Laurens ten Dam's pro gravel bike: Specialized S-Works Roubaix SL8

Former WorldTour pro went back to his road roots with Specialized’s endurance road bike for the Gravel World Championships

Clock11:30, Tuesday 24th October 2023
Laurens ten Dam's Specialized S-Works Roubaix

© Stefan Bolt

Laurens ten Dam's Specialized S-Works Roubaix

At the end of 2019, Laurens ten Dam retired from the professional peloton. It brought to an end his 11-year spell at WorldTour level, but it wasn’t the end of the Dutchman’s racing career.

Once upon a time retirement meant making the transition to a staff role or stepping back from the sport, only to pop up at occasional races, but modern pros now have other avenues to go down. The biggest and the most popular is the flourishing gravel scene.

Ten Dam was one of the earliest European riders to make the leap across to the American gravel scene, but many more have followed. His name is now a regular fixture in the top-10 standings of the discipline’s biggest races.

Those performances earned Ten Dam a place at the recent Gravel World Championships in Italy where two familiar worlds, the WorldTour and gravel specialists, merged to battle it out for the world title.

The clash of these two distinct disciplines also led to a wide range of bike and component choices, but which world did Ten Dam take more inspiration from?Here’s a closer look at the Dutchman’s Specialized S-Works Roubaix SL8 for the race.

Road bike over a pure gravel bike

The first selection headache for any rider is their bike. Most riders will naturally err towards a pure gravel bike but some brands have road bikes that can be converted into capable off-road machines.

Specialized is one of those brands and this is the route Ten Dam took with the S-Works Roubaix. A staple of the American brand’s road bike offering, the Roubaix has been around for a while now and most people would associate it as an endurance-focussed road bike. While that’s true, the SL8 model which was released in 2023 has larger 40mm tyre clearance, placing it firmly within the scopes of gravel riders.

This off-road capability is enhanced by the bike’s distinguishable Future Shock 3.0 technology which provides 20mm of travel at the front of the bike. Specialized has been playing around with the technology for a while now but claims that that latest version is better than ever, reducing impacts by 53%. The design is angled towards on-road comfort but undoubtedly offers some benefits on rougher off-road terrain too.

Interestingly, Ten Dam has mostly stuck to Specialized’s dedicated gravel bikes for most races in 2023, either the Diverge or Crux. His decision to ride the Roubaix may be because the World Championship course was less technical than most US gravel races, although it lived up to the ‘gravel’ name much more than last year’s inaugural route which drew plenty of criticism.

WorldTour set-up

2x set-ups are a fairly rare sight at gravel races where 1x has become the default option for many. Things become more blurred at the Gravel World Championships where the influx of WorldTour riders brought a similar influx of 2x set-ups. Not all WorldTour riders went for the tried-and-tested road set-up but many did, including men’s winner Matej Mohorič (Slovenia).

Ten Dam was another of those riders, shunning Shimano’s GRX gravel groupset for the top-tier Dura-Ace road offering. The set-up was a lot more compact than you’d encounter on the road, for pro cyclists at least, with a 50-34t chainset combined with an 11-34t cassette. The 34-34 easiest climbing gear was required as the route packed in plenty of short but steep climbs, and many riders had easier gears to fall back on.

Maximising tyre clearance

Alongside gearing, tyre choice is usually the biggest dilemma facing gravel riders. That doesn’t seem to have been the case at the Gravel World Championships where most riders used a 38mm to 40mm variant.

For Ten Dam, this was the Specialized Pathfinder Pro with its semi-slick design. In theory, semi-slick tyres provide a balance between grip and lower rolling resistance, which is why they’ve become popular. The majority of riders at the Worlds used them although there were some notable exceptions, including Keegan Swenson who went all-in for slick.

Completing an all-Specialized set-up, those tyres were partnered with Rapide wheels from Roval, one of its in-house brands.

Ten Dam finished his build with a Pro Stealth saddle and a 4iiii power meter.

Bike Specification
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  • model

    S-Works Roubaix SL8

  • Manufacturer


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