This article originally published on BikeRadar
According to Specialized, 'S-Works' means 'born from racing'. That’s a little at odds with this version of the highly successful Roubaix Classics bike, because of its SRAM Red hydraulic disc brakes. These have yet to be sanctioned by the UCI for road racing. That said, after spending a few hours on the new SL4 Disc, we think S-Works might mean 'born for racing' in this case.
Note that this SRAM build will not be available in the UK, although British customers will have access to the lower spec Roubaix SL4 Expert (note: not S-Works) Disc Shimano Ultegra Di2 C2 (£4,500) instead. With disc brakes, too, that sounds like a pretty exciting prospect. The S-Works Roubaix SL4 frameset will be available in both US and UK territories for £2,600/US$3,500.
Ride & handling: Race handling with supreme comfort
Specialized’s Roubaix bikes always used to be ones that you bought with your head – sensible ride position, comfortable and well equipped (not forgetting the solid handling). They were the Volvo estates of the bike world. The SL4 changes all that. Its still impressively plush but the handling is livelier, with a tempered response that encourages speed and fun.
In the S-Works guise it's helped massively by the Roval Rapide 40 wheels. The stiff carbon rims are nice and neutral in crosswinds, and they run on DT Swiss-developed, disc-specific hubs and classy CeramicSpeed bearings. They’re shod with 26c S-Works Turbo tyres. We can’t wait to get our hands on the standard brake version of these wheels.
The hot, bone dry conditions of Colorado’s Copper Mountain will flatter any tyre, but our first impression of the fat Turbo was good – it offered brilliant grip levels and a supple carcass we could feel deforming over broken surfaces and maintaining grip just when we needed it. Again, it’s something we really want to get some more time on, especially back in the UK where its mettle will be tested on more challenging surfaces.
The rest of the bike's components all come from the Big S. The deep, plush, gel-filled bar tape sits over a slick carbon fibre bar that feels suitably rigid, the tape adding comfort and eliminating fatiguing vibrations.
Frame & equipment: Top spec and endurance chassis
Geometry and ride position match those of last year’s SL4, which we found to be the most impressive Roubaix setup yet by a significant margin. It reinvented the Roubaix as a much more aggressive bike with a race-ready position while retaining comfort levels. Thanks to Specialized’s impressive COBL GOBL-R seatpost with its Zertz infused, leaf spring design, they’ve actually improved rolling comfort.
This SL4 comes with the SRAM Red 22-speed groupset matched to the hydraulic disc setup. At first sight some might be put off by the taller hood shape, but get beyond what’s just an aesthetic touch and you’ll find it superbly comfortable and a secure hold. We can’t help but think this hood shape is going to become a firm favourite of the disc-equipped cyclo-cross racer.
The braking doesn’t necessarily offer any more power than a standard setup. What it does improve, however, is the feel at the lever – being able to feed in just the right amount of pull to scrub speed makes it a faster bike to descend on.
It enables you to get your braking sorted with absolute confidence and then get straight back on the power, helped by shifting that’s slick, positive and rapid. As we found at the Red 22 launch, the discs can suffer a little from noise when heat gets into them – no power loss, just sonic irritation.
So, the S-Works SL4 does exactly what it should, and the equipment is all top grade (we’d expect nothing less on a bike of this price). What piques our interest, though, is that the frameset will be available from US$3,500, and the standard brake version at US$3,500/£2,600. The SL4 chassis has the potential to be one of the best endurance models on the market.
Inboard mounted and internally routed – the brakes are certainly neatly integrated on the Specialized S-Works Roubaix SL4 Disc
Weight: 7.1kg (15.7lbs), complete bike
Pros: Smoothness in spades, exceptional tyres, spot-on handling
Cons: Brake noise, no UK availability
BikeRadar verdict: 4 and a half stars