The new women's S-Works Tarmac is a serious bike for those who are interested in serious performance. The highest grade carbon frame, S-works carbon crankset, Shimano DuraAce Di2 groupset, CeramicSpeed bearings and carbon finishing kit make it a bike built to suit the rigours of pro-racing — and the bike of the Boels-Dolmans pro team.
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Coming in at £8,500 / $9,500 / AU$13,000, the new S-Works Tarmac SL6 sits right at the top end of the women's performance road range and is the spec equivalent of the men's Tarmac, which sits at the same price.
It's already got racing pedigree, since it made its debut in the 2017 race season ridden by members of the Boels-Dolmans women's pro team.
Specialized Women's S-Works Tarmac SL6 specs
- Weight: 6.33kg (54cm)
- Frame: Specialized Tarmac S-Works FACT 12r carbon
- Fork: Specialized FACT carbon
- Wheels: Roval CLX 50, carbon rim, 50mm depth, Roval AF1 Hub, CeramicSpeed bearings
- Tyres: Turbo Cotton, 700x26mm
- Crankset: S-Works carbon fibre, 52/36t
- Bottom bracket: OSBB, CeramicSpeed bearings
- Shifters: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9150
- Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9150, braze-on
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9150, 11-speed
- Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace 9100, 11-speed, 11-30t
- Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace,11-speed
- Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace 9110F, 9110RS direct mount
- Handlebars: S-Works SL Carbon Shallow Drop, 125x75mm
- Bar tape: S-Wrap w/ Sticky gel
- Stem: S-Works SL, alloy, titanium bolts, 6-degree rise
- Saddle: Oura Pro, 155mm, carbon rails, carbon base
- Seatpost: S-Works FACT Carbon Tarmac seatpost, 20mm offset
Top end componentry all round
As you might imagine, the Women's S-Works Tarmac skimps on nothing.
The frame is constructed from Specialized's premium FACT 12r carbon, with FACT carbon forks. As with its other carbon bikes, Specialized used its 'Rider First Engineered' technology, which essentially works out the exact amount of carbon needed to meet the right balance of strength, stiffness and compliance for each frame size to ensure uniform performance across the range and no excess carbon to minimise the weight.
Dropped seatstays allow greater compliance and flex on the upper portion of the seatstay which is designed to absorb road vibration for a more comfortable ride, and is combined with a S-Works FACT carbon seatpost.
Fitted with Roval CLX 50 wheels paired with Turbo Cotton tyres in 28mm width, there's clearance enough for up to 30mm, and that wider tyre pairing will also help provide a little more comfort and smoothness when riding.
The wheels have aerodynamically efficient deep 50mm carbon rims, plus smooth CeramicSpeed bearings in the Roval AF1 hubs.
Gearing comes courtesy of Shimano Dura Ace Di2 with a race-ready 52/36t chainring on the carbon S-Works crankset and an 11-30t cassette, and CeramicSpeed bearings in the OSBB bottom bracket.
Finishing kit is designed to suit the female rider, there's a 155mm width Specialized Oura Pro saddle with carbon rails and base, and S-Works SL carbon shallow drop handlebars.
Crank length and handlebar width is size specific: cranks are 165mm on the 44, 167.5mm on the 49, 170 on the 52 and 54 and 172.5mm on the 56 frame. Handlebars are 360mm wide on the 44, 380mm wide on the 49, 400mm on the 52 and 54 frames and finally 420mm on the 56 frame.
The new unisex
This is the first Specialized Tarmac for women, and there's an interesting reason why.
Specialized has bucked the trend that Liv and more recently Canyon have followed. It has decided that, based on the data it has, unisex geometry with gender-specific or size-specific finishing kit such as saddles, handlebars and cranks is the best possible option for performance, and that women don't need bikes with a distinct geometry.
Importantly, this isn't, according to Specialized, the same as the unisex frames it used to make.
This new unisex frame incorporates more fit data for women, taken from thousands of Retul bike fits over the last few years. This data indicates that while there do seem to be body geometry data clusters around male and female bodies, these are not so distinct that a frame designed to sit squarely between the datasets wouldn't actually suit both better.
This means that all models of the Tarmac, the women's model included, are based around the same frame geometry — and the size range is expanded too. The advantage of this is that riders of any gender who sit outside their average height ranges should be able to find a bike that fits them.
This move also signals the end of a women's bike platform
Somewhat confusingly, however, Specialized still produces the women's specific Ruby and unisex Roubaix, both of which are endurance-focussed bikes. But Specialized would say that the differences in geometry and purpose are due more to the behaviour and riding needs of the different users: the Ruby rider is looking for a bike with a focus on comfort and versatility, while the Roubaix rider wants a bike that's designed more towards the performance side of cycling and suitable for racing on cobbles. Again, Specialized based this on data collected during Retul fits and other data.
It's got a strong look
The S-Works version could also win a prize for wordiest description of its paint job, since this sleek matt black with pink/red fade logo is called Satin Gloss Monocoat Black/Acid Purple/Rocket Red Fade.
Paint naming convention aside, I love the look of this bike. It looks stealthy, it looks fast and it looks like it means business.
If your budget doesn't stretch to the S-Works model, there is a lower priced Pro version which comes in at £3,500 / $4,000 / AU$5,000 and you can read a quick comparison between the two versions here.
The end of the Amira
One little-mentioned element to this story is the fact that the new women's Tarmac has effectively replaced the very popular Amira — Specialized's women's specific race-focussed platform.
While Amiras are still available at the lower end of the price range, it is now the Expert and S-Works level Tarmac that are the go-to options for the higher end. It's also a transitional year for the Amira SL4 at the Sport and Comp level, with these too being replaced with the new unisex Tarmac in the future.
In fact, the Tarmac means a different classification of bikes for Specialized within the range too. Rather than grouping the Tarmac range as unisex and women's bikes they are now labelled as men's and 'women's, with only the gender-specific finishing kit differing as the frame and componentry are the same.
Specialized Women's S-Works Tarmac SL6 price, size and availability
This version of the Tarmac comes in at a serious £8,500 / $9,500 / AU$13,000, but you can get the lower priced Tarmac Women SL6 Expert for £3,500 / $4,000 / AU$5,000.
The Tarmac is available in five frame sizes: 44, 49, 52, 54 and 56.