Like any other company marketing high-end technology, Specialized uses product buzz words like a TV chef throwing spices into a dish to turn it up a notch. The S-Works Tarmac SL is built with FACT, 10r carbon, Az1 construction, compact race design, Zertz inserts, proprietary oversized integrated bottom bracket, and a bunch of other fast stuff. The results, “the secret sauce,” is a light, stiff, compliant frame.
I test rode Pam’s new S-Works Tarmac SL up a hill, and amazingly I stopped pedaling and it kept right on rolling briefly – up hill. My totally nonscientific criteria for a race bike is that it “rolls” and has “momentum.” I want to get a bike up to speed and have it roll with that momentum. I don’t know how they’d measure that in a lab, but I know it when I ride it. As a benchmark, my Trek Madone rolls really well. Pam’s S-Works feels quick, light, and snaps up to speed, and also rolls – fast.
The marketing brochures would say that’s transferring power, because of a stiff and huge bottom bracket, minimal deflection, and a compliant frame. Those brochure writers can think of all they different ways to say, “light, stiff, fast, complaint frame” and toss out a bunch of created words on decals. When it comes down to it, all the technology Specialized uses results in all-around outstanding race bike that weights about 15 pounds and reassures any rider turning in a chicane, or about to descend on chipsealed, rural roads, at 40 + mph.
Looking at the attention to detail on the bike, I also realized how far carbon frames have progressed. My first racing bike was an Epic Allez, the old aluminun-lugged, bonded-carbon tubed model. I loved that bike, despite the whippy bottom bracket and you still see them being ridden today. Props also to Specialized for achieving lightweight without doing anything stupid. I don’t know enough about their line to note the year-to-year subtle differences in the frame and suspect a proprietary bottom bracket design gives people pause. Also, the fix for the slipping seatposts is an aluminum or steel seat clamp instead of the Ti version the bike ships with.
Markee’s Cycling Center
What’s nice about Markee’s Cycling Center is they’ve got knowledgeable staff, very helpful, into the sport, and stayed on task with fitting Pam to the bike. As opposed to a high school kid that doesn’t know Miguel Indurain from House of Pain, the staff was about as thrilled to sell an S-Works road bike as Pam was to ride it on Mother’s Day.
It’s also nice to remember “back in the day,” when Jerry and I used to race and train together.