Update (06/08/23): Specialized has now officially launched the new Tarmac SL8. Read everything you need to know about the Specialized Tarmac SL8, then check out our senior technical editor Ashley Quinlan’s initial ride impressions in our Specialized Tarmac SL8 review.
The new Specialized Tarmac SL8 has been spotted at the World Championships in Glasgow.
Riders including Remco Evenepoel have been seen riding the yet-to-be-released race bike as they prepare for the World Championship road race this coming weekend.
Here’s what we know so far.
A new head tube
As we saw when the bike originally leaked on the Weight Weenies forum (our original story runs below), the overall silhouette of the SL8 is similar to the previous-generation SL7 with a few key changes.
The new SL8 features an extended head tube that protrudes over the fork crown. This is similar to the head tube of the Cannondale SystemSix.
The steerer tube also sits further back within the headtube. The long-discontinued Specialized Venge featured a similar design.
The seatpost also appears to be thinner than the SL7’s seatpost. This could have been done to smooth the airflow between the rider’s thighs.
Beyond that, the SL8 appears to be broadly similar to the outgoing SL7.
The rear end, in particular, is very familiar, with aggressively dropped seatstays and fairly slim chainstays. It’s possible both have been slimmed down versus the SL7, but it’s hard to say definitively from the photos we have to hand.
Remco Evenepoel’s Specialized Tarmac SL8
The defending World Champion’s Specialized Tarmac SL8 for the 2023 World Championships has a similar spec to his WorldTour bike.
The leaked photos from a Soudal-QuickStep team camp showed bikes built with standard two-piece cockpits. Evenepoel’s bike features the new Roval Rapide integrated cockpit, which launched in June.
His Roval Rapide CLX II wheels are tubeless ready, but the Belgian star uses the older clincher S-Works Turbo Cotton tyres with inner tubes.
Original story from 14 June 2023 runs below
What appears to be a new Specialized Tarmac SL8 has leaked online.
According to screenshots and photographs posted on the Weight Weenies forum, the new bike is being tested by WorldTour team Soudal-QuickStep, ahead of an official launch.
While the overall silhouette of the new bike appears to be similar to the current Specialized Tarmac SL7, there are some notable changes.
Updates to the frameset look to include adjustments to the shape of both the head tube and fork, as well as a notable thinning down of the seatstays and a change to the seatpost.
Here’s what we know so far.
A Venge–Tarmac hybrid?
Although the current Tarmac SL7 is already something of a Venge-lite (the Venge is Specialized’s now-discontinued aero road bike), this new bike appears to take this design philosophy even further.
The head tube, for example, has a notable extension in front of the steerer tube.
As on the 3T Strada ICR, this is likely intended to increase the effective aerofoil chord length for an aerodynamic benefit.
The new fork also bears more than a passing resemblance to the Venge fork, with what appears to be a wider crown and slightly deeper blades on the legs.
No integrated cockpit (yet)
When Roval recently launched its new Rapide integrated cockpit (which we first spotted on Lorena Wiebes bike in December 2022), we assumed this was likely designed for a new Tarmac SL8.
While one leaked image (which looks like something from an internal presentation) does appear to show the new bike equipped with this cockpit, all of the bikes in the photograph from the team camp have non-integrated setups.
Notably, the stem looks very much like that used on the Tarmac SL7.
If the Roval Rapide cockpit is compatible with both the old and new bikes, that suggests Specialized is sticking with a similar, if not identical, headset and internal cable routing arrangement.
After a recall in 2021, Specialized revised this system to beef up the steerer expander plug and reduce the likelihood of the compression ring (which also served as a cable and brake hose guide) damaging the fork after frontal impacts.
Given this, perhaps Specialized wants to stick with a system it knows is effective, rather than starting again from scratch.
An unusually large amount of headset spacers left above each stem on all of the bikes perhaps suggests Specialized has tweaked the geometry of the new frame.
Given pro riders are typically very picky about their bike fits, they may be trialing the new bike with non-integrated setups for quicker and easier adjustments, before eventually cutting the steerer tube down for a clean finish.
Either way, this also appears to confirm the new Tarmac SL8 will be compatible with both integrated and non-integrated handlebar setups, as the SL7 is.
This should satisfy both the demands of riders who prefer the clean aesthetics and improved aerodynamics of an integrated setup, and those of riders with bike fits or equipment tastes not catered for by the Roval Rapide cockpit.
A skinny rear end
At 7kg for a size 54cm, the S-Works Tarmac SL7 was no heavyweight on the scales.
Add in pedals, bottle cages and any other accessories, though, and it’s still easy to end up a fair way off the UCI’s minimum bike weight limit of 6.8kg.
Given this, it looks like Specialized has made a concerted effort to slim down the rear of the bike, where aerodynamic performance matters less.
The top tube appears to have been slimmed slightly (although not to the extremes of the recently launched Factor 02 VAM), but the seatstays see the most extreme change.
These pencil-thin stays, which seem to attach to the seat tube slightly further down (potentially for improved rear-end compliance), are almost reminiscent of those seen on the Specialized S-Works Aethos.
With a top-spec, S-Works Aethos Dura-Ace Di2 weighing just 6.1kg in a size 54cm, could Specialized be applying lessons learned from that bike’s design and construction to the new Tarmac SL8?
Given the cycling world’s never-ending obsession with weight, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
Two new seatposts
With the move to the latest generations of wireless and semi-wireless electronic groupsets, which don’t require junction boxes, Specialized seems to be ditching the integrated port that features on the Tarmac SL7 seatpost.
Presumably, this also helps save a little weight, too.
The team camp photo also reveals Specialized is likely to offer an inline and setback version of the seatpost.
When will the Specialized Tarmac SL8 be released?
As normal with these kinds of leaks, Specialized is tight-lipped on what this bike is and when it will be officially launched.
Given the bikes seen in the team camp photograph are painted in team colours with the Soudal-QuickStep ‘Wolf Pack’ logo adorning the top tube, it appears this is much more than a mere prototype.
The team’s star rider, Remco Evenepoel, is scheduled to ride the Clásica San Sebastián later this month, ahead of the UCI Road World Championships in August.
Might we see him riding this new bike then? We’ll keep our eyes peeled.