Ready for anything the Harmonator can throw at it
Specialized carbon cranks didn’t last long with team
Trick-looking Roval hubs lower wheel frontal area
Note Quickstep fork crown sticker
Who would have thought 10 years ago that American bicycle companies would supply one quarter of the ProTour peloton. That, however, is the situation in 2007. In particular, Mike Sinyard’s U.S. bicycle giant Specialized pulled off a huge coup in announcing an eleventh hour deal with classic kings Quickstep Innergetic in addition to the already successful collaboration with Gerolsteiner, and the company has continued to develop the race bikes throughout the season.
The close relationship with the German team had already refined the geometry of the S Works, providing a slightly longer chainstay and quick steering fork whilst retaining lateral rigidity.
Our test bike was provided in early season trim, complete with test cranks and wheels.
Construction and Set-Up
Team riders use stock frame sizes and the massively constructed bottom bracket area displayed virtually no deflection at all during the test. However, Quickstep’s classic specialists and sprinters transmit a huge amount of explosive power through the frame and Specialized employ a slightly beefier carbon lay-up for the bigger riders which adds about 100g to the weight of the frame. Specialized have also manufactured a custom geometry frame for former world champion Tom Boonen that addresses long standing back problems.
Early team bikes such as our test bike ran oversized bottom bracket assemblies in order to test Specialized’s own carbon cranks, but when the Belgian squad requested a frame suitable for fitting standard Campy bottom brackets a new version of the frame was required to accommodate the fittings without the use of reduction adaptors.
Beefy oval chainstays provide efficient power transfer to the rear wheel which is held by bonded dropouts, the gear side being replacable. Fork blades are ovalized with carbon dropouts and carbon steerer tube.
An interesting departure from the normal road set-up was the inclusion on our test bike of Roval Rapide Carbon wheels. Quickstep along with other teams have provided valuable feedback for the development of a new generation of wheelsets for Specialized, which acquired the French wheel constructor in the recent past. The deep section Roval wheels on our test machine were used in pre-season testing by the Belgian squad before the switch to Campag Fulcrums in line with the Record Ti groupset.
Turning the legs over on the S-Works Tarmac for the first few kilometres, I was immediately struck by its comfort. Specialized have obviously worked hard to iron out the inherent problems in the construction of a stiff carbon frame. This is even more impressive when you consider that our test machine came with deep section full carbon Roval hoops.
To be fair, the test period included a week of fast group riding on smooth Tarmac with Sean Kelly but my deliberate forays onto long cobbled sections served to highlight that for a full carbon frame and wheelset mix, this bike has a big emphasis on comfort.
However, stiff it still certainly is, with no noticeable flex at the bottom bracket and excellent drive when sprinting out of the saddle.
Particularly impressive was the full carbon fork providing excellent compliance with lateral stiffness. It is also a very quick steering machine making it an excellent sprinters bike.
I found that my weight was nicely placed in the centre of the bike and that my stance was slightly more upright than many machines, taking weight slightly off the wrists and onto the lower back.
Specialized are naturally keen for a slice of the vast and lucrative factory wheelset market and first impressions of the Roval Carbon Rapides are good. Braking in the dry was predictable and progressive with a powerful finish when pulling hard on the levers and more importantly good feedback and operation in the wet. They are also extremely comfortable for such a deep section carbon rim.
Campagnolo’s Record Ti groupset worked faultlessly, shifting crisply and precisely through the 11/23 cassette. The Specialized carbon cranks proved admirably stiff.
This is a bike that makes much of comfort and is ideally suited to a fast, rougher parcours. Interestingly, I found that for a full carbon race frame it feels almost docile and isolated from feedback. Very little general road harshness and vibration is transmitted via wheels and frame, which is a testament to the manufacturer’s commitment to keeping the rider in good shape for the finishing line.