Trek Domane vs Specialized Roubaix: Which Is The Best Endurance Road Bike?

In this post I’m going to compare the Trek Domane with the Specialized Roubaix. Which, if you’ve stumbled upon this post by accident and you’ve missed the tone of things round here, are both road bikes.

I’ll give an overview of the range of bikes available within each of these model families. I’ll also look at the particular features that are specific to the bikes, particularly in the area of comfort and ride smoothening.

This is part of a series of posts I’m writing, comparing the road bikes stables of these two large US bike manufacturers, Trek and Specialized. If you haven’t already, you should check out my introductory post on the subject.

Whilst other posts in this series (will) deal with aero bikes, lighter climbing bikes and gravel bikes, this one is really about my specialist subject (sort of): the bike for the older, more comfort-seeking gent.

Or ‘endurance road bike’, as the cycling industry seems set on calling it.

Why I Might Be Biased

I own a Trek Domane (a 4.3, which I bought in 2013). I really like it.

So much so that I just took it back to the frame, cleaned all the components, bought some new bits and then put it all back together:

I do therefore have an affinity towards it, and Trek in general.

That said, I would really like a Roubaix (or any high-end Specialized road bike), so I can’t see me being particularly negative about it, or the company as a whole, as I write this post.

Drool mode… engaged:

S-Works Roubaix - eTap
2021 S-Works Roubaix – eTap

Bikes Mentioned In This Post

Er, this isn’t going to come as much of a shock…

Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you click and buy something, I get a commission.

It’s All In The (Brand) Positioning

Trek and Specialized, pretty early on, both identified that the sort of bike frame that might suit the amateur MAMIL (more relaxed geometry; a bike that soaks up bumps in the road; a more upright riding position, all else being equal) was similar to that used by the pros in the more arduous cobbled classics races (sort of: the pros still use an aggressive riding position).

Thusly, with a bit of smart branding, we could buy a bike altogether more suited to our riding needs and low levels of flexibility whilst still pretending that we had a race-ready riding rig.

If Fabian Cancellara was riding the Domane and Tom Boonen the Roubaix whilst battling it out on the Carrefour de l’Arbre in the early 2010s, who could question the pro pedigree of our choice of bike?

In fact, in the pro world, there is probably less of a gap between ‘endurance’ and ‘race’ bikes these days.

The early and middle parts of races are generally being ridden with more intensity, so race management is much more about reducing fatigue going into the later stages.

Increasing rider comfort on the bike can help with this, and this is being reflected in pro bike geometry, riding positions and tyre choices.

Professionals still look better on a bike than us mere mortals though.

Trek (You Say) Domane

Trek’s endurance bike is the Domane. No one seems to know how to pronounce the word.

Whilst sort of looking French, it’s made up. It’s an anagram of Madone (the name of Trek’s aero road bike, as well as an infamous climb near Nice).

If I were in Trek’s marketing department, I’d say it the same way you pronounce ‘domain’ in English. As I’m not, it seems to be ‘doe-ma-knee’ (emphasis on the ‘ma’).

I Am A Very Happy Domane Owner

You can read my ‘review’ of my Domane 4.3 here. That was written years ago (I’m thinking of doing an update in video form). Here’s a photo from the archives:

Trek Domane 4.3 compact

I bought the bike back in July 2013 as part of an extensive overhaul of my whole bike setup (new bike, new bike fit, new pedals, new shoes). It hasn’t disappointed. It’s still going strong.

One of the reasons for getting the Domane (in addition to trying to fool myself that I’m a pro Spring classics rider) was that if it was designed to be robust enough for the Roubaix cobbles, then it must be capable of dealing with the Derbyshire potholes. This reasoning has played out.

My Domane has been subject to a good amount of (road surface based) abuse. I’ve upgraded the wheels (to these Campagnolo Zondas) but the stock ones (Bontrager) held up well.

Is That Frame Broken (Fire Up The Isospeed Decoupler)?

The most innovative feature of the Domane is the fact that the top tube doesn’t actually connect to the seat post. Which sounds like a recipe for disaster.

In truth the tubes do connect. They’re just not fused together (is that what they do with carbon fibre? ‘bonded’ maybe). Instead, there is an ‘Isospeed Decoupler’ linking the two.

Trek Domane Isospeed decoupler

This bracket allows the seat tube to flex (a bit) over its full length, rather than being held in place where it meets the top tube. This limited amount of ‘give’ reduces vibration and that brittle jarring you get when riding over rough surfaces.

And ‘rough surfaces’ is essentially the lot of the British MAMIL in his home environment.

All this vibration damping and flexing at one of the key rider contact points aims to reduce (unnecessary) fatigue over the course of the ride, so the rider is fresh enough to contest the selection, when it comes. Or in my case, to allow me to finish a ride (hopefully).

Upgrades To The Original Domane

My Trek Domane features the first generation of Isospeed ride cushioning.

Subsequent models have seen a number of iterations of the rear ride dampening technology.

In addition to making the joint more sleek, for the higher end SLR models, Trek has given riders the ability to adjust the amount of flex in the seat tube via moving a slider, initially on the seat tube itself and, most recently, underneath the top tube.

Trek Domane SLR 9 eTap
Trek Domane SLR 9 eTap

The original rear Isospeed was introduced for the derrière. Since then, Trek has brought in a front Isospeed for your…. arrière?

The front Isospeed is located at the top of the headseat, allowing for (again, limited) flex in the steerer tube, reducing the road noise that riders feel through their arms.

Trek describes the headset as sitting in a rocker cup. This allows front and back movement in the steerer tube, but no lateral movement. Which is probably a good thing if you want to avoid riding into hedges.

You can read more about the whole Isospeed caboodle on the Trek website (if you should so desire…).

Other Things That Have Changed Since 2013…

Whilst the UK legislative agenda may have ground to a halt, we’ve at least had the ‘disc brake revolution’.

All Domanes these days come with disc brakes only. No rim brakes allowed (other than on the aluminium version, the AL, but thats essentially a different bike for a different blog post).

With great (disc brakes) power comes great responsibility (tyre clearance). I recall when I bought my Domane, much fanfare was made about its ability to handle wider tyres. That was something like 28cm.

The most recent generation of Domanes can take up to a 38cm width. They’ll be fitting it with front and rear suspension next. Oh, wait…

Next, the latest generation of Domanes have a hole (deliberately) in the down tube which provides an internal storage compartment for tools and, say, a CO2 cartridge.

Trek BITS storage compartment in Domane SLR 7

And what’s this?

The Trek Domane No Longer Uses A Press Fit Bottom Bracket!

That’s right. The BB90 press fit bottom bracket that is apparently hated by everyone (but which I enjoyed learning how to fit in this video) has been replaced with a T47 threaded bottom bracket.

Mechanics everywhere will rejoice. Monty will stand around looking vacant.

(Whilst he’s looking vacant, let’s move on to the Specialized Roubaix)

Roubaix Roubaix Roubaix Roubay (Ooo-oo-ooo-oo)

Specialized’s endurance bike model is, as mentioned, the Roubaix. It featured on the short list of bikes I considered back in 2013.

Specialized Roubaix Expert
Specialized Roubaix Expert

Roubaix is a town in northern France famous historically for producing wool and textiles. It was chosen as a model name by Specialized to fit in with its strategy of choosing industrial names for bikes, like the Tarmac.

(I’m very tempted just to stop here…)

Sure, there’s a famous bike race each year that finishes in the Roubaix velodrome. Famous for traversing 29 cobbled sectors (proper cobbles). Famous for testing riders and their bikes to the limit. And being called ‘the Hell of the North’.

So Specialized probably named the Roubaix after that. Sure sure sure.

Does The Specialized Roubaix Have Suspension?

At the time I was looking at buying a Roubaix, Specialized tackled the whole ‘quasi-suspension’ thing by integrating ‘Zertz’ inserts into the seat stays and the fork.

These plastic (okay, ‘viscoelastic polymer’) dampeners purported to absorb vibrations that would otherwise pass unhindered into the rider’s butt-oxe and hands.

Specialized Roubaix frame with Zertz
I have hamfistedly highlighted the Zertz

Specialized adopts a similar principle to the comfort features of the Domane. Logic as follows:

  • Vibrations lead to fatigue.
  • Fatigue leads to tiredness.
  • Tiredness leads to pain.
  • Pain leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to… suffering.

(Ahem)

Anygroad, Specialized have dispensed with Zertz in the most recent generations of Roubaix (Roubaiz?). Instead they do have an actual shock absorbing piston, with 20mm of travel, built into the head tube.

This feature, known as the ‘Future Shock’ gives (understandably) more vertical movement than the Zertz-based flexy-forks approach. This makes for a more comfortable rider experience in the ‘cockpit’ area of the bike.

Like Trek’s Isospeed feature (in the more expensive models), the Future Shock 2.0 used in bikes at the higher end of the Roubaix range can be adjusted to control the amount of dampening.

Towards the bottom end of the range (Roubaix Comp and below), the Future Shock 1.5 is used, which does not have the adjustment knob (it still has 20mm of travel though).

Does The Specialized Roubaix Have Rear Suspension?

In short, no.

Distinct from the Domane, the Roubaix provides no mechanical ‘comfort features’ around the seat tube and chain stays. Your butt-oxe will no longer be cossetted. Many apologies.

That said, all of the models come with the S-Works Pave seatpost (there you go – a little bit of S-Works bling, even at the low end of the range).

Specialized states that the Pave is the ‘first compliant seatpost that’s aerodynamic’ and without any ‘contraptions’ (surely a dig at Trek?). More flex has been built into upper part of the seat post (quite what ‘more flex’ is relative to isn’t stated).

Anyhoo, at least Specialized are thinking about these things, so it’ll be better than nothing.

The Specialized Roubaix Range

The aim of this section is to give an overview of the Specialized Roubaix range so you can quickly triangulate between the name (Sport, Comp, etc), the price and the high level spec.

For more detail you’ll want to check out the Specalized website (also the range differs slightly between the US and the UK).

Specialized Roubaix range
View the range at Specialized Learn More
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Roubaix Sport

  • Cost: £2,750 / $2,900
  • Frame: FACT 10R
  • Suspension: Future shock 1.5
  • Colour scheme options: 2
  • Components: Shimano 105 R7000 (11 speed) other than Praxis Alba crankset (compact)
  • Wheels: DT Swiss R470

Roubaix Comp

Specialized Roubaix Comp
Specialized Roubaix Comp
  • Cost: £3,500 / $3,600
  • Frame: FACT 10R
  • Suspension: Future shock 1.5
  • Colour scheme options: 2
  • Components: Shimano Ultegra R8000; compact 11 speed; clutch rear derailleur RX800
  • Wheels: DT Swiss R470

Roubaix Expert

  • Cost: £4,750 / $6,000 (no idea why the US price is so high relative to the UK)
  • Colour scheme options: 1
  • Frame: FACT 10R
  • Suspension: Future shock 2.0
  • Components: Shimano Ultegra R8000 Di2; compact 11-speed; clutch rear derailleur RX805 (Di2)
  • Wheels: DT Swiss R470

Roubaix Pro

  • Cost: £6,600 / $6,700
  • Colour scheme options: 1
  • Frame: FACT 10R
  • Suspension: Future Shock 2.0
  • Components: SRAM Force eTAP with RED etap rear derailleur; 12 speed; compact (46/33t)
  • Wheels: Rovel Alpinist CL

S-Works Roubaix – SRAM Red eTAP AXS

  • Cost: £10,500
  • Colour scheme options: 1
  • Frame: FACT 11R
  • Suspension: Future Shock 2.0
  • Components: SRAM RED eTAP AXS 12-speed with power meter
  • Wheels: Rovel Alpinist CLX

S-Works Roubaix – Sagan Collection

S-Works Roubaix - Sagan Collection
S-Works Roubaix – Sagan Collection
  • Cost: £10,069
  • Colour scheme options: 1
  • Frame: FACT 11R
  • Suspension: Future Shock 2.0
  • Components: Dura-Ace Di2 11-speed with dual-sided powermeter
  • Wheels: Rovel Rapide CLX

The Trek Domane Range

Oof, there are a lot of variants of the Domane available, making them difficult to summarise without this post descending into a turdpile of tedium*.

(* Ha ha, yes, I see, you already think it’s a tur…)

Again, you’ll want to check out the full range at the Trek website:

Trek Domane range
View the Trek Domane range Learn More
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Domane SLR

At the top end you have the SLR series of bikes, all of which use Trek’s highest quality OCLV 700 Series carbon frame (something to do with the quality of the carbon layup…).

Trek Domane SLR 7 eTap
Trek Domane SLR 7 eTap

Then you have a few sub-variants:

  • SLR 6 – mechanical Ultegra / Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V wheels – $6,800 / £5,500
  • SLR 7 – electronic Ultegra Di2 / Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V wheels – $7,800-8,300 / £6,350-6,900
  • SLR 7 eTap – wireless electronic SRAM Force eTap AXS / Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V wheels – $8,500-8,800 / £7,000
  • SLR 9 – electronic Dura-Ace Di2 / Bontrager Aeolus RSL 37 wheels – $12,000 / £10,000
  • SLR 9 etap – wireless electronic SRAM RED eTap AXS / Bontrager Aeolus RSL 37 wheels – $12,000 / £10,100

In case you’re wondering, the prices ranges for the two SLR 7 variants is because there appears to be a ‘standard’ colour scheme for each one (lower price) and then a few colour options that are built to order (higher price)

Domane SL

The SLs all have the OCLV 500 series frame. Not as high spec as the 700 but designed to be lightweight, strong and stiff (but aren’t they all…).

Trek Domane SL 7
Trek Domane SL 7
  • SL 4 – mix of Shimano Tiagra and Praxis / Bontrager Affinity Disc wheels – $2,400 / £2,100
  • SL 5 – Shimano 105 / Bontrager Affinity Disc wheels – $2,900 / £2,550
  • SL 6 – mechanical Ultegra / Bontrager Paradigm Comp wheels – $3,800 / £3,350
  • SL 7 – electronic Ultegra Di2 / Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V wheels – $6,000 / £5,100
  • SL 7 eTap – wireless electronic SRAM Force eTap AXS / Bontrager Aeolus Pro 3V wheels – $6,200 / £5,650

In case it’s not obvious (it really isn’t), you can transmogrify between the SLR and SL ranges to see that the number 7, say, corresponds to a spec featuring Ultegra Di2 and Aeolus Pro 3V wheels.

I’ll save the electric and aluminium versions of the Domane for other blog posts.

Is There A Trek Domane Women’s Bike?

Actually, yes. And no. Mainly no.

Trek used to do a higher end women’s version of the Domane. Now they are saying that for all new Domane SLRs and SLs, they’re producing frame sizes down to 44cm (i.e. small). So there should be an option that fits every rider, whether they are man, woman or squirrel.

As an aside, there are two new AL (aluminium-framed) versions of the Domane that are described as ‘Women’s’. The frames do look slightly different to the equivalent men’s models (they’re a different colour at least) but the bumf on the website makes more of them being fitted with ‘women-specific’ saddles and handlebars than the geometry.

It’s Probably Worth Saying…

I’ve only ridden one Trek Domane (the one in my garage). The technology and ride feel has no doubt moved on. Similarly, I’ve never been lucky enough to try out a Specialized Roubaix.

This post from Bikeradar provides a comparison based on their reviews of both bikes (albeit from previous generations of both bikes). And for an actual bike review, you’d like to think they’ve ridden them extensively…

Which Should You Buy?

Here I must disappoint. I’m going to sit on the (carbon fibre) fence.

I have really enjoyed riding my Trek Domane this past six years. Many readers of this blog found it by reading my original ‘review’ of the bike. Almost every comment or email I’ve received about it has been positive.

That said, I (obviously) covet a nice Specialized Roubaix. I’m sure it’s also an excellent choice.

So it looks like if you’re in the market for a new endurance bike (and no cyclist is truly out of the market for a new bike), you’ll have to test them both out. What a hassle…

Stay tuned for the next episode in this occasional Trek versus Specialized series.

In the meantime, do you own either the Domane or the Roubaix (or maybe both!)?

Let me know your views in the comments below.

Monty - Sportive Cyclist
Monty is an enthusiastic road cyclist with only moderate talent. He started Sportive Cyclist in 2013 to record the journey to his first 100 mile ride, the RideLondon 100. Over time the blog has expanded to include training advice, gear reviews and road cycling tales, all from the perspective of a not-very-fit MAMIL. Since you're here, Monty would also like you to check out his YouTube channel. Also, Monty really needs to stop referring to himself in the third person.

2 thoughts on “Trek Domane vs Specialized Roubaix: Which Is The Best Endurance Road Bike?”

  1. Hello,
    At long last after38 years I have now switched from a vintage Koga Miyata Radonneur steel frame to Specialized Roubaix and I am amazed about the quality and smoothness of the ride.
    Yes, my steel steed was comfortable but some sections of tarmac roads we have here in Scotland are horrible, even on a steel bike.
    Imagine my astonishment when I rode the Roubaix (2016 model), Zipp Firecrest303 carbon wheels, on these roads and they just became smoother and less harsh.
    I always thought that carbon is harsh but in the right configuration it is marvelous, not to mention the nearly 9kg in weight saving.

    Reply
  2. I have a 2016 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Elite Disc, and it is the most comfortable bike I’ve ever ridden. When I was buying in 2016 I got my shortlist down to the Domane and Roubaix. Test rode both, and couldn’t separate them for ride quality and comfort. It eventually came down to price, with the Roubaix being £50 less.
    On saying that, I’m heading back to the ride quality of steel in a few weeks time, with a Mason Resolution 2 on order. So, if anybody fancies a well looked after Roubaix…? 😂

    Reply

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