Worth the long wait

Cycling Plus (Malaysia) - - FIRST RIDE -

When Spe­cial­ized re­leased their new Tar­mac last year, it had all the pre­dictable great re­views that were ex­pected from a build en­gi­neered by their top end frame builder S-work. It was sure footed, ag­ile, light and ex­ploded ahead of the rest when pedal was put to the metal. But that was in rim brake form, and Spe­cial­ized fi­nally re­leased a disc brake ver­sion af­ter a year, con­form­ing to the cur­rent trend of disc brake road bikes.

Ac­cord­ing to Spe­cial­ized, the con­struc­tion of the car­bon fi­bre (CF) frame for the Tar­mac dif­fers from their usual high end CF frames, al­low­ing them to shed nearly 200 grams of weight. That is the equiv­a­lent of a 20 per­cent weight re­duc­tion, thanks to the ge­nius en­gi­neer­ing of their FACT 12r car­bon. But what about the disc frame? Is it heav­ier than its rim brake coun­ter­part? If we fol­low tra­di­tional stan­dards it would be, and to dis­ap­point you fur­ther, we can con­firm that it is in fact heav­ier. How­ever, that ex­tra weight is only 67 grams and if you opt out of us­ing a bot­tle cage, you can nearly make it as light as the rim ver­sion.

Nev­er­the­less, the Tar­mac Disc is still a rev­e­la­tion. The one that we re­ceived from Spe­cial­ized Con­cept Store Pe­tal­ing Jaya for a test run was still a sub 7kg bike, even though it was kit­ted out with an Ul­te­gra groupset and alu­minum han­dle­bar, front stem and other com­po­nents.

There are eight colours to choose from and the demo bike was dec­o­rated in Team Bora colours. The first thing that you’ll no­tice about the bike is how light it is lifted by hand. Al­though some disc brake bikes are light, they can still feel heavy. Not this one. The paint job is ex­u­ber­antly shiny and feels thick and durable. You would think with a bike this light, they would skimp on the paint job, but it does feel like a good amount has been ap­plied to the car­bon fi­bre frame.

The Tar­mac Disc’s ge­om­e­try is sim­i­lar to the rim ver­sion. In a nut­shell: a short wheel base bike that de­liv­ers di­rect op­ti­mal power when needed. It also has clear­ance for up to 30mm tyres but the one given to us was laced with Spe­cial­ized’s uniquely sized S-work tyre, com­ing in at 26mm. Speak­ing of tyres, the wheelset was sur­pris­ingly bolted onto the bike by a thru-axle. Spe­cial­ized has re­ally gone all out with this bike to give it the stiff­ness that to­day’s rid­ers de­mand and the thru axle is a nice ad­di­tion.

With all this stiff­ness men­tioned, you can imag­ine that it might be one un­com­fort­able bike, but no, it re­ally has a nice ride com­pli­ance. Test­ing it around Kuala Lumpur’s pot holed and end­lessly blem­ished streets, the bike re­ally did show that it had two sides to it.

When go­ing on the less than per­fectly smooth roads, it seems like the com­bi­na­tion of Ro­val’s bud­get but race­wor­thy CL 50 car­bon disc wheelset and the Tar­mac’s car­bon fi­bre frame re­ally does well at ab­sorb­ing road chat­ter as well as larger bumps. This is usu­ally a char­ac­ter­is­tic of a soft bike with 28mm tyres, but the fact that the bike is stiff and has 26mm tyres was a bit of a rev­e­la­tion.

How do we know it’s stiff? Easy. When you re­ally need to get off the

sad­dle and go at­tack, it doesn’t feel like a rub­ber band but in­stead is more akin to a tur­bocharged car with ex­tra boost push­ing you from the back.

But since this is a disc frame and disc road bike, the piece de re­sis­tance is of course the brak­ing power that made us think, wow what have we all been miss­ing out on? The Shi­mano Ul­te­gra disc brake set is a hy­draulic pow­ered brake­set pow­er­ful, re­spon­sive and lets you con­trol the bike ef­fort­lessly.

It al­lowed us to brake later and have more of a pre­cise pre­dic­tion of what brak­ing power we need. The stiff frame and fork also did not show any ten­dency of move­ment through the ex­tra strength of the brake disc, which shows the type of en­gi­neer­ing that went into the Tar­mac disc. No won­der it took Spe­cial­ized and their S-work branch a year to come out with this frame and to be hon­est, it was well worth the wait.

The only thing I didn’t like about the bike was its ten­dency for car­bon fi­bre creaks. That’s not when you’re rid­ing, but when you’re trans­port­ing it in the car. This is eas­ily solved how­ever: put it on a roof rack in­stead and you’re ready to go.

The bike comes equipped with an 11-28 cas­sette, but we would have per­son­ally spec’d it with ei­ther an 11-30 or 11-32 for a more ver­sa­tile use The Ro­val hub is quite silent, but it may in­crease in noise as the hub breaks in

Top The Tar­mac is equipped with hy­draulic ac­tu­ated brake calipers so that you get bet­ter brak­ing per­for­mance. Cen­tre The Bora Hans­grohe liv­ery is a trib­ute to Spe­cial­ized’s pro­fes­sional rac­ing team, headed by star rider Peter Sa­gan who is also rid­ing a ver­sion of this bike at the mo­ment. Bot­tom In­ter­nal ca­bling in­serts on the down­tube of the bike to help give it a clean look.

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