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  1. #1
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    Indecision: Tarmac or Roubiax SL3 Expert?

    I'm sure this sort of question has been asked a thousand times before. I'm new here, and new to road biking, so please forgive me

    Question: 2012 Tarmac or Roubiax SL3 Expert (full Ultrega on both)?

    This will be my first road bike, so I'm going to have to rely on more experienced people for advice on this decision. For background: I'm in my mid-30s and am good shape. I'm a skilled mountain-bike rider who loves climbing and going fast. I want to explore all aspects of road-riding as I start out: some centuries and perhaps try crit racing. Looking for a do-everything road bike that I can grow into.

    Perhaps I should just toss a coin...

  2. #2
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    I see that I should have used Google Search in the first place vs the lame built-in-forums search. I found a good discussion of this here: forums roadbikereview com specialized2012-tarmac-vs-roubaix-263625 html (I don't have 10 posts yet so I can't post the actual link).

    One major difference is that I'm a road-newb asking vs an experienced rider asking. I'm somewhat afraid to trust my instincts on some short test rides as I assume it will take me some months to adjust to the more bent-over road-riding position vs mountain-bike. I'll likely find the Roubiax more "comfortable" because of this, but perhaps 6 months from now I'll wish I'd chosen the Tarmac.

  3. #3
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    I will try and help. How much saddle to bar drop do you ride on your mtb?
    Can you easily touch the ground with your fingers lock kneed? Are you real flexible and can palm the ground lock kneed? If the latter, you would have no problem riding with 2-4" of drop.

    Biggest difference in the bikes is what riding position can be achieved on either. The Roubaix is more upright and easier to set it up closer to a mtb position albeit with drop bars.
    A Tarmac is a race bike. Yes some do big training miles on it and don't race...but an easier bike to set up with 2-4 inches of saddle to bar drop.
    Both are great bikes. If you don't like a lot of bar drop, I say you will be happier on a Roubaix.
    The Tarmac is also quicker handling. Mtbs have a longer wheelbase for stability...and same applies to a Roubaix...more relaxed angles and slightly slower handling. I prefer the handling of the Roubaix but others will choose a Tarmac because they love a quick handling bike. Btw a quicker handling bike gives the perception of a faster bike but tests have proven there is very little between the bikes in terms of speed.
    You really should go to your lbs and ride both if spending that much money..
    Good luck

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    Thanks for the reply roadworthy! To answer your questions: my bars are about level with my saddle on my mountain bikes, but this is mainly because I often ride very steep and techy trails with medium-sized drops and I like to avoid going OTBs. In terms of flexibility, I am flexible and can palm the ground with knees locked. I know for sure that I want to do lots of longer rides on this bike. Will the Tarmac beat me up?

    My lbs will certainly let me test ride both bikes, but again, since I'm so new to road-riding I'm a bit afraid that I'll automatically prefer the bike that feels closer to my mountain-bike geo: the Roubiax. I can tell that there is probably no "right" answer here; I probably won't know which one is better for me until I've already been road-riding for a good year or so.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by wheel-addict View Post
    I am flexible and can palm the ground with knees locked. I know for sure that I want to do lots of longer rides on this bike.

    Will the Tarmac beat me up?

    That flexibility won't necessarily mean comfort at deep bar drops, although it might be an indication of your adaptability. Equally important is flexibility at the neck, shoulders, and especially at the hips.

    The Tarmac is not as hard a ride as my (last) Cervelo R3, but its neutral steering will be more suitable for Crits. The ride of a stiff racing frame smoothes out at serious or moderately serious race training paces.

    I like my 2010 Roubaix, but would be happy with a Tarmac. The differences in comfort between the two are real, but imo exaggerated. I would not choose between the two with comfort as a primary criterion.



    triple clicky for full size
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by wheel-addict View Post
    I see that I should have used Google Search in the first place vs the lame built-in-forums search. I found a good discussion of this here: forums roadbikereview com specialized2012-tarmac-vs-roubaix-263625 html (I don't have 10 posts yet so I can't post the actual link).

    One major difference is that I'm a road-newb asking vs an experienced rider asking. I'm somewhat afraid to trust my instincts on some short test rides as I assume it will take me some months to adjust to the more bent-over road-riding position vs mountain-bike. I'll likely find the Roubiax more "comfortable" because of this, but perhaps 6 months from now I'll wish I'd chosen the Tarmac.
    I'm the one that posted the discussion above. I had my Roubaix set-up with a pretty good seat to bar drop and on my new build the LBS was able to duplicate the riding position on the Tarmac. So, you can achieve an aggresive position on a Roubaix, but I have a lot more room to go lower on the Tarmac. I was in the same position as you a couple years ago, although I wasn't into mountain biking. You will get more comfortable and flexible the more you ride.
    If you are planning on racing, I would go with the Tarmac. It's very responsive and better for quick bursts/surges. The steering feels quicker and more precise. For Crit's I think this is a no brainer. If I did this again I would have gone with the Tarmac from the beginning.

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    Thanks for the helpful replies guys. The take-home message that I'm getting is that I probably can't go wrong with either bike. I was leaning very slightly towards the Tarmac before I posted and none of your posts have dissuaded me from that.

    @new2rd: I appreciate your vote for the Tarmac, if only because it helps break the tie in my mind

    I'll schedule a test-ride with my shop soon on them both and will report back with my decision and evenutally pics when the new bike comes.

  8. #8
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    If you have a racers heart and can palm the ground lock kneed, I say get the Tarmac. Again, this is coming from a new SL3 Roubaix owner. A big factor in favor of a Roubaix if you are an aging cyclist...and you are young compared to me OP is as discussed riding position. Once you adapt to road biking with your flexibility...you will likely be riding a fair amount of drop as you have the flexibility of a top athelete...so why not ride aero. As discussed, I am an older cyclist and have had my slammed riding days in the sun and Roubaix geometry works better for me.
    A nuance is...most Roubaix owners can set their bikes up aggresive if they wish by slamming the stem down to the head tube as Zampano shows. Guys that race the Roubaix ride this way. BTW...even me with average flexiblity rides close to this postion on a Roubaix. I would use a riser stem on a Tarmac which defiles the bike. ;)
    Keep in mind...you will quickly adjust to a lower road position. If you ride with fast guys, you will want to be low and as you state...your postion will morph toward a racer's fit as you improve.

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    I have a 2011 Tarmac SL3. I'm an older rider (45) and have never been particularly flexible. I really enjoy the bike and find it wonderfully fast and responsive but after about twenty miles my lower back starts to stiffen. If I continue to ride it starts to hurt and I become preoccupied with it and slow down. A five minute break eases the problem and I'm good to go for another few miles before the stiffening starts again. It makes me wonder sometimes whether I'd have been better off getting a Roubaix. I did get a professional bike fit (Cyclefit) when it was new, which pretty much cured a knee problem I was getting. My stem is turned up and has a full set of spacers, so I'm sure I must be horrifying any aesthetic purists who see me, but the fitters were keen on setting me up with a modest saddle to bar drop. But maybe the higher head tube of the Roubaix and the more cushioned ride would be better still? Or maybe I'm just looking for an excuse to blow some more money?

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    I am as inflexible as they come and I enjoyed the Tarmac a lot more than a Roubaix. I now ride Allez Evo with Tarmac geometry and it's an amazing bike for the money. Maybe my muscles are just used it or maybe I just found the perfect setup for my body, but my back was sore only the first 3 or 4 rides.

    My vote goes to the Tarmac, much more fun to ride, the response is incredible.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Liquoricepontoon View Post
    I have a 2011 Tarmac SL3. I'm an older rider (45) and have never been particularly flexible. I really enjoy the bike and find it wonderfully fast and responsive but after about twenty miles my lower back starts to stiffen. If I continue to ride it starts to hurt and I become preoccupied with it and slow down. A five minute break eases the problem and I'm good to go for another few miles before the stiffening starts again. It makes me wonder sometimes whether I'd have been better off getting a Roubaix. I did get a professional bike fit (Cyclefit) when it was new, which pretty much cured a knee problem I was getting. My stem is turned up and has a full set of spacers, so I'm sure I must be horrifying any aesthetic purists who see me, but the fitters were keen on setting me up with a modest saddle to bar drop. But maybe the higher head tube of the Roubaix and the more cushioned ride would be better still? Or maybe I'm just looking for an excuse to blow some more money?
    If you run modest bar drop now, I am not sure a Roubaix will help. The only time I have ever developed lower back issue on a bicycle is when I ride too slammed. But I ride with about an inch of drop on my Roubaix...which is quite modest but it works for me and makes the drops more usable. The Roubaix is wildly popular among older riders for good reason. I can keep up with young guns for the most part and do all the time...I just don't ride as slammed which hurts my neck in particular more. The Roubaix is not that cushy a bike really...its still quite stiff. You may want to try lower tire pressure and maybe 25's. I say experiment. I am a heavy experimenter by nature and have tried riding all different cockpit arrangements. A handlebar too high or close is as bad as one too low. You may want to play around with your set up a bit before you decide to change bikes.
    Good luck.
    PS: best tip I can provide relative to fit is...each of us typically ride with a certain level of aggression...some are cruisers and others ride hard. Generally harder riders enlist their glutes more and that means they ride with a greater torso angle in profile, more pelvis tilt forward and buns out. The key is to match handlebar position with your torso angle. If you tend to ride hard and your handlebar is too high...your leaned forward torso will press your arms hard into the bar causing tension and many times pain. By contrast, a guy who rides say at 100 watts average does little to unweigh his upper body. So riding too much drop will put a lot of weight on his wrists. You need to match your bar height to your torso angle and arm length in large measure based upon how aggressively you ride. This formula can not be struck in a fitting session or two. It takes trial and error and is a moving target as fitness changes.
    Last edited by roadworthy; 04-17-2012 at 02:10 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by roadworthy View Post
    If you run modest bar drop now, I am not sure a Roubaix will help. The only time I have ever developed lower back issue on a bicycle is when I ride too slammed. But I ride with about an inch of drop on my Roubaix...which is quite modest but it works for me and makes the drops more usable. The Roubaix is wildly popular among older riders for good reason. I can keep up with young guns for the most part and do all the time...I just don't ride as slammed which hurts my neck in particular more. The Roubaix is not that cushy a bike really...its still quite stiff. You may want to try lower tire pressure and maybe 25's. I say experiment. I am a heavy experimenter by nature and have tried riding all different cockpit arrangements. A handlebar too high or close is as bad as one too low. You may want to play around with your set up a bit before you decide to change bikes.
    Good luck.
    Many thanks for the advice Roadworthy, it's much appreciated. I will definitely fiddle around with the Tarmac. As you suggest, the answer could be just a tweak or two away.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by roadworthy View Post
    PS: best tip I can provide relative to fit is...each of us typically ride with a certain level of aggression...some are cruisers and others ride hard. Generally harder riders enlist their glutes more and that means they ride with a greater torso angle in profile, more pelvis tilt forward and buns out. The key is to match handlebar position with your torso angle. If you tend to ride hard and your handlebar is too high...your leaned forward torso will press your arms hard into the bar causing tension and many times pain. By contrast, a guy who rides say at 100 watts average does little to unweigh his upper body. So riding too much drop will put a lot of weight on his wrists. You need to match your bar height to your torso angle and arm length in large measure based upon how aggressively you ride. This formula can not be struck in a fitting session or two. It takes trial and error and is a moving target as fitness changes.
    I'm quite big (200 lbs) and do tend to ride hard, pushing higher gears with my glutes engaged, so your point here is very interesting. The other thing is that I almost never use the drops. Not because I find them uncomfortable, but because I feel I can go faster and respond more rapidly when on the hoods. If I'm racing someone, I duck down low with elbows tucked in but don't bother with the drops. I do laps around a huge park where a lot of serious looking, young cyclists train, and like you, I can hold my own with most of them - even the aero guys with funny hats - until the back pain kicks in that is.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Liquoricepontoon View Post
    I'm quite big (200 lbs) and do tend to ride hard, pushing higher gears with my glutes engaged, so your point here is very interesting. The other thing is that I almost never use the drops. Not because I find them uncomfortable, but because I feel I can go faster and respond more rapidly when on the hoods. If I'm racing someone, I duck down low with elbows tucked in but don't bother with the drops. I do laps around a huge park where a lot of serious looking, young cyclists train, and like you, I can hold my own with most of them - even the aero guys with funny hats - until the back pain kicks in that is.
    The attached article might be of interest to you. Many cyclists equate lower back pain with saddle to bar drop, but there are many other possible causes - anatomical issues as well as riding style (low cadence) to name just two.

    How to Avoid Lower Back Pain While Cycling | Active.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by PJ352 View Post
    The attached article might be of interest to you. Many cyclists equate lower back pain with saddle to bar drop, but there are many other possible causes - anatomical issues as well as riding style (low cadence) to name just two.
    Thanks for that. I'll experiment with a higher cadence the next time I do my laps and see if that eases the problem. I can see that tweaking the saddle height/angle may help too, but I find it pays to make one change at a time and spend some time observing what difference that makes.

  16. #16
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    I test rode both before settling in on my Roubaix. (I come to the road as a long time MTB rider). I'm not all that flexible so do appreciate the setup of this bike. I bought the Roubaix knowing that once I figured out some things and got accustomed to how a road bike handles, I'd want a bike that worked for me at that point vs having upgraditis and needing to get a "better bike". The Tarmac was too aggressive in posture.
    No racing plans but that doesn't mean the bike isn't riden slow (except climbing, where I, well, um, suck). Average ride is a 2+ hour route up Mt Diablo (in NorCal) and the bike can hammer down the hills quite nicely. MTB riding skills do help with some aggressive downhilling. Though that small contact patch made for a steep learning curve for braking. I'm used to 180mm rotors on fat tires.

    Based on your responses here, I think you may be better off w/ the Tarmac but see if you can spend some quality time test riding each vs an around the block jaunt. When I shopped the LBS scheduled an appointment and fit each test bike to me to go for some miles.
    “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Inigo Montoya

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    Hi All. I'm back and I now have my first road bike! Thank you for all your advice, it was very helpful. I didn't end up getting a Specialized, but I did get a bike that seems to somewhat split the difference between a Tarmac and a Roubaix: the Colnago CLX 3.0. I know, I know, I definately paid some extra just to get the name, but I couldn't get the great looks of this bike out of my head. I really was going to get a Specialized, but the Specialized store didn't have 0-interest 12 month financing program that some other store in town had. Here's a link to three pictures that I posted in the Colnago forums thread. I'll also include a small-sized picture here so as not to dirty up the Specialized thread too much ;)
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Indecision: Tarmac or Roubiax SL3 Expert?-colnago_clx3_small.jpg  

  18. #18
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    beautiful bike....enjoi

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by wheel-addict View Post
    Hi All. I'm back and I now have my first road bike! Thank you for all your advice, it was very helpful. I didn't end up getting a Specialized, but I did get a bike that seems to somewhat split the difference between a Tarmac and a Roubaix: the Colnago CLX 3.0. I know, I know, I definately paid some extra just to get the name, but I couldn't get the great looks of this bike out of my head. I really was going to get a Specialized, but the Specialized store didn't have 0-interest 12 month financing program that some other store in town had. Here's a link to three pictures that I posted in the Colnago forums thread. I'll also include a small-sized picture here so as not to dirty up the Specialized thread too much ;)
    Pretty bike. To me...ever since Colnago went carbon fiber, I have lost interest in the brand. It maybe every bit the bike that a Specialized carbon fiber bike is...but I would be very surprised if it has the same level of engineering and engineering is what separates bikes. This is only my opinion...just knowing the heritage of Colnago.
    It looks to be more Tarmac than Roubaix in terms of geometry. Do you happen to have a geometry chart available?
    Enjoy it...looks very nice and would say a great majority of the cycling public will buy a bike based upon how it looks.

  20. #20
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    Nice!!

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    I would not be surprised if a Specialized carbon frame was more highly engineered / better value for the money spent. This was why I wanted to go with Specialized. Since I'm new to road riding, I don't have the same ability to distinguish small differences in ride quality between different frames yet. Normally I'm not easily swayed by "good looks" when purchasing a bike. For some reason, this bike was different. I tried my very best to be objective when demoing different bikes, but I admit it was hard when I was so taken with the looks. I am a fairly powerful pedaler (regularily do 8000+ ft climbing per week on my mountain bike), and this frame with its components does seem stiff to me and responsive, yet comfortable to me. The bike also just feels right.

    Geometry chart below. Colnago doesn't include head-tube angles which is stupid.

    The main thing is that I'm already riding it a tonne and can't seem to stop grinning like an idiot the whole time Hopefully I'll be able be a more objective purchaser when I buy my next road bike some years from now.

    Quote Originally Posted by roadworthy View Post
    Pretty bike. To me...ever since Colnago went carbon fiber, I have lost interest in the brand. It maybe every bit the bike that a Specialized carbon fiber bike is...but I would be very surprised if it has the same level of engineering and engineering is what separates bikes. This is only my opinion...just knowing the heritage of Colnago.
    It looks to be more Tarmac than Roubaix in terms of geometry. Do you happen to have a geometry chart available?
    Enjoy it...looks very nice and would say a great majority of the cycling public will buy a bike based upon how it looks.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Indecision: Tarmac or Roubiax SL3 Expert?-colnago_clx3_geometry_small.jpg  

  22. #22
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    Thanks for posting the geometry chart. FYI...pretty close to a Tarmac in terms of fit.
    I am sure it is an outstanding bike and it sounds like you are a strong rider and enjoying every mile.
    Thanks for posting and telling us about it...a beauty.
    Best Regards.

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    That's good to know, because I was going to purchase a Tarmac. I think I've lucked out with picking the right geometry for my first bike. Only time will tell. The bike comes with a full Retul bike fit which I'll be doing in a couple of weeks, so that should help to get it perfectly dialed in. I feel comfortable already with minimal adjusting.

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