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Boonen’s ride

After the finish of stage 2 in Ghent, Belgium, the Quickstep-Innergetic team bus was mobbed. At the sight of Tom Boonen leaving the podium pen with the green jersey, a father and his teenaged daughter opened into a full sprint trying to get to their country’s hero for an autograph. One can only imagine what the scene was like yesterday after his stage 6 win in Bourg en Bresse. Tom Boonen will never pay for a beer in Belgium. Tom Boonen has Belgian pop songs written about him. For god sakes, in Belgium he has his own breakfast cereal — the man is a god. And he will probably stay that way for

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By Matt Pacocha

Boonen’s new Specialized Tarmac SL2, just got its first .

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After the finish of stage 2 in Ghent, Belgium, the Quickstep-Innergetic team bus was mobbed. At the sight of Tom Boonen leaving the podium pen with the green jersey, a father and his teenaged daughter opened into a full sprint trying to get to their country’s hero for an autograph. One can only imagine what the scene was like yesterday after his stage 6 win in Bourg en Bresse.

We’re not going to argue with the name on the top tube.

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Tom Boonen will never pay for a beer in Belgium. Tom Boonen has Belgian pop songs written about him. For god sakes, in Belgium he has his own breakfast cereal — the man is a god. And he will probably stay that way for the rest of his life, let alone his career.

This is the clout Specialized was banking on when it took on his team’s bike sponsorship. There is no question, put Boonen on the TV riding a Specialized and you’re going to sell some bikes in Belgium. But no one could have predicted the effort it would take to equip Tornado Tom.

And the rear promises more compliance.

And the rear promises more compliance.

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“The whole bike for Boonen was because we want to keep those guys happy and we have to do whatever we can to keep them happy,” said Nic Sims, a member of Specialized’s global marketing team. “We want to give them whatever they feel they need to win on.”

It took a lot to keep Boonen happy. The big Belgian has back problems and a unique position that put him in-between stock Specialized bike sizes. He tried a longer stem until finally Specialized had to make him a custom bike, first in aluminum and then in carbon fiber.

That’s a long stem.

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“He had the alloy one first because we could get him an alloy one built in a week,” said Sims. “If we needed to make any changes we could just make another. We didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars to make a mold for carbon until we knew he liked it.”

Boonen’s new carbon bike ended up being based on the 2008 Tarmac SL2. Even still, his is different from an actual production size. The headtube on Boonen’s bike is 175mm, which is longer than the production version. The bike also features a stiffer lay up for this powerhouse rider. Specialized has the ability to make Boonen a semi-custom bike because of the Az1 carbon wrapping process it uses to construct its carbon bikes. The basic manufacture of Boonen’s bike is that of the production version, just the layup is altered using the same mold and Boonen’s longer headtube is simply wrapped in.

Someone else’s bar is under there.

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The general gist of Boonen’s bike will be in production for 2008 as the stock Tarmac SL2, the same bikes that his teammates are using. The new bike from Specialized is supposedly stiffer than the Tarmac SL but also more vertically compliant. It features a 1.125- top and 1.5-inch bottom bearing. The bottom bearing is mounted slightly further into the headtube so that it lines up with the downtube joint, thus transferring the majority of forces directly down the oversized tube, rather than acting against it like a lever.

As for the bike’s finish, Boonen is also particular about his components. Especially those components that he physically touches; like his seat and handlebar. He has the 300-plus gram Selle San Marco Rolls saddle shape in various dress on all of his different bikes; some have custom covers and some were stock Selle San Marco saddles. His stem is from FSA, the OS-115 model in a 140mm length. And his bars were painted black to conceal the manufacturer. The black paint was chipped on one side giving a glimpse, but we couldn’t recognize the markings.

After much effort, Specialized has produced a bike for Boonen. Thanks to his particularity consumers have something shinny and new too.

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