I love avoiding the traffic lights, and I love steering clear of the busy intersections…oh, and those level crossing gates that stop my path every ride! But there is a small problem. It’s called cobbles…yes, when I want to avoid the craziness of inner city Melbourne traffic on my homeward journey, I head for the alleyways. Bump, bump, bounce and OUCH! Painful, but faster.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my Ruby Expert and if I was going to ride anywhere and everywhere, then the Expert is like choosing to drive the Great Ocean Road in an open top, automatic Merc: stylish, classic, a little bit of pizzazz and a whole lot of luxury.
But then again, I do have a Dolce Comp Evo which is probably a better choice for my inner city bone shaking routes. Built for gravel and ready for the rough stuff, it does provide a slightly more stable ride than the Ruby Expert with the wider tyres and alloy frame. But at the end of the day, my wrists hurt, my butt hurts and I can’t wait to sit in an armchair that doesn’t move…ever!
But suddenly, things have changed. I’m plotting routes, I’m looking for the rough roads, I’m finding where the longer laneways are, checking out the level crossings and I’m waiting for November when these babies arrive. Damn it…I rode the new Ruby! Life on a bike will never be the same – I thought I was in love with my Expert, but I think I have already mentally moved on. We had a fleeting affair oh Ruby Expert, but I know now my heart lies with another Ruby. The NEW Ruby Expert!
Pathetic, but that’s totally what the new Ruby has done to me. I wasn’t more that 100metres down the road before I was screaming ‘Holy s*&t…what the…?!’ It took less than a minute to be converted such was the dramatic difference the new Ruby makes to the ride. So why all the fuss? Let me explain.
Just when we think the Ruby in it’s many configurations can’t get any better, along comes the new Ruby 2017 complete with Future Shock suspension in the front end and a seat post that moves with you and basically complements the front end movement. And we aren’t talking about big bulky suspension forks that are more at home on a hybrid or MTB. No, we’re talking a small spring inserted into the steerer tube allowing the handlebars to move up and down as the bike rolls over every tiny blip in the road surface.
But that little spring is no ordinary spring…you can choose between comfort, sport and race to suit the ride and a quick change-over is all that is required. Custom springs! Adaptability to the rider style is key and though the bike I tested was fitted with a sport (medium), I would have loved to have tried the other springs…especially the softer comfort one to see what would happen on the really shocking laneways.
So why add suspension to a bike we already thought was pretty fantastic? If you’ve ever been on a long road ride and felt the fatigue after hours of tarmac vibrations, you’ll know what we’re dealing with here. The isolation of the suspension to the front end means that the it isn’t the whole bike frame that moves, or the your whole body. It means that the handlebars have the effect of floating over the vibrations creating a level, smooth ride. Vibration fatigue be gone…we didn’t want you anyway!
Though it may seem a little un-noticeable at first, the smoothness is a shock if you spend as much time on the bike as I do. And to cut the confusion, this is not a tool to make every bump iron out, it is a tool to make the vibration decrease. Sure, it helps over some of the larger bumps but it won’t remove those totally, which is certainly what some of our riders had thought was the case.
Add the suspension in the front end to the new seat post arrangement and Specialized has a winning combo…the seat post has been sunk further into the frame so there is an allowance for more forward and aft movement. As you move, the seat post moves and works with what is happening with the front end suspension. The biggest difference I noticed was that the ‘down’ action of any bump was far less severe than on my 2016 Ruby Expert. The ‘thud’ or ‘thwack’ on the end of any bone shaking experience was noticeably less on the new Ruby.
Throw in a metal drain cover, a small little crack or even a change in tarmac surface and I’m sorry, but where did they go? Didn’t even notice riding over them! This is bliss on a bike.
I had the pleasure of trying the Ruby Elite, running Shimano 105 gearing and disc brakes, minus the need for the familiar Zertz dampening inserts found in the older Rubys. The big winner about the bike is that it is perfect for the demographic we deal with at Wheel Women – it isn’t made for racing, it’s made for comfort and long, fun rides. Though the testing that Specialized has done with McLaren (yes, the car company) seems to indicate that the smoother the ride, the faster the bike.
First impressions for me were that it was certainly a LOT faster than my 2016 Expert. It’s lighter, though on measurement by just 300gms, fatter tyres at 26mm (I have 24mm Turbo Pro). I wasn’t entirely sure what made the bike seem so much faster, but the descents were considebrably faster and that tested the discs well and truly in the midst of a hail storm and torrential rain. But it was the climbing that impressed me…it felt super light.
Though I didn’t manage to get onto any big hills, I did manage the usual inner city climbs and in particular the short and sharp Kensington Road hill. The usual experience is that there is a degree of jarring in the wrists particularly when standing in the pedals on a climb. However, this pretty much disappeared! I’m not known for my climbing prowess, so this made a big difference to the comfort zone and the speed I could get up the hill. The dampening of the bumps certainly meant that I didn’t lose speed over some of those rougher patches on the uphill as I would on my Expert.
The other cool part I need to mention is the through axle on both wheels. I was lucky enough to find a tack in the rear wheel and suddenly didn’t know what to do to release the wheel. Where was the quick release…I was crapped off to be honest because I thought that when the axle was removed it would be easy to lose. But on explanation I get it now…there is no question about over tightening, no worries about under tightening and no little springs to lose if you have to pull things apart. I decided I actually quite like it.
So what do I REALLY think? I think the idea is so incredibly simple yet so effective I can’t imagine this NOT making it into every other bike in the Specialized fleet at some point. But if you’re like me where comfort is everything, and relaxation and fun the essence of the ride, …and just sometimes the speed, then this is the bike for you. I can’t wait to spend my summer playing on a new Ruby! Only problem left now…what model?
NOTE: I am a Specialized Ambassador so call me biased, but I do LOVE LOVE LOVE my Ruby! So when the chance to test what’s new for 2017 came up I wasn’t going to say no. I’ll admit I was skeptical at first because I just didn’t think the Ruby could get any better. I found out it could!