May was a mixed bag for my riding. I was sick for almost two weeks and it’s been raining a lot. Lots of rain brings storm watching which I enjoy but also means I haven’t ridden on the dirt in probably a month. I was getting down on my fitness because of those things but then after talking to @the_tiki I was reminded to just take it easy when not well and enjoy some rest. I had a great ride yesterday where I smiled the whole time and felt great.
I think I’ve decided April in Dallas is my favorite month here. The weather is so good most days I stop and comment on it. There is a pretty bad storm once a week or so but other than that April is pretty rad. I’ve spent more time on my road bike than a mountain bike out of convenience. It’s easier to fit close road rides in with my work schedule and there have been a few days where the trails were wet. The amazing crew at DORBA do an astonishly good job at keeping the trails open and repaired. I’d guess they attend to the trails daily after rain.
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I’ve found my favorite weekly road ride so far in Dallas with the Wednesday McKinney Velo Ride. It’s an all country route that winds and twists the whole time. No real miles of straight boring. Not a lot of traffic. It’s a roller coaster through the beautiful McKinney Texas country. It’s lined with ranches and nice views for Texas. Look to your right a you may see a field with 50 long horn bulls or a field of painted horses. Mile after mile of tree covered roadside with picture perfect white ranch fences lining the route.
In addition to the rad route, the group of people seem like a better fit for me. Less crazy moves, more of an unspoken we all need to get home safe than the Pop Ride’s I rode earlier this year. Less bonehead moves, no people with headphones in, less passing in the gutter, still more riding more than two abreast than I’d like but overall much safer. It’s still plenty fast. I rarely hang on in the last moves climbing the last hills before the cool down into town. It’s between 46 miles and 38 miles depending on the available daylight.
I’m about a month away from a planned trip to ride White Rim in a Day. A mountain biking trip centered around a 100 mile ride in Moab Utah with friends in what I’m told is amazingly beautiful views. I’m nervous about fitness, but that’s normal. I’m a worrier :)
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.
The Tuesday Dallas Pop Ride is one of my favorite weekly rides I’ve found after moving. It’s a 36 mile route with three or so groups depending on the pace you’re looking for. Here’s some pictures from tonight.