Specialized Tarmac Comp – long term review

Now that I have had this bike for 2.5 years, I figured I would be remiss if I didn’t post a long-term review.  I’ve only had one road bike previously, which was a Cannondale Synapse….aluminum frame with carbon fork and carbon seatpost.  So, I don’t have a lot of experience with other road bikes to offer much comparison, but I can speak in general about the quality of the ride.

Frame – I noticed a big difference in ride quality when I bought this carbon-framed bike compared to my previous aluminum-framed bike.  The minor bumps in the road were greatly smoothed out and the bike just feels like it floats on the road with much more suppleness than an aluminum frame.  There is also some weight benefit that comes with the carbon frame, though really not that much in the grand scale of things (I tend to think in terms of pounds rather than ounces or grams, so anything less than a pound gets generally un-noticed by me).  Another big difference between the Tarmac and the Synapse, at least for me, was that the Tarmac was actually the correct size for me.  The Synapse was always too small and just never quite felt right, whereas the Tarmac (a 61cm size) felt just about perfect.  I could probably feel slightly better on a 60cm frame, but they didn’t offer that size in this particular bike.

Shifting – while my Tarmac has what is technically a lesser component group than my Synapse had (Shimano 105 group vs the more expensive Ultegra group), shifting was more precise and a little smoother.  I attribute this mostly to the technology being around 3 years newer and therefore more refined.  But Specialized, or more likely Bike Link in Birmingham, did a wonderful job of dialing in the derailleurs, shifters, cassette, and cranket so that it always performs well with great consistently.  As a matter of fact, aside from replacing my chain and making very minor adjustments to the tension of the front derailleur cable, this bike has never needed servicing.  I also greatly prefer the standard double chainring setup on the Tarmac as opposed to my compact triple chainring setup on the Synapse.  While I sacrificed some of the very low gears, I had a higher top-end gear ratio which allowed me to keep pedaling on some of the descents that I normally would be forced to coast.

Climbing – this bike is a beast while climbing.  Just find the right gear and sit on it for a long climb.  Or for short bursts it responds well to getting up out of the saddle.  With the stiff carbon frame, you can really feel each pedal stroke getting full energy transferred to the wheels.

Descending – I’ve never been too confident while descending on road bikes….something about the skinny tires, rim brakes, and ever-present possibility of a car pulling out or a dog jumping into the road.  But with that said, this is a respectable descender.  Probably not quite as much as some of the endurance-oriented frames out there, but nonetheless it always gave me enough confidence to get to the bottom of long steep hills without much sacrifice of speed.

Flats – this bike is great on flat terrain.  With the right fit and perhaps some aero armrests it could be a serviceable tri or TT bike if someone had to use it in a pinch.  I’ve set some surprisingly high average speeds on certain sections of Hwys 41 and 43 while riding this bike on solo rides.  And it handles very well when in a group paceline.

Overall – I have been extremely happy with this bike….going so far as to consider it perhaps the favorite bike in my limited collection last summer.  I didn’t name it Sexy Lady for nothing…it is a great looking bike that is equally alluring while riding it.  I would not hesitate to buy another one.  In fact, if I were to buy a new road bike then a new Tarmac would be on the short list.  But with that said, I am about to try to sell it.  Not to buy a newer or better road bike though, but to hopefully finally buy a cyclocross bike.  With some of my ride opportunities likely to be replaced with running this year, I figured I could thin my herd and opt for a CX bike like I’ve wanted for a few years.  A spare set of road wheels should be enough to allow me to still go on road rides whenever I want.

Sexy Lady - Specialized Tarmac Comp

Sexy Lady – Specialized Tarmac Comp

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