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Specialized Ruby Expert-First Impressions by Christina Wiejak

Velo Ulverston | 21/12/2016 11:25:00

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Given that the new Specialized Roubaix has recently been recognised as ‘Endurance Bike of the Year’, I was eager to get out for a ride on one of Velo Ulverston’s demo bikes from the Roubaix/Ruby range.

I’ve previously ridden a high end model of the Ruby (the ladies’ version of the Roubaix) on a 10 mile loop, back to back with the same loop on a Specialized Venge Vias (an aero race bike) on a recent training week; a fantastic way to appreciate the strengths of both bikes. Whilst the responsiveness and acceleration of the Vias was significant, I couldn’t fail to notice the superior comfort of the Ruby, without a hugely noticeable drop in speed (I checked Strava!). Having said this, the smooth and rolling roads of Surrey didn’t truly test the compliance. I’ve now managed to take out our demo Ruby Expert on a 100km ride, with an abundance of rutted, wet and occasionally icy roads, and a couple of twisty 25% ups and downs; this seemed like a thorough test.

The Ruby range follows the same specification as the Roubaix, but has a women’s specific geometry frame, with our Expert model coming with DT Swiss bolt through wheels, Ultegra Mechanical drivetrain and Shimano 805 hydraulic brakes. However, the main talking point is Specialized’s revolutionary Future Shock system in the headtube, designed by McClaren. I won’t go into the minor details, as there is so much information available, but in short, it’s a system which allows 20mm of vertical travel in the bars and stem, making the front end an unbelievable 4500% more compliant than the old model Roubaix/Ruby. Basically, it makes the bike really comfortable! To complement the front end, the bike comes with a CG-R Fact carbon seatpost with Zertz inserts, as well as a lowered seat clamp, which allows for greater forwards and backwards compliance.

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So there’s the technical stuff; the main question is, does it work? I’ve read the reviews, and I don’t think I’ve seen a bad one. The first thing that customers tend to do when they get their hands on the bike is push down on the handlebars and test the ‘suspension’, often commenting that they wouldn’t like it when they’re climbing. Surely it can’t be efficient?! Amazingly however, other than the road surface seeming much smoother, you just don’t notice it. Even riding up some steep climbs, or on the flat, getting out of the saddle putting some power down, I didn’t feel as though I was bouncing, or wasting energy.

In addition to the Future Shock, the frame geometry of the Ruby is designed to be a bike that you can ride all day; it’s a bit more relaxed than the Amira or Tarmac, so you can be comfortable for plenty of hours in the saddle. Also, the Hover bars, which are standard specification, offer a more upright riding position.

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All of the Ruby/Roubaix models have frame clearance for 28mm tyres, and all run disc brakes. There is plenty of debate over this in road cycling, but when Specialized have left out rim brakes completely in this range, it’s clear that they’re here to stay. Granted, if it was always dry, with shallow gradients, there wouldn’t be such a need, but in the Lake District, the roads are steep and wet. Discs give you much more confidence coming into corners, and give you the courage on the descents to brake later. The fact that you don’t wear out your rims is a bonus. The final thing to mention is that the range is all SWAT compatible, with the higher models coming with a small storage box designed to store ride essentials. It’s not a necessity, but it’s something a little different.

So in short, I was impressed. I found the roads more comfortable than on my usual bike, and despite being on an unfamiliar bike, I was still comfortable after a few hours riding. The disc brakes were a bonus too, giving me a bit more trust descending in the rain. So if you’re curious like I was about the new ‘Endurance Bike of the Year’, get to Velo Ulverston for a test ride.

Thanks for reading. Here is a less professional shot taken by a very misty Coniston Water. The rest belong to Stuart Hines!