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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EVOC Bike Travel Bag Review


Some of my favorite times every year are my trips with friends out west or elsewhere. Those memories that I hold in special regard are made simpler with a bike bag to get my bike where we’re going. I’ve previous used a Pika Packworks bag and it’s worked, but after three or so years of traveling I started to look for a replacement that had some additional features. I recently bought a EVOC Bike Travel Bag, and I’m very happy with it. Rarely do I find this much happiness with a purchase, really, this bike bag is great. Let me explain why I like it so much.

The EVOC bag answered my biggest want over the Pika Packworks bag, wheels. I’m built like a wet noodle in terms of upper body strength, and this EVOC bag makes the travel experience much more enjoyable hauling it through airports. The convenience and ease of mobility make the EVOC purchase a positive experience alone, but I’ve found a lot of other things l really like about the bag after packing a bike in it and traveling recently.

Starting from the outside, the bag’s build quality and parts decisions are noticeably well thought out and high quality. The handles and zippers are beefy and work well without showing signs of being unhappy about doing their jobs. There are handles in every place you would want or need to reach for lifting or maneuvering.

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The bike bag has this great ability to fold down to basically flat when not in use if you’re tight for space. It uses fiberglass rods and poles to hold the bag upright and add strength when it’s not folded flat.

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The wheels and base that they are attached to are sturdy and are big enough to not complain when rolling over a rock or cracks.


The inside of the bag is where I went from liking the bag to loving it. It’s very well thought out. The entire inside is lined with a tough but slick surface that makes clean up of dirt or grease a breeze. There’s a positionable (or completely removable) padded foam block with reinforcement where the bottom bracket rests. There are lots of tie downs to hold the frame and things in place.


The straps offer a lot of forward-backward and up-down adjustability, making it seem like the perfect bag for packing a road bike, mountain bike, or anything in between. With the optional road bike stand, I think this bag will serve all of my bike travel needs for a long time.

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The top tube and down tube are secured with a padded brace.


The instructions stated I could leave my rear derailleur on so I tried that with success. That means one less thing to do when packing the bike, which is awesome. I wanted the packing and unpacking process to be as quick and painless as possible, and this bag delivers in spades there.

The fork for a mountain bike is secured by a reinforced and padded area making the fork safe and adding to the overall solidness when the bag is packed. Things don’t seem to move, which is a great thing.


I’m a big fan of the interior and exterior storage zippered pockets, especially the clear pocket where I stashed instructions, reassemble notes, tools, and pedals. I stored brake rotors in an inside pocket on towards the back of the bike.

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The wheels go into zippered pockets on both sides of the bag. There is padding to keep the frame safe and reinforcement where axles and cassettes rest. The wheels fit in the pockets without any trouble.

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There’s a lot I like about the bag but one small area that could use some improvement are the personal info areas. They are a bit cramped for space, but they do work.

Overall, I’m really happy with it. Money well spent in my eyes. I think it will last me a long time and add a lot of convenience to my travels.


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Gore ALP-X Shorts Review


I love Gore gear, it always performs. It’s functional, well designed, and tailored for intended use. What makes great shorts compared to normal shorts for mountain biking? I think it has to start with a lot of intention. As with all Gore gear I own, every aspect of these shorts seem to be well thought out and has an emphasis on functionality.

The fit of these shorts is great. The length has the legs end at about the knee or a little lower while standing or higher when pedaling. The legs are that magical area between too tight and too baggy. They have a detachable inner great chamois, comfortable all the way through a six-hour ride. Comfort is key in a chamois, and these deliver.

They have useful normal placement pockets on both sides, something that isn’t guaranteed on every pair of shorts.


The waist on the outer short has a zipper and button closure, it is both secure and comfortable.

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The crotch and back panels feature wind and spray protection, a feature I throughly tested while on a recent trip to the mountains of Colorado caught riding in the rain and grit. It’s hard to see how covered in water and some mud I was but under my Gore gear, I was comfortable and dry.


These shorts have vents that can be opened or closed via zippers allowing cooling on demand. A feature that I used more than I thought I would.

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Overall I’m really happy with the shorts. Off of the bike, they are a touch longer than my ideal preference, but when riding with bent knees and sitting in the saddle, the length is pretty great. The chamois and functionality is stellar and that is the most important aspect to me. The best part is, I know they will function just as great in years to come. Gore continues to amaze me with their quality.

Full disclosure, Gore sent me these shorts to use, and try. This review, my thoughts, and opinions are as honest, unbiased, and transparent as I can possibly be.

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First Impressions: 45NRTH Sturmfist 4

MJ5L2704These gloves are amazing… The 45NRTH Sturmfist 4’s are four finger gloves intended for use below 15º F. I have been using my Sturmfist 5’s this winter so far as the temperatures haven’t demanded anything warmer. Tonight I joined some friends for a night ride on my fatbike. I brought the Sturmfist 4’s to try. The temperature was in the upper 20º’s F.

The gloves were great, but they want to be used in colder temps. I removed the included merino wool liner 15 minutes or so into the ride as they were simply too warm. Even without the liners the gloves were shockingly warm, in a good way. I’m happy to report that these gloves are as advertised good for below 15º F.

The gloves are full but never limited dexterity of my braking or shifting. The joined ring and pinky finger were not restricting. The leather on the palms is very nice and provides lots of grip, and toughness. The cuffs are long enough to keep the cold out and short enough to be comfortable. Both the liner material and the primary gloves internal material are soft and warm. The material is kind to the cuticle of fingers, something I appreciate.

MJ5L2710 MJ5L2713I’ll provide more info as I continue to use both the Sturmfist 4’s and Sturmfist 5’s. For now, I’m thrilled with both. They are on par with the 45NRTH Wolvhammer boots that I love, a tall task to accomplish!

Thanks again to Tobie at North Central Cyclerly for getting me these gloves when they were in high demand!

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First Impressions: 45NRTH Sturmfist 5

MJ5L2611I’ve been looking for gloves for a while that fit my needs and when 45NRTH announced the Sturmfist 4 and 5 I was intrigued instantly. If the gloves are half as good as the Wolvhammer boots they make, I’ll be happy!

My local bike shop was unable to get a set of gloves for me from the first shipment. An unfortunate situation as I love supporting my local bike shop Bloomington Cycle & Fitness! QBP/ 45NRTH, you make cool stuff, please make more of the cool stuff so it’s easier to get… Still wanting to support local bike shops and not some internet store, I reached out to the great folks at North Central Cyclery and the owner was able to get me a set of 5’s and a set of 4’s should be coming soon also. Big thanks to Tobie from North Central Cyclery!

I’ve not spent enough time riding with these gloves to give a full review yet, but so far I can tell you I like them.
MJ5L2612The pads of the gloves have leather. This with the aerogel should keep the cold from the handlebars separated from your hand. They are 100% Merino wool inside and are soft and smooth. My hands get dry in the winter and I’ve had a lot of gloves that love to snag and rip my cuticles on my fingernails. These don’t seem to do that at all.

The detail and craftsmanship are great!
MJ5L2614I like the cuffs in terms of length and closure.
MJ5L2623 MJ5L2624I’ll post detailed thoughts after more use. I’m looking forward to using them this weekend on the Mississippi river banks with the FORC folks at the 2014 Global Fat Bike Day celebration!

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