The all-new Specialized Women's S-Works Tarmac is a bike with speed at its heart
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.
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.
The Tarmac replaces the top-end Amira women’s bikesOliver Woodman / Immediate Media Co
The S-Works version of the Tarmac has a FACT 12r carbon frameOliver Woodman / Immediate Media Co
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.
Specialized has dropped the seatstays to allow more compliance for greater comfort on the seat tubeOliver Woodman / Immediate Media Co
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.
The women’s specific Oura Pro saddle has carbon rails and a carbon baseOliver Woodman / Immediate Media Co
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.
The ‘new unisex’ unveiled is an updated version based on fit data from both men and womenOliver Woodman / Immediate Media Co
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.
The S-Works Tarmac has Shimano Dura Ace Di2 gearing with an S-Works carbon fibre crank setOliver Woodman / Immediate Media Co
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.
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.
Roval CLX 50 wheels combine 50mm carbon rims with Roval AF1 hubs and CeramicSpeed bearingsOliver Woodman / Immediate Media Co
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.
It’s currently stocked in various retailers such as Evans Cycles, Tredz, Sigma Sport and Specialized dealers, and available for sale immediately.