2017 S-Works Tarmac eTap Review

Earlier this year I replaced my previous Tarmac with a new 2017 S-Works Tarmac eTap. I’ve spent almost six months putting it through its paces. I’ve put just over a thousand miles on it and during that time I’ve been measuring it against my previous S-Works Tarmac and also what I want out of a road bike in general.

The frameset is great. I loved my previous S-Works Tarmac SL4 frame but this one takes all the best qualities of that and adds a vertical compliance that frankly I have a hard time believing is real most rides. Every bit of effort I put into the pedaled directly results in the bike driving forward. There is zero frame flex in the bottom bracket through the chainstays and the same holds true in the front end. The steerer tube is solid. The steering is sharp. It’s a race bike through and through here. I dig the hidden and integrated seatpost tightening mechanism. I love that the engineers at Specialized cleaned up the ports for the task at hand seeing as this bikes shifting is wireless. No drive side ports for braking or shifting here, just clean purposeful carbon construction.

The S-Works handlebar is great. I love the drop, width, and reach. It fits my build and hands perfectly.

My road bike fit needs are met with a straight S-Works seatpost again paired to a S-Works Romin saddle. My favorite combo.

The group is where my I’m a little more torn.

The eTap group gave me some trouble early on but it’s not given me any trouble for hundreds of the latest miles. While I’m painting the background for my feelings on groupsets it seems fitting to state again I loved my previous Tarmac’s Shimano Dura-Ace Di2.

Sram’s eTap is not a bad group by any means, it’s a good group. It just falls a little short compared to Di2 in a few areas in my eyes.

The eTap front derailleur has worked perfectly for the past eight hundred miles, but early on it threw the front chainring while on the trainer this winter. I’m not sure if it was the trainer changing the chain alignment, being bumped in my bike bag flying it back home, or some other weirdness but the end result was ten or so dropped chains after shifting the front derailleur. Unfortunately that left several nicks and scratches on my brand new crankset. Since getting it looked at a few times and not riding the trainer it’s not thrown the chainring once.

The other nocks are less severe in my opinion. Sram’s eTap doesn’t shift as fast as Di2. It’s not an instantaneous shift. The delay was weird at first but my brain and everyone else I’ve talked to quickly adjusts. It’s second nature now. The battery also isn’t as long-lasting as the Di2 experience I’ve had. Where I would get months out of a Di2 internal seatpost battery, I’ve now got a new reminder on my Google Calendar to charge my batteries every three weeks.

It’s not all negative marks for Sram eTap though. I like the physical feedback when shifting, a great quality carried over from my previous experience with Sram’s Double Tap. The audible and tactical feedback from a shift is impossible to miss in the best way imaginable. That can make a big difference in colder months with thick gloves on. Furthermore, the simplicity of having only one button on the left shifter and one on the right removes the miss shift from thick gloves. The left shifter shifts the rear to a slower gear and the right shifter shifts the rear to a faster gear. To shift the front chainring, you press both at the same time. One great feature from my days on Di2 that carries over is you can hold a button for a sweep of gears, something I miss every time I ride a mechanical shifting bike.

Again, Sram’s eTap is not a bad group. It’s a damn impressive group. Several people I ride weekly with prefer it to all other groups, some even over Shimano’s Di2. Chevy vs. Ford. No bad choice right? I will say it feels good to support a group manufacturer who treats local bike shops right (context from Dean’s Riding Against the Grain). The fact that it’s wireless and doesn’t make any mistakes like my homes router or cell phone says something. I think Sram wants to avoid any recall nightmares so they double checked everything and then re-checked about ten more times on everything. Kudos.

Sram’s new DZero Quarq Power meter is great now. I had a little trouble with this at first too. In the end, Sram asked my local bike shop down here in Dallas to send it back to them so they could look it over and either fix it or send me a new one. Turns out something extra weird was going on with it so they kept it and sent a new one back to me. The replacement one’s been perfect since. Reliable and accurate data for power output helps me gauge efforts and to be honest, I’m a bit of a data nerd.

The brakes are good. They do their job in rain or shine with no complaining. A big part of that success is attributed to Specialized’s Roval CLX40 wheelset. The braking track is supurb here. In fact, I love everything about Roval’s wheel options. The combination of light weights, hub parts replacement availability, braking, and engagement are hard to beat and when costs are factored in, it’s a no brainer for me. I’d love to try a fancy set of Zipps or Enve’s but with how crashes can and will happen in racing I can’t justify it. I’m a big fan of Roval wheels. Kudos Specialized.

The Specialized Turbo Cotton tires are genuinely great. Saying they are smooth feels like an understatement. They do fine in wet and dry. They do wear but I’m over a thousand miles on my set and they are still going strong. I’m a big fan.

Overall I’m super happy. The bike is super light weight at 15.43 lbs. It climbs superbly (although Dallas is maybe the flattest place I’ve been to). It is very comfortable even after many hours into a ride. It hits all the marks I want in road bike and then some.

My heart won’t let me miss another thank you to Bloomington Cycle & Fitness for obtaining the bike for me and then spending time to get me fit on it and add some tid bits I wanted. Thanks for being a rad shop filled with rad people.

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Bike Update: Ibis HD3

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I love my Ibis HD3. It’s a great trail bike that goes up and down amazingly well. It eats up tech and rock on the downs and pedals better than any 160mm travel bike should have a right to. The DW Link suspension is shockingly good. All of that said, some parts of my initial build were not aligning with what I want wanted in a trail bike.

Imagine cresting a mountain peak or climb and the trail points down with lots of rocks staring back at you. No problem, just drop the dropper seat post, switch the front derailleur to the big chainring, and possibly change a setting on the shock. That’s too much for me. It took away from enjoying the moment one too many times. The two by drivetrain had to go in favor of a one by drivetrain. I wanted to keep the gear ratio spread of my two by drivetrain to not limit the bike meaning I needed a 10-42 cassette and a 28 tooth chainring according to the magical gear chart. Problem is I didn’t want to do a full XX1 build because I love the reliability and feel of Shimano shifting. Enter my dive into what others have termed XXTR. A mix of Sram XX1 parts and Shimano XTR parts to accomplish a Shimano shifting 10-42 spread in the cassette. The hybrid of the best of two companies.

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The Sram X01 10-42 cassette paired with an 11 speed XTR derailleur is made supposedly better by a Wolf Tooth Goat Link. A XD Driver was added to my DT Swiss 240s hub to allow the Sram cassette. Time will tell but so far it shifts like a dream anywhere in the cassette. Multi shifts, no problem. Big cog, small cog, no complaining.

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The front end of the mix is a Race Face Next SL crankset paired with a Wolf Tooth 28 tooth chainring. A Sram XX1 chain makes the front end talk to the backend.

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A Shimano XTR 11 speed shifter on the new S-Works DH carbon handlebar (trimmed to 750mm) rounds out the drivetrain.

While I had my favorite bike shop working on the drivetrain, I also had them change some other things like moving the XTR 180mm rotor from the back to the front and installing a new XTR 160mm rotor on the back. The brakes felt a little overkill last year and I needed to replace the 203mm rotor anyways.

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I also swapped out the Specialized Purgatory Grid tire on the rear for a Specialized Slaughter Grid rear tire to hopefully get a better roll out of the tire. It’s made up of really tight small knobs in the center and bigger knobs on the outside of the profile. Time will tell, but friends like the tire.

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I’m really happy with bike. My local bike shop Bloomington Cycle & Fitness killed it. The owners Scott and Caryn, along with everyone else that proudly puts on a staff shirt make the difference between just another store in town to get what you need and a place that radiates good feelings. They are super knowledgable, easy to talk to, and love making your experience special every time you’re in there. Good people, seriously.

I’m heading down to Alabama for a four-day tech and flow adventure with some good friends about the time you’ll be reading this. I can’t wait to ride the bike and spend time with good people on vacation.

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Bike Update: 2012 Salsa Mukluk Ti

MJ5L2536I’ve made some changes to my fat bike this summer and fall I’m pretty jazzed about it. The planed changes were simple enough of moving to a one by drivetrain with Shimano XTR bits and adding Shimano XTR brakes for good measure too.

MJ5L2539 MJ5L2541 MJ5L2578While adding the Shimano XTR brakes and rotors my old Carver carbon fork didn’t want to behave with the new setup so I had to change the fork from that to the MRP carbon fatbike fork (previously named White Brothers). More thoughts on the fork are coming but for now let me say that when compared to the Carver fork I had the MRP is stiffer, heavier, more expensive, and less attractive, but I’m happy with it. I just can’t believe they put the sticker under the clear coat…

MJ5L2546 MJ5L2559 MJ5L2563I love how clean the bottom bracket area is with the one by! The gearing seems perfect for me with a 28 tooth chainring and a normal 11-36 cassette.
MJ5L2577While I was reinstalling a brake rotor with the non extended bolts I had a bone head moment and over torqued the bolts. Expensive lesson learned and with a set of Hope Fatsno hubs things could return back to normal.
MJ5L2553The bike is a lot of fun and I can’t wait to smile a lot in the cold this winter riding it.
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2014 S-Works Tarmac SL4 Dura-Ace Di2 Review

MJ5L1422Earlier this year I picked up a 2014 S-Works Tarmac SL4 Dura-Ace Di2 and since then have spent a lot of time riding it. Let’s start with this, the bike is awesome. I really enjoy riding it. It is ridiculously lightweight weighing in at 14.88 lbs as pictured, it climbs like a rocket ship, and it rides far smoother than I ever imagined it could.

The shifting on the bike is amazing. Amazing. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to like Shimano Di2 the first time I rode it. I was a fan of Sram (particularly DoubleTap) and didn’t like the idea of a battery to charge and wires. The first time I rode a Di2 bike on a steep hill and threw the front derailleur over to the small chain ring I was sold. It didn’t complain, it didn’t make any angry noises, it just did exactly what I asked, all while being quite and fast.

In addition to the best front shifting I’ve ever experienced, several other Di2 features sold me on it as the group for this bike. I love that the front derailleur trims itself every few rear shifts to ensure no rubbing. I love that I can change the shifting buttons to do whatever I want. This is cool for things like making the left shifter act the same as the right shifter as I have done, but even cooler for people with special handicap needs and want to be able to shift with one hand. Di2 rocks.
MJ5L1443 MJ5L1476 MJ5L1480The crank on this bike is a thing of beauty!
MJ5L1445The brakes are powerful and provide even modulation.
MJ5L1458I’m a big fan of the internal cable routing, and internal battery for the Di2 shifting.
MJ5L1493The wheels are light, have quick engagement, and the braking is good even in wet conditions.
MJ5L1484The bike rides much smoother than I thought it would. I expected a bit of harshness compared to the Specialized Roubaix I previously rode and was pleasantly surprised how similar the compliance was. The geometry is a change from the Roubaix so my riding position has been stretched out a bit now. I still find myself very comfortable after four hours in the saddle. The handling of the bike was the biggest difference compared to the Roubaix. The steering is noticeably quicker. While screaming down hills in Southern Illinois at over 47 mph, steering inputs don’t require a lot of force, I can attest.

MJ5L1467 MJ5L1450I smile when I think of the future rides I’ll spend pedaling this bike. It’s everything I could want in a road bike. I love it.
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Bike Update: 2013 S-Works Epic Carbon 29 XTR

MJ5L0669Last year I purchased a 2013 S-Works Epic and since getting the Epic I’ve raced it throughout the 2013 Illinois Cross Country Series, ridden it in Crestted Butte CO, and ridden it for countless rides of enjoyment. My initial impressions after getting the bike were all positive, I remember thinking on an early ride that this was how mountain biking should feel. For the vast majority of the trails I ride, I don’t think an Epic can be beat. The bike is versatility enough via the adjustable brain suspension to be a rocket ship on race day and with the few turns of the brains, provide a comfortable platform to descend down a mountain.

Since purchasing, I have made a couple of changes to further align the bike with what I want. The current total weight as pictured is down a touch from stock weighing in at 23.02 lbs. I swapped the tires for 29 X 1.95″ Specialized Renegades, a 75mm Syntace stem to better fit my reach, a Specialized Phenom Pro saddle with carbon rails, and converted it to tubeless using Stans stems because tubeless makes everything better.

The full Shimano XTR group leaves nothing to be desired. Everything from the precision modulation of the brakes to the fast reliable shifting of the derailleurs, the group just works perfectly, and more importantly, it works exactly as amazing today as it did a year ago when it was new.
MJ5L0716The suspension technology is what sells me on the Epic as a platform. The brain suspension effectively makes the bike as rigid as desirable while pedaling to optimize rider effort until a bump arises from the ground that triggers valving to make the bikes suspension become active and compliant. I always race and typically ride with both the front suspension brain and the rear suspension brain in full firm, making the bike pedal and climb like a hard tail.
MJ5L0680 MJ5L0715 MJ5L0677 MJ5L0701The bike’s wheels are the stock Specialized Roval Control SL’s. They are carbon, tubeless, and use DT Swiss’s 240 internals, making them awesome on all counts. The brake rotors are Shimano units as well, and while I won’t get too scientific about cooling versus other rotors, I will say that they stay true far better than any other rotors I’ve ever ridden, so much so that I raced for the entire 2013 season without making a rotor true adjustment.
MJ5L0682So by this point I sound like a broken record, the bike is amazing. I love it. All bikes expensive and affordable eventually need maintenance to stay in great shape and luckily the fine folks at Bloomington Cycle & Fitness keep this rig in top shape for me.
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