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Buying a road bike...feeling confused?

When you don’t know anything about what you’re looking at the whole the whole bike shop experience can be daunting; so many bikes, so many components, so many different bits of advice and so much very cool looking bike bling to tempt! Buying a new bike can be super confusing!

But I need to be completely transparent on this first - I am a Specialized brand ambassador, so this review isn’t meant to be about every women’s road bike on the market. It’s about four of the key road bikes in the Specialized women’s stable…gosh, I wish I could review them all!

But let’s just stick to four: Ruby Comp, Amira Expert SL4, Dolce Comp Evo and Dolce Sport. Okay, so it isn’t exactly apples with apples here, but we have covered a pretty broad range of price points so there is pretty much something for everyone here…not to mention each model of bike comes in several variations based on components, so there are still plenty of choices beyond the actual models I’ve tested.

From top left, clockwise: Ruby Comp, Amira SL4 Expert, Dolce Sport, Dolce Comp Evo

What are our key ingredients when deciding?

So where do we start? Okay, let’s look at this the way we see it happen at Wheel Women. A rider decides they’d like a new road bike, so there are a few crucial questions we ask first:

  1. Did you have a budget in mind?

  2. Where do you think you will use the bike - do you want to ride more than you do already or just have something better than the heavy, department store clunker!

  3. If you want to ride more, what are your aims with your riding…is there a goal?

  4. Do you understand the concept that you get what you pay for when it comes to bikes?

Sounds kind of cruel asking someone that, but it’s the truth. Often we see women make a choice based on what they can get for the least amount of dollars. We are pretty good at spending money on our kids and husbands, but when it comes to ourselves we often fall short of treating ourselves with what will be the best bike for the job…we see it all the time at Wheel Women. It’s a sad truth that we see a lot of riders we feel are on the wrong bike, the incorrectly sized bike or something that just won’t last - and they aren't enjoying their riding as much as they could. Buying a road bike is a big decision because it can often be big dollars! But you sure do get what you pay for!

Once you’ve answered all the above questions it will give you a clearer picture of what kind of bike you need. For example, the person who will go out for a casual spin every second week or maybe fit in a few rides around work, but still wants something zippy and fun may go for the lower budget bike, while the rider looking at taking on their first 100km ride, or their first multi day ride may go for a bigger budget on their bike because they know they’ll be on it an awful lot. Likewise, the person who wants some adventure and deserted roads may not be looking at the race geometry bikes, which will be harsh and uncomfortable on rough roads.

The Bikes…what we looked at!

So, here’s the run down…we may not cover the typical elements of a bike review, but we do things differently at Wheel Women and we’ve tried to cut some of the mumbo-jumbo and give you the simple info that we think will help - what is the bike, what is it made of, who is the rider best suited to this bike….here goes!

Ruby Comp

There are plenty of Ruby’s in the Specialized stable and the comment we hear most often at Wheel Women is ‘Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t actually love their Ruby?’ We haven’t been able to answer that yet because our riders are having a total love affair with every Ruby in the range! We have a Ruby Double, a Ruby Sport, several Ruby Elite’s a Ruby Comp, a Ruby Pro Disc and several Ruby Comp discs! It’s our bike of choice without a doubt. So what makes us all love the Ruby?

The Ruby Comp: mine is the 2015 model in the gorgeous matt grey and pink...wouldn't have it any other way! She really is the love of my life...don't tell my husband!

The Ruby is a carbon-framed bike, and the quality of the carbon depends on the model. The carbon frame gives the bike a very smooth ride as it absorbs the bumps and vibrations of the road. Added to this is the inclusion of the Specialized ‘Zertz’ in the front fork and the rear seat stay…they act as little vibration dampeners and I can tell you they are no gimmick. Having come off a more race orientated road bike before my Ruby Comp I would often complain of ‘trembling hands’ after a long ride…it was just the after effect of road vibration and my nerves feeling the aftermath of it. Since riding the Ruby it just hasn’t ever been an issue…ever!

The Ruby also has a longer wheelbase than say the Amira, so it provides extra stability on the road…the longer the wheelbase the more stable the bike will be. It also has a ‘relaxed geometry’ meaning it positions to rider in a more upright position, which over a long ride provides a little less stress on the body.

I ride the Ruby Comp myself and it truly is the best bike I’ve ever owned. It’s light; it has an 11-32 cluster on the back…that means I’ll get up hills far more easily than some of the racier bikes such as the Amira models! I have Shimano Ultegra shifters which are super light to shift and it has an Ultegra rear derailleur which means the shifting is clean and crisp and there’s no mucking about on the changes - it’s smooth as can be and getting toward the top of the Shimano range! The brakes are Shimano 105 which means I have great stopping power, but not quite as good as the disc brake versions. But add disc brakes and you add a little extra weight…but sensational to have the discs in wet weather riding and long descents!

The Ruby’s also all come with the ‘cobble-gobbler’ on the seat post…that means it will eat up those bumps through the seat post and the ride suddenly becomes much smoother. When you are on the slightly older side like me…comfort is a big issue. I don’t always want a jolty, jarring bike…I want luxury! The Ruby totally does it for me…it’s smooth, graceful and a solid, road-hugging ride.

Cost: Ruby Comp $3499

Who is it for: the rider who spends hours in the saddle, still likes speed, wants to get up the hills but isn’t fussed about being the fastest rider out there, but the most comfortable on a long ride.

Down side: not as fast as the Amira, is a little heavier than racier bikes because it’s built for comfort. Down side on carbon frames mean that you really shouldn’t hang them off a rack on the back of the car so you may need a special rack on the roof or one that supports the bikes from the wheels, not the frame.

The Amira SL4 Expert

Oh gosh….what can I say! I took one of these beauties out of a spin one day and I didn’t want to give it back. Okay, I LOVE my Ruby, but the Amira SL4 Expert blew me away with the incredible responsiveness and transfer of energy into straight up power through the pedals. The Ruby reacts slower than the Amira so the first thing I noticed was the ‘explosiveness’ of the bike - it just took off as soon as that foot pressed down on the pedal. Don’t get me wrong, the Ruby is no slug and holds her own, but probably isn’t the bike you’d ever race on. The Amira would be the choice if you wanted straight out speed and power.

I tested the Boels Dolman team issue bike with the distinctive team paint work…it’s a gorgeous looking bike and that’s what made me fall for it as soon as I laid eyes on it. I knew I had to get my hands on one to test…it shimmers a deep pearlescent aubergine in the sun but is contrasted by the hot and fiery yellow and organs rainbows as highlights. It’s a stunner!