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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Today on a Bike

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.






Strava Ride Data

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New Bike Day! 2017 S-Works Tarmac eTap

After the crash at last years State Championship criterium, I had to make some decisions. I did a lot of thinking about what I wanted to do about a road bike. I could have replaced the damaged parts on my 2014 S-Works Tarmac, but I decided against that. I took the opportunity to take the insurance money and put myself on a newer road bike. It felt like the right long-term decision. I also sold the non damaged parts from my 2014 Tarmac to a teammate. Again, it seemed like the right thing to do.

Fast forward to now. #newBikeDay

I decided upon and bought a 2017 S-Works Tarmac eTap. The Tarmac was the easy part of the decision, I loved my last Tarmac. Light, nimble, eager to jump and attack, terrific climber. What group to buy was the only real question. I landed at Sram eTap largely because Specialized wasn’t going to put out a new Dura-Ace Di2 bike anytime soon when I did some checking. I decided to give eTap a chance. To be fair going into this, I loved my Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. It’ll be interesting to discover my thoughts on Sram eTap as time goes on. I’ll be honest with my opinions and post follow ups.

I flew back to Illinois Saturday morning to go see some of my favorite people, the owners of Bloomington Cycle & Fitness. I may be 782 miles away in Texas but it’s still my local bike shop at heart.

Scott and Caryn, the owners of the Bloomington Cycle & Fitness are so good to my family. I was running so late Saturday after a lot of unfortunate things happen like the death of a new MacBook Pro and Southwest losing my bike bag for five hours. In the end, Apple came through in a big way with a brand new replacement and Southwest found my bike bag. Lots of stress that day but Scott and Caryn’s positive attitude made all the difference. I was instantly reminded why I love that place and those people. Scott stayed late to fit me on the bike and make all sorts of changes I’d asked for. They are the definition of great knowledgable customer service. I love that place.

Now back at home, I took some pictures before I take it for a it’s first Texas ride.

I asked for the Sram Red 22 crankset to be replaced with the new Sram Red Quarq crankset to keep access to a power meter.

 

I loved the Roval CLX40 wheels on my last Tarmac and I anticipate loving them on this bike. The CeramicSpeed bearings seem to roll forever and are as smooth as anything I’ve ever felt. The S-Works Turbo Cotton tires are something I’ve wanted to try for a long time now, I’m excited to get on them.

I had a straight S-Works carbon seat post and S-Works Romin saddle swapped in to recreate the pieces I loved on my last road bike.

The 11R carbon in the S-Works is pretty amazing stuff. Rider engineered performance I’m excited to experience.

The S-Works handlebar has a drop that I love so far. Very comfortable so far. The shifters and brakes seem comfortable and work well so far.

The frame is an engineering and art masterpiece. The shaping on the head tube is beautiful and functional offering great stiffness.

It’s really light at 15.43 lbs with the Sram Red Quarq power meter, two water bottle cages, and Speedplay stainless pedals, and K-Edge Garmin mount. I’m really happy with everything so far, it should be the beginning of a great relationship with the bike.

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Frustrating & Sad End To My Season

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Photos by David Ford

This was it. I’d started my season of training in February and seven months later I was ready. All year I’ve been thinking about two races. The first being the Bloomington Criterium and the second being Chequamegon 40. This past Saturday I rolled up to the start line of the criterium, which happen to be the 2016 Illinois State Championship. I felt good in the hours leading up to the race and even better as the race went on. I was riding smart. I could stay with the attacks and sat in where it made sense. I stayed in between third and fifth conserving energy and watching for breaks that may stick. I was riding well physically and mentally. About 30 minutes into our 40 minute race we were going around turn six as we’d done so many times…

Then it happen.

At first I was confused. I knew what had happen, I was laying on the tarmac watching people run into me and my bike, hearing the horrible sound of carbon and metal scraping the ground at speed and bodies desperately looking for hope in chaos. In the apex of the turn at about 25 miles per hour my front tire went flat. I felt my tire not hold the angle and turn I’d asked it too. I knew in the split second before I hit the ground my front tire was flat and then I heard the rim hit the road followed by my body. I say I was confused because it didn’t feel real. I’ve crashed on the dirt plenty but until that moment, I’d never crashed on the road. I’ve thought about it, hoped I’d never know first hand what it was like, but I found my mind realizing that I was living in a moment, I’d spent so much time hoping to avoid. I couldn’t believe it happen.

When my front tire went flat, it didn’t feel normal or right. Something felt off. I walked to where my team was at, sat down and was trying to come to terms with what happen. My wife who is a nurse was tending to my wounds and my good friends that own my local bike shop were right there making sure I had everything I needed and was alright.

Then I heard about the tacks. People were finding tacks on the course. Handfuls of tacks. To be clear, my race was the third of the day on the course and no one from the previous races had any tacks or flat issues. The Sram neutral support found something like 15 tacks in tires from my race (cat 4), my teammate alone had three tacks in his rear tire. My rear tire still has a tack in it. To me the abundance of tacks in tires in the cat 4 race but none in tires from the previous hours of race course use makes it probable someone threw tacks on the course after the cat 5 race but before the cat 4 race.

14080026_10154064126592800_7329760069196203051_nPhoto by Tom Keller

This next image is a little graphic, sorry if it makes you squeamish. My hands are just one part of my body with skin missing now. My left hand is pretty bad. My elbows, my left hip, thigh, knee, shin, and both ankles. My right shoulder. My chin.

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Here’s a video of the crash. It happen so fast and from my perspective out of nowhere.

Video by Patrick Murphy

I still don’t know how I feel about all of this. I’m typing this with bandages all over my body and hands. My body is banged up, my bike is pretty bad, and my season is either over or will have a different ending than I would have had if someone hadn’t decided to throw tacks on the race course. A frustrating and sad end to my season.

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