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  1. #1
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    Tarmac or Roubaix (Gearing) for climbing ?

    Posted over at cyclingforums as well, but it seems this community is much more active....

    I am getting back in to road biking, and live in an area with tons of mountains to climb. I have been told that climbing is up to the rider, however, I have also heard many people say the tarmac will be a slightly better climber due to the length and weight.

    The two bikes I like have different gearing (Naturally), and this makes me wonder if in fact the roubaix will be better for climbing...I am a 28 years old male, in good shape, but I am not used to heavy climbing at all (yet)...



    Roubaix Gear: Option 1:Rival 50-34 and 11-32

    Option 2: Apex 50-34 and 11-28

    Tarmac Gears: 52 - 36 and 11-28



    I am currently coming from an Allez triple : Tiagra/Sora : 50-42-30 and 12-25 ( I should notice a positive difference either way?)





    I truly enjoy top end speed when on flats which makes me lean towards the tarmac, hate feeling sluggish, and I hear its a great climber, but the idea of the Roubaix 34 32 high gearing for climbing. Will I notice a huge difference?



    Thanks in advance for your input.

  2. #2
    Senior Member echotraveler's Avatar
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    Id get the roubaix, becuase it absorbs more road imperfections yet its VERY stiff.

    I bet the tarmac would be great, a bit more harsh and a bit more stiff if thats possible.

    Currently im riding a sworks sl3 roubiax, rode a sl3 pro before and sl2 before that... PLZ if you get the Roubaix get sl3!! Its worth it!

  3. #3
    pbd
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    Gearing is relatively easy to change. IIRC, the "mid-compact" 52/36 on the Tarmac still uses a 110BCD spider, so you'd only have to buy compact chainrings to convert it to a compact 50/34.

    The difference from the 11-32 to the 11-28 is obviously that one bail-out gear. I personally run the 11-32 cassette and do use that bail-out gear, but very seldom. Not a single one of my other riding buddies has a gear that small, but many do have the 11-28 cassette with a compact crank. I think you'll find there are very few of us out there who actually need that 34 front/32 rear gear. I'm a clyde who likes spinning up really steep stuff, and I love being able to get down into that low gear and keep spinning as long as I want, but most people don't need it. Even for me now, I find it nice occasionally on switchbacks, but if I was buying a bike now I wouldn't worry about missing that 11-32, I'd be fine with 11-28.

    If you get the 11-28 and end up wanting another gear, then it depends on which bike/brand you have. If it's SRAM, then it's simply getting a new Apex, Rival, or 10-speed mountain bike derailleur and a new cassette. With Shimano, I'm not familiar with the interchangability of their parts as far as how to get another gear there, but I think they do make a longer cage in the 10-speed Tiagra now.

    Of course you can always go the other way too: if you get the 11-32 and find you don't need the 32, but want smaller spacing in the rest of the cassette, just swap out the cassette.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is pick the bike, then figure out the gearing you want. Many shops will also give you even money on swapping out parts on new bikes too, if you love a bike but want to change the gearing.

  4. #4
    Senior Member slims_s's Avatar
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    Use http://gear-calculator.com/# to compare your current gearing to the gearing in the bikes you are considering. Take in account that cranksets and cassettes are relatively easily exchanged, and maybe your LBS can swap the crankset and/or cassette on the stock bike for a low price.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pbd View Post
    Gearing is relatively easy to change.
    This is the correct answer. Get the bike (frame) you want, and, if it's not the right gearing for you, change that. If you buy it from a local bike shop, they'll probably switch things out for you and charge you the difference in price.

    Also, you said you're just getting back into road riding. Are you doing any cycling at all now? Or any fitness stuff? A daunting hill tends to shrink as you get stronger on the bike.
    Don't believe everything you think.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeamusJP View Post
    I am a 28 years old male, in good shape, but I am not used to heavy climbing at all (yet)...
    How much do you weigh and what types of hills will you be climbing. 34-32 is pretty low gearing. I'm 52 and OK with 39-23 going up sustained climbs of 6-7% which is about as steep as we have in my area for long climbs. 34-32 would be good for hour long 10% hills but they don't exist around here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
    How much do you weigh and what types of hills will you be climbing. 34-32 is pretty low gearing. I'm 52 and OK with 39-23 going up sustained climbs of 6-7% which is about as steep as we have in my area for long climbs. 34-32 would be good for hour long 10% hills but they don't exist around here.
    I weigh about 170lbs. I work out now, do mainly strength and core, occasional run a 5k on a treadmill. We have some big canyons of 10-15 miles long around 10% grade I would like to do a lot. I cycled last summer and fall a little bit so I may be in better shape now than I was before, but when I first got back into it early last summer, some of these super short but very steep (16%+) winded me pretty good, after not riding for some time. Although, I suppose they will get much easier after I get my cycling legs back in gear!

  8. #8
    has a Large Member Campag4life's Avatar
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    OP...you are really mixing up two things. You shouldn't choose a bike based upon what gearing it has. First pick the frame you want to ride and then the gearing.
    I will help. You are young. Are you flexible and fast...or not so much and average? Do you like to ride with a fair amount of drop? If so, choose the Tarmac. If you ride big miles and don't like a lot of drop, get the Roubaix. I just built a Roubaix Pro in fact...its an outstanding bike. But each bike has its purpose. After you get the bike, ride it in the mountains and see if you need to change gears. You may not. If you do, come back and we can help.

  9. #9
    Two-Wheeled Aficionado ColinL's Avatar
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    The Roubaix is not a sluggish bike. A bigger concern would be fit. To get the same cockpit on the Roubaix that you have now on the Allez could require changes because the head tube is really tall. It shouldn't be anything that a -17 degree stem with no spacers couldn't fix, though.

    Conversely, the Tarmac should be very similar if not identical.

    BTW what's wrong with the Allez? If the answer is 'nothing, but I just want something nicer/better' that is another vote for Tarmac.

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    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeamusJP View Post
    Although, I suppose they [steep hills] will get much easier after I get my cycling legs back in gear!
    No, but you'll get faster going up.
    Don't believe everything you think.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    No, but you'll get faster going up.
    Well said.
    "Don't upgrade your ride. Ride up grades"

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    Senior Member fstshrk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ColinL View Post
    The Roubaix is not a sluggish bike. A bigger concern would be fit. To get the same cockpit on the Roubaix that you have now on the Allez could require changes because the head tube is really tall. It shouldn't be anything that a -17 degree stem with no spacers couldn't fix, though.
    Bingo. This is exactly what I did with my SL2 Roubaix. 17 degree stem flipped.

  13. #13
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    Climbing is up to the rider, so if you're getting back into cycling after a long hiatus, there is a chance that you need to build your legs up again. For me the 11-32 is more of a bail out gear for higher grades that seems to go on forever. I don't know how much of a challenge you will face in your area so to choose between an 11-28 and an 11-32 will be totally up to you. Now if you choose the 11-32, then you will get your bail out gear with the loss of the 14t. And when you get a lot more stronger on climbs, there's a tendency that you will lessen the use of the 32.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by SeamusJP View Post
    Roubaix Gear: Option 1:Rival 50-34 and 11-32
    Option 2: Apex 50-34 and 11-28
    Tarmac Gears: 52 - 36 and 11-28

    I am currently coming from an Allez triple : Tiagra/Sora : 50-42-30 and 12-25 ( I should notice a positive difference either way?)
    You will NOT notice a positive difference if you want something EASIER. All those options are WAY harder than your 30f25r mix. I suggest that you get prepare yourself by NEVER climb in 30f25r with your current bike. Try to stay around 30f18r/20r so the gap to the new bike won't be too hard (kind of things that might make you regret your new bike (temporarily)). Also remember that the bike will not make the climb much easier, it never gets easier.

    But to answer the original question, Your best option looks to be the Roubaix with Rival groupset. It has the easiest gearing of the group, and better components.

  15. #15
    jmX
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    I use a Roubaix 50-34/11-28 and try to do climbing whenever I can up in the mountains. There have been a few times where an 11-32 would have been nice, and that'd generally start around 9-10% gradient or higher for > half a mile. For long climbing rides spinning is always better. As I get stronger, I worry less about not having that 11-32 and I'm becoming ok with the 11-28.

    As for which frame you buy, that's up to you. Both climb and descend basically the same, and there's a good comparison out there where a guy took a Tarmac and Roubaix to the mountains of Malibu: http://redkiteprayer.com/?p=1408

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    Ebay a standard or compact double crankset and bang that onto your Allez, that's one way to play around with your gearing and find out what you can live with and what you don't need, before you buy a new bike. Even better, buy one from you LBS, since you might need them to set it up for you.

  17. #17
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    Awesome info guys, I will take this all into consideration and forget gearing for now. I guess it comes down to geometry.

    Brain says Roubaix because I want to "Keep riding" because of the comfort, heart says tarmac because I hear its just easier to ride in groups and keep up with friends/groups because of the speed.........

    I want both. Someone want to do some price matching with me? haha

  18. #18
    moth -----> flame Beaker's Avatar
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    Two things

    1) 34x28 is pretty much the same gear as 30x25

    2) don't expect the Tarmac to be magically faster - that's still the engine. Where you might appreciate the difference is on twisty descents or hard efforts on climbs. Still, if you think there's a chance you want to have the more aggressive geometry of the Tarmac then get it. Which bike would you wish you'd got 6months down the line? Just my $0.02.

  19. #19
    Senior Member dleccord's Avatar
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    it's forbidden to have a 32t on a tarmac.

  20. #20
    has a Large Member Campag4life's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmX View Post
    I use a Roubaix 50-34/11-28 and try to do climbing whenever I can up in the mountains. There have been a few times where an 11-32 would have been nice, and that'd generally start around 9-10% gradient or higher for > half a mile. For long climbing rides spinning is always better. As I get stronger, I worry less about not having that 11-32 and I'm becoming ok with the 11-28.

    As for which frame you buy, that's up to you. Both climb and descend basically the same, and there's a good comparison out there where a guy took a Tarmac and Roubaix to the mountains of Malibu: http://redkiteprayer.com/?p=1408
    Thanks for posting that article which was written back in 2009. The new Roubaix SL3 and Tarmac SL4 are even better now as Specialized continues to raise the bar. Reading that article which is very well written only galvanizes my decision to get the Roubaix which is the best road bike I have ever owned in 30 years of riding. Few will ride like the author of the article including me.
    OP...read the article for perspective. The author just couldn't decide between the two bikes after a month of riding. What it came down to for me choosing the Roubaix was riding position and to a less degree ride quality. I completely agree with the author. The Roubaix is a better common man's road bike and the Tarmac is more of a margin bike. If racing, I would choose the Tarmac hands down but I do have a Cat 2 friend that races on a Roubaix and he is fast and the Roubaix is a racable bike.

  21. #21
    has a Large Member Campag4life's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dleccord View Post
    it's forbidden to have a 32t on a tarmac.
    good point

  22. #22
    Senior Member echotraveler's Avatar
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    OP Ive evolved riding a Roubaix, and im riding with a VERY demanding pack of riders on REALLY agressive bikes (time racer, look[not sure of the model, but its the stiffest thy sell]) this 2 riders are specially fast. I've had no problems demanding from my roubaix to keep up, im the one that needs to get better every day. As i get fitter and faster my bike will let me shine better on long rides against stiffer bikes.

    To state some comparison (not the best data, taken from my bicycle computer) my avrg(not max speed) speed has gone from 17mph on 50 miles rides to a current 22mph+ avrg (with no hills, not much wind) and i believe getting better as i get used to speed (with stronger riders) on longer rides (this avrg is always in a group of 3 or 4 people sharing the work). By no means i
    Am i a racer, but do enjoy riding with all i got to get better and better. Still on my way to loose 15 pounds and its getting difficult. But surely riding with the animals im riding with will help X1000

  23. #23
    has a Large Member Campag4life's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by echotraveler View Post
    OP Ive evolved riding a Roubaix, and im riding with a VERY demanding pack of riders on REALLY agressive bikes (time racer, look[not sure of the model, but its the stiffest thy sell]) this 2 riders are specially fast. I've had no problems demanding from my roubaix to keep up, im the one that needs to get better every day. As i get fitter and faster my bike will let me shine better on long rides against stiffer bikes.

    To state some comparison (not the best data, taken from my bicycle computer) my avrg(not max speed) speed has gone from 17mph on 50 miles rides to a current 22mph+ avrg (with no hills, not much wind) and i believe getting better as i get used to speed (with stronger riders) on longer rides (this avrg is always in a group of 3 or 4 people sharing the work). By no means i
    Am i a racer, but do enjoy riding with all i got to get better and better. Still on my way to loose 15 pounds and its getting difficult. But surely riding with the animals im riding with will help X1000
    Further verification, I have chosen the right bike with the Roubaix. I haven't had my new Roubaix Pro out in a group ride yet to see how fast it is. By all indications are which is confirmed by a lot of reviews, its stiffness where it matters makes it as fast any bike out there but only with better ride quality which will bode well on the poor roads I ride on in the midwest. You do ride with some fast guys if you are averaging 22mph. My group rides sometimes average that speed but it is indeed rare.
    If there is a dyamic that creates a stronger rider, it is as you say, ride with fast guys that are trying to drop one another and you will become faster. My circle of friends are good riders and we occassionally latch onto guys who try to drop us and we can generally keep up.
    Last edited by Campag4life; 02-17-12 at 06:46 AM.

  24. #24
    Senior Member echotraveler's Avatar
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    Campag i notice some differences from the sworks and the pro. For some reason the bike seems better finished specially on the brakestays, the frame is snapier on sprints. Could be due more to a change in crank and cockpit (from a cheap sram150 compact to a bb30 sram red standard, and a deda m35 cockpit) my bike is 16.31lbs notisably lighter than the pro i was riding.

    Op sorrybfo high jacking your thread.

  25. #25
    has a Large Member Campag4life's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by echotraveler View Post
    Campag i notice some differences from the sworks and the pro. For some reason the bike seems better finished specially on the brakestays, the frame is snapier on sprints. Could be due more to a change in crank and cockpit (from a cheap sram150 compact to a bb30 sram red standard, and a deda m35 cockpit) my bike is 16.31lbs notisably lighter than the pro i was riding.

    Op sorrybfo high jacking your thread.
    Interesting echotraveler. Guys I have spoken with that have ridden both say there isn't much difference...10r versus 11s Carbon...same geometry. The BB on my bike is a veritable brick$h!thaus in stiffness.
    Believe there is only a few grams difference between 10r and 11r with the same geometry as well. Same yield strength achieved with slightly less carbon contributing to slightly lower weight which btw creates close parity from a stiffness standpoint.
    Btw, the same perception is generally reflected between comparing the Tarmac SL4 Pro and the Tarmac S-works.
    Cheers.

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