By Ed Westrop
Contrary to the running theme of this series, my ‘longtermer’ has only been with me in the short-term. I rescued the frame from a skip last year, a fate which seemed rather strange given that there was absolutely nothing wrong with it, or any of the components which it hosted.
Being relatively new to cycling and not yet owning a bike of my own I set out to renovate this abandoned and unloved Specialized Tarmac, which I’ve christened ‘Blanche’, into a longtermer fit for my JogLe attempt later this year.
So what kind of riding am I building this bike for?
I ride in two opposing styles: I race against myself and I tour with my sister. Our main goal this year is to ride from John O’groats to Lands End, which is something of a grudge match after a failed attempt last year due to injury.
Ultra-endurance riding is something that I really want to master. I've learned a lot from my bodged attempt at LeJog last year, most notably that packing everything except the kitchen sink and then attempting to climb Cheddar Gorge in the big ring isn’t going to do my knees any good.
Aside from this, there have also been many nuanced learnings that I've channeled into the spec choices for Blanche, my JogLe bike for this summer’s attempt
The frame is a 2007 Specialized Tarmac Expert.
Admittedly when I first got hold of it I whacked some cheap wheels on and thought I’d just keep it as a pub bike. My perception of the bike changed after a few rides though, it had a really snappy quality about it and geometry which suited me - albeit the size 56 frame a little long until I fitted a 70mm stem. I always like to have a few pet projects on the go and therefore decided not to waste the Tarmac as a purely utilitarian vehicle but revitalise it into my forever bike.
I wasn’t overly in love with the original paint job, however I thought the shape of the frame was pretty striking with great potential to be a real looker with the correct treatment. After exhausting many elaborate paint schemes, I settled on plain ivory. Unimaginative I know, but I embraced the simplicity due to the complex shape of the frame which doesn’t require a snazzy paint job to exist as an object of beauty.
Where are the Zertz inserts?
A brief interjection, if I may. Eagle eyes may notice that this frame is missing its 'Zertz inserts'.
Many moons ago, Specialized introduced viscoelastic polymer Zertz inserts as a method of adding compliance to frames. The creation was the product of extensive research and was a major selling point of the frame.
Ed removed them, because he didn't like the aesthetic. He says he didn't notice a difference in the ride.
We do have to caveat this observation with the point that Ed hasn't ridden a huge number of bikes. However, that also means that his experience may well be more representative of the greater population, too. Something to bear in mind next time the newest compliance adding tech comes around.
On the other hand, we couldn't include every staff member's longtermer in this franchise because we couldn't publish a series of Specialized Tarmac bikes. In other words, it's a very popular frame among the team. Anyway, back to Ed...
- Tech editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan
My approach when it came to selecting the componentry was to focus on visual appeal rather than performance, that’s not to say that I’m not concerned with speed or setting personal bests, but frankly a good looking bike is more important to me than a marginal gains machine.
My taste is quite traditional so in order to add some pinache to the minimal white frame I decided upon primarily chrome silver componentry.
For the groupset I went for Campagnolo Centaur. There was no doubt about putting Campag on the bike, I’ve never tried it before, but it has such style and is a family favourite amongst my dad and sister who absolutely swear by it. Turns out it works pretty well too, maybe not as smooth as Shimano 105 (which is a similar price) but in terms of aesthetic appeal there is no contest and there’s just something about chrome Campag which suggests a bike isn’t straight off the shelf. The crankset is a 50/34 with an 11/30 cassette, I was tempted to go semi-compact but for touring purposes the smaller gearing is ideal.
My only real qualm with the groupset is the hoods, they’re very comfortable when cruising but there’s not much to hold onto when riding out of the saddle and there’s been many-a-bump in the road where I’ve felt my hands almost fly straight off the bars. I do however really like the thumb paddles on the inside of the hoods which are great when there’s a handlebar bag in there which would otherwise cause havoc when downshifting.
Upshifting is still an issue though, the Brooks handlebar bag which I’m currently using is a tight fit between the bars, and the closures at each end either have to be bungeed together across the back of the bag or slotted over the drops to keep them out the way of the shifters.
For the wheels I opted for the ‘Hunt Four Season Aero’. Apart from being a really good looking wheelset, they are a sturdy all weather option with a shallow rim depth of 28mm, perfect for the inevitable cross winds when touring. They also boast a high spoke count (24/28) which is confidence inspiring when loading up the bike with all my gear.
For the rubber I went for Pirelli’s P-Zero Velo tyres. I’ve edited various Cycling Weekly videos in which these tyres have been praised and fell in love with them as soon as I saw the little yellow logo on the sidewalls which adds a little pop of colour to the build. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much of a choice when it came to the width as the frame only has clearance for 25mms. Despite having the option to go tubeless, I’m running the tyres with inner tubes and over the 1500 miles I’ve ridden this year I’ve only had two punctures. This doesn’t seem too bad, however for JogLe, I’m considering swapping them out for Continental Four Seasons, for peace of mind if nothing else [don't do it! Go for a Continental GP 5000, - ed.]
In terms of finishing kit, I went for a Ritchie Classic bar, stem and seat post which add a fair amount of weight, but look spectacular in conjunction with the silver Campagnolo components and are also durable, being aluminium.
In order to complete the look of the bike I went for a Brooks C17 saddle in octane blue with matching bar tape. The saddle was recommended to me by a colleague who claimed it ‘no-chamois-comfortable’, I’d consider this something of an exaggeration. With padded shorts it feels adequate, but whether it will become a pain the arse over the course of my JogLe, remains to be seen.
I have some plans for the future of Blanche.
1) Full Frame bag: To complete the bikepacking luggage I’m going to get a custom frame bag from Alpkit who tailor them to your exact needs and dimensions. The plan is to have it fill the entire triangle and do away with water bottles altogether in favour of a water bladder.
2) Flared bars: In order to alleviate the shifting problem caused by the handlebar bag I’m going to swap out my bars for a Ritchey flared option. This will allow me to take even more stuff away with me with the flared drops giving clearance to the shifters.
3) Deep section wheels: I’ve talked a lot about selecting components for practical/visual purposes, however one performance item I’d like to splash out on is a super light, deep section wheelset. I occasionally test myself against the clock at Dorney lake and so having a really fast wheelset would be fantastic, if I can ever bring myself to part with the money.
- Frame: 2007 Specialized Tarmac Expert 56CM (Frame & Fork)
- Groupset: Campagnolo Centaur (Rim Brake)
- Chainset: 50/34
- Cassette: 11/30 (11 speed)
- Wheels: Hunt Four Season Aero (28mm depth)
- Tyres: Pirelli P-Zero Velo
- Ritchey Classic Handlebar (43cm)
- Ritchey Classic Stem (70mm)
- Ritchey Classic Seatpost
- Brooks C17 Saddle (Octane blue)
- Brooks Cambium Rubber Bar Tape (Octane blue)
- Campagnolo Record Titanium Pedals
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