Velo Blessed Product Launch of the Year: Specialized Roubaix; Tech Innovation of the Year: SRAM XX1

The Specialized Roubaix is our Blessed Product Launch of the Year; SRAM XX1 is our Tech Innovation of the Year

Editor’s note: The January 2013 issue of Velo magazine, which is on newsstands now, is our 25th annual awards issue. Our 2012 Cyclist of the Year was announced on November 29; we’ll be rolling out various other award winners throughout the month of December.

Blessed Product Launch of the Year: Specialized Roubaix

For the second time in as many years, Specialized drew aces in the product launch lottery. First came the Venge in 2011, released on the eve of Matt Goss’ Milan-San Remo win on the new machine. This year, it was the new Roubaix, which launched on the eve of, unsurprisingly, Paris-Roubaix. Tom Boonen rode the new model to a punishing victory the next day, proving himself to be by far the strongest in the race. The cameras were trained squarely on the Belgian, and his brand new bike, for nearly an hour as he rode solo towards the finish — an hour-long Specialized ad, broadcast across the globe. It was a marketing dream come true.

Tech Innovation of the Year: SRAM XX1

The impact of the ı-by-ıı setup of SRAM’s XX1 isn’t immediately obvious. In fact, it may take several years before its significance is truly realized.

The essence, and brilliance, is in XX1’s simplicity. In removing the front derailleur and shifter, the drivetrain becomes lighter, cleaner, and sleeker. A single front ring has been the domain of strong riders for some time, but now the low-end gear ratios fall more in line with what most riders are looking for. While it may not have quite the range of a 2xı0 setup, there are a slew of front ring options to pair with the insane range of the 10-42 cassette.

The X-Horizon rear derailleur keeps the gap between derailleur pulley and cog constant across all ıı gears to provide fast, precise shifts. SRAM claims its horizontal parallelogram design reduces shift force and eliminates the dreaded ghost shift once and for all, while a roller bearing clutch reduces bounce and chain slap. The front chainring is designed to keep the chain on, and SRAM claims that this design, in combination with the roller clutch rear derailleur, eliminates the need for a chain guide for most riders.

The true payoff for consumers will come when manufacturers start building frames without being shackled to the confines of integrating a front derailleur mount. This will hopefully open the floodgates to a barrage of creative new frame and suspension designs. SRAM has proven that less can be more with XX1.