Thursday, August 7, 2008

thousand mile review

The Tarmac. My Tarmac. My Specialized Tarmac SL2. After 1200 miles.

I really, really like it.


Since I don't get to ride a lot of high-end bikes (only mine), it's impossible to compare this one to others. It's also impossible for me to compare the S-Works 11r carbon on my SL2 to the 10r carbon on the SL, the 8r carbon on the Pro and Expert models, or the 6r carbon on the Comp and Elite models. But what I can say is that I've been wholly satisfied with what I have. It is easily the most responsive, snappy bike I've ever ridden. (It's comfortable too, but I've never really been uncomfortable on any of my bikes--in terms of shock dampening and that sort of thing--and have largely been ambivalent to discussion of comfort in bike reviews, etc. so I don't have much to say on that.)

I still haven't weighed my complete bike so I don't have a number. It's light, but not as light as it could be. My Rival component group is satisfactory (everything but the crank/BB is Rival), but not featherweight (I'm wholly satisfied with the quality-for-price of Rival, so have no intentions of upgrading). I have a stem that's 1/4 lb heavier than a Ritchey 4-axis (an alloy monstrosity that I pulled out of the used bin at Merv's). But the biggest weight issue is my wheelset. A Bontrager X Lite Aero w/ PowerTap that is neither light nor particularly aero. But what I want to say about weight is that it definitely does not feel heavy under me (which some of my bikes have), and that's great.

What I like most about my new bike, however, are two things. First, I have never noticed the least bit of bottom bracket sway riding my Tarmac. On my past three road bikes, at slower cadences and beginning at about 350-400 watts, bottom bracket sway was obvious (particularly pronounced on my '90 Specialized Allez Epic, but that frame is of a completely different generation). I don't know how much is crank (integrated, oversize S-Works crank/BB) and how much is frame, but this bike feels really good when throwing down. Second, the bike instills complete confidence at speed. I'm not at all a ballsy descender, but I now take hills much faster than I ever have. No brake checks on corners where I'm used doing just that. I'm still a wuss, but a slightly faster one.

When I first got the frame, I compared its measurements with all my old frames and wondered if I wouldn't have been better off, given it's radically compact design, with a 56cm frame rather than the 58cm frame I ordered. However, one difference between sizes is 1.7 cm of wheelbase, more of a difference than between any of the other size gaps. I'm not sure how much of a difference 1.7 cm actually makes, but given that a longer wheelbase generally equates to a steadier ride, I think I'm glad I have the larger size, if for that alone.

So, after over 1200 miles on my new rig I have to say I'm totally satisfied and it was totally worth it. I don't love this bike so much that it keeps me off my others, but I do love it.

Somebody (he was seven) asked me other other day what my dream bike was. I thought for a second, then happily remembered that it was sitting in the hall. Awesome.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Rival (with the exception of the crank) is featherweight compared to Dura Ace or Ultegra. Heck, the shifters alone are more than 100 grams lighter. Of course, as you say, the biggest drag on the scale is your wheelset. How much longer until you hook up with a pair of Zipps?