Specialized S-Works Tarmac Bike Review

Specialized S-Works Tarmac Bike

Aero updates for the popular race-winning machine

The Specialized Tarmac has been ridden to victory in some of the world’s biggest professional races, and despite the advent of aero road bikes, the Tarmac has remained the bike of choice for many pros.

For 2018, the Tarmac has been updated, with some significant changes for the new SL6 frameset. The dropped seat stays are the first area to catch your eye and on a closer look the D-shaped seat tube and seatpost, which nod towards a more aerodynamic design which claims to make the Tarmac a much faster bike. It certainly feels quick.

Perhaps the most impressive quality of the new Tarmac is the ride quality. It’s an incredibly comfortable bike and that’s not just by race-bike standards, but compared to road bikes in general. The low seat stays and seatpost design provide plenty of compliance at the rear, and the 26mm wide tires certainly make a difference, too.

Another big headline is shaving 200g off what was already a very light frame – with our test bike at 6.3kg, we can certainly believe it. On the hills, its impressive stiffness means no power is wasted.

The Roval CLX wheels with 50mm deep section can be pushed around a bit by side winds, but never feel like too much of a handful. The 2imm wide internal rim width helps the 26mm tire balloon to an actual width of 29mm, helping comfort further.

The latest Dura-Ace 9150 Di2 groupset is impressive, although the design makes it hard to differentiate the buttons. The new Synchro Shift option is a neat feature, automatically changing both front and rear mechs with a single click on the shifters to select the optimum combination. There is also a semi- auto mode as well as the option for a full manual mode. The one slight disappointment is the lack of the wireless unit that would allow you to tweak and change the settings via Bluetooth on an app – instead you’ll need to plug it into a Windows computer via USB.

We loved the new Tarmac and were impressed by its small but noticeable improvements over its predecessor.

  • Weight: 6.3kg (size 54cm)
  • Frame: FACT 12r Carbon frame an fork
  • Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace 9150 Di2
  • Brakes: Shimano Dura- Ace 9100, direct mount
  • Chainset: S-Works Carbon fibre, 52/36
  • Casette: Shimano Dura-Ace 9100,11-30
  • Bars: S-Works SL Carbon Shallow Drop
  • Stem: S-Works SL AIlow with Tibolts
  • Seatpost: S-Works FACT Carbon Tarmac seatpost
  • Wheels: Roval CLX50
  • Tires: Specialized Turbo Cotton, 26c

Good

Comfort – Incredible, and not just by race-bike standards.

Lightweight – You’d need to add ballast to make it race legal!

Handling – Feels stable and secure on even the fastest and trickiest of downhills.

Not So Good

No wireless – The new 9150 Di2 is great but lags behind SRAM’s eTap for connectivity.

Seatpost clamp – A li Ele ftddly, but not a major gripe.

Toe overlap – Very tight clearances or feet too big?

Conclusion

The new SL6 Tarmac frameset raises an already high bar. Perhaps the biggest tangible difference is incredible levels of comfort, making even the longest of rides more enjoyable. The lightweight design, superb handling, impressive stiffness and faultless groupset complete the package.

Rating 9.5/10

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