Quick Review: 2015 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Comp Disc

2015 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Comp Disc

2015 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Comp Disc

Gallery below!

I am slowly getting to like Specialized. I mean, if you’re going to purchase a crabon bike to shed grams and pretend like you’re on a team, then Specialized, I think, is one of the better big-company bike companies out there.  I am not doing this review here to claim that Specialized is the best. Far from it. I am merely giving you a run-down of what I would choose if I were in the market for a crabon endurance bike. That said:

The 2015 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Comp Disc

Since I have made the conscious choice not to race anymore, I have resigned myself to near-Fred status. Yes. Expensive bicycles capture my attention. The only differences between me and an actual Fred is that I cannot afford to purchase the above-pictured bike and I possess the intellectual capacity to realize that I don’t really need it. I can, however, borrow one for a whiles to assess its potential for actual Freds who can afford one.

The extremely long and exhaustive name of the Roubaix Comp Disc gives away its most noticeable attribute: the Shimano 785 hydraulic road disc brakes. Finally,  a really heavy person (I don’t discriminate based on gender, but some of you dudes are huge) can ride a really light crabon bike and be able to stop on a dime. And though I am pushing a hefty 160 pounds, I found the brakes to be extremely responsive and quick to get used to. And when I say “get used to” I mean it takes a couple of stops at a slower speed to master not falling down (the bike is really light and the stoppage is immediate). Not only that, but the calipers have fins on them for those people who love good heat dissipation.

Moving on to the drivetrain, I found the Shimano Ultegra 11-speed setup quite nice. No Di2 needed here (especially at this price point). The Ultegra shift levers are quite responsive and almost Fred-proof. The PraxisWorks 50/34 compact-double chainrings were a nice addition and a good way for Specialized to keep the build cost down. Not to mention, it’s kind of cool having a crankset named after an exploded Klingon moon. A full Ultegra drivetrain is not necessary unless you are looking to brag about having a crankset that is overly expensive. And I wouldn’t bother bragging about anything less than Dura Ace or SRAM Red anyway. My only gripe is that I would rather have an external bottom bracket rather than the press-fit BB30 that comes on this frame. I can see lots of loosening and noise in the future especially if a climber buys this bike.

Speaking of climbing: there is a noticeable frame flex when climbing. Out of the saddle, it started to feel a little noodly on the long climbs we have around here.

The geometry is awesome. I am 5′ 10″ and I tested the 54cm. I felt relaxed and not too aero. For a long-distance ride, I think this bike would be perfect. I also had my reservations about the effectiveness of the Zertz inserts on the fork, seat stays and seat post However, they proved to be quite effective. The bike certainly lived up to its cobblestone-inspired name as it did a really great job of dampening vibration. The bike does glide, people.

For the 54cm  model, the 72-degree headtube angle was just slack enough to give me a comfortable ride. The steering was extremely responsive and smooth. At slower speeds (read: in a footdown contest), it was great. However, I don’t think I will be playing bike polo with it anytime soon. The wheels are another story. The Axis wheels are good, but I found them to be a little heavy to match with this frame. If I were suffering from chronic Fredness, I would definitely upgrade to a set of Mavic Kysirium SLS. But if you’re actually looking at the price of this bike, those would set you back at least another six large on a swap with your LBS, bringing this beast to over four grand.

Conclusion

If you have enough cabbage and want an effective crabon endurance ride, I would recommend, nay, advocate for the Specialized Roubaix Comp Disc.  It’s just at the bottom end of Fredness while still being pretty awesome. In fact, I would say that the only thing holding this thing back from complete Fredability is the fact that it doesn’t say “S-Works” on the downtube. And, like all of the SL4 road bikes that Specialized puts out, it makes a great platform for future upgrades.

*End of line*

 

 

 

Carlos and Fred* – Update

Freds

Carlos Soto (left) and Fred*. Riding Time carbon road bikes.
Shot on State Street in Santa Barbara, CA.

The last time you saw this image was in my post Freds* from right before Christmas of last year. I have a habit of naming people “Fred” when I don’t have time to get their name. I also understand that the word “Fred”, when referring to a cyclist can have a negative connotation. I do this in jest, not to offend anyone, but to keep the blog light hearted and humorous. But what happens when the jokes I make are not funny?

It turns out that the cyclist pictured on the left is Carlos Soto, a well-known cyclist here in Santa Barbara who I never had the pleasure to meet. He recently passed away this last weekend. In this picture, he is almost 60 years old. Because I have never been one to join the local racing scene or wear lots of tight lycra, I naturally (and inadvertently) distanced myself from people like Carlos without ever getting to know him. I found out about his passing the other day when my friend Joe commented on the original post. I sincerely hope I didn’t offend anyone in Carlos’s family or his circle of friends. I am also disappointed in myself for not getting to know the cyclists in this town a little better. So we don’t always see eye to eye on our riding kit. But we do have a lot in common. Rest in Peace, Carlos. I never knew you, but I hear you were a helluva guy.

*Any riders whose name I don’t get are automatically called Fred (or Frieda if they are female). That is all.

2014 Jake the Snake: Quick Review

Like I was saying earlier about cyclocross: the bikes that some companies are coming out with are just fantastic. If you are looking to get into cyclocross, Kona might be a good place to start. There are four bikes in the Jake series for 2014: from entry level to high end they are the Jake, Jake the Snake (pictured), Major Jake and Super Jake. The reason why the Jake the Snake is a better choice than the jake is mainly the price. For MSRP of $1,699 US, you get some pretty nice features. The main one that impressed me is the tapered headset. You get an FSA 57B internal with sealed cartridge bearings. The tapering is important: even though the frame is made of the same Racelight 7005 Aluminum and is stiff to begin with, the tapered headset gives much more stability and response. That’s important when you are barreling down a decline surfaced with a mix of mud, gravel and dry grass. Also, the biggest bang for your buck comes from the Shimano Ultegra group and tubeless-ready wheels. It’s a great platform to learn on and you can upgrade it with nicer parts after you beat the crap out of the stock parts. If you want a good sub-$2,000 do-it-all bike, this may be the one. Yes, I know I am always saying that Surly is the way to go on account of the steel awesomeness they create. But Kona is a great company that makes race-worthy bikes and their employees do a lot of personal R and D on the frames. The Snake is definitely not Fred-worthy, so they deserve a test ride at your local Kona dealer with a subsequent purchase. You will not be disappointed. Plus it looks great in pictures!

Tyler

Tyler and a 2014 Kona Jake Cyclocross Bike.

Tyler and a 2014 Kona Jake Cyclocross Bike.
Shot in an alley off Ortega Street in Santa Barbara, CA

Some of you may not know about cyclocross. It’s a sport that has been around for quite a while but has really blown up lately. It started out as a steeplechase format where you would ride your bike from one point to another across fields and fences, rivulets and hills in relatively straight line. Nowadays, it is done on a preset track loop with a certain amount of dirt, mud, inclines, etc. What it boils down to is you ride a road bike with knobby tires through the mud and gravel, getting dirty and rad the whole way. There are sections where you must dismount and carry your bike up steps or inclines. The bikes needed to race cyclocross used to be just modified steel road frames that used cantilever brakes and knobby 700 x 35mm tires. Now, there are special models available from a number of manufacturers made specifically with cyclocross in mind. The Kona Jake line is a good example of where cyclocross is heading. Disc brakes are becoming more common and aluminum frames are reserved for the lower end price ranges.

But due to the less-than-aggressive geometry of these bikes, they make fantastic commuters. I myself have a Surly Crosscheck that I built up with a SRAM Force road gruppo and a Brooks saddle. Although it has a steel frame, it is light enough to get the job done and I don’t have to worry about being delicate with it. Cyclocross bikes are sturdy, comfortable and fast. The 700c wheel size means you have tons of options for tires and a larger cassette ratio means you can tackle the hills on your commute or on the course. Whether you call them CX, cyclocross or if you’re a Fred, a ‘cross bike, they are truly an awesome fit for lots of uses.

Uni-Fred

Uni-fred riding a unicycle playing a guitar. Shot on State Street in Santa Barbara, CA.

Uni-fred riding a unicycle playing a guitar.
Shot on State Street in Santa Barbara, CA.

 

The cycling world is filled with some pretty annoying things. Drugs, recumbents, Freds, fat bikes, weight weenies, embrocation, spandex, the list is long. But there is one thing that has been link sandpaper on my brain ever since I saw one lumber awkwardly past me in college: unicycles. To me, they are not just half a bike. To me they represent everything that is wrong with America.

You see, in America, we have this “look at me” culture. We are dying to get noticed. Oh hey, I play guitar pretty well. But so do about a million others around me. How can I stand out? I know! I can play guitar while balancing on some half a contraption usually reserved for clowns and jugglers! Look. I’m not denying that Uni-Fred here has skills. He’s got sweet balancing skills, but his guitar playing leaves little to be desired. So to me, he’s nothing more than a de-frocked clown on a wheel. Did I forget to mention that I hate clowns? Look at me!

Fred*

Fred and his Intense Carbine

Rides an Intense Carbine Dual Suspension Mountain Bike.
Shot on Mission Canyon Road near the Inspiration Point Trailhead.

As I was coming down from the Inspiration Point trail, I noticed this guy getting rad on his extremely nice mountain bike. We see a lot of dual-suspension mountain bikes in our neck of the woods. Seldom do I see an Intense Carbine, though…I guess I am just biased because I work at a shop that sells Kona and Santa Cruz. Intense is one of those brands that really isn’t in the vocabulary for me. I mean sure, every now and then I see an article over on Bike Rumor about their latest offering. But I remain stuck in major brand land. But that’s okay. To me, a lot of these bikes are just differences in frames and rear-suspension linkages. All the other stuff like the suspension and components tends to be the same.

That said, the Intense Carbine is one of those bikes that just wants to be in the air and sideways. All the time. This guy didn’t look like he was going to be spending too much time in the air. But I have been wrong about appearances many times. I am always told by my mountain-biking friends that the older set will still give you a run for your money. And this guy did growl at me.

*All riders who do not give me their name are automatically named Fred or Frieda.

Freds*

Freds

Riding Time carbon road bikes.
Shot on State Street in Santa Barbara, CA.

I was on the way to the Tuesday Farmers’ Market on State street when I saw these guys riding up towards me. Due to my ridiculous zeal of being the Way of the Bicycle photographer, I tried to flag them down, half expecting them to stop. But alas, it was not to be. They were on a mission. They were kitted out in lycra and mounted on carbon steeds in a manner that said “we’re not stopping for the likes of you.” And that’s cool. What rider in their right mind is going to stop for some random dude with a camera? In any case, I thought the picture came out pretty well.

*Any riders whose name I don’t get are automatically called Fred (or Frieda if they are female). That is all.

Lisa

Lisa

Rides a 90s Perkins steel road bike.
Shot on State Street in Santa Barbara, CA.
Going for a short ride to Carpinteria.

I’m a sucker for accents. Lisa is from Australia. That is where she acquired this beautiful Daryl Perkins road bike. She educated me on its origins, noting the Reynolds 853 tubing brazed to Colnago lugs. “Steel is real” she said in that adorable accent. Some rider bikes like the old Gary Fishers, the original LeMonds, the Eddy Merckxes and Richard Sachses…even though they were produced in quantity, they were still high-quality pieces. If you take a look at some of the frames being churned out in factories today, you can tell that the only time a human being ever gave a crap was when he or she sat at a computer screen and “designed” it. Slap a “made in Cambodia” sticker on it and charge $5,000 (don’t forget to paint a big “S-WORKS” on the down tube though). People like Lisa are the true riders. They aren’t racing anybody. They aren’t ever going to be swallowed by the latest in Fred technology. They just want a comfortable and long-lasting bike to ride. Good on ya, mate.

Fred*

Fred-1

Rides a 2010 Cannondale Hooligan
Shot on State and Ortega in Santa Barbara, CA
Riding to work

* It should be noted that from here on out, any rider whose name I do not get shall be called “Fred.” Don’t ask why. I guess this would go for the females as well. But I may call them “Friedas.”