I'm a roam-for-lifer but I'm also a designer at heart. Only way I use Roam every day is because I customized the hell out of it with CSS/JS. Vanilla roam is efficient but unwelcoming for a non-technical less-explorative person.
That has its benefits and I totally respect what the Roam team is doing. It's impossible to improve and iterate every single aspect of a product at once, they're really still in R&D!
Could also be that Roam is targeting a different user type right now which is totally fine
I'm intrigued with the design ideas Athens is putting together, lots of cues from google /known UX patterns. They're benefiting from Roam being first. Athens can iterate on different UX things while Roam is heads down in R&D (not meant as shade to either) https://www.figma.com/file/zpnDCLykhdQyq5FANJb3Vz/Athens-Design-Sandbox?node-id=0%3A1