Tarmac Review - Michael Sweet

Tarmac Review

I recently had the great privilege of purchasing an unused 2016 Tarmac from my local bike shop (Ride On Bikes, Columbus, GA) and though I have ridden just a few hundred miles on it, my first impressions are stellar.

Let me begin by clarifying a few things about myself. I am a student who began racing on my college’s club team (Auburn University Flyers) just last spring and have very limited experience with different bike manufacturers and models. My first true road bike and the one I owned immediately prior to now was a used 2010 Series 5 Trek Madone. Anyone in the field can tell you that trying to compare a 2010 carbon bike to one from 2016 would be like trying to compare a 1st generation IPhone to the newest model. (Or more like the newest Samsung Galaxy, but I digress.) Furthermore, I had to have the Madone patched after a nasty crash that punched a hole the size of a quarter near the bottom bracket. Nevertheless, I had no qualms with the bike performance-wise and had to part with it for fit reasons. I say all this to emphasize that I cannot fairly and properly compare the Tarmac to any other current models or manufacturers; however, I promise to give the purest representation of what I do know and feel.

The first thing I noticed was unsurprisingly how the bike looked. With its matte grey finish with green and red decals, it strikes a delicate balance between simplicity and personality: enough color to catch the eye, but not enough to come off as ostentatious in any way. Furthermore, the internally routed cables keep the eyes on the bike and make post-ride cleaning a cinch. Next thing I noticed was the weight, or rather the lack thereof. I can’t cite any exact numbers, but adding two water bottles and my large saddlebag (containing a spare tube, two CO2 cartridges, a CO2 valve head, a multi-tool, and a chain-breaker tool) makes the bike feel almost twice as heavy in my puny biker arms. (Big biceps aren’t aero, right?) After throwing a leg over and hitting the road, I could feel how well the Tarmac responds; whether in the hoods or the drops, in or out of the saddle I can fly through turns with confidence and though not as stiff as a Venge, it feels as though no watts are lost between my legs and the road, especially while climbing and sprinting. Additionally, thanks to the fact that the seat tube is not locked to the top tube, it offers a surprising amount of dampening over bumps and debris in the road; I wouldn’t take it gravel-grinding, but the absorption is noticeable and I wouldn’t fear taking it down relatively well maintained dirt roads.

I do have two minor complaints, though. First, the seat tube is perfectly round. While I know that is the standard shape and allows the use of other seat post brands, I prefer a more ovular shape for better aerodynamics and not having to worry whether or not the saddle is pointed straight. My second complaint is with the tire clearance. I like to run 28mm tires for their greater comfort during the base training blocks of long rides, but I have barely any clearance with them on the frame, which makes me worry that I’ll stop them up if I ride through any muddy conditions. 

Despite these two small issues, I would definitely recommend the Tarmac to anyone looking for a moderate to high end road bike; stock, it will perform well in all conditions, and if one has some additional funds for specialized components (aero-bars, carbon wheels, etc.) one could certainly tailor it to excel in any type and category of race. I personally am very satisfied overall and can’t wait to race this spring!