Sunday, November 1, 2009

Specialized Bike and Gear Reviews - direct from Morgan Hill

I've just returned from 5 days at Specialized headquarters in Morgan Hill, California; where I had the opportunity to use a heap of Specialized branded gear. (I also spent three days riding Dura Ace Di2 - and I plan to post a separate review of that soon.) So, here's a few mini-reviews of the gear I used. I hope you enjoy and find them helpful.

Photos courtesy Specialized - click for larger version
S-Works Tarmac SL3: Wow! Best stock bicycle I've ever ridden - and that's an illustrious list!
(Trek Madone 6.9, Colnago C50, Time VXR are just the most recognizable among them...). Now, I've done short little test rides on previous generation Tarmacs around the store and been pretty impressed, but this was three days, 50+ miles and all types of terrain and I didn't have one negative thought about the bike. Long climbs, steep climbs, twisty descents, high-speed flats, into the wind, solo, in groups - anything. The bike was comfy (though not as much as the Roubaix - see below), quick, predictable, efficient, and most importantly - fun! Definitely a better bike than I am a rider. Great for racing or fast enthusiasts with more emphasis on stiffness and efficiency than comfort.

Tarmac @

S-Works Roubaix: Super Cruiser. Light enough, stiff enough, but super comfy, super stable - the bike for the rest of us. I wasn't in my best shape on the day that I rode the Roubaix - but it took my weak legs; got me up the hills with it's compact crankset and isolated my weak body from the road. It's lucky that I didn't ride the Tarmac on the first day there - because I needed a few days to get my act together and start to ride like a man! The Roubaix more than made up for my inadequacies and kept me in the group. I think that is it's best asset: when you're weak; the Roubaix is enough bike to carry you home. Doesn't matter what the road does, it is forgiving enough to cover your weak legs, sore body, and tired mind. Reminded me a lot of my Waterford. The bike I'd want to ride a century on.

Roubaix @

S-Works Epic: A Tarmac with knobbies! This bike hits the spot for me - but I've been riding short-travel hardtails for almost 20 years; so I don't really know what to do with more than about 4 inches of travel. As a race bike, it's quick and predictable with enough travel to cover all but the gnarliest of trails with confidence. Not the bike that I'd want to take to Whistler, B.C., or up to Ski Bowl to ride off the lift - an all-day session like that would wear on your brain because the bike is an exceptionally nimble bike and not overly forgiving. But, for fast, race-like conditions; even in the bumpy stuff - it's a kick. Proper shock set-up is key, of course.

The Epic was also running a SRAM XX double crankset - which I loved! I've long thought that a double was the perfect choice for an XC race-rig; as I don't recall the last time I was forced to shift out of my middle; 36t chainring offroad except on the nastiest of climbs. Unfortunately, Specialized did not receive XX rear set-ups in time to build their demo fleet; so I was riding X-O in the back. I really like the positive "click" of the SRAM shifting - I just hate the forward thumb lever. Although, it bothered me the least on this day than it ever has. Is it possible I could be adapting? Am I actually capable of learning? Time will tell...

Epic @

S-Works Stumpjumper: The MTB I spent the most time on. Not as adept of a climber as the Epic, but that's to be expected. Enough travel to be forgiving of a poor line choice and still goes uphill well enough that you'll at least finish the climb - maybe not at the front of the group, but you'll finish. You'll probably make up the difference on the descent though. This bike loves to go downhill and will air-out off any bump in the trail you ask it to (or stay on the ground if you prefer). Great do-it-all bike.

Stumpjumper FSR @

S-Works Enduro: I would have loved to have more time and bigger stuff to hit on this bike. The trails we were on were pure XC-type stuff and were just a little too quick, and up/down for this bike.

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