2014 - My Year for AquaBike

As much as I like running, an Achilles injury 3 years ago ended that dream.  I have rested, strengthened, rehabbed and the best I can do is run about 1/2 mile at a time without pain.  That is not going to help me much.  So I walk mostly on my 4.5 mile route with about 1.25 of it running.

I have added swimming once a week (2500 meters) for the past 1.5 years, and have been riding my bike.  I recently finally made the change to a real road bike vs. my hybrid.  So it seems that an Aquabike would scratch my competition itch.


Since both swimming and biking are low impact sports, my knees should also not give me issues.  This is a good sport for those of us that have impact related injuries and are getting older. 

To give me time to prepare, looking at the local Aquabike races coming up I have found that the Baldwin Park Tri is the closest and looks to be about my speed.  It is a .75 km (750 meters) swim and 12 mile bike.

Since my swims are usually in a pool, it is hard to come up with a goal in open lake swim.  If in a pool, I would be looking at 8-10 mins. So maybe add 5 mins for lake = 15 mins max?  For the bike I am hoping to break 40 mins.  With the transitions I should realistically hope to break 1 hour total?  I hope?

Let 2014 begin!

Specialized Roubaix vs. Roubaix

Unfortunately, I am a victim of the SRAM recall.  Since my bike (2014 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Sport SRAM Disc) is only about 6-7 weeks old, this news hit me hard.  I was planning on riding a lot over the Christmas - New Years holidays, and was told to  "STOP RIDING" immediately.  I contacted the store in which I purchased the bike asking for any alternatives available to keep me riding.  Luckily I purchased at a very good store, as they gave me an option to have a loaner until such a time as I can ride my bike again.  Thus they provided a brand new 2014 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert for my use.

Roubaix SL4 Sport SRAM Disc

Roubaix SL4 Sport SRAM Disc

So the positive from the recall is my ability to review 2 new 2014 Roubaix bikes and compare the SRAM vs. Shimano world.

Visually, the frames of the bikes look identical.  Both are SL4 FACT Carbon, but the Expert is 10r Carbon vs the Sport SRAM is 8r Carbon.  The difference means the Expert is slightly lighter and stiffer.  I could not tell the difference in reality.  The major difference is the SRAM components vs. Shimano.  Depending upon your own biases, this may or may not make a difference. The Shimano Ultegra is 11 speed vs. 10 speed SRAM, and the Ultegra components are a higher priced and premium components. The SRAM does provide hydraulic brakes for a reasonable cost (but also a recall).

Roubaix SL4 Expert

Roubaix SL4 Expert

Their are quite a few minor differences, many of which are the Expert has size-specific parts (i.e. lower headtube) where the Sport SRAM are standard size regardless of the bike size.  The handebars, wheels (due to SRAM Hydraulics), tires are also different.  

The last and significant difference is the seat post, as the Expert comes with the S-Works CG-R FACT Carbon w/Zertz.  This was the one component that the bike shop said that "once I ride with the seat post, I will want to spend the $200 to upgrade my carbon post on the Sport SRAM". Great, it is a sales opportunity for the shop as well.

For a spec list with differences, see the spreadsheet I created at http://sdrv.ms/1ij53Gy

So now on to my experience.  I dropped off my Sport SRAM at the shop so they could prepare the Expert for my use.  When I picked up the Expert it was prepared with all of my additions (Garmin, cages, bag, pedals, etc...) including my aftermarket stem and larger saddle.  With the saddle, they also used the seat post from my Sport SRAM.  Therefore I did not get the S-Works CG-R FACT Carbon w/Zertz in my test AND I will not have to spend $200 to get one on my bike!

S-Works CG_R FACT Carbon w/Zertz

S-Works CG_R FACT Carbon w/Zertz

I can't really say after a number of rides on the Expert that I can say there really is a big difference.  The ride felt comparatively smooth and fast on both.  It certainly does not feel like the difference I felt when I moved from Aluminum to Carbon as a frame.  I really felt no difference of ride.  I "heard" a difference since the Shimano has the ratcheting sound while coasting and prefer my silent SRAM.  Some people do like the ticking sound - it is an alarm to tell you to start pedaling!

Where I did have a big difference was in the shifting methods between the SRAM and Shimano.  SRAM uses the single/double shift method on the shifter (single for shift up and double for shifting down)  and the Shimano uses the brake itself for shifting down and the shifter for shifting up.  It did take a little to get use to it.  I found I shifted more accurately with the Shimano method since both up and down are single shifts, so I did not overshift shifting down as I did with the SRAM method.

There was also a difference in braking as the SRAM hydraulic disc felt stronger and quicker than the Shimano rim based brakes. The only negative i have to disc brakes is that it is easier to remove and install the front wheel on a rim based system than the disc system.  This only would affect those that remove the front wheel often for the auto bike carrier as I do.  Disc are also heavier then rim based, but this is not important to me.

So, do I like one more than the other?  Not really.  Both felt about the same.  Maybe if I got to sit upon the Expert's seat post I would feel differently.  But the $900 price of the Expert over the Sport SRAM is a bit steep and to me and not worth the money.  I am sure those that are Shimano centric, or like the size specific changes, or look for every ounce less, will think it well worth it.  I am just not one of those people.  If money is no object, you can get the best of both worlds with the Expert Ultegra D12 Disc at $6800 or go ALL OUT with the S-Works Roubaix SL4 Red DIsc for $8500.  Too bad I did not get one of those as a loaner.

That said, the SRAM recall does damper any enthusiasm I have for the Sport SRAM Disc.  For "bang for the buck" it is hard to beat if it did not have the recall.  I prefer a bike with disc brakes, and hydraulics are one of the reasons I selected the Sport SRAM.  Soon I should have my bike back with mechanical disc brakes to hold me over until SRAM provides the new hydrolic ones.  So I still do want my Sport SRAM Disc back and to give the Expert back to bike shop.