Step Back In Time: Bike of the Year 2017

As our 2020 Bike of the Year test enters its final phase, we'll look back over the coming weeks to the bikes that have taken the coveted crown in the past. First up, Specialized's then revolutionary comfort machine, the 2017 Roubaix Comp… here's what we had to say back then…

052 RobertSmith 2017

Specialized’s front suspension system was so new when we first tested it that it didn’t have a name. Well, it does now – the somewhat science fiction- sounding ‘Future Shock’. And while cycling’s tendency towards hyperbole means the word ‘revolutionary’ is over-used, in the case of Specialized’s Future Shock it’s justified.

Specialized’s boffins have re-written the rule book when it comes to road bike suspension. Yes, other companies have been building ‘compliance’ into their bikes for years, most notably Trek’s IsoSpeed- equipped Domane machines, but Future Shock’s suspension works differently – up and down in a vertical path, much as a mountain bike would. However, telescopic legs would be impractical on a road bike, adding unwanted weight and causingthe bike to bob. By placing the suspension above the head-tube, only the cockpit is suspended. In the words of Specialized, this ‘delivers 20mm of travel without degrading speed, handling, or comfort’. Specialized is right – it does.

The talk of ‘boffins’ isn’t unwarranted either, as Specialized worked hand in hand with McLaren Applied Technologies to quantify smoothness, and worked out that good ol’ springs offer the best suspension for road bikes. And depending on how fast you want the suspension to act, you can swap between three different springs in 20 minutes.

But it’s not just about the technology; the 2017 Roubaix is just as much about the ride. At the back, its dropped seatstays, and a seat-tube larger in diameter than the elastomer-topped seat-post, mean that the rear joins the party, for a wonderfully balanced feel.

There’s nothing out there at the moment that touches it for comfort, control and the ability to tackle every thing from super- smooth blacktop (unusual in Britain, we know) to gravel. It grips impressively, with the Future Shock laughing scornfully in the face of broken surfaces and potholes, even at full tilt. In fact, your riding ability is probably going to be the most limiting factor when you’re on the Roubaix.

This very special Specialized takes the 2017 Cycling Plus Bike of the Year title by dint of being the most technically advanced bike on test and the most exciting to ride.

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