Specialized reveals Tarmac SL6 range

Designed to be more aero, lightweight and versatile than any Tarmac that's gone before

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.

Aero improvements

The win(d) tunnel was one of the key components in the development of the new Tarmac
The win(d) tunnel was one of the key components in the development of the new Tarmac

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 tube
The new D-Shaped seatpost flows cleanly into the kammtail shaped seat tube

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 bike
The new Tarmac has already been ridden and raced by Bora. Specialized sponsored athletes also played a big role in the development of the bike

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 eTap
The down tube internal cable routing can be adapted for plenty of options or this blanking plate can be used if you're running eTap

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 brakes
Direct mount brakes offer improved tyre clearance over standard rim brakes

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.

Models

Women’s S-Works Tarmac

The new womens S-Works is available in two complete builds as well as a frameset
The new womens S-Works is available in two complete builds as well as a frameset

  • S-Works Tarmac SL6 FACT 12r carbon, sizes 44-56cm, S-Works FACT carbon fork
  • S-Works SL bar and stem
  • Shimano Dura-Ace direct mount brakes
  • Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
  • S-Works carbon crankset
  • Roval CLX50 wheels with Specialized Turbo Cotton 26mm tyres
  • S-Works FACT carbon Tarmac seatpost
  • Price: £9,000 / $TBC / AU$TBC

Women’s Tarmac Expert

The Expert level women's bike comes with Ultegra Di2
The Expert level women's bike comes with Ultegra Di2

  • Tarmac SL6 FACT 10r carbon
  • S-Works FACT carbon fork
  • Specialized Pro SL stem, Expert bar
  • Shimano Ultegra
  • Roval SLX24 wheelset with S-Works Turbo 26mm tyres
  • S-Works FACT carbon Tarmac seatpost, Oura Expert Gel saddle
  • Price: £3,500 / $TBC / AU$TBC

Women’s S-Works Tarmac frameset

Although the women's frameset is exactly the same as the standard Tarmac, Specialized does offer smaller sizes and two women's specific builds. This is the S-Works model with Di2
Although the women's frameset is exactly the same as the standard Tarmac, Specialized does offer smaller sizes and two women's specific builds. This is the S-Works model with Di2

  • S-Works Tarmac SL6 FACT 12r carbon, sizes 44-56cm
  • S-Works FACT carbon fork
  • S-Works FACT carbon Tarmac seatpost
  • Price: £3,250 / $TBC / AU$TBC

Men’s S-Works Tarmac Ultralight

The Ultralight S-Works Tarmac gets special ultralight paint, ee brakes, CLX32 wheels, cotton tyres, and a carbon S-Works chainset alongside Dura-Ace Di2
The Ultralight S-Works Tarmac gets special ultralight paint, ee brakes, CLX32 wheels, cotton tyres, and a carbon S-Works chainset alongside Dura-Ace Di2

  • S-Works Tarmac SL6 FACT 12r carbon, sizes 49-61cm, S-Works FACT carbon fork
  • S-Works SL bar and stem
  • eecycleworks direct mount brakes
  • Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
  • S-Works carbon crankset
  • Roval CLX32 wheels with Specialized Turbo Cotton 26mm tyres
  • S-Works FACT carbon Tarmac seatpost, S-Works Toupe saddle
  • Price: £9,500 / $TBC / AU$TBC

Men’s S-Works Tarmac

  • As above, but with conventional paint, Dura-Ace direct mount brakes and Roval CLX50 wheelset
  • S-Works FACT carbon Tarmac seatpost, S-Works Toupe saddle
  • Price: £9,000 / $TBC / AU$TBC

Men’s Tarmac Pro

  • Tarmac SL6 FACT 10r carbon
  • S-Works FACT carbon fork
  • Specialized Pro SL stem, Expert bar
  • Shimano Ultegra Di2 with Ultegra direct mount brakes
  • S-Works carbon crankset
  • Roval CL50 wheelset with S-Works Turbo 26mm tyres
  • S-Works FACT carbon Tarmac seatpost, Toupe Expert Gel saddle
  • Price: £5,750 / $TBC / AU$TBC

Men’s Tarmac Expert

  • Tarmac SL6 FACT 10r carbon
  • S-Works FACT carbon fork
  • Specialized Pro SL stem, Expert bar
  • Shimano Ultegra
  • Roval SLX24 wheelset with S-Works Turbo 26mm tyres
  • S-Works FACT carbon Tarmac seatpost, Toupe Expert Gel saddle
  • Price: £3,500 / $TBC / AU$TBC

Men’s S-Works Tarmac frameset

  • S-Works Tarmac SL6 FACT 12r carbon, sizes 49-61cm, five colour options
  • S-Works FACT carbon fork
  • S-Works FACT carbon Tarmac seatpost
  • Price: £3,250 / $TBC / AU$TBC

Men’s S-Works Tarmac Sagan Superstar frameset

The S-Works Superstar limited edition Peter Sagan frameset
The S-Works Superstar limited edition Peter Sagan frameset

  • S-Works Tarmac SL6 FACT 12r carbon, sizes 49-61cm
  • S-Works FACT carbon fork
  • S-Works FACT carbon Tarmac seatpost
  • Price: £3,350 / $TBC / AU$TBC

Men’s S-Works Tarmac Ultralight frameset

  • S-Works Tarmac SL6 FACT 12r carbon, sizes 49-61cm, 10g paint finish
  • S-Works FACT carbon fork
  • S-Works FACT carbon Tarmac seatpost
  • Price: £3,450 / $TBC / AU$TBC
Robin Wilmott

Tech Writer, Tech Hub, UK,
Robin began road cycling in 1988, and with mountain bikes in their infancy, mixed experimental off-road adventures with club time trials and road races. Cyclocross soon became a winter staple, and has remained his favourite form of competition. Robin has always loved the technical aspect of building and maintaining bikes, and several years working in a good bike shop only amplified that. Ten years as a Forensic Photographer followed, honing his eye for detail in pictures and words. He has shot at the biggest pro events since the '90s, and now he's here, drawing on all those experiences to figure out what makes a bike or component tick.
  • Discipline: Road, cyclocross, time trials
  • Beer of Choice: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

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