I’m here in France, staying at a hotel just 30 minutes outside of Paris. The reason is that Specialized bikes is unveiling their new bike, the Roubaix SL. But more on that later.
With a lot of these trips the company that sends you, in this case Specialized, treats the editors of the magazines like VIPs. The rooms in Europe are typically smaller than back home, but what they lack in size they make up in class. Our room (I’m sharing with the editor from Bicycling) is very nice and has a view of the pool and the surrounding golf course. There are about 10 editors from around the globe attending this event. The American contingent consists of myself, my roommate from Bicycling and Outside magazine. I’ve always gotten along with my fellow editors, so it’s never a problem to hang out with the “competition.” Our three magazines are so different we are not fighting over interviews or trying to get the scoop on anyone. The hotels are top notch, and every effort is taken to accommodate our every desire. I have taken to saying “bonjour” to all the staff and pretend that I am fluent in French. Only twice have the staff tried to start a conversation with me with which I respond, “I’m an American.” That’s a conversation killer in France.
The Roubaix SL bikes are a new model in the Roubaix line-up. They look similar to the Tarmac SL, but with Zertz in the seat stay and fork to help dampen vibrations. The frame geometry is identical to previous Roubaixs. I took mine out for a quick spin yesterday to try it out and to sweat out any remaining alcohol still lingering in my blood stream. My first impression is this is a very vertically compliant, but still torsionally stiff. What the hell does verically compliant and torsionally stiff mean? The more vertically compliant a bike is, the better it is at absorbing shock in a vertical plane. That means as you are sitting on the saddle, a bike with more vertical compliance is going to absorb road vibrations and be comfortable. A torsionally stiff bike means how resistant the frame is to twisting loads between the head tube and rear dropout (sprinting and climbing). Right now it is 7:00 AM and I’ve been awake for a few hours. I still haven’t gotten adapted to the time change yet. In a few hours we are going to go ride the cobbles of Roubaix with the Lion of Flanders, Johan Museeuw and really put the Roubaix SL to the test. I’ll let you know later if I survive.