If you follow me on my social media you will have noticed that earlier this year I got a new bike. It was a little bittersweet as it was a necessity following my previous bike being written off after being hit by another cyclist and the carbon frame cracking. This would be my fourth bike since I got into cycling four years ago.
My first bike was a Trek Lexa and is now by commute bike. My second bike was a State Bicycle single speed, which I still have. My third bike (the one that got written off) was a Trek Silque SL. My husband is a huge Trek fan and this was where I started and I loved those bikes. They were comfortable and saw me complete many personal challenges and cycling events and whilst I loved Trek I was not stuck on one particular bike manufacturer.
I am a road cyclist so that was what I was looking for – a new road bike. I had an amount I wanted to spend in mind and I wanted something comparable or better than what I had previously. Unfortunately the Trek I was looking at was a Madone 9 and was out of my budget and didn’t give me enough bike for my money.
I had looked at some Canyon’s I liked but as there is no physical shop I wasn’t comfortable to pursue this further without trying it and seeing it for myself. Then when on a Specialized ride with my friend Laura, we returned to the concept store in Chelmsford and I started window shopping. This was how I came to decide on the Tarmac Pro. I didn’t actually get it from Specialized, I ended up getting it from Cycle Surgery in Romford and I got a bargain for the price! It was a custom order for someone who didn’t return and so became this bike I would casually return to the shop for other things and check it was still there.
I am not too proud to admit one of the first things I was drawn to was the Specialized bright pink decals (I am a sucker for anything pink – I know not all women are but I am just speaking for myself) and the paint job on the frame that changed from green to purple to blue to pink with flecks of glitter making it shimmer. I am not saying this is how you should pick a bike but when it looks pretty and is attractive to you it is a good start!
I had checked the spec with my husband and to begin with he thought I had got it wrong as I was getting a lot of bike for my money. A lot of bike!
Groupset – my previous bike had Shimano Ultegra Di2 and so this was something I was looking for on my new bike. Di2 is electronic gearing and as I had moved from my first bike with mechanical gearing to second with Di2 I had experienced the ease of use, and more smooth and efficient gear changes and I wanted to stick with what I knew and the tarmac had this. In fact it had an upgraded version the Shimano Ultegra r8050 Di2.
Wheels – well they are generally the first thing most cyclists will upgrade on a bike and so I wanted to make sure that I either got a bike I could use my Fulcrum Zero wheels on or that had better wheels and I was in luck! The tarmac came with Rovals – CL50 Rapide to be precise. These would be my first deep rim wheels and with my first trip being to Lanzarote (the windy island) I was a little nervous that deep rims and wind don’t mix but I survived (with a few melt downs).
Frame – the tarmac has a carbon frame, which was what I was looking for. Carbon frames are typically lighter in weight and I personally found a huge difference in the ride quality from an aluminium bike compared to a carbon bike. It was also my size. I was a 54cm frame on my Trek bikes and I was measured for the Specialized bike and the same size fit in fact when I had a bike fit very little needed to be changed just some tweaks on the handlebar and seat height and positioning.
Technically my tarmac is a men’s bike, however, it is important to note that whilst there are many male and female specific bikes (my Trek Silque was one of them) that the design of these are intended to cater for the difference in body sizes. The potential flaw in this? We all come in different shapes and sizes whether we are male or female. Experts may have found that most women have longer legs and shorter torsos but that will not apply to all. This is just my opinion and so whatever bike I got I wanted to try. So despite the fact that Specialized have recently adopted a process that tackles shared geometry for performance bikes like the tarmac I still tried it and was still intending to get a bike fit.
My biggest question was looking at what events I had planned for the year and would the tarmac be the right bike for it? You can get MTBs, hybrids, road bikes, endurance bikes, time trial bikes and the list goes on. One of my main concerns was that the tarmac bike is known to be a climbing bike. I am not a climber. I don’t naturally seek out events or ride with a huge amount of climbing so was this the right bike for me? In fact my biggest ride was 186 miles at the Vatternrundan in Sweden so I could argue that I should have been looking at a specific endurance bike. I read reviews and decided on the tarmac pro and I can hands down say it was so comfortable on all of my events.
I have since upgraded a few things:
- saddle to the Specialized Mimic female specific saddle – getting the right saddle is so important for me for comfort!
- new cassette and chain – purely for asthetics as it is the same oil slick colouring as the bottle cages and stem cap that I got from Supacaz
- new bar tape – again purely for asthetics that I got from Supacaz
- pedals – not technically an upgrade but kind of essential for the bike use and again I went with what I knew and stuck with Shimano SPD-SL pedals
- new handlebars – I upgraded these based on a recommendation to Specialized Aerofly II handlebars
Any negatives? Yes I would say I am an average cyclist as in I am not the slowest but I am not the fastest and I am still getting used to the bike and wheels which at times feel a little quick for me and so I am trying not to break too much when not necessary. I also found that the wheels made climbing feel a little harder but that could just be me not being the best climbing.
So what do I think of the Specialized Tarmac Pro? I bloody love it! Would I recommend it? Absolutely! I got this bike in January of this year and I have done over 3,000 miles on it including rides that are social, training, racing, sportives and an endurance event as mentioned earlier so a wide variety.