There’s a new Specialized Tarmac in town. It’s designated the SL6 to continue Specialized’s previous naming protocol, but the company just want it to be called Tarmac, giving an all-embracing, familial feel.
Rather than building an aero, climbing or all-round bike, Specialized wanted the new Tarmac to be more versatile and equally effective on all-road terrain.
This rider first engineered Tarmac range uses specific carbon layups for different frame sizes. Instead of the SL5’s differing fork sizes across frame sizes, the SL6 fork has a short crown height and 1.5” lower bearing, plus the steerer tube’s internal taper varies by frame size.
Chris Yu, director of integrated technologies at Specialized explains that the new Tarmac has been influenced by what the brand’s learnt from the pros who have ridden the bike to success over the years. “If we are honest, racing is getting crazier, in terms of demands. The exact same three week stage race is getting faster on the flats, harder on the descents and steeper on the climbs, all the extremes have gotten more extreme.
“Up to now we have served our riders well with different bikes, sometimes the ideal would be different bikes on the same stage, so as Tarmac is racing it really has to be at the top of its game on most terrain,” he continued.
The win(d) tunnel was one of the key components in the development of the new TarmacSpecialized
Comparing the new Tarmac with other current non-aero bikes of a similar weight, Specialized says it’s 45 seconds faster over 10km. When compared to other bikes with similar aerodynamic performance, the Tarmac frameset is 200g lighter. The brand says it’s the equivalent of swapping from box section aluminium rims to deep aero carbon rims in frameset evolution terms.
The new D-Shaped seatpost flows cleanly into the kammtail shaped seat tubeSpecialized
The major areas for development were the fork, dropped seatstays, seat tube and seatpost shaping. The result sees a slimmer, lighter fork, dropped seatstays for increased rear compliance, a smaller rear triangle, improved aerodynamics and a D-shaped seatpost with two different carbon layups. This makes it stiffer in the lower half to deal with clamping forces and more compliant in the upper half for improved comfort.
Modern racers want a bike that at least has aerodynamic consideration within its design, so Specialized looked for aero benefits that wouldn’t compromise the Tarmac’s historical qualities or add weight.
Light weight considerations
The new Tarmac has already been ridden and raced by Bora. Specialized sponsored athletes also played a big role in the development of the bikeSpecialized
With a claimed weight of 733g (+/- 20g to allow for manufacturing tolerances) for a 56cm S-Works frame, this new Tarmac is the lightest frame Specialized has ever made.
Yu says: “The one main criticism we had with the previous Tarmac from the pros was weight. It’s still a light bike, but once you strap on all the power meter, bottles, cages, non-standard parts (from other sponsors) it’s not quite the same, so that had to be a big consideration on the new bike.”
Using a new construction method and means of designing new tube shapes, 30g was shaved from the bottom bracket shell alone. This was achieved by removing the built-in carbon sleeve and internal cable guide tray, and using a light, removable sleeve instead.
The down tube internal cable routing can be adapted for plenty of options or this blanking plate can be used if you’re running eTapSpecialized
The down tube now only has a single cable port on top of the tube, behind the head tube, with various cable guide or blanking plates available — depending on the drivetrain used.
The brakes are now direct mount front and rear, which Specialized tells us is for improved tyre clearance, better aerodynamics and improved brake performance, especially on modern, wider carbon rims.
Direct mount brakes offer improved tyre clearance over standard rim brakesSpecialized
There’s no rear brake bridge, just a carbon booster plate fixed with titanium bolts. The mech hanger has been made lighter and the new bike has clearance for up to 30mm tyres.
The first bike in the new range that will be available is the S-Works Tarmac Ultralight, and there will only be 600 released globally.
The complete bike comes with ee brakes, Roval CLX32 wheelset, a special lightweight paint weighing only 10g, and reflective decals. With the S-Works carbon crank and Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 it’s claimed to have a total weight of 6.2kg.
The range includes four complete men’s bikes, two complete women’s machines, three frameset options for men and one women.
Women’s S-Works Tarmac
The new womens S-Works is available in two complete builds as well as a framesetSpecialized