Each week our editorial team does a lap of the proverbial test garage, making note of the best cycling gear and apparel we’ve been using lately. Some of it is brand new. Some of it is so old and beat up you can barley read the label. The common thread is that it’s all earned a place in our regular use rotation due to quality, performance, durability and/or price. Here’s this week’s hit list. What’s your go-to gear? Tell us about it in the comments section below and check out last week’s RoadBikeReview Hit List here.
Mavic Cosmic Ultimate II Shoes
Key criteria for a high end road cycling shoe? Low weight, stiff sole, ease of adjustment, secure fit — and of course comfort and good looks. We’ve just started testing the premium priced Mavic Cosmic Ultimate II, but give them high marks across the board thus far. Similar to a Boa, Mavic’s Ergo dial lacing allows for fine tuning of fit in 1mm adjustment increments. Weight is a wispy 263 grams per shoe (size 44). And the ultra-stiff carbon sole is just 5.5mm thick, minimizing stack height, which improves overall power transfer to the pedals. And if you’re not a fan of bright yellow, the Cosmic Ultimate II also comes in a more understated white/black colorway. | Weight 263g per shoe (size 44) | Price: $400 | More info: www.mavic.us
Specialized S-Works Tarmac Di2 Disc Race Bike
Heretofore, disc brakes on road bikes have necessitated compromise. In exchange for superior stopping power and the ability to run wider tires, riders have had to sacrifice weight and handling. Disc-equipped bikes were the domain of endurance geometry, meaning cushy ride quality, but sluggish mannerisms, especially when dive-bombing twisty descents. Specialized’s S-Works Tarmac Di2 Disc has gone to great lengths to change that — and for the most part succeeded.
Indeed, this is a race bike in every sense of the word. Yes, it’s a hair heavier than its non-disc S-Works Tarmac brethren. But that difference is minimal, while the trade-off in braking performance is profound. Shimano’s BR-785 hydraulic disc brakes take things to a whole other level, allowing the bike’s pilot to carry more speed in and out of turns without fear of failure.
It’s the bike’s handling that truly stands out, though. By moving the cassette inboard on the 135mm Roval hub, Specialized was able to maintain proper chainline for crisp Shimano Di2 electronic shifting, while at the same time keeping the carbon frame’s chainstays at a snappy 405mm long, delivering the stellar rear end stiffness and nimble handling you’d expect from a Tour de France level bike.
In late October, we saddled up the Tarmac Di2 Disc for the annual Hincapie Gran Fondo near Greenville, South Carolina. The 80-mile course with 8,000 feet of climbing had a little bit of everything, from extended steep ascents, to tight twisting descents, to high speed-rollers and flats. This bike was up to the challenge 100 percent of the time, helping us get to and stay near the front of the 2000-rider field from start to finish. It climbs with ruthless efficiency, goes downhill like a rally car, and holds speed like a TGV train. At the end of the 4.5-hour ride it felt as if we literally had gotten everything possible out of body and bike.
The only major shortcoming of this bike is that because of the special hub design you’re essentially locked into the house brand 40mm deep carbon wheels that come stock on this $9250 bike. But honestly, is that really such a bad thing? Specialized has been making wheels for a while now and there’s really nothing wrong with these hoops. During our test session, they’ve stayed perfectly true, while delivering the zippy wind-up that you expect from a high-end composite wheel. Just because they don’t say ENVE, Reynolds, or Zipp on the side doesn’t mean they cant deliver top-shelf performance.
The Tarmac disc is not perfect by any means. We’d prefer thru-axles rather than the QR set-up. And yes, the lack of wheel choice is not ideal. But full credit to Specialized for cracking the code of disc-equipped race bikes. Soon enough, the WorldTour peloton will be chock full of these new era bikes, and we’ll all have the Big Red S to thank for really getting the proverbial rotor spinning. | Weight: 15.8 pounds (size 58cm) | Key components: S-Works FACT 11r carbon frame, Shimano Dura Ace Di2 drivetrain, Roval Rapide CLX 40 Disc wheels, Shimano BR-785 hydraulic disc brakes | Price: $9250 | More info: www.specialized.com