The All New Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 Review

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Julian Alaphilippe training on the new Specialized Tarmac SL7 in the North of France june 2020 ©kramon

2020 has been a strange year, and with no July Tour de France we missed all the new tech and gear that comes with that. Though to help boost spirits, Specialized have just launched their brand new Tarmac, which would have been debuted in the French grand tour. And unlike the rest of 2020, it’s not disappointing!

In brief, The SL7 targets were that the frame, fork, stem, bar and post should be no heavier than an SL6 chassis, and the aerodynamic properties should at least equal a MY19 Venge.

Whilst that means Venge is no longer in the Specialized range, this is more than just a combination of the Tarmac and Venge. Specialized claim this is the most complete ever race bike and where many brands have turned a large focus towards gravel (as have they), Specialized have also recognised the need to continue the focus on performance road / race bikes and ensuring they continue the legacy of Tarmac.

— 12 TYPES OF ROAD CYCLIST WE ALL KNOW —

Team Boels-Dolmans’ Anna Van der Breggen and Jolien D’hoore training on the Specialized Tarmac SL7 around the Maastricht area in The Netherlands june 2020 ©kramon

What’s New?

  • Aero, stiff, light. Pick three. Up until now, this triangle of features was limited to only two choices. An aero bike wasn’t light enough to climb effectively and a lightweight bike typically sacrifice aerodynamics. With the Tarmac SL7, compromise is a thing of the past.
  • Anything lighter is illegal. At 6.7kg with an 800g frame out of the box, this machine is ready to race at the UCI legal limit. Just add your favourite pedals and take to the start line.
  • Looking for breakaway glory or a sprint victory? No problem. 45 seconds faster than the Tarmac SL6 over 40km, this bike is the fastest bike on every road.
  • Our Rider-First Engineered™ philosophy ensures that each and every size iteration of the bike delivers the same legendary Tarmac handling–telepathic response at the bars, magic at the pedals, and the comfort to stay fresh over hundreds of kilometres.
  • The Tarmac SL6 continues to outperform nearly every bike on the market, the only bike faster is the SL7. The SL6 will remain in the lineup in Base, Comp and Sport models. See the Future of Racing 

The SL7 frame also features gen3 rider first engineering, more compliance at the rear end, threaded BB and integrated bar/stem/cable routing at the front end via a new Tarmac stem.

  • Sport and Comp remain in the range with SL6 frames for entry price points – £2500 & £3250.
  • Expert offers a Di2 option at £4750 or a non Di2 option with Roval C38’s at the same price.
  • Pro gives a Di2 / Roval Rapide CL bike at £6500 but also a Sram Force ETAP bike 1X at £6750.
  • S-Works bikes have Di2 and Sram Red ETAP AXS bikes at £10500 and these are FACT 12r frames.
  • S-Works frames are £3750 other than the Team Bora frame which is £3999.

Why should you be forced to choose between aerodynamics and weight, between ride quality and speed? It’s simple, you shouldn’t. Enter the new Tarmac—climb on the lightest bike the UCI allows, then descend on the fastest. Specialized have utilised the most advanced technologies, from the FreeFoil Shape Library to an all-new Rider-First EngineeredTM frame, to deliver a race bike that is truly without compromise.

— WHY YOU SHOULD TRAIN WITH POWER —

The days of making sacrifices between “aero” and “lightweight” bikes are over—the all-new Tarmac is the fastest race bike, ever. One bike to rule them all. To complement the world’s fastest frame, only the best components will do—which is why you’ll find the likes of SRAM’s RED eTap AXS 12-speed group with power meter, and Roval’s new CLX Rapide wheels, with their exceptional stability and aerodynamic prowess. The S-Works Tarmac is a top-level, 6.8kg race machine, right out of the box.

The Features:

“Aero is everything”— we’ve been preaching it for years and it’s still the driving force for the new Tarmac. In our quest for tube shapes that deliver the fastest frame that the UCI rules allow, we took a page out of the Venge development book and utilized our FreeFoil Shape Library. Armed with a library of optimized shapes, we turned to the Win Tunnel to plug these shapes into a modular test bike, for more testing and validation. The result? A new Tarmac that’s the fastest we’ve tested. No compromises, just pure speed.

While aerodynamics were paramount to the Tarmac’s development, and to the development of all of our race bikes, weight was the co-pilot on this optimal race bike journey. Previously “aero bikes” always compromised in the weight department—the more drag you reduced, the more weight you gained.

Team Boels-Dolmans’ Anna Van der Breggen and Jolien D’hoore training on the Specialized Tarmac SL7 around the Maastricht area in The Netherlands june 2020 ©kramon

— HOW TO GET FIT FAST —

With the new Tarmac, the Specialized design philosophy was to keep it at, or below, the UCI weight limit out of the box, with no sacrifices to aerodynamics. And with the help of the FreeFoil Shape Library, tools like isotopic FEA analysis, and some engineering wizardry by the best engineers in the industry, they believe they’ve delivered.

Continuing the quest to develop the perfect race bike, Specialized used our Rider-First EngineeredTM philosophy to ensure that the new Tarmac is the most balanced, best handling Tarmac yet—no matter the size. With an army of the world’s best test riders from the three World Tour Teams — Boels-Dolmans, Deceuninck-Quick-Step, and Bora-hansgrohe — Specialized made changes to the Tarmac based on their thousands of kilometers on the road. Balancing the ride quality between the front and rear end, so even the longest days in the saddle continue to be comfortable—all without giving up anything to the Tarmac’s legendary handling and race-winning snappiness.

— USING CAFFEINE TO BOOST CYCLING PERFORMANCE —

Building on the learnings from the Venge, the new Tarmac utilizes simple integration to create a clean, fast cockpit that’s easy to live with. Specialized have improved the routing for any configuration — mechanical shifting, traditional stems, round bars, etc. — all while keeping its aerodynamic attributes. These same traits also make the new Tarmac easy to work on and easy to travel with. It’s a win-win.

The Verdict:

Well it’s clear this really is up there with some of the world’s best machines. The perfect combination of balance, agility and speed, all available in the lightest possible package. Obviously with this kind of pedigree it’ll cost you, but it’s definitely worth the outlay if you’re looking to go fast: really, really fast.

— SHOP NOW —