Updated: 17th February 2017
With victories in all three Grand Tours, as well as the cobbled classics, the race heritage of the Specialized Tarmac is beyond doubt. Lightweight, with race geometry you get a responsive ride with rapid acceleration and nimble handling. Not just for racing, the Tarmac offers all-round road performance for any cyclist who likes to ride quickly everywhere.
There are ten Tarmac models in the range, six with regular calliper brakes and four with discs. You can choose between three different carbon fibre composite frame options and each features the same race inspired geometry for rapid riding. Each bike in the range features a capable component spec that ranges from entry level race kit on the SL4’s right up to full pro builds on the S-Works Tarmac’s.
The carbon fibre composite frame, on every model in the range, features the same racy geometry and is built using Specialized’s Rider-First construction philosophy. This means that the carbon layup on each frame size is made specifically for that frame size so you get the same great performance on a small size bike as you do on a large.
Stiff and lightweight, there are three different options with the Tarmac. The S-Works models feature the highest quality FACT 11r carbon fibres for pro level performance, the Comp, Expert and Pro each feature the almost-as-lightweight FACT 10r carbon frame, while the SL4 models are built around a very-far-from-heavy FACT 9r frame. Every model in the range features an S-Works full carbon fork for improved steering control.
The geometry of this bike is specifically designed for racing and when you get on it for the first ride, you immediately feel how fast it can be – Cycling Weekly
The Expert Disc looks the pick of the bunch with Ultegra, BR-785 brakes and DT Swiss’ R460 disc wheels – Bike Radar
From Shimano’s workhorse 105 drivetrain, through Ultegra all the way up to Dura Ace and SRAM ETap, each Tarmac model gives you the range of gears and shifting reliability you need for serious road riding. There are four models that offer electronic shifting; The Tarmac Pro disc features Shimano Ultegra Di2 which offers Pro level shifting performance, with only a slight weight penalty over Dura Ace, while the three S-Works ETap models feature SRAM’s top flight, Red ETap, wireless electronic groupset for the very best in shifting performance.
Much like current cycling opinion, the Tarmac is divided between models with disc brakes and those with conventional calliper brakes, so you can choose your preference. While the calliper brakes on the non-disc models are perfectly functional, there is no doubt that disc brakes offer more consistent performance in wet weather. The Comp, Expert and Pro disc models feature Shimano hydraulic disc brakes while you get SRAM Red discs on the S-Works disc.
With an emphasis on climbing, the wheels on the Tarmac tend towards lightweight rather than aero performance. The Axis Elite wheels on the SL4 sport make great training hoops and the quality of the wheels improves as you move up through the range. The DT Swiss R460 wheels on the Expert models are a real highlight as are the carbon rimmed CL 40 disc wheels on the Pro. Moving up to the S-Works models you get true Pro level performance with CLX Carbon wheelsets.
S-Works Turbo Pro tyres are fitted to most models and feature a 24mm width for a great balance between outright speed and traction.
The disc-specific 40mm Roval CLX wheelset felt great at speed and didn’t seem overly buffeted about by crosswinds either, suggesting Specialized has made good use of its own wind-tunnel – Cyclist.co.uk
A thoroughbred road race bike the Specialized Tarmac is quick to accelerate, fast up the climbs and assured on the descents, so the serious cyclist will find it ideal for general road riding, racing and training. While not as smooth rolling as a Sportive bike, the Tarmac offers a more comfortable ride than you would expect from such a rapid road race bike, so you can really rack up the miles.
Available at a range of price points each Tarmac model is built around a high-end carbon frame. This means that while your budget may not stretch to an S-Works, you can be sure that the model you choose will give you a solid performance and will be worthy of future component upgrades.