VIDEO Review: Specialized Ruby Comp (Women's Roubaix) 2017
February 6th, 2017
February 6th, 2017
Anna is a jack-of-all-bikes, and has been riding and racing in a myriad of genres for over seven years; from World Cup level cross-country, to grass roots coaching kids on the road.
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With the boom of sportives in the UK, came a boom in endurance road bikes, and we now have more choice than ever in this niche of road cycling. Specialized have been developing the Ruby and the Roubaix for years, taking its namesake from one of the toughest and bumpiest one-day classics; the Paris-Roubaix. This cobbled classic is regarded as one of the toughest road races on the planet, and the Roubaix bike has been tested there many times beneath the legs of pro teams and independent racers for some time, so the name and the reputation sets a bit of a standard in comfort and performance.
So let's get straight to the point, as I know you're all dying to know more about the Specialized FutureShock. Well, as a bit of background, the Ruby and Roubaix have traditionally had all their 'comfort gimmicks' within the frame. You may be familiar with the old frame having plastic polymer/elastomer/Zerts/Roubaix (whatever!) inserts in the forks and rear seat stays to add a bit of flex in favour of comfort. It should go without saying that flex in your frame can be a tad disconcerting, however, this concept is pretty much the standard in the endurance road cycling market, together with more upright positions and forgiving geometry. This year, Specialized have really differentiated themselves, taking all their comfort-enducing solutions out of the frame and leaving it to be as stiff as their equivalent performance race bikes.
Specialized have really differentiated themselves, taking all their comfort-enducing solutions out of the frame and leaving it to be as stiff as their equivalent performance race bikes.
With a stiffer frame you may wonder how it can be as comfortable. Enter the FutureShock and the Specialized CG-R seat post. The Future Shock is effectively a spring hidden within the steerer tube underneath the stem. It has 20mm of travel buffered by a rubber seal and can be removed and replaced with different colour-coded springs to alter the softness of the suspension. As the stem and handlebars are still attached to the steerer tube and forks as usual, you don't need to worry about the handlebars flopping around like a strawberry shoelace. The seat post clamp is now located further down and integrated into the frame. Together with a rubber grip inserted around the rim of the frame, where the seat clamp usually goes, it leaves more room for the Specialized CG-R seat post to flex as you bump along the road. The alien-like kink at the top of the seat post further adds comfort, and Specialized's own female-specific saddles finishes it off (male or female, it should not be underestimated how good a Specialized saddle is). A few extra bolts here and there also means that two bottles can be added (even on the pictured 49cm frame), as well as Specialized's own tool carry cases that sit in the well of the tubes, above the bottom bracket.
As you can see from the photos, testing a white bike with a white saddle and white bar tape in the middle of a British Winter is not ideal, but it does give you an idea of what it might look like after a year of Summer dust. Frankly, it still looks great from afar thanks to Specialized sticking with good old gloss paint, not that pesky matte, which is much easier to clean and keep looking fresh. The overall look of it though, with quirky seat post, curvy bars and generally striking geometric angles mean it's been a bit of a 'Marmite' bike among my friends and colleagues, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? My first ride was in the Peak District, where it was treated to typically British roads and weather. The FutureShock certainly did its job ironing out the bumps, grit and pot-holes, and the disc brakes had ample power to stop me in the rain and wet fog, yet they still had decent enough modulation to control how much braking I wanted. The seat post is by far my favourite feature, taking out everything from tarmac rumble to sudden unexpected impacts. Oddly, this bike is by far the most comfortable bike I've ever to set on my indoor training rollers, which confirms it's ability to relieve pressure in the pelvis and buttocks even when faced with a static position for long periods of time.
While the FutureShock and the Specialized CG-R seat post are incredible pieces of technology that completely overshadow the competition in terms of comfort and engineering, they do come with minor drawbacks. Of course, every bike has it's flaw, mainly because you can't have all the boxes ticked with full marks all at the same time. For example, a fast and aero race bike is very rarely considered to be 'comfortable' for long distances, and vice versa. The Specialized Ruby comes very close to performing like a race bike, in that the frame is responsive and accelerates exceptionally, however; the movement from the FutureShock and CG-R seat post can be disconcerting when they react unexpectedly. Suspension like this doesn't know when it is required; it cannot differentiate between movement from underneath or movement from above. This means that I did 'notice' the suspension quite often. There would often be a slight movement in the saddle or in the handle bars when cycling around a sharp or fast corner, which felt similar to that slightly bending and sinking feeling you get when your tyres have dropped pressure. I've found it hard to shake this uneasiness, even with the stiffer spring inserted, but I've only spent a couple of weeks with it so far. It should be something you can get used to, and I know a few guys on the Roubaix who have already blocked it out of their peripheral. If you can channel out these movements, or simply ignore them and trust that the bike has got your back, then you and the Ruby will go the distance without any squabbles.
For this spec, £2,400 is seemingly expensive on paper, but the gadgets incorporated into the bike, plus the time, the innovation and the engineering that has gone into this particular model more than justify the price tag. The question is, is the added gadgetry worth the extra funds for you? I've got to say, I do love the look of this bike. I didn't at first, but it's a grower. It is visually very daring and so is the design. I wanted to find fault in this bike, mainly because it's Specialized, and perhaps I'm a little tired of them doing everything so well, but as a comfortable road bike it really is rather good. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is the most comfortable endurance bike I've ever ridden. It is a very innovative spin on the usual design, which will surely turn the endurance market on its head. Whether I would choose this model over their standard race bikes (or even the aluminium range, which I've found to be very comfortable in the past, even in the Allez Sprint) is another matter, but that's just me, and I do like my bikes to be predictable and sharp. If comfort is your first priority when buying a bike, this should be be on your list to consider, and your first test ride at your local dealer may be a slippery slope to purchase.