Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
When we set out to ride the 2020 Specialized Roubaix this late winter in the Ardèche region of southern France, it was impossible to know how long we would all be off our bikes and remaining close to home. Many of us weren’t able to ride at all until this week and it is in the spirit of our return to riding and being outside in nature again that we present this adventure story about an iconic bike in an inspiring part of the world.
Looking back at these few days of riding, it feels like a dream—a welcomed dream about three friends riding bikes together and exploring the Ardèche on the Specialized Roubaix.
The Ardèche is bordered by the Rhône River to the east, while the Loire and Ardèche rivers intersect it at various spots to create a unique backdrop for cyclists and travelers. The roads are windy and narrow and link to small villages with stone houses and views of oak and pine forests. Think Corsica but in the Rhône-Alpes region of France that has cave paintings dating back 30,000 years and empty streets and villages for endless exploring.
We saw this area in 2016 at the Tour de France, when Le Pont d’Arc, a natural stone arch 60 meters high, was on the route of a time trial stage; we vowed to return. This gateway into the Gorges de l’Ardèche is a must-visit for road and gravel cyclists alike.
On our first day in the area we began prepping three different models of the 2020 Roubaix: a Roubaix Pro, an S-Works Roubaix with Di2 and an S-Works Roubaix with SRAM eTap. This is a bike that in 2020 is lighter than the Venge and more aero than the Tarmac and presented as the most technically advanced machine Specialized has ever made.
More details on the Roubaix can be found here
With water, winding roads, dense forests, gravel paths, abundant wildlife and endless opportunities to get sufficiently lost, we began our adventures close to Valence and wandered around the region veering off the beaten path onto villages of cobbled streets and moments of dirt where the Future Shock—which is isolated from the frame—did its work to smooth out any unexpected road chatter.
You could ride all day here and never repeat seeing the same landscapes or villages, each with its own ancient history and medieval architecture, breathtaking views, varying hues of water and rivers that line the narrow roads and punchy climbs—names like Mont Gerbier de Jonc, Château de Crussol, La Caverne du Pont d’Arc on signposts to guide the direction of your rides.
They were good days. Three friends enjoying riding outside, which is something we will never take for granted again—a memory of freedom on three bikes in an area that features some of Europe’s most unique natural landscapes and architecture.