Someone named Peter Sagan described the difference as palpable.
"It felt like a different bicycle because it is much stiffer, much
better handling… the reaction of the bicycle is much better," he
said of the new bike.
Now clearly he is a very well paid rider and as Specialized's
marquee rider he is unlikely to say it's sh*te. But it reminded me
of something I had heard from a Team Dimension data rider who was
discussing the new Cervelo R5. His main takeaway was that it rode
much 'nicer' and handling was much improved.
The Tarmac sounds the same - it's almost as if brands have come
full circle and started [re] focusing on how bikes ride. And that's
a welcome development for us weekend warriors……
How does it ride?
I've been lucky enough to test the standard S-Works Tarmac which
is £8500. The specification is pretty much a dream list:
Roval CLX50 carbon clincher wheels with ceramic bearings
Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9150 groupset
Carbon bars with a nice shape and super short 75mm reach
Super trick S-Works carbon crank with Praxis chainrings
Specialized's own Turbo Cotton 320tpi tyres in 26mm width
There is also a very limited edition Ultralight version at £9000
which has slightly lighter paint finish (just 10g!), 35mm wheels
(instead of 50mm) and EE brakes. Personally, I think 'my' model is
the better buy. Dura Ace brakes are sublime, and I think the 50mm
wheels better suit the all-round nature of this bike….
So far I have done three rides on it - so it's far too early for
a definitive opinion. But so far its pretty much as good as I could
My first ride was only meant to be an hour or so. By the time I
had built the bike up it was 6.30pm so I did not have a huge amount
of daylight left. But the more I rode it the more I enjoyed the
bike, and I ended up being out for three hours and returned in
pitch darkness without lights (to a domestic bollocking). It was
still worth it though…..
The thing that was most noticeable was its prowess as a
descender - the bike has the magical trait of being very stable yet
also incredibly precise. The wide carbon rims and 26mm tyres no
doubt help as well. Smooth roads and you fly along, but rough farm
roads do not batter you.
How does it compare to the Emonda SLR9? The new Emonda is a bike
I have ridden extensively, and it's no secret that I really like
it. The price of both is the same at £8500 (funny that…) and both
have very similar specs with full Di2 9170 and carbon wheels. The
Emonda out of the box weighed 5.8kgs which is the lightest bike I
have ever ridden.
All in the S-Works Tarmac is around 300g lighter than this
Tarmac (due to a slightly lighter frame, shallower wheels, crazy
light carbon saddle and the trick Bontrager brakes).
The Emonda is probably a slightly snappier climber as a result
(but we are splitting hairs). But the Tarmac feels a more versatile
racer - it's more aero and comes with 50mm carbon wheels vs the
35mm on the Emonda. Both would be cracking bikes, and on my testing
so far it feels that these latest generations of Emonda and Tarmac
have leapt ahead of bikes like the Cannondale Evo. Which makes
sense - such is the pace of bike design these days...
- Related: The evolution of the Tour de France race
So far, so thrilled.
I am off to Mallorca next week and taking the Tarmac and cannot
wait to put some miles on the Tarmac on those beautiful smooth
A much more in depth review is to come, meanwhile, here's a
quick video overview: