Words: Miles Baker-Clarke | Photos: Specialized
The Specialized S-Works Tarmac is to cycling what the Ferrari 412 T2 is to motorsport, one of the most successful machines in modern history. The next iteration of that golden lineage is always going to draw the gaze of the cycling world. So here you are, poised to dive into Specialized's latest 'gamechanger'. Did the big S just replace their quiver of arrows with a spear? Let's see.
The 2019 Specialized S-Works Venge was a platform of refinement for the American bike giant. Gone were the wavy lines, the wibbly-wobbly curvature of the frame and the frankly unworkable integrated rim brakes on the Venge Vias. In its place, a sleek, attractive aero bike with enough versatility to thrive in the mountains as well as on the flats. As an owner of one myself, you'll hopefully forgive my bias and after all, the rap sheet of Bora-Hansgrohe & Deceuninck Quick-Step combined do not lie. But why was that bike so important? Because it introduced many of the features that we now see on this, the 2021 S-Works Tarmac SL7 – the seventh iteration of one of the winningest bikes in the pro-peloton.
It works well on the Venge, so why not on the Tarmac
Specialized have started at the top – well, the front to be precise, introducing the same integrated cockpit found on the Venge, to hide the cables and slim the frontal area. Next for some attention, the headtube and fork, followed by the seattube and seatstays - all tweaked to match the Venge for aerodynamics, watt for watt. In a package that weighs no more than the Tarmac SL6 – 800g for the frame – the SL7 is claimed to save 35 seconds against its predecessor over 40km, impressive stuff.
The frontal area of the SL7 is slim and tidy
In 2020, integration is the name of the game. Cables dangling out the front are out, sleek two-piece cockpits are chic. Specialized achieves this using the same Aerofly II handlebar as found on the Venge, routing the cables beneath the stem and through the headtube for the incredibly clean and now well-coveted look of a cable-less frontal area.
Other aero evolutions are a D-shaped seatpost housing the di2 junction box, flush aerodynamic through axles and staggered bottle cage mounts on the down tube – subtle but notable improvements, championing Specialized's dedication to their well-worn 'aero is everything' tagline. The S-Works Tarmac has grown up, it's learning. Assimilating the refined aerodynamics of the Venge and some of the tyre clearance of the Roubaix while remaining unmistakenly a Tarmac. Time will tell if the success of its predecessors runs through its veins (or hoses...), but at least there is a fairly well known, three-week stage race starting soon to serve as a testing ground.