Specialized founder, Mike Sinyard, is as passionate about bikes as ever.
Every summer, it seems as if more and more people are out on the roads and riding their bicycles. And why not? Summer means warm weather, no school for the young ones and, of course, the Tour de France. And for the bike industry, summertime also means the culmination of at least a full year of hard work: the unveiling of brand new bikes, parts and gear. This summer, we've been ringing in the 2013 model year with product launches from the likes of Magura
, a variety of brands at Bike PressCamp
and, coming at the end of this summer, the big shows of EuroBike and InterBike. And now, let's add Specialized to the list. (More sneak peeks at bikes and parts to come, so check back soon!)
To unveil its latest and greatest bikes and parts, Specialized
invited a select group of international cycling journalists to the winter ski town of Snowbird, Utah for the company's Global Press Launch (GPL). The annual event gives the cycling media a first look at next year's new products, while the following week, Specialized dealers are brought in to check out the goods, as well. Surrounding our home for the week, the Cliff Lodge
, are some amazing mountain bike trails and endless ribbons of tarmac that only climbers will appreciate. Flat roads are definitely in short supply up here.
The typical routine for press junkets like Specilized's GPL involves a presentation from the brand's engineers, designers and marketing people, followed by demo rides. This event was no exception. As we took our seats inside one of the Cliff Lodge's many conference centers, we noticed a bike propped on a stand, covered with a black sheet. It seems that Specialized wanted to create a mood of suspense. What's under the sheet, you ask? Keep reading to find out.
Nope, this isn't the bike under the black sheet (keep reading for that reveal). But Specialized did unveil a variety of "special edition" bikes, including the above Venge aero road bike, dressed to the nines in a silver and black paint scheme and built with a Campagnolo EPS electronic drivetrain.
Let's be totally honest here: no one in attendance expected Specialized to roll out this bike. Why? It's a full-fledged S-Works (i.e. top of the line) version of the company's aluminum Allez road bike. Why go through the trouble of producing an uber high-end version of an aluminum bike? "Specialized is known for being carbon fiber experts, but we never settle," says marketing man, Chris Riekert. "And with the Allez being as popular as it is, we wanted to push aluminum technology as far as it could go." The complete S-Works Allez comes in at a claimed 14.5 pounds.
Remember that bike hidden underneath the black sheet? Specialized's founder, Mike Sinyard, was on hand for the big reveal... the all-new, Roubaix SL4! Developed in collaboration with Tom Boonen (who rode a prototype version to victory at the 2012 Paris-Roubaix), the new Roubaix represents "everything [Specialized] knows to date," according to Sinyard. Compared to the previous rendition of the Roubaix, the new model's signature Zertz elastomer inserts have been re-shaped, but still take their place at the seat stays and fork. The headtube is more of an hourglass shape this time around, with hardly any "flat spots," something that Specialized engineers say lead to flex and rob front-end performance.
Like all Specialized models, the Roubaix line will include a variety of builds and several price points. One of the more unique options will be the Roubaix SL4 Disc Expert. That's right, Specialized has embraced disc brakes for road bikes. The Expert will sport mechanical disc brakes, while an S-Works version is still being developed that will (rumor has it) be rocking hydraulic disc brakes.
FIRST RIDE: SPECIALIZED ROUBAIX SL4 S-WORKS
I took out one of the all-new Roubaix SL4 S-Works bikes, complete with the latest SRAM Red drivetrain (combined with Specialized's newest carbon crankarms), and Specialized's new Roval Rapide CLX wheels (more on those in a future web report). Rather than giving each of the Roubaix's six sizes the same headset measurement, three different measurements are on tap: For sizes 49 and 52, the lower bearing measures 1 1/8-inch. Sizes 54 and 56 get a 1 1/4-inch lower bearing. And the 58 and 61 sizes get a 1 3/8-inch lower bearing. Each size's upper bearing clocks in at 1 1/8-inch. The idea was to give every size frame similar handling characteristics, which can be impacted by variances in frame sizing.
The Roubaix SL4 fork features a larger Zertz elastomer than the previous Roubaix SL3. The fork blades are actually quite robust up near the crown, but they taper down to thin dropouts. This build will be available among the many new Roubaixs hitting dealer floors sometime in the fall, and it includes SRAM Red brakes and Specialized's own Roval Rapide CLX carbon clincher wheels.
Like the Zertz elastomers on the fork, those on the seat stays are a bit larger than previous versions. They're still "mechanically fastened," however, meaning that they can be removed by hand and replaced should they become damaged in a crash. Specialized says that the SL4's rear end is 18.5% laterally stiffer than the SL3's rear end, which implies an improvement in power transfer, although the SL4 also offers more vertical compliance.
Perhaps the most eye-catching piece on the new S-Works Roubaix SL4 is the COBL GOBL-R (as in, "cobble gobbler") carbon 27.2mm seatpost. The post features a dramatic, forward-facing bend and in between the question-mark-shaped tube is an elastomer, not unlike those Zertz varieties found on the seat stays and fork. Specialized says the post reduces up to 20% of vibrations, depending on road conditions, compared to a regular carbon post. The COBL GOBL-R post will come standard on S-Works Roubaix SL4 builds, but will also be available as an aftermarket part. Rider weight limit is set at 240 pounds.
Specialized is celebrating 39 years in business, and company founder, Mike Sinyard (left), can still hammer a road bike with the best of them. While riding the new Roubaix, I found an unpaved, hard packed, dirt road that helped add up to a few thousand feet of climbing into the Wasatch Mountains, topping out nearly at 10,000 feet above sea level. I was happy with my initial Roubaix SL4 experience. It's stiff and light, with vertical compliance in abundance. Check out the July 2012 issue of Road Bike Action for an in-depth look at the Roubaix SL4's development, and keep your eyes peeled for a full review in a future issue.
And don't forget to look for full coverage of Specialized's GPL in an upcoming issue of Road Bike Action magazine, where we'll have complete information, including pricing and full specifications on all the new models. And check back here on RoadBikeAction.com for more sneak peeks at Specialized's newest parts and accessories!