Update Revision II and comparison to the Tarmac:
Having ridden 3 Tarmac SL3’s from 2 years I have a good sense of the bike and I believe the SL4 will be very similar, lighter, stiffer in the BB but keep the things I really liked about it, I have also swapped back and forth between bikes since I have the Venge and here is what I felt:
The SL3 is:
- responsive, from the pedals it surges forwards, it’s so light that this is apparent, the BB is solid so all your effort is converted into motion
- nimble, I have ridden a good few other brands and none turn like the SL3, I just think where I want to go and it follows.
- Smooth, it hard to believe a bike this fast can be smooth but the thin seatstays and coupled with a 27.2 seatpost really absorb road buzz, it’s plain to see why the TDF GC contenders ride these. It will conserve energy.
- Confident, in a high speed descent I have never worried or found the bike to be twitchy. I can move all over the place on the bike and tuck sitting on the top tube and it’s still effortless.
- Comes ready for carbon railed saddles
- The seatpost is Aero, and effectively a larger diameter, plus its shape does not lend itself to flex like a round post of the Tarmac. So it feels like an ISP, it’s solid. The rear stays are also aero so don’t flex as much either, but they are thicker to kill vibes so it’s not harsh but it is stiffer – perhaps this is why it climbs so well for an Aero bike. The Tarmac felt more forgiving. I like the advantage of the stiffness.
- Internal cabling. (Now also standard on the Tarmac SL4) – I was worried at first preferring the external ease of exchange, and also the terrible drag you can get from internal cabling I have seen on other bikes (Bianchi and Niner) but the Specialized is smooth and easy shifting and easy enough to change once you get used to the system.
- The BB area is PLENTY stiff – I was worried that as a sprinter the SL4 would be stiffer and the Venge would compromise – absolutely not – the Venge is solid as a rock too. This makes it responsive in acceleration as well.
- The geometry is identical to the SL4 – so it steers and turns and descends exactly the same (Hallelujah) Even with the smaller lower headset bearing than the SL3.
- The Aero tube shapes on the Venge make it more susceptible to crosswinds – I have felt the wind sheer on it a couple of times, it’s nothing major but it’s there and if you are aware of it then it will never cause a problem.
- The 54cm bike came with a 300mm long setpost, shorter than a standard 350 on the 54cm SL3 – so before you pick a bike and size make sure it will accommodate the saddle height you require. (I have since exchanged my seatpost for a 350mm long one and I’m happy that my Venge now feels exactly like my old friend the SL3.
- Requires new parts for carbon railed saddles that are not yet available (but are in production)
The SL4 will be 100gr lighter for the same build, but I have already built my Venge to 6.3kg with pedals and cages ready to race including computer and cadence. So 6.2kg for the SL4 is easily achievable.
Right so it’s update time after a few more rides:
I have spent a fair bit of time on this bike, not too much riding but a good deal in the garage fettling with cabling mostly. I changed the cables to i-Links and took some time getting that all sorted and shifting as smoothly as I want it to. I still have to fit some powercordz inners when they arrive and my carbon saddle when the rails come but so far this is it. I’m not the biggest fan of internal routing, but I have made peace and learned new ways of doing it faster.
On the bike I had some trouble getting the seatpost at the right height, the 300mm long post wasn’t long enough and I have now swapped it out to a 350mm. The low saddle height put strain on my lower back and I hope that’s now a thing of the past. I swapped the stem to a 110mm too. It’s now set up precisely like my 2011 SL3 and should fit like an old shoe.
Handling so far has been prescise and on par with the SL3, you think about where you want to go..and it goes. No questions asked, no hesitation. It’s stable at speed on any descent and under heavy braking with absolutely no shudder. The rear triangle feels stiff and perhaps with the aero seatpost has a more direct connection to the ground, but not harsh, it’s still comfortable.
So far I’ve been climbing on it more than anything and the stiffnesshas certainly helped matters, it’s quick up hill and on the flats it feels like cheating, somehow it just feels slippery through the air. There is no wind noise or whistle either, just perfectly silent as it cuts through the air.
Sprinting on it was my first surprise, I expected a bike to have compromised on BB stiffness over the sl3 but I was wrong. It’s plenty stiff and I cannot detect a hint of torsion or flex. Stand up – go forward. Simple.
My usual TT route times and hill climb TT’s have all been broken in the past two weeks, placebo or not – I’m faster on this than I have ever been. In the words of Mark Cavendish “I like it, I like it a lot”
I have been eagerly awaiting this bike’s arrival to my garage for months, I’ve watched it winning on debut, then in TDF and now it’s finally here.
I still have some tweaking to do on the build (the saddle for one – awaiting carbon rail parts kit) and a few other light bits to come.
Watch this space for a review once I get some more time in the saddle, but for now…just know it’s as fast as they say it is!!