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RoadBikeReview's Member
5,505 Posts
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!

RoadBikeReview's Member
5,505 Posts
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.

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