Tom Boonen rode this same bike design to his 2012 Paris-Roubaix win. More comfortable and easier to control than Boonen's version, the Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert Compact features a light yet stiff carbon frame outfitted with Shimano Ultegra brakes, levers and front/rear derailleurs; DT Swiss wheels; vibration-damping Zertz elastomer inserts in the seat stays and fork; and full internal cable routing.
Professionally fast. The Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert is one of five models in the Roubaix line to receive the SL4 designation normally reserved for the brand's race bikes. Bicycling Magazine calls the bike "as fast as a race model, but easier to control and comfortable."
After testing the Roubaix SL4, Cycling Weekly's Nigel Wynn says the "relaxed head tube angle and relatively long wheelbase help to create a stable feel." At higher speeds, it provides a smooth, assuring ride without a loss of stability, he adds. Reviewers say the climbing ability of Roubaix frames provides stability when pressing hard on the uphill while allowing riders to stay in control on descents thanks to a higher front end and long wheelbase.
Although Wynn likes this SL4's brakes for being "strong but not grabby," another reviewer says the Roubaix Expert's one weakness is a rather heavy wheelset that occasionally rubs on the brake pads during out-of-the-saddle pedaling.
Unique options for 2013 include the Roubaix SL4 Disc Expert, a disc brake version equipped with Shimano mechanical disc brakes. The Roubaix SL4 Expert UI2 -- the same bike but with Ultegra Di2 electric shifting -- makes Velo Magazine's list of 2013 best bikes.
Frame geometry squelches road vibration. The ability of the Roubaix 27.2 mm seatpost to flex slightly allows it to absorb more road vibration. Mike Yozell at Bicycling Magazine says this "is just one of many details that make the Roubaix comfortable on rough roads." He adds that the bike's taller headtube, relaxed head angle and longer wheelbase enhance stability while the rear end of the frame creates an aggressive ride, making the bike a "perfectly capable race machine."
Cycling Weekly's Wynn likes the added comfort of gel inserts running under the bar tape even though it "makes for a chunky grip." Although he can't determine how much the Zertz inserts in the Functional Advanced Composite Technology (FACT) 10r carbon-fiber Roubaix frame influences the bike's performance, "there's no denying that the Roubaix SL4 offers a very smooth ride."
Many reviewers like that the Roubaix SL4 is fully customizable for a more personalized fit without giving up ride quality or efficiency. The bike now includes three different headtube and headset sizes, reports BikeRadar.com.
Time-tested components. Shimano Ultegra brakes, levers and front/rear derailleurs are used on many high-end road bikes for their strength and reliability, and Yozell says the Roubaix SL4's Ultegra components "should last countless miles." The DT Axis 4.0 wheels could be lighter, but are a good choice for durability and should survive years of abuse.
Matt Pacocha at BikeRadar.com says that by massaging shapes -- namely eliminating flat spots on the headtube, top tube and downtube -- Specialized has added extra, strength and stiffness to the SL4 Expert Compact chassis.
Worldwide service centers. Specialized's bike frames have a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects, but this doesn't include paint/finish or components such as front forks, wheels, drivetrain, brakes, seatpost, handlebar and stem. The chainstays and seat stays have a five-year limited warranty and all other components are covered for one year, valid only for the bike's original owner.
Specialized accepts returns within 30 days for the exact item in a different size but not for a different priced item. This applies only to online store purchases; purchases made at local Specialized retailer/bike shops have their own individual policies. Specialized Service Centers at 15 locations around the globe can address service needs and custom tuning, and there's a support page online.
This report covers the release of the Roubaix SL4. Pacocha discusses the building process and design of the bike, but doesn't test it.
Review: Specialized 2013 Road Launch, Part 1, Matt Pacocha, July 11, 2012
2. Cycling Weekly
Wynn writes a short review, saying the SL4 "gels well as a whole." He also lists pros and cons and gives the bike 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Review: Specialized Roubaix Expert SL4 Review, Nigel Wynn, Jan. 28, 2013
3. Bicycling Magazine
Bicycling Magazine editors test a lot of bikes, but reviews are very brief without much criticism or ratings. In this short write-up, Yozell says the SL4's "components prioritize durability, speed, and comfort."
Review: Bike Reviews: Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert Compact, Mike Yozell, January 2013
4. Road Bike Action
Road Bike Action Magazine tests one or two road bikes per month and its reviews are fairly technically detailed. The bikes aren't rated, but editors do offer a "verdict." With the 2013 launch of the new Roubaix SL4 Expert, White focuses on the bike's features and build rather than performance. He calls it "stiff and light, with vertical compliance in abundance."
Review: Being There: Specialized Press Launch, Part 1, Michael White, July 11, 2012