If you like your road riding towards the speed-focussed, racy end of the spectrum, then the carbon-framed, Ultegra-bedecked Tarmac Carbon Comp is one to take a seriously hard look at.
- The Specialized Women’s Tarmac Disc Comp is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub page.
Over the past couple of years, Specialized has shifted its approach when it comes to women’s specific design. Specialized counts Retul, a bike-fit system, as part of its portfolio. This means it has access to thousands of body measurements, sorted by gender as well as riding discipline and preferences.
Based on this, Specialized has determined that rather than needing distinct frame geometries, men and women will have the best fit and experience on a unisex frame that takes data from both into account, with sex-specific contact points.
The Oura Comp saddle is race-focussed, women’s specific and I found it comfortable Aoife Glass
So while there are ‘men’s’ and ‘women’s Tarmac models listed on the Specialized website, they share a frame and it’s only certain contact points such as the saddle, and the colour scheme, that differ between them.
The unisex Tarmac was launched in 2018 and replaced the Specialized Amira at Expert and S-Works level; 2019 is the first year that the Tarmac has also taken the place of the Amira at the Sport and Comp level tested here.
Specialized Women’s Tarmac Disc Comp frame
Internal cable routing gives the bike a clean silhouette Aoife Glass
The frame is constructed from Specialized’s FACT 9r carbon, which while not it’s top spec option still offers good strength to weight trade off. It’s combined with a FACT 10r carbon fork.
The whole build weighs in at an impressive 8.09kg for the size 54cm bike tested, due in part to that carbon frame, but excess weight is also shaved off the frame construction with Specialized’s ‘Rider First Engineered’ approach, which uses size-specific carbon layup.
Narrow seatstays that attach low on the seat tube give welcome compliance, which is aided by the carbon seat post.
Specialized Women’s Tarmac Disc Comp kit
A full Ultegra groupset provides great-feeling and reliable shifting Aoife Glass
The full Shimano Ultegra groupset provides smooth, reliable shifting. The 50/34t chainrings combined with an 11-30t cassette provide gearing that, while still race-focussed, has a few easier gears to make climbs that little bit easier.
Ultegra hydraulic disc brakes provide consistent, powerful stopping power in all weather conditions, and it’s a particular blessing on long descents because firstly it’s easier on the hands. Secondly, this bike does like a lick of speed, so it’s great to be able to let loose with full confidence in being able to drop speed when you need to.
An 11-30t cassette provides a good range of gears for climbing, sprinting and all-round charging Aoife Glass
The cockpit consists of an alloy stem and shallow drop bars. The S-Wrap Roubaix bar tape with sticky gel patches helps cushion the hands and arms from road chatter, but it would be good to see some carbon bars. Something to consider for future upgrades.
DT Swiss’s 450g R470 rims are mounted on Specialized sealed cartridge hubs, which are a quality build, and once built up with Specialized’s fine 26mm Turbo tyres make a decent, lighter than average package — although not a premium wheelset by any stretch.
They do represent a good balance of value to weight, so while an upgrade to a carbon set would be an investment to drop weight and improve stiffness for racing, if you’re looking for something for year-round performance and training rides, these are a good bet.
Specialized’s 26mm Turbo tyres on DT Swiss’s 450g R470 rims are a good balance of weight and value Aoife Glass
Turbo Pro tyres with a chunky 26mm width provide great grip and a plushness that further eases vibrations from the road.
Specialized Women’s Tarmac Disc Comp overall
While there are elements of spec and frame, such as the wheels and the slight frame flex, that detract from overall performance, this is still a very impressive ride.
It has a thrillingly zippy acceleration when you put the power to the pedals, yet smooths out the majority of road chatter resulting in a fast-feeling, stable ride.
Shallow-drop alloy handlebars make up the cockpit, with Ultegra hydraulic brake levers Aoife Glass
Secure cornering and a light weight make it an agile ride too.
It’s versatile and comfortable, but it is still a racy bike at its core, so while long rides are certainly on the cards, it’ll be QOM chasing rides rather than leisurely bimbles.
Specialized Women’s Tarmac Disc Comp specifications
Though it’s labelled ‘women’s’ this bike has a unisex Tarmac frame with women’s specific finishing kit Aoife Glass
Sizes (*tested): 44, 49, 52, 54*, 56
Frame: Tarmac SL6, FACT 9r carbon, Rider-First Engineered, threaded bottom bracket, clean routing, 12x142mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc
Fork: FACT 10r carbon, 12x100mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc
Chainset: Shimano Ultegra R8000, HollowTech 2, 11-speed
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra R8000, 11-speed, 11-30t
Chain: Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed
Mech: Shimano Ultegra 8000
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra Disc
Wheelset: DT R470 Disc, sealed cartridge hubs, 14g spokes
Tyres: Turbo Pro, 60 TPI, folding bead, BlackBelt protection, 700x26mm
Stem: Specialized, 3D-forged alloy, four-bolt, 7-degree rise
Bar: Specialized Shallow Drop, 6061, 70x125mm, 31.8mm clamp
Saddle: Oura Comp, 155mm, nylon base, synthetic leather, hollow Cr-Mo rails
Seatpost: S-Works FACT carbon 27.2mm, 20mm offset
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra R8070, hydraulic disc
Specialized Women’s Tarmac Disc Comp geometry
Seat angle: 74 degrees
Head angle: 73 degrees
Seat tube: 49.8cm
Top tube: 54.4cm
Head tube: 14.3cm
Bottom bracket drop: 7.2cm
BikeRadar would like to thank Stolen Goat, Lazer, Northwave and Effetto Mariposa for their help and support during our Bike of the Year test.