and in the down tube, and flattened and profiled areas in the head tube. The low seat stays also have the same purpose. In fact, according to Specialized, it is the most aerodynamic Roubaix ever made. The fork also has a pronounced aero profile.

The use of Fact 12r carbon fiber and construction technology inherited from the Aethos results in a weight of just 825 grams, down 50 grams from the previous version.

But the highlight of the Specialized Roubaix frame lies in the solutions applied to vibration absorption and comfort. The path chosen for this task is based on suspending the rider and not so much the bike itself, thus making the bike as fast and efficient as possible.


At the rear we find what Specialized calls Aftershock technology, which consists of a seatpost clamp embedded in the frame and positioned as low as possible to leave more of the seatpost exposed so that it can flex freely. This flex is controlled, as the Pavé seatpost is designed for this purpose.

This Aftershock system, combined with a stiff rear triangle, provides the smoothness that is sought after on this type of bike without compromising efficiency at all.

Future Shock 3.0, the system rises to excellence

Specialized were not the first to try to suspend the handlebars from the rest of the bike, but with the Future Shock they achieved a reliable, functional system without being excessively bulky or heavy.

Now in its 3.0 version it is more adjustable and durable than ever. It offers 20mm of configurable travel so that whatever the rider's weight and position on the bike, they can benefit from the comfort and safety it offers.

To adjust the system to our preferences we have several options. The internal spring of the system can be changed very easily (there are three different hardnesses), including the possibility of mounting preload spacers. In addition, our test unit was fitted with the Future Shock 3.3, which includes an adjustment dial with 6 hardness positions that can be adjusted on the fly.

The idea is to suspend the rider and not the bike, so that the wheel travels quickly and without flexing, which slows the rider down. As they say at Specialized "Smoother is Faster".

In terms of geometry we do not see too radical changes compared to a pure performance bike, such as a Tarmac. We would only highlight slightly longer chainstays with its 420mm and a slightly more relaxed head angle with 72.3º.

The most noticeable change is the resulting handlebar height, although in the measurement table we see a 122mm head tube in size 54, which is quite short. The reason is that it leaves room to accommodate the Future Shock, which gives some height to the stem. This, together with the shape of the handlebars, will place us in an upright position, typical of a long-distance bike.

The S-Works Roubaix SL8 comes with everything

Specialized hasn't skimped on the setup of this top-of-the-line Roubaix, which is reflected in its high price, just like the rest of the S-Works road models.

Starting with the groupset, we find the jewel in Sram's crown. The complete Sram Red eTAP AXS. A groupset that has already been on the market for a few years but never ceases to amaze with its total absence of cables, its impeccable performance and its striking aesthetics, with its successful combination of black color with polished aluminum parts and the rainbow touch of its cassette and chain.

In the drivetrain we find a combination of cassette with 10-33 development and crankset with 46 and 33 teeth chainrings, somewhat smaller than usual on the road but which, combined with the small 10-tooth sprocket, gives us a range suitable for the intended use of this bike.

For braking, both 160mm discs guarantee total reliability.

The wheels mounted on the Roubaix S-Works are Roval Terra CLX II. Wheels focused on gravel but, with their very light weight of 1250 grams and their excellent rolling on ceramic bearings, expand its capabilities and guarantees the best performance either on the best asphalt or in light gravel use, which falls within the capabilities of the Roubaix.

The carbon rims have an internal width of 25mm and allow the use of tyres from 28 to 47c. The Roval LFD hubs have the internal parts of the famous DT Swiss 180 with their ceramic bearings. The DT Swiss Aerolite spokes complete the set with a very specific spoking, with a 2:1 configuration (double the number of spokes on the side with the highest tension) and with variations in the number of crossovers. The tyres chosen are S-Works Mondo 2BR with a width of 32c. Specific tubeless tyres with a large tread depth that guarantee resistance on all types of asphalt and even dirt tracks.

In the cockpit we find a S-Works Future stem to which we can attach a GPS forward mount integrated into the lid itself. The S-Works Carbon Hover handlebar combines its compact size with a slight rise to put us in a very comfortable position.

At the back we have the S-Works Pave seatpost, which we've already talked about, combined with a S-Works Power saddle.

First impressions with the S-Works Roubaix SL8

At first glance, the Roubaix may appear to be a discreet bike. Its gray color gives it a sober and elegant look. It is on closer inspection that its well-thought-out design becomes apparent. Aerodynamic shapes and a combination of rounded curves with more or less hard edges on all its tubes make for very attractive lines.

Also noteworthy is its wide wheel arch that allows mounting up to 40mm wide. And we can see bolts on the top tube for attaching luggage bags, as well as a third location for a bottle cage under the down tube.


In addition to this, and in a very disguised way, we can find some strategically placed threads to mount mudguards.

Before putting the pedals on, we took it to the scales, where it weighed in at 7.39kg. A weight that seems spectacular considering the type of bike it is, and taking into account that it includes the Future Shock and a set of Gravel wheels with sturdy 32c tyres.

We made the pertinent adjustments and set the tyres to the right pressure.

In this type of rims and tyres you have to forget about the pressure data that many cyclists keep engraved in our minds after so many years. The maximum pressure that these tyres allow is 80 psi (about 5.5 bar). So we put 5 bars of pressure for our 75kg and we set off.

In the first few meters riding the S-Works Roubaix SL8 the first thing we notice is that the position is not as aggressive as on a purely race-oriented bike. The higher handlebar height, due to its peculiar shape and the Future Shock, places us slightly more upright, and we are very comfortable from the first moment.

The first route we set out on was a regular route on good roads, to see how much of a disadvantage a bike like the Roubaix can be compared to a pure racing bike.

We were soon riding at our usual speeds without noticing any kind of ballast. The only thing to note is that we used the grip on the lower part of the handlebars for a longer period of time, as we weren't forced at all and it's very easy to stay engaged on the Roubaix.

Even on these roads in good condition we clearly notice the vibration filtering by the Future Shock and the 32 tyres, making the ride exquisite.

Pedaling standing up, the Roubaix transmits an outstanding stiffness and we noticed a power transmission without losses of any kind, in fact in the climbs we were very pleasantly surprised, showing an efficiency that we did not expect from a long-distance bike.

Looking for the aspect where the Roubaix could be penalized compared to more competitive bikes, such as Tarmac, we could say that in changes of pace it does not have the same spark, but of course, in this bike other virtues are sought and the performance in these aspects is so close that it is difficult to find arguments why a touring cyclist, even of a certain level, would not find in the S-Works Roubaix SL8 the ideal bike.


Roubaix is ready for the worst conditions

As we said at the beginning, the worst roads, cobblestones and even the "sterrato" is where the Roubaix is supposed to show us its greatest virtues, so there we went to look for the tickle.

The filtration of irregularities that it offers is something that, although it was expected, does not cease to surprise us. But we also have the feeling that the Roubaix maintains a speed in these terrains that is not diminished at all by this filtration. The feeling is of riding faster than with any other bike the worse the road gets.

Neither is it noisy when we pass very rough areas nor do we get the feeling that something is going to come apart with so much vibration.

With the S-Works Roubaix SL8 we also have a big advantage when the road slopes down. The confidence this bike gives us is spectacular. It combines a very balanced geometry, the control and coolness that the Future Shock gives us in our hands and wrists, and those big-ball tyres. We enjoyed the descents like never before, tracing the corners with total confidence and feeling incomparable control and safety.

In the small incursions we have made on dirt tracks has also been defended with good note, but we must be clear that it is not a Gravel bike. The main limitation are the tyres that, although with a generous ball for road, do not have a lug. While we can find very comfortable on flat trails or slight climbs, on downhills we must be extremely cautious.

As for the performance of the components we can only emphasize the good working of the Sram Red AXS, which we have tested on several occasions and always leaves a very positive impression.

We love the systematic shifting, with a single button on each lever (for chainring shifting you press both at the same time), which eliminates the possibility of pressing the wrong button. In addition, with the AXS application, we can customize automatisms, such as compensation with the shifting of one or two sprockets every time we change chainring, or even the automatic mode, in which the chainring shifts only when a certain combination arrives.

In braking, the Sram Red, with both 160mm discs have performed perfectly, which is no small feat considering that with the Roubaix you can go down really fast. The feel and power of the brakes gave us a lot of confidence.

And from the rest of the peripherals, the ergonomics and comfort offered by the S-Works Hover handlebars and the comfort of the S-Works Power saddle, which has become a reference in the market for a reason.

Conclusion about the Specialized S-Works Roubaix SL8

In times when all parameters are measured and compared, be it weight or aerodynamics, with the corresponding studies that tell us how many seconds we save at such a speed in such a long time. Comfort and ergonomics are difficult to place in the balance. And if we also take into account that for professionals it is not so vital, either by age or fitness, and we do not see this type of bikes in most races, then the focus of the general public goes towards ultralight or purely aerodynamic bikes.

Our opinion, after testing gran fondo bikes on several occasions, and even more after riding this spectacular Roubaix, is that for the vast majority of amateurs it is the ideal type of bike.

We found that on our rides we went just as fast as with purely competitive bikes and ended up with much less fatigue in our upper body. Definitely, the Specialized Roubaix is a bike with which you want to do longer rides and enjoy the most in all types of terrain due to its great versatility.

The Roubaix SL8 range covers a wide range of levels and prices. Of course the €14,000 price tag of the S-Works we tested is only available to a lucky few. The entry price to the range is €2,800 for a bike with a Fact 10r carbon frame and a Shimano Tiagra groupset. From there the range is completed with up to 7 models, and we also have the option to purchase the S-Works frame kit for €5,500.

S-Works Roubaix SL8: specifications, weight and price

  • Frame: Fact 12r, Rider First Engineered (RFE)
  • Fork: Future Shock 3.3 w/ Smooth Boot, Fact Carbon 12x10mm
  • Saddle: Body Geometry S-Works Power
  • Handlebar: S-Works Carbon Hover drop 125mm, reach 75mm
  • Stem: S-Works Future
  • Seatpost: S-Works Pave
  • Chain: Sram Red 12s
  • Cassette: Sram XG 1290, 10-33T
  • Control: Sram Red eTAP AXS
  • Shifter: Sram Red eTAP AXS
  • Crankset: Sram Red AXS w/Power 46/33T
  • Rear Derailleur: Sram Red eTAP AXS
  • Brakes: Sram Red Hydraulic Disc
  • Wheels: Roval Terra CLX II, 25 inner Width, 32mm depth, Oval LFD hub ceramic
  • Tyres: S-Works Mondo 2BR, 700x32c
  • Weight: 7.39kg
  • Price: 14,000€



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