Specialized Tarmac SL3, Part II

Before I jump too far into the second half of this review, I need to mention that the bike as shown here was shot after I’d put a good 2000 miles on it. Normally, I shoot bikes as soon as I get them, but somehow, my excitement to get on this machine saw me flame out on that mission. As a result, you’re seeing it with some non-standard parts, including a replaced rear tire, a compact crankset and a compact bar. I swapped the cranks and bar out for my personal preferences. Had I been purchasing the bike off the showroom floor, I’d have put those parts on eBay before ever riding a single kilometer. Okay, on with the real subject.

I had an interesting conversation this past fall with one of Specialized’s engineers. We were discussing how stiffness isn’t an absolute, how a bike needs to flex in certain directions to track well, as well as provide some comfort to the rider.

What he told me was that stiffness, as a concept, required a lot of flexibility, that when they use the word “stiffness” they say it with a wink. To understand this, let’s begin with a simple example: a fork.

A fork, generally speaking, can flex in a few different ways. The blades can flex fore and aft. They can flex side-to-side. They can twist. And the steerer can flex based on twisting forces exerted by the rider. Of these, one—fore/aft—is useful. The other three are not helpful in making a bike track well when under power, cornering or descending. So the trick is to vary the sheets of fiber so that you’re minimizing twist, sideways and steerer flex while allowing the blades to respond to bumps and vibration.

When you get to a frame, how and where you want stiffness and how and where you want flex gets a good deal more complicated. In the late 1990s, the challenge was to eliminate bottom bracket flex. Once that was conquered we started noticing how frames would twist when we were out of the saddle.

One way a manufacturer can address stiffness while keeping an eye on weight is through the addition of ribs. There are a number of companies using ribbed construction these days, though it’s still a technology in the minority. To picture it, imagine looking at a round frame tube from one end. Now, imagine a wall of carbon fiber running vertically from the 12 o’clock position to the 6 o’clock position. That’s how it’s used in the down tube. Other tubes orient the rib 90 degrees from that. Pretty straightforward, but it can be difficult to picture if no one bothers to explain it.

I’ve seen enough snarky comments about “torsionally stiff and vertically compliant” to know that most readers are at best highly suspicious of this claim and at worst think its as achievable as domesticating a unicorn. I’ve had the chance to ride enough different bikes at this point that I know some are more comfortable than others. There’s no mistaking a frame with a small amount of vertical flex. Similarly, there’s no mistaking a frame that doesn’t have enough of it. What a few different engineers have told me is that if you vary the orientation of sheets of unidirectional carbon fiber so that some are at 45 degrees to the primary orientation, that will soften the feel of the frame some. It can make a big difference in how harsh the chainstays are, I’m told.

Here’s the thing about the Tarmac SL3: I didn’t really like the SL2. I loved the SL and thought it was a terrifically stiff and precise bike. The SL2 squared the function and to me it was overkill. Specifically, I thought the rear end was harsh. Riding one on a rough road left me with the concern that maybe I should have worn a kidney belt like the motorcyclists who ride hardtails do.

On the SL3, the seatstays were slimmed up and flattened in a manner similar to the Cervelo R3, though not to the same degree. That and other changes to the rear end took the edge of the bike’s harsh feel at the saddle. Meanwhile, the front end remained crisp feeling. The original SL seems like a pig by comparison. The frame has also lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 grams. I haven’t weighed the stripped down frame, but I’ve seen several sources report that a 56cm frame weighs around 850g. There are a lot of claims about sub-900g frames. Very few are true. That the SL3 has been independently confirmed to weigh around 850 should impress you.

Part of the Tarmac’s crisp feel comes from the fact that it doesn’t suffer the weight of several glossy coats of paint. Paint, as I’ve mentioned previously, can add 100 to 120 grams of non-structural weight to a bike. All it does is deaden the feel of the bike. On a descent I want maximum feedback, which is why I’ve found I prefer matte-finish bikes.

This bike was equipped with a number of Specialized products. The traditional-bend bar I removed was light, the lightest handlebar I’ve encountered other than the Zipp. It seemed plenty stiff, but I just couldn’t force my hands into those bends, no matter how many Euro PROs run them. The Roval SL45 Rapides are wheels I didn’t expect to like. While they weren’t super-easy to wind up (that has more to do with my lack of a sprint than any inherent problem with the wheels) they were more stable in wind than I expected, though not Firecrest stable. The combination of carbon fiber aerodynamics and an aluminum brake track offers day-to-day reliability and performance that are hard to argue with.

I’ve heard the carbon crank criticized for flex. I’m not sure why. It was terrifically stiff for me and because I’ve ridden carbon cranks that flexed—a lot—I can say these were quite different. The best feature about the cranks is how once a lockring is removed you can simply pull the spider and chainrings off and replace them with something different. So while mine came with 53/39 rings, in a matter of minutes, one of Specialized’s most experienced techs had a compact setup installed. That change saved my beans later that week when we climbed above 9000 feet.

I’ve ridden a lot of great bikes. Many bikes I really didn’t want to send back. I’m in love with this thing. It’s easily in my top three favorites of all time, though that may change next week when I get on the Tarmac SL4. I’ve done a few miles on one already and I can say there is definitely a difference, but that difference is really only apparent if you’ve ridden both bikes within a day or two of each other. Had they not come out with the SL4 there would be no reason to think that Specialized was off the back in some way. Indeed, before I got on the SL4, I couldn’t help wondering if they weren’t solving a model-year problem as opposed an actual performance issue.

Here’s the thing to think about: There are Specialized dealers all over doing what they can to get this model out their door. And the new Pro-level bike is the SL3, so while my review bike retailed for $8100, the new Tarmac SL3 Expert Mid-Compact gives you this frame and fork for only $3900.

Like I said, one of my favorite bikes of all time. It’ll be a long time before I find this level of performance inadequate.

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41 comments

  1. Matthew Zullo

    I am riding a 2008 Tarmac SL s-works and thinking about upgrading to SL4 but you have me thinking I might save some money and do well with a SL3. Looking forward to review of the SL4. I love my SL climbing and descending but I feel like it loses speed when riding in a straight line on flat roads. I also have a 2010 Roubaix s-works and it seems to track and maintain speed in a straight line. They both have the same wheels so that isn’t the issue. The Roubaix is stiffer in the bottom bracket for sure. Any thoughts? Is the SL3 stiffer in BB than SL? Great blog. Thanks.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Matthew: In moving from an SL to either an SL3 or 4, what you’re going to get is the same terrific handling but in a lighter, crisper feeling package. The challenge here is that by the time I post my review of the SL4 (probably late this winter) the stock on SL3s could be gone. You’ll find the same increase in stiffness in the BB you experienced with the Roubaix in the SL3 and 4, for sure.

      Thanks for the kind words. I am to keep it interesting enough for you to keep coming around.

  2. Matthew Zullo

    Thanks for the input. Will be looking for the SL4 review. If I miss out on a SL3, guess I will just have to spring for the SL4:) MattZ

  3. Paul Ainsworth

    Great review. I recently moved from a Pro SL3 to a Pro SL4, and have been pleased with my decision, though the SL3 was the best bike I had ever owned to that point.
    One small correction on the review, though. The SL3 Expert is actually a 10r frame, not the 11r you reviewed. It is about 150 grams heavier and marginally less stiff. There is, as I mentioned, also a Pro level SL4 bike and frame, with similar weight and stiffness differences from the 11r S-Works SL4.
    Thanks for the always well-written and considered opinions.

  4. Sam

    A timely review!

    I’m currently looking to upgrade from my first road bike and the Tarmacs and Izalco are at the top of my list. As such your reviews on these bikes has been particularly enlightening read for me.

    I’d be interested to hear your take on the differences and similarities between these two bikes.

    I’ve also heard with every annual upgrade, previous year S-Works frames are relegated to Pro level. However I’ve never verified if this is true to my satisfaction but if it’s true, then the new SL3 Expert would be my new dreambike indeed!

    My current top contender is the 2012 Izalco Pro 3.0, which is supposedly using the 2011 Team frame (ie. running internal cabling for the chainstay as well). However it’s not really clear from the website and dealer’s literature I’ve seen whether this is just the same mould or extend to the higher modulus material as well with the resulting weight loss.

  5. offroaded

    Just cant get behind the looks though Im sure its a nice ride. At first I thought it was too many decals but it doesnt really have that many (ignoring the awful rovals). Red and white has been done to death -there isnt that much- and I do like black matte…So Im left with it just must be the frame lines. Octobers Izalco is absolutely killer though.

  6. Gary Watts

    “only $3900″. As mentioned in your Zipp 404 Firecrest review, the escalation of bike product pricing is seemingly unmatched. Then there’s the latest offerings from Assos….$629 for a jacket…..

    I’m not poor but that’s alot of dosh to ride around the country with your buddies every weekend. Even worse is the shelf life is no more than a year until the obsolence of the model you just bought.

    I can certainly see the crumudgeon rising up as I am in my later years..:-).

  7. Paul Ainsworth

    @Sam… I don’t know about the Focus, but the current SL3 frame is now only the same frame as the S-Works reviewed here. The carbon is of a lower modulus, 10r vs 11r (Specialized’s nomenclature).

  8. Paul Ainsworth

    @Sam… Sorry, I meant to say it was the same frame DESIGN as the S-Works reviewed here, but with lower level carbon.

  9. Adam

    Gary, price criticism can be made about any product in any market. While, yes, $3,900 is to many a lot for a bicycle the point is that its a hell of a lot of bike for the money – less than just the frame set for its’ peers – thanks to trickle down technology. About obsolescence, again while one could consider that to be the case for this due to the SL4, its certainly not the true unless you convince yourself it is.
    But if it’s still too rich for your tastes, the Allez EVO for $2,100 is a great deal with a lot of the technology from the Tarmac carried over.

  10. Sam

    @Paul: That’s my understanding as well.

    Sweet ride you’ve upgraded there! The Tarmac SL4 Pro SRAM Red is about the only thing stopping me from running out now to the LBS and plonking my hard earned cash on some Focus. It’s going for AUD5499 here in Australia. It’s a lot of money, but for that you get a 6.8kg bike with SRAM Red. Plus a Di2 upgrade-ready frame finished in matte-black.

    BTW did you have a chance to test an S-Works beside the Pro frame before making your choice? I’ve always been curious if the accolades lavished on the frames at S-Works level are applicable to the Pro level frames as well. Or if there is a noticeable step down.

  11. Paul Ainsworth

    @Sam… I did get to ride both bikes and there is a difference between them, though it is subtle. I notice the same thing comparing the Pro SL (which was the same design as the SL2) to the S-Works SL2. The frames feel a little more snappy at the the S-Works level than the Pro, but for a fat, old, casual rider like myself, it really doesn’t matter all that much. The cost savings, for me, was greater than the difference in the frames. I will say that the SL4 Pro is definitely more comfortable over the long haul than either the S-Works SL2 or the Pro SL3 that I have owned previously.

  12. Souleur

    so, may i ask a question, since jargon is part of the consideration here.

    I have looked and looked very closely at specialized, but can get only generic answers to the whole ‘carbon nomenclature’ they use.

    in a word: confusing

    Here is the question: what quantifiable differences are there between their 8r, 10r, 11r et al carbons is there?
    Like with others, ie pinarello, it at least makes sense, 30k weave, 50k weave, and now 60k.
    in others there is the carbon models (general), HD carbon and now ultra HD models.

    I have asked specialized guys at the LBS but get a very generic answer that well the 11r is a much better carbon, stronger, lighter. Ok, well, I knew that based on everything so far, but what is the differences in the types?

    anyone know?
    thanks in advance

  13. velomonkey

    “Part of the Tarmac’s crisp feel comes from the fact that it doesn’t suffer the weight of several glossy coats of paint. Paint, as I’ve mentioned previously, can add 100 to 120 grams of non-structural weight to a bike. All it does is deaden the feel of the bike. On a descent I want maximum feedback, which is why I’ve found I prefer matte-finish bikes.”

    I’m going to have a 2 day laugh fest on this one. Yes, the consequence is putting paint on the frame is 100 grames spread over the entire frame – ohhhh the horror. However, you’re claim of paint deaden the feel of the bike – that is one fo the ages.


  14. Author
    Padraig

    Gary Watts: I won’t dispute that the items you mention are all expensive by any reasonable measure. And in most cases something new is introduced to update them each year. However, I think it’s a real stretch to suggest that those products become obsolete after only a year. My view of obsolescence may be different than that of the manufacturers, but as I see it, even the Tarmac SL isn’t exactly obsolete. Is there better stuff out there? Unquestionably. Will you suffer for riding an SL? Maybe … if you’re a pro.

    Paul, Souleur, et al: Regarding the 11r and 10r designations of Specialized carbon fiber. I can’t make heads or tales of what carbon is being used. They give us far more info about the discrete frame sections and how they are joined than exactly what carbon they are using. I can say from my varied experience that the Tarmac SL3 contains a pretty fair amount of high modulus and ultra-high modulus carbon fiber, in addition to some stock intermediate modulus.

    I will say that one thing that really pisses me off about the industry is how hard the various bike companies work to prevent you from making an apples to apples comparison of the various kinds of carbon fiber used. Any time someone talks about weave, they are talking about a strictly cosmetic feature. All the structural carbon used in unidirectional. This isn’t a criticism of Specialized per se; it’s a criticism of the industry. Back when everyone worked with steel, they gave all the relevant engineering numbers: ksi, modulus of elasticity, etc. We never get that stuff with the carbon. Ugh.

    Velomonkey: I can produce a collection of industry engineers who’ll back that statement up. In an 850g frame, 100 non-structural grams is a bunch of non-performing material. I’ll spare you the math.

    Regardless, I’ll make the same suggestion I’ve made to you previously: either join in the conversation in a constructive manner, or shove off for a blog you actually like. If you’re not finding anything of value around here other than a chance to foment your snark, you shouldn’t waste your time.

  15. Paul Ainsworth

    If I remember correctly, the E630 designation used for the carbon in the S-Works models refers to some measure of modulus of elasticity. The E390 used in the Pro and Expert models is a little less than 2/3 as stiff as the E630. The increased stiffness then allows for a reduced amount of material and a lighter frame and greater stiffness. Obviously, I am simplifying a complex concept to the point of absurdity, but that is the extent of my technical knowledge. Sorry, it’s the best I can do.

  16. velomonkey

    No one is saying that paint doesn’t add 100 grams – I said that very thing in my statement. My issue is your claim that paint deadens the ride and has an effect on feedback and you imply handeling.

    There is NO POSSIBLE WAY you can back up this claim – it’s a bunch of tripe and really pretty inflammatory.

    Stick to the points, please.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      I don’t imply that it affects handling. It affects the amount of road feedback the rider experiences. That affects how I ride. Oh, and you might want to check the definition of inflammatory, what I wrote doesn’t qualify.

  17. Scott G.

    There are companies that change models every year, that is their business model.
    The products are designed with a path of planned models changes for the life of the line. Proctor and Gamble and Specialized are good examples, if you don’t
    like the operating model don’t buy the product.

    Dr. Bonner has been making the same soap forever, I’m sure we can all think
    of frame builders who have been making the same bike forever.

    I have always enjoyed that contrast, the new, better, faster on one hand,
    the slow refinement on the other hand.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Scott G.: Yes, I’m with you; it’s fun to run across a product that doesn’t need changing. Coca Cola anyone? Oh, wait, what I mean is Mexican (or Kosher) Coca Cola anyone?

  18. velomonkey

    Thanks, Padraig I do know “inflammatory” and if saying paint deadens a ride then I think a whole host of builders are going to have an issue with that.

    Let me ask you this – is Baum getting all their attention because they add 100 grams of non-performance weight to a frame – or maybe because people are getting sick of matte frames with stickers.

    Also,if I blid folded you and put you on a painted SL3 or a non-painted SL3 you could not tell the difference – I’ll bet my dollars to your donuts.

  19. jaas

    This is my current bike. size 52. same color scheme. SRAM Red/Force/Quarq, ritchey WC cockpit, Reynolds tubulars for racing….awesome bike

  20. Adam

    Velomonkey,
    I’m going to pipe in here. I don’t know why it’s hard to beleive that paint has an impact on the feel of a frame. A) 150 grams extra is 150 grams extra. Period. A lighter frame doesn’t make a slow rider fast, but it is noticeable. B) I’ve tried the Roubaix and am a believer in their zertz technology. Inserting plastic bits into the frame really does change the road feel. If pain is essentially made of the same material in a different form, then why is it inconceivable to you that covering the entire bike in this would similarly affect the road feel?

    People – me included – like Baums becasue they look hot. On top of that, the custom geometry is going to result in a frame that rides exactly as you want it to and probably comes with a lower BB drop than most stock bikes for reasons discussed in the first part of this review. That being said, you will never see a Baum or any similar bike under any rider who is paid to win races because no matter the accolades you throw at it (all deserved) it simply is not as stiff or light as the above frame and does not trasmit road feel as directly.

  21. velomonkey

    What Adam says makes no sense: for the finale time no one is arguing that paint adds weight. Do I need to be any more clear – the question and statement put forth by Padraig has to do with paint ‘deaden’ the feel of the frame.

    Someone, please show me any comprehensive peer reviewed study that backs this? I’ll even do you one better: show me a pro who either asks for a bike with no paint or says the bike is better with no paint.

    Pros ride what they are paid to ride – sometimes they let it slip they don’t like their rides – I will bet you my dollars to your donuts any pro would still be just as fast on a baum. Even Boonen has baught himself other non-sponsored (read non specialized) rides.

    This is a silly topic.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Velomonkey: It’s a fact that when Garmin was riding Felt bikes they requested the company stop painting the frames and strictly use decals for graphics. I have heard of other occasions where similar requests have been made to other companies. It’s true that pros ride what they are paid to ride. What you may not know is that input from pro teams—both requested and unrequested—has increased dramatically over the last five years. But that’s not really germane to this discussion. Simply put: I’ve ridden a lot of bikes and the ones that don’t get painted from the head tube to the dropouts have a livelier feel. The corollary to this is how people used to talk about how “lively” titanium bikes feel compared to steel and aluminum. Reviewers who would tout this quality (me included) were nearly always riding an unpainted frame.

      Here’s the thing: On one occasion I rode a steel frame with a blued finish. That is, it received the same treatment that a gun receives. You know what? It had the same lively feel as titanium.

      Look, if this topic is so silly—though plenty of other readers find it interesting—it would seem this blog isn’t a good fit for you. I encourage you to find another, less silly blog. You’re clearly not happy reading this one.

  22. Ethan

    Velomonkey is completely right. We sell carbon bikes, ti and steel. We sell them with paint and without. Paint in no way at all contributes one way or the other to frame feedback. Not one bit. Sure it adds weight, but also adds class and uniqueness something that has been missing as of late.

    Also, I raced in my Baum and go to Australia and you will see lots of pros on Baums.

  23. Adam

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that HTC’s frames were predominatly black. Same for Garmin’s Felts and the Test Team Cervelos – all teams who generally have a reputation for working with rider feedback on producing the best product possible.

    I’m not knocking a Baum or any similar bike. Nor would I deny that there are pros who think they’re cool and buy them with their own money to ride around in the off season (Vande Velde and Barry both ride around on steel Mariposas). But, you’ll never see a guy who’s livelihood depends on winning races riding one while he’s got a number pinned to his back. Send me a picture if you know otherwise and I’ll eat my shoe.

  24. velomonkey

    Garmin and the former test team Cervelo bikes were all painted black or white – the only ones not to be painted where the project california – and the majority of the riders didn’t have that model. Are you really going to say that Johan Vansummeren didn’t win Roubaix on a painted frame?

    But more importantly, your shoe, you might want to get some BBQ sauce. Boonen won the green jersey on a painted Pegoretti (a bike very much like a BAUM, i.e., not carbon and painted with artisan flair). It’s even on the homepage for Pegoretti, but here is a pick

    http://cyclingart.blogspot.com/2009/11/dario-pegoretti-fatto-mano.html

  25. Adam

    Boonen on a Peg in 2007 is a rumour that won’t die. The site you’ve linked to manages to post a picture where all you can see is a section of the top tube and his handlebars. It’s total BS – here’s an actual picture of Tom clearly on a Tarmac while wearing his green jersey: http://www.flickr.com/photos/allthings-eddy/6473827589/
    Anyway, this is getting way off topic and I have to agree with Padraig and don’t believe that commenting further is a good use of my time. The Tarmac SL3 is an excellent bike and that was the point in the first place. I’m thankful for this review as it reasures me that a frame I have access to is of excellent quality and I don’t need to chase after some elusive better riding bike for twice the price.

  26. velomonkey

    @Adam – the old “I don’t have any proof that paint deadens a ride so I’ll say this is a waste of time” line.

    yes, the specialized is a great bike. yes, by and large this was a good review. yes, you can get other excellent racing bikes for half the price, a third the price or twice the price. yes, paint adds weight.

    No, sorry to say, paint does not “deaden” a ride. By Padraig’s earlier statement all steel bikes would ride like Ti bikes if they just didn’t have paint. Prima facia this is false.

    Hey, you want me send you a pic of Hamilton on a Parlee that says Cervelo – it’s painted, too.

  27. Adam

    Look at the bottom bracket of the frame in the picture, it’s not a Pegoretti or any other welded bike. You’ll probably just think I photoshopped it though.

  28. Butch

    I own a bike shop and prior to that was a mechanic for the US natinal team. I have worked on many, many pro bikes. I even worked on a bike for a guy named lance. I have also sold many bikes. All pros use different equipment then what is contracted to them – it can be as small as a tire to as big as a frame. To say paint will determine a frame is incorrect – it does nothing to frame, be it ti or carbon. To suggest otherwise would be false. If you believe then I have some great land for you in Flioda.

  29. Todd

    We have been in business for decades and we have been selling carbon for a long time, we sell Ti and steel, too. Paint has absolutely zero bearing on how a frame will feel. I’d go so far as to say one couldn’t tell the difference between an SL2 and a SL3 never mind a SL3 with out without paint.

    Is this a ploy to get readers and comments?


    1. Author
      Padraig

      The paint thing has gotten blown way out of proportion. These are my final comments on this subject as relates to this review. First, I’m not trying to sell anyone on anything. I’d prefer 10 interesting comments where people share their experience than 50 comments where people argue about who’s right, wrong and their motivations. I’ve simply written about my experience on this bike and one of its features I like. If you don’t have the same experience, that’s fine.

      Now, as regards my suggestion that paint influences ride quality, let me say first that this isn’t something I came up with on my own. I’d ridden lots of carbon bikes with and lots without paint. Differences I experienced I attributed to differences in carbon fiber. As I can’t get a straight answer on just what carbon is being used for an apples-to-apples comparison between the big manufacturers, differences in ride quality seemed to me to be due to material. That was always my assumption. The idea that paint figured into ride quality was suggested to me by one of the top engineers in the bike industry, a guy with decades of experience dealing with composites and bikes. When I checked his assertion with other engineers—not marketing people—they each gave me a sort of surprised , “Well of course,” response.

      The difference is small. It doesn’t affect stiffness or any of a frames most notable characteristics. For those who drink wine, I’d liken it to the difference between the same varietal from two different regions. For most of us, it can be difficult to put the difference into words, but the difference is there.

      Todd: As a dealer who doesn’t sell Specialized, I’m not surprised that you’d denigrate the difference between two Specialized models, so let’s put this in terms you sell to every day: Surely you can feel the difference between the Specialized SuperSix Hi-Mod and the new SuperSix EVO?

      Here are a few final thoughts I’ll leave everyone with: I can recall working at a Trek dealer in the late 1980s and having people tell me that there was no way I could tell the difference in ride quality between their aluminum and their steel models—back then Trek’s aluminum stuff wasn’t ultra-stiff like a Cannondale or a Klein. Today, we take the difference between steel and aluminum as an article of faith. Not too many years later I had readers tell me that there was no way I could tell the difference between tubulars and clinchers so long as the wheel weights were the same. There was a belief that clinchers were so good (this was 1996) that you simply couldn’t tell the difference by any measure other than weight. So we did a test than involved me, a pro and a couple of local racers. Everyone could tell the difference when presented with the opportunity to ride the two, back-to-back.

  30. Todd

    First, I race on specialized. Just sold my SL3 and will get an SL4.

    Second, to answer your question – I tell my customers and my fellow races they can’t tell the difference between a super six regular and super six high mod. Surely any engineer would tell you those tangible difference are more so than paint.

  31. Ale

    I have a specialized SL3. Love it. My favorite bike ever. It’s the right balance between race needed stiffness and comfort. The geometry is responsive and I just feel like I want to race the bike. I purchased it as part of our team deal and I only did it after a test ride as I already owned my dream bike – A BMC SLC01. The SL3 was that good of a bike.

    The first part of the season I had the SL3 in white with blue accents. Around August I had a warranty issue and the most immediate availability was a bare frame with stickers. I can say without hesitation that I noticed no difference whatsoever between the two frames. I’m not sure either that there was a 100 gram difference with weight (I’ll have to go back and check, but I would have noticed it on my park scale and I don’t recall that number).

    If I can take a step back – after reading all the comments the issue seems to be that in your review you suggest that paint creates a non-trivial difference in rider feedback. Ergo, only an idiot would get non-performing weight added to their bike that also has negative consequences. To state so seems like a stretch to me, too. Plus, the SL3 is such a great frame anyway.

    On a last note – it makes me sad to see people pile on velomonkey or pile on anyone for that matter. I know him well and I know him to be a rider with decades of experience who is always there to lend a hand, offer suport or is just fun to talk to. He never discusses the “bike weenie” stuff and he’s just one of the solid guys in any group ride. And at over 6′ tall he’s a great wheel! I’m sure anyone in these comments would get along with him – regardless of this paint topic.

  32. Shawn

    Your review inspired me to go looking for a SL3 and I found an Expert for 1K under MSRP. That’s a full ultegra set-up for $2700 and I am loving this bike in its lively matte finish. I will let you know about any noticeable differences in road feel due to the minimal finish once I get to ride it with thinner socks and gloves. Get em while they last!

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