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Why I bought a Specialized Bicycle

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

I found that a lot of people gave me advice when I said I was looking to upgrade my bike and drop a couple of Gs in doing so. There were definitely many camps out there and lots of advice. All of it good which was annoying!

First there was the aluminum versus carbon fiber debate to work out, in the end I decided that if I could get carbon fiber in my budget I would (and I did) but it would not have been the end of the world if I bought aluminum.

There is was “relaxed” fit versus “race” fit. Lots of vendors have both types but in the end I wanted something to race and if it ended up being uncomfortable I would switch to “relaxed”. My tarmac is comfy as far as I can tell.

Then it was what brand. Unlike cars where you can often spot the car type miles away you have to wait for the bike to get really really close then stare at the down tube to get the name. You basically have to choose based on frame as the components are either Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo.  I wonder if anybody every took the names off of frames, gave them to 10 pros and asked them to name the brand…

So now for two controversial statements that impacted what frame I bought.

1- A frame is a frame is a frame – so choose based on your wants

2- In the end, its your body and legs that do the work, so frame is mostly irrelevant

Now at the elite pro level maybe it makes a difference but I don’t think so. You don’t ever hear a pip out of anyone now that HTC has switched from Scott to Specialized, Garmin from Felt to Cervelo etc. If it did matter folks would make a stink etc. So I don’t think there really is a case for “thank god I had brand X under me when we went up that mountain”.

So how do you decide? It’s a very personal decision. I was leaning towards Cervelo but man those guys are anal, you do get the most fawned over frames, with individual bolts it seems going under the radar. Made me think if they remembered the fun of bikes.

Go to cervelo.com right now and look for anything that talks about how fun it is to have a bike and just get out there. It’s we won here, we rule there. Oh, look at how we shaved 1.5g from this bolt. Their video series Beyond the Peleton is awesome however and much recommended. And the plain jane graphics, not for me. So after a while just put me off. Now head on over to colnago.com, here the love of the bike is everywhere, how its presented etc. But those prices, ouch.

Trek is ok I guess, just never gelled with them, and Madone, not a name that worked for me.

Spent some time up on bikesdirect.com and may go that direction in the future.

I approached Specialized much like how I approached Trek. Big corporate entity etc. But funny thing happened on the way to buying my bike.

1st off their site is fun and easy to use and pricing is there (at least on the US site, not on the Canadian one).

Nothing more annoying that digging into a frame and specs then have to do a price check via google only to find its way out of my price range.

2nd of all there seemed to be more of a love of the sport, for those days when you just want to get out and enjoy the sunshine. I agree it’s something out of the marketing department but that’s what I wanted to hear.

Also liked the paint schemes, it was easy to understand the bike ranges and the catalog was pretty sweet.

Lastly there was a local dealer, SportX, in Smiths Falls that has specialized so that sealed the deal and in August I brought home my 2010 Specialized Tarmac Elite!

Next year when I look to get a Tri bike probably still won’t care about the brand!

Categories: bicycling Tags:

Fit Kit – 2010 Specialized Tarmac Elite

October 29, 2010 3 comments

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I will write up a post later on why I choose Specialized, a lot of people seem to ask that, but this post is a pure and simple review of the 2010 Specialized Tarmac elite.

This bike replaced my 1986 Gardin, which was long in the tooth and if I was going to get serious needed something else.  I bought this bike in August 2010 from the LBS in Smiths Falls Ontario, SportX, and got what I felt was a very good deal as this was towards the end of the year. I thought my budget would only allow me to get the Allez Comp, but came home with the Tarmac!

The bike looks like this

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Likes: Smooth ride, great shifting, comfortable, looks great, fast!

Dislikes:seat, brakes

Frame

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The frame is Specialized FACT IS 8r carbon fiber, what that means I don’t know but this frame is light, looks great, is stiff and I like the angles it has. I did a lot of internet agonizing over aluminum versus Carbon Fiber and checked with friends and Carbon Fiber just seems the way to go right now. Specialized certainly likes a very fat down tube which compared to the skinny down tube on my Gardin is outright huge and it’s the one aesthetic aspect of the bike I don’t like, other than that the rest looks sweet in my mind. I think in 2011 this frame is called SL2 while the S-Works and higher end spec bikes are 10r/SL3. Either way this bike delivers more than my pedaling can offer. I removed the Saxo Bank sticker on the top tube (super easy, not very well attached really) and I like the carbon weave on the top top. Kept the sticker on the seat tube as that didn’t deter from the overall look.

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DriveTrain

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The 2010 Tarmac elite uses a Shimano 105 5600 group which includes double crank, brake lever/shifter, and front and rear derailleurs. In a perfect world this would be SRAM RED or DuraAce or Campy Super Record but those are not within my budget and wanted to buy from an LBS so 105 it was. BikesDirect.com seems like an interesting model to get better components cheap so maybe in the future? 

I have done about 700kms so far and nothing has broken, shifts on the rear so far are pretty quick and crisp. Every once in a while I have to tap the brake/shifter lever a bit to get it to engage but not worrisome.

Front is a bit more difficult, I worry a bit that I have broken the lever as it takes some time to move it up or down on the crank, usually just have to do it again. Still has always worked in the end and nothing I am too worried about. I rode a Shimano 2300 equipped Giant bike this summer and the chain was all over the place, dumped the chain a few times, and was frustrating. So far the 105 has held up great.

There is a new Shimano Group for 2011, the 5700, and the 2011 bike is SRAM APEX equipped which I think I would have preferred that but not unhappy with what I have.

CockPit

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This is where the Tarmac shines compared to my Gardin. There is a more comfortable reach to the handlebars and the position of the brake levers and the bends in the bars are much more natural.  Maybe a few too many wires but you get used to that right away. The 2011 105 group hides the wires BTW.

Wheels

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Don’t really know what to say here. They are wheels. Nothing fancy but do the trick. The rims are Maxic CXP 22, the tires are Specialized Mondo Pro II. The Hub seems to be a no-name brand. No complains really but I assume an upgrade will make a big difference. May be something on my list for next year.

Seat

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Seat is a Specialized Toupe (size 143). This is one area that I think I will have to swap out. My butt and this seat just aren’t agreeing. Usually after about 20 minutes the little pain spots appear. I am trying to see if the seat works itself into a better fitting position as I lose weight but consigned to the fact that I will have to find something a bit plusher. There just isn’t enough material for a comfortable seat here.

Brakes

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Left the worst for last. I have been trying to figure out who makes these brakes. There are no identifying marks that I can see. I went to an online shop where you can see all the brakes they sell on one page and tried to do a visual match. Nothing. If anybody knows let me know.

It is the only thing I have had to adjust, the rear brake keeps getting a bit loose and rubs. And now I have noticed that the glossy black finish is starting to come off. Already looking at 105 brakes as that would make the bike complete as well but doing some research as naturally you can go with any brakes you want.

Final Thoughts

I am super happy I took the plunge to spend a couple of grand on this bike. Have been pleased with it every time I take it out.  I see myself upgrading to something better over time but for somebody who is overweight and needs to get fit don’t see needing to get anything else until the engine is no longer what is keeping me back!

Since I took the picture below have added about another 100k. 700k seems like a good point in your use of a bike where you start to get a feel if you think you will really like it, and I think I am really starting to love this bike. Swap out the seat and the brakes and I think this may be the start of a great relationship.

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Categories: bicycling, Fit Kit Tags: ,