BIKE REVIEW (longtermer): Specialized Ruby Elite

I’ve not long returned from a brilliant 6 days in Normandy, France; where I’ve been on a group cycling trip with 50 others in a local cycling ‘gang’. As a staffer at LCC, I’m lucky enough to be a riding a long term test bike at the moment and I got to take my shiny new steed over the channel to put her through the paces en Francais. 

Route:

  • Portsmouth – Caen – Bayeux (39 miles)
  • Bayuex – Coutances (42 miles)
  • Coutances – Fougeres (62 miles)
  • Fougeres – Argentan (73 miles)
  • Argentan – Lisieux (44 hilly miles)
  • Lisiuex – Caen – Portsmouth  (42 miles)

My Specialised Ruby Elite is a beautiful women’s specific, full carbon road bike. Retailing around £1800, I expected to be wowed, and she’s really not disappointed. 

My first few weeks riding her in the UK through late May and early June gave me an initial impression of its capabilities - light, responsive, comfortable and powerful. But taking a relatively new bike on a touring holiday, made me a little nervous. 

Comfort is obviously an important aspect of longer, sociable rides, and was one of my biggest worries for this trip, having not ridden the Ruby for rides much beyond 35 miles or so, and not on consecutive days till now. The frame is marketed as a one that “encourages a smooth, fatigue-free ride” with “a frame that’s truly designed with comfort in mind”. And I have to say; that description is spot on.

The Ruby really is an absolute dream to ride and is supremely comfortable. The saddle is one of the best I’ve ever used. Plus the shock absorbing Zertz inserts in the front forks and seatstays seems to have a hugely beneficial effect on comfort on rough road surfaces. And the overall geometry really works for me, everything seems to be in just the right place – except for the stock set up of the bar / lever position which is one of very few niggles I have. This probably isn't ideal for many women and needs a bit of tweaking to find your optimum set up. Something I need to do!

On my usual road bike, I spend a lot of time on the drops. But on the Ruby, I find I’m quite happy riding on the hoods the whole time, even when descending. I think that has a large part to do with the braking power of the super awesome disc brakes; which means you have enough power to control those from that position. But even if I did want to ride on the drops when descending, for me, as mentioned above, the stock position isn't quite. The drops aren't quite the right angle and the brake levers are just a bit too far away (my hands aren't small either), meaning it feels like I have less control over them. I know a lot of women can struggle with the distance of the brake levers from the bars on many road bikes, so for a women’s specific bike, I'd have hoped the stock position would have reflected that. It's all adjustable, of course, but a bit of a pain to do if you don't know how.

Disc Brake convert

But in terms of overall riding, the more I ride this bike, the more I fall in love with it! Cruising through the French countryside; she was the perfect companion. And provided a good talking point with other riders on the trip; who were all very keen to become LCC testers (I wonder why?).

The real winners, and absolute saving grace on this particular trip, are the  SRAM Rival hydraulic disc brakes. I must admit, I wasn’t sold on them beforehand; my rather naïve attitude was that disc brakes were best off left to mtb’s and seemed a bit overkill on road bikes. But I am now a huge convert!

I’ll tell you why….our final two days in France were rather soggy. When I say rather soggy, I actually mean solid torrential rain. So much so that I was ringing my gloves and socks out at every stop. I’ve never ridden in conditions like it. The bike performed brilliantly, she was reliable and I trusted her completely to handle the awful conditions. And boy, was I grateful for those dics brakes. By the second day of solid rain, fellow riders were losing braking power and tightening brake cables at every opportunity to eek out the slithers of brake pads they had left, yet I was stopping with ease and had nothing to worry about on that front! 

Gearing

I was a bit worried the gearing ratios might leave me with nothing to use on faster days; but actually I didn’t have any major problems. The gears top out around 26/27mph, so for me they were enough. Plus plenty of options for climbing. If I was going to race or do some more competitive riding on the Ruby, I’d probably consider a different set up, but at the moment the factory settings are spot on. 

It’s very anecdotal, but the bike feels like it’s quicker too, being easy to reach and maintain a higher speed. I didn’t think I’d notice a huge difference in speed (or Strava times) compared to my regular road bike when I first got this bike, and it may be because I’ve got fitter, but my Strava times on local segments are certainly improving with every ride on the Ruby. And In France, I was easily clocking up several QOMs every day, and I’m sure the bike, and in particualar the frame design, played a part in that! 

I did have a couple of problems with the gears though. On a few occasions on this trip, when I was changing into the big ring on the front, the chain popped up and over the chain ring. This happened twice while descending; which wasn’t ideal and could have been pretty nasty if the chain had wedged in the wrong place when pedalling. Easy to fix, obviously, but still a pain and it did force me to concentrate and look down at the chain ring each time I shifted up. So lesson learnt that it's always worth double-checking the set-up before any big trips to make sure everything is adjusted properly. 

But even the minor niggles couldn’t put me off this bike. I love it! Since returning from France, in a filthy state, she’s had a good clean and is gearing up for Ride London at the end of the month. I’m riding the 100 mile famous sportive for Team LCC and can’t wait to see how the Ruby fairs on that. But I have no doubts she’ll do me proud (and if you fancy sponsoring me to help raise vital funds for LCC - you can do so on my JustGiving page here!)

Ending the trip with one fillthy bike at Pegasus Bridge, Ouistreham