Friday, August 1, 2008

2008 Specialized Tarmac Comp Review

I now have over 1000 miles on my Specialized Tarmac Comp that I purchased at the end of May. I have had the bike long enough now to develop an opinion. Just in time for the 2009 models to come out.

Unlike the 2007 Langster Single Speed that I purchased last year many of the miles on the Tarmac have been done in a group setting. I have been riding in A/A+ pace rides on Tuesday and Thursdays. I have caught a couple of A+ rides on the weekends as well. I only rode one group ride with the Langster last year and it was a B ride.

Switching from the Langster to the Tarmac was not as easy as I expected. With the Langster I only had one gear so any change in terrain or speed was accomplished by getting out of the saddle and pushing my legs. After 4000 miles on the Langster I developed a technique that just did not transfer over to the full road bike.

The first problem I encountered on the Tarmac was when I shifted up to climb a hill I was losing the group. I was kind of perplexed since I could usually stay with the group on the Langster. I eventually decided that the problem was the 11 - 28T SRAM cassette. I quickly installed an 11 - 23 T Shimano Ultegra Cassette and the problem is solved. Most of the other riders in the group have 25 or 27 T cogs in the back. The 23 requires a little bit of suffering on some of the steeper climbs but I was used to it from riding the Tarmac so no worries.

The ride on the Tarmac is a little rougher than I expected. I have rattled my teeth a couple of times. The carbon frame of the Tarmac Comp is an improvement over the aluminum framed Langster on rough roads. The next model up in the Tarmac line is the Expert and it is the same frame with an upgraded carbon material. It might be worth investing the extra $600 (the cost of the Langster in 2007) and go with the Expert. The real issue is that the bikes are hard to find in the configuration and sizes that you want. I got the Tarmac Comp because it was in stock at the Peddler in the frame size (52) that I wanted.

The Tarmac handles much better than the Langster. Especially at downhill at high speeds. The Langster was kind of shaky around 30 MPH. I have been close to 40 MPH on the Tarmac and while the speed was kind of unsettling the bike remained firm.

I have changed out the stock Specialized Mondo tires for some Continental Grand Prix 4000s. I was thinking of swapping the tires before I even picked the bike up but I wanted to give the Mondos a chance and make the most of my investment. However, I found the tires to be a little soft and after about 900 miles I decided it was time for them to go. The Grand Prix 4000s are a big improvement. The make the ride a little stiffer which could explain some of the recent teeth rattling.

I still do not have the shifting working to my satisfaction. In the beginning it took a couple of trips back to the Peddler to get it adjusted (expected but a little annoying). I still have some problems that I need to get worked out. Of the 20 gears I have on the bike I can only use 19 of them. I cannot use the 11 cog when I am on the small front ring. Also I cannot jump from the big front ring when I am on the 23 cog without popping the chain. I am learning to work around this. I have been told that this is common with carbon frame bikes. I think I need to learn how to do my own work on the bikes.

I have mixed feelings about the color. It is been pointed out to me that it is the colors of the NY Mets and Team Rabobank. At first I did not like the color but it started to grow on me. At this point I am going to have with it for the next couple of years. I am going to have to break the cycle of buying a new bike each year. I have been told that I need to replace the white bar tape with black tape. I am inclined to agree but I have had others tell me that they like the white tape. "Do these handlebars make me look fat?" I probably will replace the tape the next time I go to the bike shop.

Overall I am pleased with the bike. I spent a couple of days playing with the fit. I never really got it match the fit that I had on the Langster. Eventually I just decided to get it close and adjust my style. I am now comfortable on it but I do think a professional fitting might be in order.

About the only negative that I have is that I have not rode the Langster in sometime. I had a feeling that might happen. The big minus on the Langster is the lack of quick release hubs. Every time I think I about riding it see the wrench that I need to carry when riding the Langster and I change my mind and reach for the Tarmac. I have been thinking of selling it. I may set it up as a track bike by removing the brakes and flipping the hub over to fixie.


brettok said...

The Peddler guys should have told you that some gear combos are just not kosher to use. 39-11 is a no-no, any cog on the back from about the 7th cog down should be avoided and a shift to the big ring made. Likewise, running the big ring (52) to the 23 at the back isn't recommended either...avoid the 3 biggest cogs at the back (23-21-19) when using the big ring at front. In general, keeping the chain in as straight a lina eas possible will achieve longer chain and cog wear and help with smooth shifts. Out of the 20 gears, there are probably only12-14 usable combos.

Flametop59 said...

On Sunday I routed my ride by the Peddler and that is exactly what I was told. The mechanic at the Bike Haven told me the same thing. I am developing a technique for handling this.