The Rock Cycle
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Western Colorado
Bikes: Salsa Vaya Ti, Specialized Ruby, Gunnar Sport, Motobecane Fantom CXX, Jamis Dragon, Novara Randonee x2
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My husband has a few words here:
I have a 2003 Gunnar Roadie with Ultegra and a 2006 Gunnar Roadie with Dura Ace. Obviously right there you can tell I like Gunnars; actually I am euphoric with my Gunnars (I also have a Rockhound; yes, I'm an addict). I first discovered Gunnars when I worked at a bike shop that had acquired a couple of Roadies (these were called the Hot Dog back then) when another shop went under. My shop seemed content to let these hang in the back, forelorn and dusty. So one day I tuned them up, aired up the tires, and took them for a test ride. I was blown away! They were the smoothest riding, yet responsive road frames I'd ever been on. Soon thereafter I bought my 2003 Roadie, and then when they went semi-compact (and I just wanted another bike) I got the 2006. I won't tell you that the Roadie is the most responsive frame out there, but for a combination of outstanding ride quality and surprisingly good responsiveness, I haven't found its equal. What really blows me away is how affordable these frames are to boot!
You're asking, though, about how the Roadie compares to the Specialized Tarmac. It just so happens that my favorite LBS is a Specialized dealer, and it happens that I'm always on the lookout for a really nice road bike; so one day I test rode their Tarmac. I was actually expecting to fall in love with this bike; given the materials and the thinking behind the way it was built (responsive yet smooth, suposedly), I thought this bike would have all of the ride characteristics of my Roadie (if not even better) but be more responsive to boot. To cut to the chase, I was very disappointed. I can't say if it was more responsive; I sprinted it a couple times but didn't really notice anything better than my Gunnar. The ride, though, had me taking this thing back to the shop in short order. I had decided pretty much in the first block that the bike was a "no". It had an odd combination of feeling soft, like a low tire, while at the same time I could really feel the vibration of the chip sealed road surface, something I don't really notice with my Gunnar.
For comparison information, I ride a 56cm Gunnar and weigh in at 203.
One other thought: you mentioned the word "touring". If you're referring to loading up your bike with all of your gear and heading off for a week, month or year, the Roadie isn't the right bike (nor is any other true road bike). You should be looking for a genuine touring bike. My wife and I have done some loaded touring around our home state of Colorado; she rides a Surly Long Haul Trucker while I ride a Surly Cross Check. So if you are thinking of going touring you might want a second bike (yipee!!!).
On the other hand, if you're looking for a road bike that you can put a rack on and carry a very light load, maybe to even do some credit card tours, the Roadie could do the job. Look at the Gunnar Sport also, though: it has the same tubing as the Roadie, but different geometry and has clearance for wider tires. Of course, you sacrifice responsiveness with this frame compared to the Roadie.
Bottom line, you need to test ride both if you can; only you can decide what works and feels best to you. Of course you can always do what I do when I can't decide between two bikes: buy both.
Let me know how this all works out!
Salsa Vaya Ti
Novara Randonee x2
Motobecane Fantom CXX
Jamis Dakar XCR