Simon says: Forget the Tarmac, bring back the Specialized Venge!

Is the Tarmac formula too safe?

Specialized S-Works Venge

If you believe the rumour mill, a new Specialized Tarmac SL8 could appear at some point this year.


While that will be welcome news for some, the new bike I really want to see from Specialized is a Venge – the Californian brand’s defunct aero road bike.

I want a return to the days when Specialized pushed the boundaries of aero road bike design and its prevailing dogma was “aero is everything”.

There’s nothing wrong with the Tarmac. The Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 is undoubtedly one of the best climbing bikes available, and a fine all-rounder too.

For me, though, the Tarmac formula is just a little safe. It’s a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ type bike.

That’s great if you’re only going to have one road bike – I even own a Giant TCR Advanced Pro Disc, a similarly racy, all-rounder road bike.

But in my dream garage (which, unlike that of my colleague, Warren Rossiter, currently exists only in my head), reports of the death of N+1 are greatly exaggerated. I’d love Specialized to bring us a slippery special in 2023.


When Specialized launched the Tarmac SL7 back in June 2020, much was made of its credentials as “one bike to rule them all”.

So much so, in fact, that the Venge was retired immediately.

The Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 (pictured) put the last Venge into retirement.
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Nestled away in the Tarmac SL7 press kit, though, was an interesting graph, with ‘Faster’ and ‘Lighter’ on its X and Y axis and a number of bikes plotted on it.

Helpfully, Specialized circled the Tarmac SL7 with a big red pen up in the top-right corner, indicating the Tarmac is both light and fast.

As is often the case with this type of marketing material, there’s no scale, so we probably shouldn’t read too much into it.

But it is interesting to note the Venge (specifically the third-generation S-Works Venge released in 2018) is further along the ‘Faster’ axis than the Tarmac SL7.

It seems even Specialized acknowledges the last Venge is (or was) a faster bike than the Tarmac SL7.

Can you spot the Venge on this graph?

Specialized and its team of engineers and experts undoubtedly knows more about winning bike races than me, but isn’t the goal of most bike races generally to be the fastest rider?

The Tarmac SL7 is, of course, lighter than the Venge.

Perhaps surprisingly, though, not by much – only around 160g on the frame, according to Specialized.

Given an identical build, that’s a difference that would be nigh on impossible to register, even in a hill climb or summit finish.

Of course, frame weight alone might not tell the full story, but we saw WorldTour-spec Venge builds (such as Elia Viviani’s Specialized S-Works Venge) weigh in at just over 7kg in the bike’s heyday.

Elia Viviani’s Specialized S-Works Venge (photographed at the 2019 Tour Down Under) weighed just 7.13kg, ready to race.
Jack Luke / Immediate Media

The Venge was hardly heavy in its most recent form, then.

We might also wonder if a few years in research and development could have brought that down by another 200g or so, in order to hit that magic 6.8kg figure (the UCI’s minimum weight limit) with the same frame shapes.

Could the Tarmac SL8 be more aero than the last Venge?

With the benefit of a few years of development and a set of updated UCI technical regulations, it’s entirely conceivable a Tarmac SL8 could surpass the aerodynamic performance of the last Venge.

If that were to happen, would it make my argument a moot point? Perhaps.

What I’m really arguing for, though, is Specialized returning to its days of pushing the boundaries of aerodynamic design.

Over the last few years, Specialized has backtracked somewhat on the “aero is everything” mantra, and gone down a different path.

First, the Venge was retired, then later that same year Specialized released the S-Works Aethos – a bike that is essentially the antithesis of the Venge.

The ‘aero’ S-Works Sub6 cycling shoe was also updated and pitched at the Aethos crowd in 2022, in the form of the S-Works 7 Lace.

The 2018 Specialized S-Works Venge ViAS Disc could easily pass for a new bike in 2023.

Though I didn’t ever get to ride one, the S-Works Venge ViAS holds a dear place in my heart.

It’s a great example of a time when a mainstream brand truly pushed the boundaries of what was possible with road bike design.

The original Venge ViAS, with its integrated rim brakes, was, admittedly, a machine with compromises.
Colin Levitch / Immediate Media

The Venge ViAS undoubtedly had its compromises (especially in its initial rim brake form), but I still love it for what it represents.

If the disc-brake version launched today, nearly eight years later, it would still look radical.

The S-Works TT 5 helmet released last year shows that Specialized isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of aero, even if it looks a bit whacky.

Given Specialized still has its own wind tunnel, and released the slightly whacky S-Works TT 5 time trial helmet with an integrated head sock last year, it’s clear the brand retains some of that spirit.

I’d like to see Specialized put it to good use on its bikes again.

If the Venge did reappear in 2023, would I buy one?

Despite everything I’ve just written, I almost certainly wouldn’t buy a new Venge.

Given the trajectory of bike prices in recent years, it’s highly unlikely I’d be able to afford a new Venge even if it did appear.

As mentioned earlier, I already have a great road bike, so it’s fair to say I don’t need one either.

The Venge platform earned its place at the top of the sport and Simon believes it deserves a comeback.
David Rome / Future Publishing

One can dream, though, and arguably it’s besides the point.

I don’t want brands to make cool new bikes just because I could potentially buy them.

I want the sport of cycling to be technologically exciting and progressive, in the same way Formula 1 cars exist in relation to everyday cars.

That’s partly because, as a tech journalist, I have a personal stake in it, but more so because I find it fascinating.


Specialized, I hope you’re listening.