We’ve had a number of tangents in our comments following posts that concerned tire clearance and bigger tires. Partly because they were already in the works and partly as a response to those conversations, I’ve been meaning to post two different tire reviews. The first of these is the Specialized Roubaix tire. This is a relatively newish tire, introduced around the time of the re-introduced Turbos.
The PR machine at Specialized (my God, they are effective—other companies would do well to emulate them) brought these to my attention following a little field trip to Finland they made with a few of my colleagues including peloton‘s Ben Edwards and Bike Radar’s James Huang. So why Finland? That’s where one of the only neutral—as in not brand-affiliated—bicycle-tire testing facilities in the world is based. James produced a really interesting piece based on his visit, which is worth checking out here. So what did Specialized have to crow about? Well, they got a little surprise when they visited Wheel Energy. Long before they took any journos there, they’d conducted loads of tests and concluded that their new Turbos were a good bit faster than their old tires. They also discovered something a little surprising. Of all the tires they tested, the tire with the lowest rolling resistance, i.e. the fastest, was the Roubaix.
This was a surprise to all involved, I’m told. The Roubaix Armadillo Elite is, by virtue of its containing an Armadillo Elite puncture-resistant belt, a tire that should theoretically be a bit slower. Okay so what’s the key to the Roubaix? Well, it’s a pretty fresh take on what a wide(r) tire can be. You see, the Roubaix features a 25mm casing but only a 23mm tread. The way it was put to me is that you get the benefits of a larger casing, which means less resistance-causing deformation at the footprint while getting the smaller footprint of a smaller tread. I suspect the answer is a bit more complicated than that, though.
My own experience in riding this tire is that it does feel fast. Get it up to speed and it just rolls well, especially on rough surfaces, and you can feel free to extrapolate that all the way to dirt roads because I’ve taken this thing off-road. Now what Specialized’s machine didn’t mention is that while this thing rolls like a ball bearing on glass, it’s 50 percent heavier than the lightest open tubulars I’ve ridden. I weighed one at 308g, which means these things are somewhat porcine. So there’s the whole “getting it up to speed” bit. And no, I didn’t have the sense that I was receiving a flywheel-type benefit once they were at speed.
I don’t think I’ve ridden a more versatile tire. They were perfectly acceptable on group rides, were impervious to every surface and bit of debris I rode over and handled enough like a racing tire on descents that I didn’t have to do any extra braking while on the drop.
Maybe the truest measure of how much I like these tires—despite their weight—is the fact that I’ve mounted them on three different wheel sets. That’s got to be a first for me. And at $60, anyone serious about their cycling can afford to run these. But don’t get the wrong idea; I’d still run the Turbo or a similar racing tire for most of my riding, but any time I needed rubber with wider margins, I wouldn’t hesitate to mount these up. Paired with a set of Zipp 303 clinchers and I’d give these a try on some cobbles, maybe even the Wallers-Arenberg Forest?