For many, Specialized’s S -Works range is regarded as a benchmark, employing components, framesets and wheels all usually at the cutting-edge of design. Its SL6 incarnation of the Tarmac seems to tick all our wish-list boxes as its claimed to be lighter, more aero and comfortable than its rivals.
Our test model features the very latest high-end SRAM RedAXS 12-speed wireless groupset. It also has an integrated Quarq power meter within the Red AXS chainset, which performs faultlessly. Although when your chainrings wear out replacing them (and the power meter) will set you back $900!
Matching this lightweight bike (it’s 6.79 kg) to a wide ratio 10-33 cassette makes it very capable, particularly on climbs. And as aerodynamics are clearly crucial to its design, it feels impressively quick to ride.
It’s certainly comfortable, too, even with tires that at 26 mm wouldn’t be considered wide by modern standards. That said, the Specialized Turbo Cotton rubber used isn’t tubeless ready, which is a slight disappointment given the wheels. They are still excellent, however, and as far as nontubeless clincher tyres go are some of the best that money can buy.
The Roval CLX 50 wheels used are nothing short of outstanding, being very light but also stiff, responsive and stable even in stronger crosswinds.
For what is essentially a race bike, albeit one designed for all-round riders, the geometry of several of the parts fitted may surprise some. The handlebars, for example, combine a reasonable width with a squared-off bend and shallow drop.
These feel safe and secure downhill and while holding speed through the corners. Although out-and-out racers may wish fora lower, longer, more aggressive position, we reckon these bars have a more universal appeal.
With a good range of own-label components, there really is very little to fault on paper or on the road with this bike. The only issue is the cost, which is very high, and will put the performance this offers out of range for most riders. For now at least.
Comfort – Excellent for such an aero, lightweight machine.
Gear ratios – The extra cog and choice of gearing make easy work of hills.
Wheels – Some of the lightest we’ve ever ridden. Fast and easy to handle in winds.
Not so good
Integrated power meter – Works well but as it’s integrated, it’ll prove costly to replace.
Cable routing – Not as clean as we’d have liked.
Cost – The high-end specification it offers comes with a high-end price tag.
The Tarmac is for many pro team riders the go-to model for all-round riding. Offering greater comfort, this retail version is aimed at those of us who don’t rely on race wins to earn a living but are looking for something truly special. It ticks just about every box we can think of, but at a very high price.
Size: 54 cm/6.79 kg
Frame: S-Works Tarmac SL6, FACT 12r
Groupset: SRAM Red eTAPAX S, 12 speed
Brakes: SRAM Red eTAPAX S, 160 mm
Chainset: SRAM Red eTAPAX S Power Meter
Cassette: SRAM Red XG-1290, 12 speed 10-33
Handlebar: S-Works Short & Shallow
Stem: S-Works SL alloy
Saddle: Specialized Body Geometry, S-Works Power
Wheels: Roval CLX 50 Disc
Tires: Specialized Turbo Cotton, 700x26c