Round three… Specialized’s latest range is perhaps the longest awaited and most hyped in a long time. We saw much of what was on offer last summer and were very impressed with both the look of the bikes, the price points and the specifications. So, all aboard the Tarmac.
Compared to the Python’s monocoque style construction and Parlee’s proprietary lug and tube lay-up process, this Specialized Tarmac frame appears to be a mixture of the two. Let’s not forget that those clever kids from California are also the kings of the buzz word so excuse me if this gets a little confusing.
The Tarmac uses Specialized’s Triple Monocoque method. The main triangle, chain stays and seat stays are heated for max compaction of the carbon, and are then assembled together using a final layer of carbon, so the carbon fibre for the front triangle, seatstays and chainstays are all laid up individually before the three pieces are aligned, wrapped in another layer of carbon and it goes back into the oven to be cured. The output is a one-piece frame. Another monocoque, sort of.
The geometry of the 54cm size we tested went as follows:
Seat tube: 54cm
Top tube: 54.8cm
Head angle: 73°
Seat angle: 74°
Chainstay length: 40.5cm
Fork rake: 4.3cm
Head tube length: 13.0
Specialized have always worked hard on styling and the Tarmac is certainly striking.
Some like the Zertz idea and others don’t, I’m about half way. I like the ride and you do notice a smooth ride, but I can’t help thinking that they’re a bit style before substance and that they’ll attract dirt and age badly… a bit like me really.
All good stuff though and the frame and fork is shaping up very well even after several rounds of the Hillingdon winter series and several hundred commuting miles
FSA SLK 8680 MegaExo, 2-piece carbon crankset is appearing on a lot of bikes as an option to Hollowtech II cranks, it’s a nice looking crank and has everthing you’ll need, it’s stiff light and stays put. The bearings are placed like Shimano on the outside of the BB shell and they certainlky look neat and well put together.
There’s also a lighter weight S-Works FACT carbon stem with magnesium face plate, a lighter, vibration-damping S-Works FACT carbon aero handlebar with ergo/aero shaping. The Specialized branded stuff all works well and has a high quality feel.
Smoother shifting, lighter weight Shimano Dura-Ace/Ultegra 20-speed drivetrain is perfectly matched to Lighter Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels. The only downside in the spec is that the wheels (although OK) don’t quite match the level of quality you’d expect for such a full-on race bike. Change them for a pair of top of the range Ksyriums and you’ll be a lot happier.
Specialized have worked very closely with their sponsored riders and it shows. They also work exceptionally hard on specification and that shows too. Without doubt this is a prime contender for race bike of the year, if just for value alone.
Seeing as it’s a little lower at the front than the Roubaix it will please racers more than Etapists. We’ve already had a Roubaix and were blown away with it’s sure footed approach to the road and it’s super-comfy fit. If the Roubaix is a pair of reliable slippers then the Tarmac is a brand spanking pair of track running spikes – and it’s all you need for the race season ahead. If you want a bike to do it all then take a look at the Roubaix too… and if you want to be a little more exclusive, the S-Works versions of both these bikes look really, really lovely.
For me I’d prefer the Roubaix, mainly because racing is not all I do and I also like a more upright front end. I actually found the Roubaix and the Tarmac comparable for comfort and was pleasantly surprised to still be very comfortable after a five hour ride on the Tarmac. So if their giving them away, either would do me thanks.