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Tinkoff-Saxo Specialized Tarmac S-Works

Tinkoff-Saxo Specialized Tarmac S-Works

Tinkoff-Saxo Specialized Tarmac S-Works
Pieter Van Pietersen

Alberto Contador is showing fine early season form in 2014, so it bodes well for Specialized.

Tinkoff-Saxo is using Specialized frames - Venge, Tarmac and Roubaix, Zipp 303 Tubular wheels and SRAM Red 22 components.

The bike components used by Tinkoff-Saxo are listed below.

Tarmac S-Works

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Specialized Tarmac S-Works Complete Bike

Comfortable and refined.

Weight is on the higher side for a non-aero frame. 1348g compared to 1100g for a Scott Addict SL. But having said that, you'd never notice 250g on a frame.

Aerodynamically, the Tarmac SL4 falls behind most of the competition. It requires 14W more to ride at 30mph compared to its aero brother the Venge. That could equate to half a wheel's difference over a 200m sprint, which is how much Mark Cavendish (Venge) won over Matt Goss (Tarmac) in the 2011 World Championships.

It isn't really that cheap, either. e.g. For under half the price, you could get a Canyon Aeroad CF with Reynolds Assault wheels. That bike would see you through a race just as well.

Astana is also using this frame, with Campagnolo EPS and Corima wheels. It worked well for Vino at the London 2012 Olympics.

Weight: 6800g

RRP in USD: $12383 with Roval Rapide Wheels

Specialized FACT

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SRM Specialized FACT Power meter

SRM was the first power meter brand, from around 1986. As a result, the design appears to be the most mature and reliable. Strain gauges in the crank measure the force, and this data is sent wirelessly to the head unit.

These power meters seem to work reliably for years. Worst case is to replace the electronics, which SRM service can do (cost about $600). SRM service also need to replace the batteries for you, which is expensive and inconvenient (about $100 + calibration). When the battery is replaced, the zero offset needs to be adjusted, but you will need an oscilloscope to get the correct settings. It's not as easy as pushing a button.

SRMs are high quality and robust, which is why people love them.

SRM adds the most weight to your bike compared to other power meters: 208g over a normal Dura-Ace crank.

Pros: reliable, accurate, easy to swap between bikes. The most bling power meter to have on your bike.

Cons: Expensive, heaviest power meter, doesn't auto-calibrate due to temperature, doesn't do L-R, unit has to be sent for expensive battery replacement, no GPS in the head unit (although this is coming with the PowerControl 8, summer 2014 or pair it with a Garmin). Software is free but adequate. Better to buy WKO+

Weight: 672g

RRP in USD: $2795

Tarmac SL4 Di2

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Specialized Tarmac SL4 Di2 Frame and forks

Light, stiff etc but not quite as aero as the Venge. Not much difference in it, but enough to make a half wheel difference between Mark Cavendish (Venge) and Matt Goss (Tarmac) at the 2011 World Championships.

The frame is light at under 1kg, the forks are very light at just over 300g.

Perhaps the biggest turn-off about Specialized is its aggressive legal stance towards perceived threats. Take the Roubaix bicycle store as an example.

Weight: 920g (with seatpost collar), 315g forks

RRP in USD: $-

303 Firecrest Tubular

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Zipp 303 Firecrest Tubular Wheels

I've seen plenty of failed Zipp wheels in the past. They seem to crack with alarming frequency. In 2007, a friend's Zipp 303s cracked, and he was told that warranty would not apply as it was down to "rider abuse". He weighs 130lb and he'd only been riding them for 300 miles.

Nevertheless, these wheels have won Paris-Roubaix and Flanders, which shows that the never, wider designs and methods may have improved the durability somewhat. Firecrest is a wider shape that makes the rim easiler to use in crosswinds, although I've never had an issue with normal 60-70mm rims in wind.

The rim surface is dimpled to make the wheel more aerodynamic at certain speeds - a little like a golf ball. Briefly, drag drops when the flow of air is disturbed, although it soon rises again. The trick is to tune the wheel to have the lowest drag at the speed you'll be riding at.

Comes with steel bearings as standard, but that's not a bad thing. Don't get obsessed with ceramic bearings - they are expensive and can actually increase drag.

Spoke nipples are external to the rim, which means you can true the wheel without removing the tire. Although how often do you need to true your wheels? If more than once a year then something is wrong.

Weight: 1310g

RRP in USD: $2400

Zipp 303 clinchers (not tubulars) sell for here for $2725 , which is RRP. Tubulars are a little cheaper, here at $1085 front wheel and $1315 rear wheel or for the front and rear here: $2549.

Dura-Ace Di2 ST-9070 - 11 Speed

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Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 ST-9070 - 11 Speed Levers

I'm glad to report that the Dura-Ace and Ultegra Di2 levers are interchangable.
The Ultegra levers look just as good, and are 76g heavier for the pair, but you will save about $350 (half price).

Both levers use the E-tube wiring system. You need to ensure that all firmware is up-to-date to get everything to work together properly. To do this you will either need to:

1) Take it to your local bike shop to upgrade.

2) Buy an internal BCR2 seatpost Di2 battery. The charger doubles as a PC connector so you can use e-Tube software at home. The charger and battery costs about $250.

3) Buy a PCE1 PC Interface Device for about $250.
This plugs into a laptop USB port and a lever port.
You then update using e-Tube software.

Shimano did think one thing to push you to upgrade. Part SW-7972 are little buttons that are mounted on the inside of your bars under the hoods, and allow you to bang it into the 11 sprocket without coming off the drops. You can't fit these to the Ultegra levers.

Overall, Dura-Ace or Ultegra, these are beautiful shifters which feel superb in your hands and of course brake and shift perfectly.

Weight: 237g pair

RRP in USD: $861 pair

The Shifter set (left and right shifters) sells for $699. The Ultegra ST-6870 Di2 STI Lever Set is $349

Powercontrol VII

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SRM Powercontrol VII Computer

Very expensive compared to a Garmin and no GPS capability until Mid 2014 when the Powercontrol 8 is released.

If you are using an SRM then this does look good. I find it difficult to remember what the buttons do.

Weight: 65g

RRP in USD: $750

These cost $750 pretty much everywhere. Hard to find a new one on discount. Perhaps when the PC VIII comes out the price will drop (Except you'll want a PC VIII).

Keo Blade 2 Ti

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Look Keo Blade 2 Ti Pedals

I've used look pedals since 1988, but in the last few years I changed to Shimano. I found that the Look cleats tended to fall apart very quickly (the non slip grip tore off followed by rapid wear of the plastic) and the bearings got crunchy after some wet rides.

The slightly worn cleats would also rock from side to side (i.e. pitch introduced) which may have caused some knee niggles. The Shimano platform is more solid. Perhaps this has been solved with Look's new pedal body shape. Let me know if it has.

I've also seen issues with the carbon blade delaminating or snapping, so check yours regularly. Perhaps the issue is solved with this wider blade. Note that the blades come in different spring strengths, with blue as the highest.

There have been complaints about an aggressive seal on the pedals, which adds friction.

Having said that, these pedals look fantastic, and if you have a Campagnolo group set, you can't be putting Shimano pedals on, can you?

The price is high, so consider the Keo 2 Cromo steel axle version which is 20g heavier per pedal but 40% cheaper.

Weight: 90g per pedal, 34g cleat

RRP in USD: $400

Look Blade 2 with Cr-Mo axles sell for $164 here or $393 for the Ti version.

Red 22 Short Cage

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SRAM Red 22 Short Cage Rear Derailleur

Features ceramic pulley bearings. Over standard 2013 Ultegra this will save you .6W. Over Campagnolo Chorus 2013 this will save you 1.2W. That might start adding up over serveral hours and days of riding.

I have heard reports from mechanics that the springs tend to wear out after 6 months or so. This becomes most apparent when trying to shift into the 11. Limit screws may be properly adjusted, and cables well lubricated and tensioned, but the derailleur isn't able to pull the chain across any further.

Possible evidence of this: Stage 5 2014 Tour de France, Alberto Contador (Using SRAM Red) is unable to shift to his small sprockets because of mud.

Weight: 144g short cage / 163g long cage

RRP in USD: $375 &GBP;299.99

The short cage rear derailleur is selling for $313.

Red Aero Link Front and Rear

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SRAM Red Aero Link Front and Rear Brakes

A little lighter than Shimano Dura-Ace and Campgnolo Super Record brakes (39g and 18g), this may come at the cost of reliability. I know of two riders whose SRAM Red brakes failed at the quick release. That was the 2011 model, so perhaps the issue has been resolved now.

I recommend getting Shimano or Campagnolo if you possibly can as they work just that bit better.

Weight: 254g pair

RRP in USD: $368

Red 22 XG-1190

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SRAM Red 22 XG-1190 Cassette

About the same weight as Shimano Dura-Ace, although slightly more expensive.

Two unknowns remain: longevity and shift quality.

Weight: 160g 11-25

RRP in USD: $351 / 285

Selling for $326 here.

Scratch Pro CPC 2014 with carbon rails

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ProLogo Scratch Pro CPC 2014 with carbon rails Saddle

This is a great looking saddle. The non-slip surface (polymer tubes) does work, although slipping off isn't something I've experienced with other saddles. Perhaps it was just an excuse to use the F1-inspired non-slip material.

I did find this to be a comfortable saddle, certainly better than my Specialized Romin Evo Pro. Its in use on a lot of pro bikes in 2014, so is certainly up to the job.

Weight: 175g

RRP in USD: $300

The Nack with Carbon rails sells for $263.50 here or for $282 here.

Red 22 (chain spotter included)

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SRAM Red 22 (chain spotter included) Front Derailleur

This front derailleur rotates from side-to-side (i.e. in the yaw plane) to eliminate chain rub. This is a very good engineering solution to the problem.

It comes with an integrated chain catcher which is very handy.

Weight: 74g

RRP in USD: $144

The SRAM Red front derailleur is selling for $110 here.

Service Course SL-70

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ZIPP Service Course SL-70 Handlebars

Decent weight, reasonable price, good solid aluminium bars seen on various pro bikes. Do remember that pro bikes can't go below 6.8kg due to UCI rules, so sometimes heavier components are sourced to bump up the weight.

There is also an ergo version which has a flatter top section of the bars adding 10g, but is otherwise identical.

Sponsored riders are also using the Zipp Service Course SL-88 which is almost the same.

Weight: 250g for 42cm

RRP in USD: $110

SL-70 selling for $170 here or $110 here

Turbo Tubular

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Specialized Turbo Tubular Tires

A reasonable price for a top-level tubular tire. This one has tread - no riders use slicks on the cobbled classics. The inner tube is latex, for that supple feeling, and there is a strip of anti-puncture compound.

Weight: 265g

RRP in USD: $100

PC Red 22

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SRAM PC Red 22 Chain

This SRAM 11 speed chain comes with a silver PowerLock quick connect link. (Gold for 9 or 10 speed chains). You may want to spend $10-$15 on a tool that helps to open quick links, although needle-nosed pliers will work almost as well.

Weight: 246g

RRP in USD: $63 / £49.99

Selling for $50 here SRAM PC XX1 Hollow Pin 11 Speed Chain 118 Links with Power Link Connector


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Tacx Tao Bottle Cage

The Tacx Tao bottle cage holds bottles securely (500ml - 750ml used). Some brands of bottles won't fit as they are too wide, so do check carefully before buying. The bottles are easy to insert and retrieve and the design means that the bottles don't get marked. (Aluminium cages tend to tattoo the bottles).

Despite being made of aluminium rather than carbon, it is still light at 37g (8g heavier than the carbon version). It was seen on plenty of pro bikes at the Tour of Flanders 2014.

However there's a major flaw. The plastic tab at the bottom of the cage snaps after a few months of usage. It isn't strong enough for the job. This has happened on three Taos that I've owned, so I've given up and moved to Elite. On that basis, I do not recommend this bottle cage.

Weight: 37g

RRP in USD: $25

The Tao aluminium is selling for $17 here or $13 here.

You can buy separate plastic tabs here for $7.99.


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