The all-new Specialized Tarmac SL7 is here and it’s RIP to the Venge

Flagship race bike goes disc-only, gets faster and more integrated

2021 Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7

The 2021 Specialized Tarmac SL7 is here and it marks the end of the great aero versus weight divide for the brand, with the new model replacing both the existing Tarmac SL6 and the more aero-focused Venge as the brand’s flagship race bike. 

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The new Tarmac SL7 is also disc-only, and the top-flight S-Works bike is claimed to weigh just 6.7kg in Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 spec. 

Riders wanting the halo model with the lightest frame will have a choice of two builds costing £10,499 each, or a £3,750 frameset.

There are three more affordable Tarmac SL7 models starting at £4,750. The previous generation Tarmac SL6 will remain in the range as the entry-level carbon option, with builds starting at £2,500 in the UK.

For full pricing including dollars and Euros, check out the range overview at the end of this article, and don’t miss our in-depth review of the S-Works Tarmac SL7 with SRAM Red eTap AXS

Specialized Tarmac SL7 | Here’s what you need to know 

  • Disc-only flagship race bike replaces both the Tarmac SL6 and the aero Venge
  • Top-spec S-Works model weighs a claimed 6.7kg for a 56cm bike
  • S-Works frame claimed to weigh 800g, cheaper models 920g
  • Claimed 45 seconds faster than the SL6 over 40km
  • Same unisex geometry as the SL6 and Venge
  • Clearance for 32mm tyres
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • 1×-friendly frame
  • Prices from £4,750 / $5,000 to £10,499 / $12,000
  • SL6 remains available as entry-level model starting at £2,500 / $2,000 (specs differ)

The Specialized Tarmac SL7: aero and light, not aero or light

According to Specialized, it no longer makes sense for the brand to produce separate aero and lightweight race bikes, instead it’s focusing on a “one bike to rule them all” that features a significant level of aero optimisation and a properly light frameset.

In its lightest build with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, the S-Works Tarmac SL7 is claimed to weigh 6.7kg for a 56cm bike. 

This would put it under the UCI’s 6.8kg minimum legal weight for racing, although, of course, Specialized’s figure does not include pedals, bottle cages and other accessories that racers can’t do without.

At first glance, the Tarmac SL7 could easily be mistaken for a Venge thanks to its clean cockpit and pronounced aero features.

Sagan riding the Tarmac SL7
The merging of the Tarmac and Venge lines means no more difficult bike choices for pros like Peter Sagan.
Kramon / Specialized

The design clearly owes a lot to both the Venge and the Tarmac SL6 it replaces, but the aesthetics lean slightly more to the Tarmac side, with a daintiness the Venge lacks.

According to Specialized, the aero improvements over the Tarmac SL6 primarily targeted the seat tube, seatstays, head tube and fork blades.

As a complete package, including that clean cockpit and some juicy new Roval Rapide CLX aero wheels, the SL7 is claimed to be very nearly as aero as the Venge (Specialized declined to provide numbers) and faster than the Tarmac SL6, saving a claimed 45 seconds over 40km.

At the same time, the top-spec S-Works SL7 frame is claimed to weigh just 800g for a 56cm with paint, exactly the same as the SL6-generation S-Works Tarmac Disc. By comparison, the outgoing S-Works Venge’s frame is claimed to weigh 960g. 

The new S-Works Tarmac gets Specialized’s latest and greatest FACT 12r carbon lay-up, while the cheaper Pro and Expert models use cheaper FACT 10r carbon, which apparently adds around 120g to a 56cm frame, for a claimed frame weight of 920g. 

But wait, I hear you cry, isn’t the new 2021 Trek Emonda SLR claimed to be sub-700g? It is, but that figure doesn’t include paint, so the Emonda may or may not be lighter in the real world.

Venge aesthetics, big clearances and a threaded bottom bracket

On paper, the Tarmac SL7’s geometry is identical to that of the Venge, and slightly lower in stack and longer in reach than the Tarmac SL6. 

Measurements (mm/degrees)44495254565861
Head tube length93102113131151178198
Head tube angle70.571.7572.57373.573.574
BB height266266266268268268268
BB drop74747472727272
Fork length, full366366366366366366366
Fork rake/offset47474744444444
Front centre572574577579592606613
Chainstay 410410410410410410410
Top tube length496509531541563577595
Standover height723735746768786808834
Seat tube length435447458475496517547
Seat Tube angle75.575.5747473.573.573
Crank length165165170172.5172.5175175
Handlebar width380380400420420440440
Stem length708090100100110110
Saddle width155155155143143143143

According to Specialized, the actual “fit numbers” haven’t changed at all between the Tarmac SL6 and SL7, and the apparent differences are down to the headset arrangement and the way stack and reach are measured.

Incidentally, Specialized no longer makes men and women’s-specific bikes – the Tarmac is considered unisex. 

Viewed in profile, the Tarmac SL7 looks like it splits the difference between the Tarmac SL6 and the Venge, with tubes slimmer than the latter, but larger than the former. 

Tarmac SL7 in the woods
The Tarmac SL7 is like a cross between the Tarmac SL6 and the Venge. This is one of two top-of-the-range models.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

The cut-out in the seat tube is more noticeable than it was previously – largely because it doesn’t hug the wheel as closely – while the seatpost is now straight for most of its length, with a bulging section near the top, rather than the smooth organic curve of the SL6.

It’s clearly a Tarmac, but the SL7 just looks that little bit more aggressive and Venge-like than before.

Road tech has continued to evolve at breakneck speed and the Tarmac SL7 is squarely on-trend in a number of key areas. 

While the SL6 was designed to take tyres up to 30mm, the SL7 takes things further, officially accepting 32mm rubber (on rims with an internal width of 21mm), although bikes will ship with 26mm tyres as standard.

Another spec detail that stands out is the move to a threaded bottom bracket, which is good news for home mechanics everywhere. 

Bottom bracket and rear tyre clearance
The threaded bottom bracket and generous tyre clearances will be a welcome sight to many.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

The Roval Rapide CLX wheels are seriously deep and wide. While there still isn’t consensus in the industry about bottom bracket standards, a return to threads has been a noticeable trend in some quarters, and Specialized already ditched press-fit on the 2021 Diverge.

The brand has opted for a standard 68mm-wide ISO (BSA) shell rather than the super-sized T47 platform favoured for the latest releases from Trek, including the 2021 Emonda. 

While press-fit bottom brackets can work well and offer theoretical advantages from an engineering perspective, here at BikeRadar we generally prefer threads because they’re simply easier to live with and less prone to causing mechanical headaches. 

Finally, the new Tarmac is 1×-friendly, and indeed Specialized is offering a 1× build as standard with SRAM Force eTap AXS. 

The front derailleur mount is removable and the hole it leaves can be blanked off, making for a very clean look. 

What about tubeless?

Wheel and tyre
The Roval Rapide CLX wheels are seriously deep and wide, but not tubeless-compatible.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

Given the hype around Specialized’s own S-Works Turbo RapidAir tubeless tyre that debuted in 2019, it might come as a surprise to some that the top-spec S-Works and Pro models in the Tarmac SL7 range do not feature tubeless-ready wheels.

We already noted that the brand seemed to be blowing hot and cold on tubeless tech with the launch of its clincher-only Roval wheels in June, and the Tarmac SL7 is specced with Roval Rapide CLX at S-Works level and the Rapide CL at Pro Level.

The line from Specialized about these wheels is that “by making them tube-type specific we were able to create lighter and better complete wheels systems for performance road riders. 

“To render these wheels tubeless would have required extra materials, and that extra mass would have outweighed the benefits of tubeless tires.”

It’s true that the claimed weights are impressively low – despite their substantial depths (51mm front / 60mm rear) and widths (21mm internal, 35mm external front, 30.7mm external rear) – the Roval Rapide CLX wheelset is claimed to weigh just 1,400g. 

Top view showing rim wider than tyre
The Roval front rim is significantly wider than the 26mm S-Works Turbo Cotton tyre, a benefit from an aero point of view.
Matthew Loveridge / Immediate Media

Nevertheless, given the state of the market, this feels like a strange decision, particularly for a brand that’s gone to such lengths to explain the importance of aerodynamics and rolling resistance versus weight. 

When pressed at the live-streamed Tarmac SL7 launch, Specialized’s representatives seem to acknowledge that things would most likely move towards tubeless in the future, so prospective Tarmac buyers might want to think hard about whether the S-Works and Pro builds on offer are sufficiently future-proof for their needs.

Clean cockpits are fast cockpits

Integration is all the rage and the Tarmac SL7 is a much cleaner looking bike than its predecessor. This is largely thanks to new cable routing that does away with the loops of hose/outer cable running from bar to frame, much like the arrangement used on the Venge.

The Aerofly II bar has massively wide tops and it’s matched to a slick stem that Specialized adapted from the Venge. The stem is a claimed 45g lighter than that of the previous Tarmac. 

By default, -6-degree stems are fitted across the range, but a more aggressive -12-degree option is available aftermarket. 

The cables are almost entirely hidden, running underneath the stem and entering the top of the headset spacer stack. 

We’ve seen similar designs on numerous recently launched bikes including the Trek Emonda, Rose Pro SL and Merida Scultura Endurance

It’s not quite as tidy as BMC’s smart ICS (‘Integrated Cable System’), but it’s designed to offer a similar trade-off in aero and practicality. 

While designs like this do add mechanical complexity (you’ll typically have to disconnect the hydraulic hoses to replace the upper headset bearing), you can carry out more everyday tasks such as swapping the stem and removing headset spacers without totally dismantling your bike. 

The Tarmac SL7 ships with a very clean removable plastic cover over the steerer clamp bolts, but Specialized supplies an alternative cover with the bike that allows you to place standard round headset spacers above the stem. 

This means you can lower the bars without having to commit and cut the fork steerer. 

You also aren’t locked into using Specialized’s own bar because the stem clamp is a standard 31.8mm. 

One really handy feature is the integrated out-front computer mount that includes adaptors to fit Garmin, Wahoo, Polar, Cateye and Bryton devices on top, and GoPros or Specialized lights underneath. 

But how does it ride?

Riding the SL7
The S-Works Tarmac SL7 is a fast and furious racer.
Felix Smith / Immediate Media

Specialized sent us an S-Works Tarmac SL7 with SRAM Red eTap AXS to ride ahead of the official launch.

This is one of two top-of-the range models – the other gets Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 – and it weighs 7.0kg on our scales for a size 54.

For full details of this remarkable machine including what it’s actually like to ride, head over to our in-depth review.

Specialized Tarmac SL7 prices, specs and weights

Here’s every bike in the new range, with images and claimed weights where we have them.

Bikes are available in Specialized dealers immediately. Note that Specialized is offering multiple paint-jobs for many models, not all are pictured here.

As detailed below, there is some variation in models between territories.

Update, 5 August 2020: Since the main launch of the new Tarmac, Specialized has also brought out a new Sagan Collection that includes both a complete S-Works Tarmac SL7 and an additional frameset option.

S-Work Tarmac – SRAM Red eTap AXS

S-Works Tarmac SL7 eTap
S-Work Tarmac – SRAM Red eTap AXS.
  • Weight: 7kg actual weight (54cm without pedals)
  • Frame: FACT 12r
  • Groupset: SRAM Red eTap AXS w/Quarq power meter
  • Wheels: Roval Rapide CLX carbon wheelset
  • Price: £10,500 / $12,000 / €11,499 / AU$18,000

S-Works Tarmac – Dura-Ace Di2

S-Works Tarmac – Dura-Ace Di2
S-Works Tarmac – Dura-Ace Di2.
  • Weight: 6.7kg claimed weight (56cm without pedals)
  • Frame: FACT 12r
  • Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 w/power meter
  • Wheels: Roval Rapide CLX carbon wheelset
  • Price: £10,500 / $12,000 / €11,499 / AU$18,000

S-Works Tarmac frameset

S-Works Tarmac frameset
S-Works Tarmac frameset.
  • Sizes: 49-61cm (varies with colour)
  • Frame: FACT 12r carbon (includes seatpost and stem)
  • Price: £3,750 / $5,000 / €4,199 / AU$7,500

Tarmac Pro – SRAM Force eTap AXS 1X

Tarmac Pro – SRAM Force eTap AXS 1x
Tarmac Pro – SRAM Force eTap AXS 1x
  • Weight:
  • Frame: FACT 10r
  • Groupset: SRAM Force eTap AXS 1× w/Quarq power meter
  • Wheels: Roval Rapide CL carbon wheelset
  • Price: £6,500 / $7,000 / €7,399 / AU$10,500

Tarmac Pro – Ultegra Di2

  • Weight: 7.3kg claimed weight
  • Frame: FACT 10r
  • Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Wheels: Roval Rapide CL carbon wheelset
  • Price: £6,250 / $7,000 / €6,999 / AU$10,500

Tarmac Expert – Ultegra Di2

  • Weight: 7.65kg claimed weight
  • Frame: FACT 10r
  • Groupset: Shimano Ultegra Di2
  • Wheels: DT Swiss R470 Disc alloy wheelset
  • Price: £4,750 / $5,000 / €5,299 / AU$7,500

Tarmac Expert

Tarmac Expert
Tarmac Expert.
  • Frame: FACT 10r
  • Groupset: Shimano Ultegra mechanical
  • Wheels: Roval C 38 Disc carbon wheelset
  • Price: £4,750 / $not sold / €4,999 / AU$not sold

Tarmac 10r frameset (not available in UK)

  • Weight: 920g claimed weight
  • Frame: FACT 10r carbon (includes seatpost and stem)
  • Price: £N/A / $3,000 / €2,999 / AU$4,500

The Tarmac SL6 ain’t dead

With the SL7 taking over the high-end, Specialized is keeping the SL6 for now as an entry-level carbon option, with two models featuring lower-spec FACT 9r carbon frames.

Tarmac Comp

Tarmac Comp
Tarmac Comp.
  • Weight: 7.9kg claimed weight
  • Frame: FACT 9r
  • Groupset: Shimano Ultegra mechanical
  • Wheels: DT R470 Disc alloy wheelset
  • Price: £3,200 / $3,499 / €3,499 / AU$5,000

Tarmac Sport

  • Weight: 8.1kg claimed weight
  • Frame: FACT 9r
  • Groupset: Shimano 105
  • Wheels: DT R470 Disc alloy wheelset
  • Price: £2,500 / $2,600 / €2,699 / AU$4,000
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Tarmac Base (not available in UK)

  • Weight: 8.65kg claimed weight
  • Frame: FACT 9r
  • Groupset: Shimano Tiagra
  • Wheels: Axis Sport Disc alloy wheelset
  • Price: £N/A / $2,000 / €2,199 / AU$N/A