Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My New Bike: Specialized Tarmac Di2 Disc

I recently took delivery of my latest and greatest bike: a Specialized Tarmac Di2 Disc. The bike retails for just under $10,000 -- and that is a serious bargain -- especially when you consider that it delivers a lot of the performance of the exclusive McLaren S-Works Tarmac, for half the price. What do I think of it? Allow me to quote Ferris Bueller. "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up." Seriously. This bike makes all other bikes obsolete. In fact, after just one ride I've decided I might just sell off all my other bikes as useless scrap.

You have to go with the black-on-black "murdered out"
colorway. I recommend all black riding clothes and
helmet too. You can never be too stealthy on a bike.
For one thing, at just over 15 lbs. in my size, picking this bike up and holding it high for those post-ride "victory" photos is easier than ever. No bike ride, no matter how mundane, should end without a "victory" photo. In fact, it's the after-ride photo that makes the ride epic.

With Shimano's Dura-Ace Di2, shifting gears has never been easier. The front derailleur trims automatically with shifts at the rear, it never misses a shift, and you haven't lived until you've experienced the joy of shifting gears at the front and rear simultaneously -- all while standing up on the pedals. What's that? You don't find yourself doing that very often (or ever)? Don't worry -- once you discover that you can, you'll want to do it all the time. Just don't forget to keep the battery charged up.

Though Specialized makes versions of the Tarmac with rim brakes, there is no point in going with anything other than discs. And the Shimano R785 hydraulic disc brakes are the best there are this week. Until I rode this bike and experienced disc brakes, I just took it for granted that rim brakes were nothing more than "speed scrubbers," but not for serious stopping. Now I know that just being able to lock up the brakes isn't a measure of true braking power -- you have to be able to do it with just one finger on the brake levers. One downside I've discovered is that the electronic/hydraulic brake levers rattle a bit when you don't have your hands on them, but I've read that there's a do-it-yourself fix out there for that. Not to worry: those DIY fixes for rattles and squeaks are par for the course in this tax bracket price range.
Shimano's R785 disc brakes are so good, you'll wonder how
you ever stopped with rim brakes. Of course, the 135 mm wide
rear wheel is incompatible with any other road wheels, but
it's a small price to pay.

A potential complication comes in the form of questions about hub and axle "standards." Though thru-axles seem to be spreading through the industry, the Tarmac still uses traditional quick release. Another quirky (or cutting-edge -- depending on your point of view) equipment choice is the Roval wheelset. They have a 135 mm wide rear hub -- which can normally create chain line issues with the ultra short chain stays of a road racing bike. Specialized's solution moves the cassette inboard a few millimeters to keep it in the same position as on a 130 mm hub, thereby making a super-stiff, ultra-wide rear triangle, while keeping within Shimano's chainline requirements. However, other 135 mm hubs will not work without losing a couple of gears, or throwing off the shifting, so there's no compatibility with other wheelsets. Will it be obsolete next year? Cutting-edge thinkers don't ask those questions, and neither should you.

That's the rundown on the equipment. So, what's it like to ride? Specialized says that pedaling stiffness is increased by 12% over the previous version -- and you can tell. But despite that extra stiffness, the engineers have managed to make it even more compliant for riding comfort. Its handling will make anyone ride like a Tour de France pro. Stand up on the pedals, and it leaps forward. This thing just eats hills like it's got a motor assist (I looked in the bottom bracket twice, but there's nothing there). It dives into corners aggressively. It descends with awe-inspiring confidence. In fact, I've been so inspired by the bike that I'm even planning to set up a Strava account. KOM, here I come.

Retrogrouch No More:

The Tarmac Di2 Disc might just be the hottest performance training tool available today. Stiffer. More compliant. More aerodynamic, too. This bike is so hot, in fact, that I just might have to change the name of this blog. How does "The Blog Formerly Known as the Retrogrouch" sound?


  1. Apparently somebody lose the sarcasm off button

    1. must have missed the date today.

    2. First Lovely Bicycle, and now you. I can't take this.

    3. I'm not sure there is a completely serious blog out there today.

  2. April Fools Day wouldn't be complete without this one. Great

  3. Funny. A friend of mine is picking this bike up on Friday. Now, it's his money... but I've been asking myself "why?" WTF do I know?

    1. He's definitely not a regular reader of this blog.

    2. No... he's more into the "latest and greatest"... I tried to warn him about the wheels and brakes, but it doesn't matter to him.