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Recently I had the pleasure of building 23 bikes for the brilliant Ride Leaders at Hot Chillee. Specialized HQ even gave me a corner of their Big-S fortress to work in, which was pretty special. The bike in question was the 2020 Specialized Roubaix frame with full SRAM Force AXS, Roval carbon wheels and the new hydraulic Specialized Future Shock…

With riders on various machines last year, the move to a full SRAM fleet wasn’t taken lightly but it makes a lot of sense for several reasons – the bikes all go to 12 speed and all feature the same cassette. Just like a race team this is important for when the Ride Leaders are in the field working. Quick wheel changes on the road are important as you absolutely can’t hold up clients waiting for puncture repairs that aren’t theirs!

This also ensures that spares can be kept to a minimum. I’ll be working with the guys through the year and knowing exactly what tools and spares to bring with me will keep the load light and efficient – things like batteries can be swapped between bikes if needed and again a relatively small number of full charged spares will be needed. A really important thing, not to be discounted, is user awareness. The Ride Leaders all chat and share information and will quickly help one another to become experts on the Roubaix, which is crucial to fast problem solving when in use. At the very least can be interesting to the clients when they ask about the bike – knowledgeable Ride Leaders give confidence to their clients.

SRAM batteries seem pretty reliable despite many riders in the past being a bit rough with them – a whole heap of people have snapped the tabs off and SRAM will no longer warranty this. People also try to over-charge the batteries – 1-2 hours once a month should be more than enough. The SRAM AXS system has some neat features – it won’t allow you to cross chain in the small/small combo (33/10) so that you can’t damage the front teeth or mis-shift. The system also goes to sleep to help with battery health meaning that you can go for much longer with smaller batteries than the Di2 or EPS alternative.

I’ve fitted lagging to all the brake hoses to deaden any knocks or rattles so there won’t be any horrible noises. Brake pad bite can be adjusted with a 5mm Allen key underneath the shifter hood, on top of the reservoir. The system is designed with a large reservoir at the top of the lever where the bladder can store any excess air bubble tat find their way into the system. The brakes use proper brake fluid (rather than mineral fluid) which is good in terms of feel – my experience of these is that there can be issues with the highly corrosive fluid – the advantage is a very positive bite point.

The bikes come with a range of spacer and headset cover options and, predictably, pretty much all the RL’s are using the smaller of the two headset top covers. The Future Shock is now hydraulic and is simply adjusted with the knob on the top of the stem (no more changing springs which is a much improved system). A full lock-out and adjustable compression really helps with dialling in the bike to exactly what the rider prefers.

The Speialized Hoverbar allow a naturally comfortable position and still allow you to get the most out of the drops and the Power saddle is a revolution – the basic thinking is that Specialized have removed material from the front of the saddle to allow you to naturally open the hip angle. This simple change has answered the age old question about how to comfortably reach the bars with a more aerodynamic fit and it’s no surprise that most of the saddle manufacturers have copied the Speciaized design. The Power saddle is one of the most popular non-sponsored pieces of kit in the pro-peloton for good reason.

Integrated mounts on the stem are set up for Wahoo for the Ride Leaders (the other mounts are in the box). You can add a camera or light to the underside of the stem mount with the fittings in the box if you like. The Roval carbon wheels come with tubeless valves and with the pre-fitted tape setting the bike up without tubes is a cinch!

The bikes are the perfect all-day weapon for a Ride Leader. Comfortable and fast the Roubaix is the bike that’s designed to do it all on rough or smooth roads. It’s capable of delivering Sagan to the line of the famous race that it’s named after, yet it’s able to keep the likes of you and me comfortable all day long. Whether the roads are going up or down, the bike remains stable and dependable. It’s going to be a great year out on the road – why not join us for a club ride or a trip abroad –

Photos by Glen Whittington and Juliette Clark. 

Thanks to Hot Chillee and Specialized UK


#aeightracer – Glen’s an ex-racer who still finds time to ride mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross bikes for Southborough & District Wheelers. He started building custom steel frames in 2013, has worked in bike shops since 2002 and started racing in 1998. He helps out with London and SE Cross League and receives personal support from Helly Hansen, Geoff Roberts Frames, Four4th Lights. His most recent claim to fame is 13th in the British National XC Mountain bike rankings and 15th overall in the National Series whilst setting up the.æight.bicycle.cøllective#aeightracer


We’re always looking for other riders to be on our collective. The #aeightbikeco is about doing things a little differently. We’re looking to kit our riders out with steel race frames made in Sussex. Whether that’s for ‘cross, road, crit, TT or mountain bike we’re offering the chance to have a custom steel bike made for you to race on – not just put together, but fully bespoke.

The best part is that we’re not asking you to leave your team or club – that includes racing in your club/team kit. We’ve got certain brands that we’d like to work with and that we’re adding to, but we’re open to suggestions and maybe you’ve got a sponsor or support that you could bring to the table?

We have some strict qualifying criteria but don’t be put off by this – if you’re interested in being part of the #aeightbikeco then please get in touch by emailing your racing CV to

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