Upping the ante on road bikes this year, I’ve gotten my hands on the new Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert for review. This is Specialized’s endurance road specialist with a bit more comfortable geometry, proprietary FACT 10r carbon SL3 makeup and Zertz dampening to take the edge off the legendary Paris-Roubaix cobbles. I haven’t had to make it all the way to France to realize that all that adds up to one comfortable yet fast road bike.
Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert Features:
- New for 2011: FACT IS 10r carbon SL3 frame weighs in just over 1000 grams with incredible torsional stiffness
- Cobra 1-1/8″ to 1-3/8″ head tube for added stiffness and lateral response
- Zertz seatstay inserts for the fastest most compliant endurance bike available
- Ultralight FACT carbon monocoque fork with vibration-damping Zertz inserts is stiff, responsive and durable
- Race-ready Fulcrum 4 wheels are fast, light, and durable for high mileage training – made by Campagnolo for legendary performance
- Adjustable 4-position 3D-forged alloy stem with 31.8mm bar clamp
- Specialized Expert 2014 alloy handlebars
- FACT carbon Pave seatpost uses a Zertz insert to minimize road vibrations
- Full Shimano Ultegra grouppo (11-28t 10-speed cassette)
- Specialized Roubaix Pro II tires
- Body Geometry Avatar Comp Saddle w/ hollow Cr-Mo rails
- Colors: Blue/White, Carbon/Gloss Carbon (tested)
- MSRP: $3700
2011 Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert Review
The all-new Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert is the perfect roadie for my type of riding. I can’t last long in the saddle of straight-up race bikes and can hence appreciate the subtle smoothness offered by the Roubaix. I dropped off the Roubaix at my local shop, Timpanogos Cyclery, where they promptly assembled it and got it dialed in. Man was I anxious to get aboard, but the weather and my travel plans to the Tetons didn’t quite allow it for a few weeks.
Between snowstorms I’ve been able to put some miles and vert on the Roubaix SL3 and I’m very impressed. First, lets step back and talk a bit about the bike before I dive into the ride quality. Out of the box, the stealth-black color scheme of the Roubaix SL3 Expert oozes with understated confidence. I love the internally-routed cables… just makes the lines that much cleaner and sexier. The Shimano Ultegra drivetrain and Fulcrum 4 wheels are the perfect complement to this ride.
My first ride on the Roubaix SL3 was a spin up American Fork Canyon. This canyon is home to the Queen Stage of the Tour of Utah and happens to be 1/4 mile from my house (yeah, nice is an understatement). My 15 mile ride included 1800 vertical feet of climbing in some of the most beautiful terrain in Utah. Winding up the narrow canyon, the Roubaix SL3 felt calm and collected. Most of the climb is pretty mellow, but when the road turned up, the Roubaix kept tracking straight and smooth.
I love the instant power transfer that the stiff SL3 frameset provides — both seated and standing climbs have zero lag whatsoever. Much of that is due to the oversized downtube, bottom bracket and chainstays, but I’ve also got to give some props to the phenomenal Fulcrum 4 wheels and the Ultegra crankset. With some wheels, you can feel them winding up when pressed hard — not with these. And, my previous Fulcrum road wheels had a super-loud freewheel, but the rear hub in these wheels remains completely silent when coasting (much better).
Shifting has been precise and predictable with the Ultegra drivetrain. I absolutely love the sexy Ultegra crankset — it’s the crown jewel of the grouppo. I must say as well that the carbon fiber brake levers do feel much more comfortable in the hand versus the aluminum variety. I may be a carbon snob, but carbon levers are worth the price of admission. You get a stiffer lever and one that doesn’t feel cold to the touch when the temperature drops.
While climbing, the SL3 carbon and Zertz-laden frameset really knocks out the road chatter. The bike seems to just grab the pavement while softening the constant low-level road drumbeat. I’m a climber. For me, riding on the road means ascending up winding canyons or endless hills. The Roubaix SL3 ascends straight and smooth without any tendency to wander.
On the descents, the vibration-dampening characteristics change slightly. At speed, you do feel some square-edged bumps a bit more abruptly, but the return for that tuned carbon is capable, responsive handling. At speed, the Roubaix SL3 feels completely at home. I loved powering through the descents and winding through tight and twisty mountain roads. This bike corners with the best bikes on the market and simply instills confidence at all speeds. The Ultegra brakes were very responsive and powerful, but I did notice just a tad bit of brake fade in the front on long, steep pitches.
While I’m super-stoked on this bike on the whole, I do have a few bones to pick. First off, the bars. While I appreciate the ovalized top bar for a wider hand platform, the standard curved drops leave me wanting a flat spot for my hands. I couldn’t ever really find a comfortable place to hold onto during long descents. Many times, I’d simply switch to the hoods instead. Not only should these bars feature ergonomic drops, at this price, I think they should be carbon (am I asking too much?). Another small gripe (but kind of frustrating on a bike of this caliber) is that the myriad of stickers all over the frame aren’t very easy to remove without residue. Time to get a better sticker supplier.
- Dampening is really great on most terrain
- The SL3 carbon makeup is worth the extra performance
- Sexy good looks (love the muted matte black color)
- Really responds when pushed hard
- Descends like its on rails
- Shimano Ultegra components performed perfectly
- Love the carbon fiber brake levers on the Ultegra shifters
- The Fulcrum 4 wheelset was smooth-rolling and laterally stiff — the hubs were responsive and quiet.
- The house-brand components are really nice
- Internally-routed cables make for ultra-clean lines
- Seems like the bars could be carbon at this price
- Bars lack ergo bend in the drops
- Bike came with stickers galore and some left gooey residue on the frame/components
- Small amount of brake fade in the front on long descents
Bottom Line: Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert
Worth every penny, the 2011 Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert is a race-capable bike with extra comfort for the long haul. The Roubaix’s geometry, combined with superb vibration-dampening allowed me to ride long distances with no lower-back pain. Step on it and it responds. Descend on it and you’ll be grinning from ear-to-ear.