We test the 2013 entry-level Specialized Tarmac with carbon-fibre SL2 frameset and Shimano Sora components, £1200
In fact, the frame and fork of this model is the same as the 2013 Tarmac Comp, a bike more than twice the price. It's the same basic frame that Tom Boonen rode in the Tour during 2007, albeit that this one uses Fact 8r carbon.
Make no mistake, the lustrously painted Tarmac frame is far better than the parts hanging off it - nine-speed Sora levers, shifters and cassette are very ordinary kit - but Shimano has given Sora a nice upgrade for 2013 too.
A piece-by-piece, stealthy upgrade of parts will probably be on the cards in time, although that depends on how much riding you do, in what kind of weather and how much mechanical TLC you offer your bikes.
Of more importance is the ride. Given the Tarmac's reputation for rigidity and lightweight race focus, I was expecting to be bounced into the middle of next weekend, but found myself surprised by the bike's comfort.
The Specialized carbon seatpost and generously padded Body Geometry Riva gel saddle did a good job of cushioning my backside, and the Specialized Espoir Sport tyres, at 100psi on greasy roads, were usable too.
I found myself enjoying the livelier feel and racier geometry of the Tarmac despite the 9kg weight. In essence, the steering is sharper, the wheelbase shorter, head angle a degree steeper and the head tube shorter than my regular ride, which all adds up to a quick-handling, racier-feeling bike that will probably bring out the wannabe pro in you.
Fact 8r carbon-fibre
Shimano Sora, with Axis calipers, FSA Gossamer cranks
49, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61cm
Specialized UK, www.specialized.com
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