Updated: 7th July 2018
A road race bike with multiple victories in all three Grand Tours as well as the spring classics, the Specialized Tarmac has a race heritage that is beyond doubt. The new Tarmac frame is lighter weight and more aerodynamic than previous models while still retaining the classic Tarmac ride feel. More than just a race bike, we review the whole Specialized Tarmac range that offers all-round road race performance for the cyclist who like to ride quickly everywhere.
The Tarmac range includes a variety of high performance models available at a range of price points to suit every road bike enthusiast. There are three different carbon frame options range; the affordable FACT 9r, the mid-range 10r and the high-end 12r. Each bike in the range gets a capable component spec, with entry level race kit on the 9r bikes up to full pro builds on the S-Works models.
The SL6 carbon frame was first introduced on the S-Works models last year and is now found across the range. The distinctive dropped rear stays are the most noticeable change from previous models but the whole frame and for has been redesigned from the ground up. The Tarmac now offers a smoother ride feel as well as improved aerodynamics. The SL6 bikes now slices through the air as efficiently as the original Venge. Showing Specialized’s commitment to elite women’s road racing, it is great to see more female specific SL6 Tarmac models.
The 12r carbon frame found on the S-Works models weighs less than 800 grams and uses the very best frame materials. This is exactly the same frame that top pros like Peter Sagan use. The 10r frames found on the Expert and Pro bikes come from the same moulds as the 12r frames and offer the same aerodynamics and great ride feel but are 150 grams heavier. The Comp and Sport models get a 9r frame that retains most of the aero features of the top models but has a conventional seatpost. Both disc and rim brake models have identical geometry.
Made with Specialized’s Rider-First construction philosophy, the carbon layup on each frame is designed specifically for that size. This means that you get the same great performance on a small size bike as you do on a large.
This is a bike that knows what it wants. Put the pedal down, and it takes off, responding decisively to rider input. Taking full advantage of its newly advanced aerodynamics, this Tarmac leaves no watt wasted and accelerates with ease – Peloton Magazine
Poised is how we would describe it, you can make a switch around pretty quickly, lean into bends nicely and feel the strength in the bike throughout the corner. – Cycling Weekly
From Shimano’s workhorse Tiagra drivetrain, through 105 and Ultegra all the way up to Dura Ace Di2, each Tarmac model gives you the range of gears and shifting reliability you need for serious road riding. You get electronic shifting on the high-end bikes. The Tarmac Pro gets Ultegra Di2 while the S-Works bikes all feature top of the line Dura-Ace Di2. Most models are spec’d with slick shifting Shimano Ultegra drivetrains. All the SL6 bikes now get semi compact 52/36t chainsets so you can really put the power down for high-speed riding.
There are more disc equipped bikes for 2019. As well as the traditional calliper brake versions each Tarmac model is also available with hydraulic disc brakes, for those who appreciate the consistent all-weather performance that only hydraulic disc brakes can offer.
With an emphasis on road racing the wheels on the Specialized Tarmac tend towards lightweight, for improved climbing performance. The deep section Roval rims on the Pro and S-Works bikes do offer an aero advantage but these carbon wheels are seriously lightweight too. You will find high-quality Roval wheels on the Expert bikes too. The Sport and Comp models both get DT Swiss wheelsets.
All the SL6 Tarmac models get 26mm Turbo Cotton tyres. Wider than tradition road race rubber, these tyres improve the ride quality and offer more grip in the corners as well as helping with the air flow around the wheels.
When it comes to the ride – we’re afraid we’re going to gush. This bike is a total dream to ride, and has been from the moment we jumped on to it. – Cycling Weekly
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.
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