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.
- Best bike: our buyer’s guide to which bicycle type you should buy in 2019
- Road bike groupsets: everything you need to know
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
- Sizes (*tested): 44, 49, 52, 54*, 56
- Weight: 8.09kg
- 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
- Chainstay: 40.5cm
- Seat tube: 49.8cm
- Top tube: 54.4cm
- Head tube: 14.3cm
- Bottom bracket drop: 7.2cm
- Wheelbase: 973mm
- Stack: 54.4cm
- Reach: 38.4cm
|Name||Women's Tarmac Disc Comp|
|Available Sizes||44cm 49cm 52cm 54cm 56cm|
|Stem||Specialized, 3D-forged alloy, 4-bolt, 7-degree rise|
|All measurements for frame size tested||54cm|
|Head Tube (cm)||14.3|
|Frame size tested||54cm|
|Top Tube (cm)||54.4|
|Seat Tube (cm)||49.8|
|Spoke Type||14g spokes|
|Wheelset||DT R470 Disc, sealed cartridge hubs|
|Shifters||Shimano Ultegra Disc|
|Brakes||Shimano Ultegra R8070, hydraulic disc|
|Seatpost||S-Works FACT carbon 27.2mm, 20mm offset|
|Saddle||Oura Comp, 155mm, nylon base, synthetic leather, hollow Cr-Mo rails|
|Rear Tyre||Turbo Pro, 60 TPI, folding bead, BlackBelt protection, 700x26mm|
|Rear Derailleur||Shimano Ultegra 8000|
|Handlebar||Specialized Shallow Drop, 6061, 70x125mm, 31.8mm clamp|
|Front Tyre||Turbo Pro, 60 TPI, folding bead, BlackBelt protection, 700x26mm|
|Frame Material||Tarmac SL6, FACT 9r carbon, Rider-First Engineered™|
|Fork||FACT 10r carbon, 12x100mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc|
|Cranks||Shimano Ultegra R8000, HollowTech 2, 11-speed|
|Chain||Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed|
|Cassette||Shimano Ultegra R8000, 11-speed, 11-30t|
|Bottom-bracket drop (cm)||7.2|