2008 Specialized Ruby Expert


Specialized Ruby Expert - By Karen Cooper
  • Specialized FACT 8r carbon frame, Az1 construction, Designs for Women compact design, Zertz inserts
  • Specialized FACT monocoque carbon fork; full carbon legs, crown and steerer w/ Zertz inserts
  • Shimano Ultegra SL 10-speed Drivetrain - 50x34 Compact Crankset
  • SRAM OG-1070 cassette, 10-speed 11-28t
  • Roval Echappee wheelset
  • Body Geometry Ruby Women's saddle
  • MSRP: $3300
On their website, Specialized describes the Ruby Expert as "a pure performance racehorse, engineered for women who like to fly". The Ruby's heart and sole is its light weight FACT carbon frame, well proportioned for a typically feminine body, controlled by handlebars and brakes with travel reducers that are perfectly scaled to fit a woman's hand. The Expert comes with Shimano's new smoky gray Ultegra SL components, rolling on durable Roval Echapee wheels and Specialized's All Condition Pro tires with a reputation for all-around performance and long life. During the course of this review, I've had plenty of hours in the saddle, and logged lots of miles to put this Ruby to the test.

Ruby Expert top tube
Specialized provided the bike the 3rd week in May, a week before the Team in Training century around Lake Tahoe that I'd committed to back in February. That gave us a short window of time to get the bike properly set-up and fitted in time for the event. It's a little risky to change equipment so close to a major ride, but my husband and I were confident that we could sort everything out in time if we duplicated my training bike's ride position.

Tahoe would be my first century, so I was initially anxious about the demands of a 100 mile ride, at elevation, with a decent amount of climbing; but the TNT program brought us up to speed and helped instill the confidence that I was strong enough to pull off the distance. With all the training miles, the coaching on ride technique and group skills, and the team's enthusiasm, I felt ready to roll. The biggest challenge was my old bike, a stiff, one-size-fits-all aluminum frame with a mix of 105 and generic components, typical of a cheap first bike. Durable enough, but heavy and not very responsive, it was a stretch to fit. It wouldn't be the best ride for a tough century. I was looking forward to testing the Ruby.

Specialized designed the Ruby Expert to fit a woman's body, and the initial set-up proved that accurate. The 51cm frame had the perfect seat-tube length with a proportionally shorter top tube. The alloy bars are designed with shorter reach for a better ergonomic fit. Moving from the tops, to the bends and drops is easy with the right sized handlebar. Travel reducers at the brake levers enable smaller hands to have full control. The woman's specific Body Geometry saddle has the right balance of width, padding and flex. Plus it's a stylish package.


After transferring the saddle and stem height and saddle setback from my old bike, we had a good starting point for fit. After the build, we did a 50 mile hilly ride with some of our team; that ride revealed how awkward my old bike's fit had been. My stiff shoulders and wrists, an occasional knee ache and a crunched up feeling hinted that we should check the fit.

Fitting with Wade at Spokesman Bicycles in Santa Cruz
The following day we scheduled a fitting with Wade at Spokesman Bicycles in Santa Cruz. Spokesman uses a cool, two camera video fitting system that tracks knee, ankle and hip markers from both the front and side view. Playing back the video frame by frame, markers on my joints were tracked and their motion paths marked on-screen for analysis. Wade discovered a slight leg length difference, and moved one cleat to improve my pedal stroke, along with a subtle saddle position change. Specialized's Pro SL carbon seatpost doesn't have serrated surfaces on the seat rail clamps, so making both broad and infinitely small adjustments was easy. He also recommended I switch to a stiffer shoe; I chose Specialized Woman's BG Pro Carbon MTB shoe for its ample tread and the stiff carbon sole. A minor stem tweak, a little more drop on the bars, some tips on my position and we were out the door. With less than a week to go, I did some light spin rides to confirm the fit was perfect.

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During that week I noticed a lot of really cool touches on the Ruby. The frame lines are sleek and attractive, in gorgeous silver, with just enough carbon popping through to catch the light and sparkle. The graphics are tasteful and feminine, a nice complement to my style. The white bar tape and matching opalescent saddle are beautiful, although we swapped the stock saddle for the Terry saddle I'd been training on so I'd be more comfortable for the century. The Roval Echappe wheels are nice match for the frame and group; the hubs a golden color, with an easy to use quick release that's shaped to fit my hand and doesn't require huge effort to open or close. Adjusting out a little play on the rear hub could've been easier, but after a few attempts, the bearings ride fine now.

brake travel reducers
Perhaps my favorite detail on the Ruby is the brake travel reducers that Specialized fits in their woman's models. They let my petite hands reach the brake levers without over-reaching, a problem in my old bike. With the Expert's Ultegra SL levers and reducers, I can naturally extend my fingers and comfortably grab a handful of brakes. I like speed and descending, so I guess I'm one of those women who like to fly, and yes, having solid, easy to reach brakes adds a lot of confidence when pointing the Ruby down a set of steep switchbacks.

Another surprising change was going from a triple to the Ultegra Compact gearing. As long as I can climb at my own pace, I can get up the steepest pitch, and I thought that meant I needed a triple. Not the case. The compact runs a 50/34 up front combined with an 11/28 cassette in the rear. The 34/28 low gear combination feels almost identical to my triple's lowest gear, but without all the hassle of switching between three rings. The compact provides all the climbing range I need. I'm sold. And to be honest, I think it convinced my hard-headed husband to try a compact set-up as well.

The road around Tahoe rolls into the first big ascent early on. Even though I was a little nervous, climbing Emerald Bay was easy once I found my rhythm. I didn't have to fumble for gearing with the compact. I set it in the 34 up front, and switched the rear cogs as the grade changed. Another blessing for that climb is the Ruby's svelte weight and responsive frame geometry. Climbing never felt better, the bike was crisp and lively throughout the climb up Emerald Bay. Later in the day, I really got to test the Ruby's climbing prowess when ascending Spooner. Long, steep and exposed; but on the Ruby, I found my rhythm, set my pace, and steadily made my way to the summit. Seated or standing, the Ruby was a comfortable, efficient, wobble-free climber. Another plus for the frame's design - it's compact in size, but not so tight that accessing the water bottles is an issue. That allowed me to easily reach them and stay hydrated during the long climb.

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The Ultegra SL shifters made quick gear changes a breeze. They are exceptionally quiet, light to the touch, and really precise. Perfect gear selections were easy, especially on the rollers later on in the ride. I found myself downshifting smoothly as I'd crest a climb, and with a click of the left shifter, gear up to the big ring so I could speed down the backside of the hill. I noticed it was a little easier to spin out at top speed with the 50 tooth chain ring, but that was basically a non-issue, because as soon as I got into a tuck, I'd get going way faster than if I were pedaling.

When talking about descending, the Ruby really shines. Emerald Bay was a great test bed with steep swooping curves that unwind, one after another. I had an open road and could let the Ruby run free. It was very easy to weave through switchbacks, even at deliciously scary speeds. When I'd set a line in a fast tight corner, the stiff Roval wheels and All Condition Pro tires would hang tight, and transmit just the right amount of road feel to the short reach, ergonomic alloy bars. It provided all the control I needed. Combined with the frame and fork's chatter dampening Zertz inserts, the Ruby Expert is a road carver that could stick a corner faster than I'd ever ridden before, building my confidence with every turn.

On the flatter portions of the ride, especially later in the day, I really appreciated how smoothly the Ruby carried itself and my gear. It's stable in a line, always felt light and even at mile 90, kept my legs fresh. I was tired, but still comfortable. As we rolled into South Lake Tahoe for the finish, the TNT coaches had us new riders up front. Crossing the finish was thrill, and thanks in part to how well the Ruby performed, I could focus on the inspirational aspects of the ride, and not worry about my equipment.

Team in Training - Tahoe Finish


Now that Tahoe has wrapped up, I'm still averaging around 100 miles a week. We swapped the original Body Geometry TI saddle back onto the bike, and I really like the fit. It aligns with my sit bone position and the thin gel layer provides just enough padding while still letting me feel one with the bike. It's much sportier than the Terry. However, I'm not a fan of the little plastic tip on the nose of the saddle; it sticks out too far and is, in my perspective, the only flaw.

Our group of TNT girls gets together for several weekly rides now, spicing it up with lots of hills, rollers, and canyons. The Ruby has helped me get more serious about riding. It's a passion that's grown out having a perfect fitting bike, that's easy to control, that lets me comfortably complete a 60 to 80 mile ride without even thinking twice. We're planning several more centuries this summer, some multi day rides and any free weekends are quickly filling up with ride adventures. The Ruby Expert has helped open that up for me. That's the beauty of a bike designed to meet the needs of an enthusiastic woman rider. If it feels good, and fits right, you'll be making up excuses to get out and ride. Specialized's Ruby is a pretty performer with all the right details, in all the right places, just what this girl needs to fly.

Strengths
  • Well proportioned frame for a woman rider
  • Easy to reach controls for braking, shifting and steering
  • Ultegra SL components work great
  • Comfortable even over long distances
  • Great handling adds confidence
  • Climbs wonderfully
  • Attractive graphics
Weaknesses
  • Body Geometry Ti Saddle plastic tip looks cheap
  • Ti rails on saddle distorted after a few rides
Bottom line
The Ruby Expert is a fantastic bike, well designed for woman riders. The frame and wheels are extremely comfortable, with handling that inspires confidence. The finish is very attractive with stylish white accents and tasteful graphics. The component group on the Ruby Expert, Ultegra SL throughout, works flawlessly, and is very precise when shifting, rock solid during braking, and it looks great on the bike. Specialized's bar, stem and seatpost are all well-designed, with helpful markings for fine tuning your position. The only equipment flaw? The BG Ti Saddle. The silver colored plastic tip and tail look cheap, and perhaps we had a bad saddle, because the rails are not even side to side after the last few long rides.

Value
4 stars

(at first glance, the suggested retail price tag is a little steep for an Ultegra equipped bike)
Overall
5 stars

(any concern about the component group at this price is over-ridden by how well designed the total package is)

Have something to add, or want to ask something that we missed in the review? We welcome comments and questions below!

Specialized.com - Official Ruby Expert Website
Own a Ruby? Write a review in our user reviews section! - Specialized Ruby Expert
Interested in joing Team in Training? -Team in Training Website