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2009 Specialzed S-works Roubaix SL2

by Paul Newitt

Price: $9,099
Weight: n/a
Components: Shimano Dura-Ace
Frame & Fork: S-Works FACT 10r carbon frame and fork
Geometry: 72° head/73.5° on 54cm frames
Sizes: 49, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61
Comments: Endurance roadies, get your speed on!

The 2009 Specialized S-Works Roubaix was born out of the need for speed, with comfort to spare. This is a balance not easily achieved, but a challenge that Tom Boonen was happy to fire off to the engineers at Specialized, especially after riding the pavé for so many years on the stiff and speedy S-Works Tarmac SL. What Boonen wanted from Specialized was a frame that was equally as stiff as the Tarmac SL, but with the tried-and-true level of comfort and smoothness of a Roubaix. And if you’ve ever seen the cobbles on the 259km Paris-Roubaix, you can’t blame him!
The 2009 Roubaix SL2 is Specialized’s answer to Boonen’s requests. It is a stunningly aesthetic bike with endurance comfort and a whole new level of lateral stiffness “” 9% stiffer in torsion, 12% stiffer in the bottom bracket and 21% stiffer in the rear triangle over the 2008 model.
The comfort characteristics of the new Roubaix SL2 come from several key features. Original Roubaix geometry, which includes a longer wheelbase and extended headtube (as opposed to the Tarmac SL2), is still integrated into the latest Roubaix SL2, offering the same vertical compliance as the 2008 model.

The fork’s blades on the new Roubaix SL2 have been slimmed down, the carbon lay-up tweaked for strength and weight reduction, and Specialized’s Zertz viscoelastic dampers have been integrated into the fork, the rear seatstays and the seat tube to reduce road shock even further.
The toptube also contributes to shock damping, thanks to its wide, curved profile, a design that allows for flex and extension under load.
So with all this cush, you have wonder where all the new stiffness and speed comes from. Well, Specialized’s approach to design is the main reason. It has not focused on one specific area for weight reduction or stiffness, but rather designed the bike as a system, incorporating a FACT (Functional Advanced Carbon Technology) carbon frame and fork to maximize stiffness and shock absorption.

Using the stiffest carbon fibres on the market and strategic placement and lay-up of that carbon have resulted in a stiffer, stronger Roubaix without giving up all that famous compliance. Other areas that add to the newfound stiffness of the Roubaix SL2 include the fork and headtube, the BB and the new rear triangle.

Like the Tarmac SL2, this year’s Roubaix SL2 uses a unique headtube that employs a standard 1.125-inch top bearing and an oversized, recessed 1.375-inch lower bearing. The larger lower bearing is inside the headtube and aligns with the lower wall of the downtube, allowing for a very beefy downtube, which, in turn, allows for a massive bottom bracket.

The oversized BB shell houses a large diameter set of bearings within the frame (rather than in external bearing cups), increasing stiffness when cranking it. Additional lateral stiffness comes from the asymmetric downtube, which has also been given a flare on the outboard side at the BB level to allow for front-derailleur placement.

Further back, the new rear triangle has been re-engineered and reshaped using Tarmac SL2 technology and a triangulated design where the seatstays join the top of the seat tube, again improving lateral stiffness and acceleration efficiency.

So there you have it. Smoothness and stiffness all in one. Simple, eh! Well not if you were one of the engineers putting the Roubaix SL2 through its seven reincarnations post-Paris-Roubaix. But the final result is a bike Boonen was thrilled to saddle to the podium in 2008, and one we were thrilled to put more than 1,000 kilometers on as we rode from Morgan Hill, Calif. to Las Vegas, Nev. for Interbike 2008. With 200-kilometre days and tens of thousands of feet of climbing and high-speed descending, we couldn’t have asked for a more comfortable, stable and responsive ride.

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