Featured Review: 2010 Specialized Tarmac Expert SL
Review Date: April 4, 2010
I race mountain bikes but train a bit on the road so I had always ridden a Ti or steel road bike in the past as I wanted something really comfortable and wasn't so concerned with having a more race oriented bike. I moved close to some great group rides so I wanted to switch over to something more appropriate and the Tarmac fits that perfectly.
I tested the Roubaix but it just didn't have the acceleration or climbing speed I was looking for. On the Tarmac, accelerations really jump and the bike instantly transfers power to speed. The Roubaix and my old Ti bike were super comfortable and had more relaxed geometry, but the pure speed of the Tarmac won me over. Riding the Tarmac back to back with the Roubaix really showed how well the Roubaix absorbs vibration and made the Tarmac feel rough. But after several long rides on fairly rough roads I can honestly say that for such a stiff bike, the Tarmac has very good vibration dampening.
Parts are pretty good with all Ultegra but the wheels are lame (some cheap Mavic wheels that weighed almost 2k grams, as much as my all-mountain wheels!). Stock weight of a 58cm was 17.25 lbs without pedals. Switching to some ksyrium SL SSC's saved almost a pound, taking the bike to 16.42 lbs on the shop scale. I suppose a Dura Ace cassette and carbon bars could get me pretty close to the 15lb range but I'm not that concerned.
Handling is racy but confident. It's not as nerve racking as some race bikes but it certainly favors aggressive riders who pay attention to what they are doing. My first big downhill really amazed me at how much quicker I could take corners verse my old bike. I find that it handles better at it's limits than when you are just cruising. Accelerations are instant which really helps on the climbs. It's barely lighter than my old bike but climbs much better with it's short-ish stays and laterally stiff frame.
Overall, I like this bike much more than I thought I would and am very happy with the ride. I tend to keep my road bikes for several years so hopefully it will prove to be durable.
5 Stars for value: $3k really seems to be the "sweet spot" for road bikes
4 Stars overall: the wheels are no good so you are just about required to put something else on to really feel what this bike is capable of.
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