The road bike has remained mostly unchanged in the past 30 or so years. The wheels, seat, and handlebar are all in the same place, and while advances in materials have meant lighter bikes with more gears the only significant changes to come along have been clipless pedals and integrated brake levers / shifters. And now you can add the disc brake to that short list.
Specialized are an amazing company although don’t let their motto Innovate or Die fool you – their real talent isn’t coming up with new ideas but rather spotting market trends and being the first of the big players to jump in. Keep in mind the development lifecycle of a production bike is 12-18 months, so what hits the showroom floor tomorrow was committed to by a product manager with a good crystal ball and big gonads a year ago.
Specialized are not the first to launch a disc road bike – there have been plenty of custom bikes (like the Independent Fabrication I ride), the Colnago C59 Disc, and the Volagi Liscio. The owners of Volagi were sued by Specialized when their bike launched last year – Specialized was awarded damages of $1 and Volagi were allowed to continue producing their bikes (and painting them red)
Specialized are unique as they’re an early adopter yet have the market scale and penetration to be seen and copied by many other bike brands. The Roubaix Disc won’t go unnoticed by the other bike brands – they’ll be watching the press, media, and sales like a hawk while they scramble to get their own disc road bikes into the market in time to ride the wave of sales.