Specialized Roubaix Armadillo Elite Redux

Specialized Roubaix Armadillo Elite tire at 5835 miles (9390 km)

In February of 2013, I switched to a Specialized Roubaix Armadillo Elite for the rear tire of my De Rosa Professional bike.

Last month, I finished building up my Eddy Merckx Professional. After some research, I decided to use Continental Grand Prix 4000S tires on that bike. Because the Merckx is “new,” I’ve been riding it on sunny days. When the roads are wet, I’ve been riding my De Rosa Professional. There was a significant difference in the feel of the bikes. Except for the Merckx being 1 cm larger in the seat tube and the corresponding geometry changes, the bikes are similar, both probably made by De Rosa with the same brake bridge and bottom bracket shell.

I attributed the difference to the tires. I can’t complain about punctures with the Specialized Roubaix Armadillo Elite – I don’t think I got one in 5800 miles. As is evident in the photograph, it did wear into a large, squared off, contact patch, 9/16″ (14mm) wide. I switched the rear tire on the De Rosa to a Continental Grand Prix 4000S and the De Rosa no longer feels like a truck.

Specialized Roubaix Armadillo Elite

Specialized Roubaix Armadillo Elite tire
Specialized Roubaix Armadillo Elite tire

To get up into the hills, I ride my bike through glass strewn, broken city streets. Including the weight of my bike, I’m pushing almost 100 kg. I was getting a lot of punctures from very small pieces of glass, frequently enough that I started to consider tire savers. If I hear a crunching sound or ride over small pieces of glass I don’t see in time, I reflexively put my thumb down on the rotating tire to hopefully flick off debris.

Though I need a rear tire that is more resistant to punctures, I also didn’t want to compromise too much on weight because I am riding a racing bike, even though it is from the early 80’s. Years ago, when I lived in Manhattan, I went from tubular tires to a Specialized Armadillo. It was like putting on a truck tire.

After I read Bruce Weber’s account of his flatless cross country bicycle ride with Schwalbe Durano tires, I bought a Schwalbe Durano Plus. With a folding bead, the 700 x 25C tire weighs 380 gm. Compared to the Continental Grand Prix 4-Season (that I was riding in a less demanding environment) the Schwalbe Durano Plus tire had a certain sluggish response.

One of my local bike shops suggested a Continental GatorSkin. They didn’t have the foldable version so I bought the 300 gm, wire bead, 700 x 25C. The GatorSkin felt more responsive than the Durano Plus and through it’s life, I only had one puncture. Unfortunately, the cord started showing in one spot after about 3500 miles.

I would have bought a folding Gatorskin, but LBS #2 wasn’t a Continental dealer. They suggested a Specialized Roubaix Armadillo Elite. I mounted it on my Mavic Open Pro wheel without shredding my thumbs or using tire irons to get the final part of the bead over the rim. Even though it weighs 305 gm, the Elite feels more responsive than the other two tires. For $60, I hope it wears well.

Specialized says, “The Roubaix is an Endurance Road tire for epic rides from smooth country roads to rough field roads.” Since my riding is none of the above, hopefully it will just work.