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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am new to road biking and am not sure which bike to get.

I have been Mountain biking for many years

Looking at Specialized Carbon fiber. Roubaix and Tarmac elites are in my price range (~$1500 for some 05 closeouts).

The Tarmac is more of a traditional racing geometry with a double up front. It felt like it really carved turns. I don't think I am good enough shape for a double in the CA bay area hills.

The Roubaix has pretty laid back geometry and felt really comfy. It comes with a tripple. I tried the roubaix first and thought it felt fine. Then I tried the Tarmac around the same corner, I immediately thought "Wow! This thing loves to corner". It was night and day in the cornering department. It reacted better to leaning then much turning of the bars. But I am told the Roubaix would be more comfy.

Both were much smoother of a ride than I expected out of a road bike. They say it's a combo of the carbon and these things called Zertz inserts in the forks, seat stays and seatpost. The shop said the Tarmac would be good for anything under 40 miles. Above that, or for rough roads, they recommend the Roubaix.

I don't get it... Does the geometry have more to with what is comfy? or is it setup? including stem length, etc?

Seems like I could play with setup on the Tarmac so it is comfy for recreational riding and then set it up for a more aggressive stance if I felt like it.

Really not sure which way to go... Both are the same price with the same componentry level.

Any advice?
 

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Pokey said:
I am new to road biking and am not sure which bike to get.
Welcome! Glad to see someone new to the sport!

The Tarmac is more of a traditional racing geometry with a double up front. It felt like it really carved turns.
The Tarmac is a racing bike, if you look at Team Gerolsteiner, they're riding the Tarmac S-Works, which is the same bike as yours except with a bit lighter carbon fiber, and DuraAce (XTR/X.O level) componentry. Its geometry is supposed to be low and fast.

The Roubaix has pretty laid back geometry and felt really comfy. It comes with a tripple. I tried the roubaix first and thought it felt fine.
The Roubaix is what Specialized calls "Endurance Road." What they mean by that is that it's something of a touring bike - it's not a racing position like on the Tarmac, so much as a more upward posture. You're sitting up on it more like an MTB, and are able to look around and relax more.


Then I tried the Tarmac around the same corner, I immediately thought "Wow! This thing loves to corner". It was night and day in the cornering department. It reacted better to leaning then much turning of the bars. But I am told the Roubaix would be more comfy.
The Tarmac will be much faster at cornering again because it's a racing bike - it's supposed to react quickly and immediately. Faster! Faster! Faster! is the concept of the Tarmac. The Roubaix is more of a bike that you would sit back on, and say, ride around the countryside at a leisurely pace with the family. On the Tarmac, you'd be pacelining that country road.


Both were much smoother of a ride than I expected out of a road bike. They say it's a combo of the carbon and these things called Zertz inserts in the forks, seat stays and seatpost.
Zertz inserts seem like a gimmick to me, I dont think they really do anything. What it is a lot is the geometry and material of the bike, geometry most of all. A carbon fiber bike can be engineered to be wonderfully compliant, almost to the point of being noodly, while it can also be engineered to be stiff enough to bruise you in a matter of seconds. The Tarmac probably felt stiffer, because it's less comfort oriented, and more speed oriented. The stiffer it is, the faster it accelerates, the more power transfer, et cetera. And racers tend to like the stiff feeling, too. The Roubaix wont be as stiff because acceleration isnt as important, and comfort is more important.

The shop said the Tarmac would be good for anything under 40 miles. Above that, or for rough roads, they recommend the Roubaix.
Bull. The Tarmac would be fine for 100 miles, just fine. Especially with your mountain biking background - it's not going to be jarring, if you can stay on the bike, you just have to get used to the road bike saddle (narrow, hard.). Same goes for the Roubaix. Admittedly, if I was doing a double-century ride I'd rather have the Roubaix, but below that, the Tarmac would be just as nice.

Stem Length has no effect on comfort - it does effect twitchiness, but in the same way as on a mountain bike. What the stem CAN affect is the angle of the stem. If you look at the bikes at the shop, see how the stems generally go up? at a diagonal angle upwards, I mean, so that the steerer tube end is lower than the handlebars? A racer will generally "flip" the stem, turning it upside down (it works both ways, they're designed to be flipped either way), making the stem "flat", such that there's no rise between the top of the steerer tube and the handlebars.

Seems like I could play with setup on the Tarmac so it is comfy for recreational riding and then set it up for a more aggressive stance if I felt like it.
Definitely. What you could do is get a steeper stem (they come in various angles, such as 8 degree rise, 10 degree rise. If the stock rise was not high enough for your comfort, you could stick on a steeper stem, which would then raise the handlebars more. If you want to race, what you can do is take the stem, flip it, and also, take the risers off, stick the stem back on the steerer tube, stick the risers on top of the steerer tube on top of the stem, put on the cap. This gives you a drop of up to 5 inches from your saddle to handlebars. This is a racing position. Your LBS is saying that this is uncomfortable for 40 miles, I've got a 5 inch drop on mine and I do centuries on it, it's just fine. You might feel a bit of pain in your back for a week or two, but that's getting used to it, and would happen similarly with the roubaix - adjusting from an MTB to a road bike, you're going to have to get used to your handlebars usually being on the same level as your saddle, or lower.

If you go with the Tarmac, you will have a very raceworthy bike, that can go anywhere. You can set it up for touring, and probably dont even need to set it up differently than stock to ride it comfortably for distances up to 120, 150 miles, in a day. If you choose to race, you're going to want to flip the stem probably, but the same goes for the Roubaix, and I would go as far as to say that on the Roubaix you probalby want to flip the stem even if you're not racing.
The Roubaix will give you a somewhat raceworthy bike, although beware - if you really get into racing, or even do around 4 races a year, you'll really see a difference between you and the other riders - they wont be pushing as much air, and they'll be more comfortable at high speeds than you. However, if rides with the family at 12mph are what you're looking for, this is probably a better bike for you.

Both bikes are excellent, it depends on what your wants are. Faster, Tarmac, Slower, Roubaix. Though this is a gross oversimplification of both bikes. They're both versatile, thogh in my opinion, the Tarmac moreso.

I think this should help you, if it doesn't, or if I didnt explain anything in enough depth, dont hesitate to ask more questions here, or PM me. I'd love to help!
Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the thoughtful response...

Though I'll probably never enter a race; in my mind, every ride is a race! Whether it's with myself (time) or with friends (Where I end up in the pack at the top of a hill). I want to go on the weekly group road-ride with people from work. Mtb for that 12mph leisurely ride with the family. The MTB is fun for riding over obstacles, but it's NO fun on the street. I kinda feel like part of the fun of a road bike is going fast!

I just love to ride and getting into Road riding increases my opportunities to ride. I can't stand the thought of sitting on a stationary bike in a gym to keep my fitness up. I work long hours but usually get done at 6:00 PM, but often work until 7:00 PM. With a road bike, I don't have to drive out to the trailhead to get a ride in during the week, which increases my chances of being able to ride. Sorry, the Mtb is just no fun on the street.

I'd like to have a very fast bike that I can just maybe swap out (or flip) a stem to go from upright to lower.

The main drawback I see with the Tarmac is the double up front. Sure, I love to go fast, but having that third smaller chainring for taming a steep uphill would be great.

On the MTb, I have the 22t ring up front and a 34-tooth in the cog in the back. There's not much I can't ride up with that. I can see me running out of steam on a steep grade with only a double. I hate nothing more than to have to get off the bike and walk! OOF! The shop owner said I would have to swap out the entire crankset if I maybe wated to go with a double-compact. That kinda sucks. How often do you use the tallest gears on a road bike? Maybe going wide open on a downhill?

As far as my fitness level, I'd say on a scale of 1 (totally unfit) to 10 (Totally fit), I am Probably a 6 or 7. I am 5'-5"and weigh about 175.

If the Tarmac had a tripple off the floor, I think it' be an easier decision...

Any suggestions/advice on gearing?
 

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Weekly group rides, as you've been MTBing for a while you should pick up more speed and fitness very quickly, and more importantly, you'll get used to riding in a group. What that means is that if you're in a club that has rides from say, level 1-4, (a local one here does that), you might start in level 3, then in 2 weeks, move up to level 2, and in a month or two maybe up to level one. (Level 2 rides on that scale are not slackers, they're flying).
A Tarmac is definitely going to be more user friendly for that, and if you have the MTB for 12mph rides, then you dont really need the Roubaix.

Once you get the stem the right fit on the Tarmac (they tend to fit people stock, most companies figure out the size of the average rider and stick a stem length on accordingly), you can just flip the stem and risers when you want to go really fast or more relaxed. No need for a second stem, which is 50-80 bucks saved.

If you think you're a 6-7 fitness wise, unless you're rising some really sick stuff, you can do it. I'm 15, 5'8.5/9" (seems to vary by day... hm.) and average around 20, 22mph, I've been riding on the road for 2 years. Over my spring break I went south to North Carolina (that's really far south for me... :p ). I climbed Mt. Pisgah, and Mt Mitchell, on seperate days, logging about 4000 feet the day I climbed Pisgah, and about 8500 the day I climbed Mitchell. I didn't need my granny gear I spent a decent amount of time in the second chainring up front, biggest ring on the back, but never the whole time the first ring up front, and my cadence was relatively decent, 85ish. I'd rate myself fitness wise as a 7-8.5, so
not too much different than you; a double wouldn't be a deadly limiting factor.

On the MTB you can hit some pretty sick slopes, in my experience... 20% grade... yeesh!
The biggest you're gonna realistically hit on a road bike is around 12% (remember, most of these roads are designed with cars, thus, semis, in mind. Do YOU want a semi on a 20% grade? Neither do the road designers, it'd be ugly.). You sometimes might hit a 20% grade for 100 meters or so at a time, but a novice rider can generally push themselves up something as steep as a 15% for a half mile, on pure mental strength. An experienced rider can do more mentally and physically, and you'll have that background from MTBing.

I use my big gears pretty regularly, I'm sad to say my bike's outfitted with a triple, and I'm very often in 53/14 or so. One of the great things about a road bike is that if you find a 25mph wind, you just set off into it, do 20 miles of hell, turn around, stick it into a huge gear, and start spinning. You'll be surprised how quickly you get to 30mph; I've gotten into the habit of taking my hands off the handlebar and getting a drink, stretching, when I have a tailwind. I'll look down at the cyclocomp while I'm getting a drink and I'll often nearly fall off because I'm going 30mph, and thought I was doing 15 :eek: . Basically, you get any tailwind, you're FLYING. If I remember right, you said you live in Cali, (sorry if I'm wrong!). Well, any downhills you'll be in a pretty steep gear. 30mph down hills is something pretty commonplace. I've hit 48, 49mph. Though at that speed you ahve to pedal at 140+rpm to spin the freewheel, the best thing you can generally do is to get into an aero tuck.

One thing you might not have considered would be to change the rear cassette. If it has an 11-23 and a double, that's BAD. I live in IL, and I'd love it. But if you live around any hills, byebye, you're walkin. (Although that would be FUN on downhills). A road derailleur can handle up to a 27 or 29 tooth rear. I think 29, though I'm not completely sure, ask your LBS. You could get a 12-27 with the Double, that'd work as well as a triple pretty much for anything but sick, sick stuff that I personally wouldnt try with a triple and 12/27.
The other option related to this - I've seen this on some touring bikes, is to actually stick an MTB rear derailleur on. That would allow you to get a 42/34 on your bike. Riding up any realistic road grade would be fine.

-estone2
 

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The Roubaix can be set up to put you in as "racy" a position as any race bike. It will ride a bit more comfortably than the Tarmac, but there won't be a huge difference between the two. Some of the Gerolsteiner team riders use Roubaixs all year round. By that measure, the frame is race worthy. If you want to ride centuries or do long rides in the hills, it is probably a bit better a frame. The slower steering is good when you hit a bumpy descent when you're tired at the end of a long ride.

But if the Tarmac pushes your buttons, get it. You can race or ride centuries with either bike. I'd strongly recommend a compact or a triple though. We've got a lot of "sick" hills here in the bay area.
 

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Hey "Pokey" ;) Hope I didn't hit you with the bug :)

Here's my thoughts and you can take it as you want. Personally, I think you have two options:
1. Get the Roubaix and you can start riding immediately, OR
2. Get the Tarmac and swap out the crankset to compact.

Mainly because with all the pretty nasty hills over where we are, double is going to be really tough. Finding hills with over 15% is quite common as you are aware. Also I think we are in the same boat as far as fitness goes. Although I have quite more pounds over you.

I have double compact (34 in the front) and upgraded my rear to 12-27. With it I was able to do Mt. Eden/Pierce Road climb. At the steep parts of Pierce, I was wishing for lower gears although I made it up. Having done that, I think I am able to try the steep longer hills, i.e. OLH, Montebello, and there is Orbit/Bohlman, etc..., but I have not yet had the chance yet. Just as reference, imagine climbing on your MTB with your middle chainring (32) and down 2 or 3 from the biggest in the rear, and that's what it feels like.
 

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Pokey said:
I don't get it... Does the geometry have more to with what is comfy? or is it setup? including stem length, etc?
I am learning that on road bikes, geometry and fit is everything. Coming from mountain bikes, sometimes we associate with small changes here and there, but that's not the case with road bikes.
 

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Pokey said:
On the MTb, I have the 22t ring up front and a 34-tooth in the cog in the back. There's not much I can't ride up with that. I can see me running out of steam on a steep grade with only a double. I hate nothing more than to have to get off the bike and walk! OOF! The shop owner said I would have to swap out the entire crankset if I maybe wated to go with a double-compact. That kinda sucks. How often do you use the tallest gears on a road bike? Maybe going wide open on a downhill?
As mentioned before, imagine having to climb with your middle ring in the front (btw that's 32t) and 2 or 3 gears down in the rear. On Double, it's 39t in the front. On Double Compact, it's typically 34t in the front. With Triple, you will get 30t in the front. Also the rear comes in at 25t. I swapped out to my rear to 12-27t as soon as I got the bike.
 

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ericm979 said:
But if the Tarmac pushes your buttons, get it. You can race or ride centuries with either bike. I'd strongly recommend a compact or a triple though. We've got a lot of "sick" hills here in the bay area.
I agree wholeheartedly. Get what pushes your buttons so that there is buyer's remorse. I think that's the last thing you want. However, I would also highly recommend that you swap out to compact if you do decide to go with Tarmac. Swapping to Triple is going to be much more complicated as it's more than just the crankset.
 

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I just bought an 05 Roubaix Elite and I love it. I don't notice that I have more trouble keeping up on group rides or that my pace has changed at all from when I was riding a more compact geometry bike. I did find the need to swap out the stem but my LBS did that for me for free. I went from an al compact to this and don't even think my riding position has changed at all from what I can tell. On top of that it's incredably smooth. I love it.
 
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