[Test Ride Report-2021] Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 Review

Specialized finally released the latest Tarmac SL7, if you have not followed this information, it does not matter, you can look at the official release of Specialized Tarmac SL7 design concept and the new bike’s handsome photos.
 
If you feel that reading the official narrative is too formalized, no problem, we have made a detailed review for you.
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    Technical Impression

    Compared to the SPECIALIZED TARMAC SL6 released three years ago, if the first time to consider, we can hardly call the SL7 the orthodox sequel to the SL6, because from the SL2, the TARMAC series as a representative of the professional large group of cars, it is more in pursuit of the ultimate manipulation (a) car and light experience, but the SL7 in maintaining its traditional characteristics, while the collection of VENGE aerodynamic characteristics – the first look like VENGE SL7 net weight of 6.7KG (top Di2), lower than the UCI standard of 6.8KG (if you do not join the lock pedal, theoretically SL7 can not be on the UCI races …)
    If you use the words of Cameron Piper, product manager of SPECIALIZED, you do not want to compromise the rider, that is, to have good control performance, but also has a lightweight weight, in short, let the rider for that more and more climbing is no longer afraid, then from another point of view, it is called SL7 or justified!

    Tarmac SL7 vs VENGE vs SL6

    weights of each generation Tarmac and venge
    According to SPECIALIZED’s data chart, the TARMAC SL7 is second only to its predecessor, the SL6, in terms of weight and lightness among the current mainstream SPECIALIZED products. but in terms of speed, the SL7, which incorporates VENGE technology, is 45 seconds faster than the SL6 per forty kilometers in standard conditions, and I can already feel that in a climbing condition with nearly the same power output, the Alaphilippe will How arrogant …… Of course, other big manufacturers will certainly not sit still, so I look forward to other brands will not launch similar products next. Well, on to the SL7.
     
    The answer from SPECIALIZED is that they used all the (okay, I’m exaggerating) speed-friendly technology on the SL7, using FACT 12r bikebon fiber for the body, integrating the Aerofly II handlebar and Tarmac grips, including the typical internal alignment, aero-style head tube, rear fork, fork and pivot, and upper fork. The SL7 is more than a notch up from the SL series, and even Peter Sagan will use the SL7 to compete for the green jersey, which shows the confidence of SPECIALIZED.
     
    To be honest, when I first saw the SL7, I didn’t think it was that amazing, of course I’m not saying it’s not beautiful, SPECIALIZED’s products are never lacking in value, but the SL7 seemed to me at first to be a pretty new “VENGE”, and I privately spat with other media editors that “Is this the new VENGE called TARMAC instead?” But after listening to the technical staff and actually experiencing it, I can deeply understand that they are in line with the words of Nadia, the materials engineer: “This is a project that engineers love to hate: hate because the indicators seem to contradict each other, love because such a challenge allows us to stand on the design foreword, and this is what we did for the new TARMAC .”

    Specialized Tarmac SL7 Aero Test

    performance chart of tarmac
    In the aerodynamic test chart, the SL7 is slightly slower than the VENGE, lighter and heavier than the SL6, in the overall two-class product range, the SL7 can be said to be unique, emm, suddenly remember, can not be completely unique, after all, last year’s 2019 Specialized Roubaix is a hope to unify the two major performance chariot, although the positioning with the SL7 is still very different.

    Specialized S-Works Aerofly II Handlebar

    S-works Aerofly II handlebar with cycling computer mount
    S-works Aerofly II handlebar integrated stem
    The most like VENGE than the aerodynamic design of the handlebar part, not using the integrated handlebar SL2 has a slightly retro feel, but the split in my opinion after the design can more perfectly match the internal alignment design and other redundant parts of the appearance, integration does not mean the most simple, but a little too much like about the individual, while ignoring the overall combination of concepts.
     
    In addition to the split design can also be used with different handlebars (the new Tarmac handlebar has two angles, respectively -6 and -12, of which -6 from 70 mm to 130 mm and other seven subdivision length, -12 has 110 mm to 140 mm and other four different lengths, can be purchased separately), so that different body types or different users can follow their most suitable size to match (the new Tarmac handlebar using the general 31.8 mm caliber) The new Tarmac handlebar is compatible with the mainstream handlebars on the market.
     
    In terms of weight, the S-Works Aerofly II weighs only 235 grams (42 cm) and the Tarmac handlebar is claimed to be twice as fast as a normal handlebar set (if applied to the SL7).
    S-works Aerofly II handlebar full internal cable route
    The front side of the bike is extremely clean and aerodynamic, and the removable front derailleur mount is a welcome relief for those who are compulsive about the ultra-simple look of the Free Foil. In addition to the front fork, the Free Foil tubular collection is used on all body parts.

    The Carbon Stack Design of Tarmac SL7

    carbon stack designs of tarmac SL7
    After hundreds of stacked designs, thousands of iterations of analysis, and continuous optimization to get the current form.
    S-works Tarmac SL7 red painting frame set

    The Rapide CLX wheelset

    Specialized Tarmac SL7 full bike
    The Rapide CLX wheelset is the one that caught my eye the most. The twin wheels weigh only 1420 grams because SPECIALIZED wanted to “simplify” it, yes, just to be lighter and faster. The front and rear wheels are completely different in design, combining, according to SPECIALIZED, the speed of the CLX 64 and the weight of the CLX 32. As a universal multi-purpose wheelset, it has less drag than most 65mm wheelsets and 25% more stability in the wind than the CLX 50. This means that whether it’s climbing or sprinting the Roval Rapide CLX can hopefully be solved “in one tire” or even better.

    Tarmac SL7 internal and external accessories

    The SL7 has three types of bowl set covers for three different configurations, which can be distinguished by looking at the alignment holes, including electronic shifting, mechanical shifting and general purpose covers (for normal handlebars and round washers, compatible with electronic and mechanical shifting). The SL7 has 142*12 and 100*12 barrel axles and is compatible with Shimano flush mount disc brakes as standard. The seat uses S-Works Power Mirror, and the outer tire is a standard 26mm Turbo Cotton (220g net weight), and a maximum of 32mm wide tires can be installed.
     
    As for external accessories, the SL7 comes with a watch holder that is compatible with all the major brand watches on the market (including Garmin, WAHOO, BRYTON, etc.). There is also a mount to install GoPro cameras, Flux lights, etc.
     
    Models and prices are as showing on their website, it is worth mentioning that SPECIALIZED said there is no additional PRO riders exclusive version, consumers buy the product will be the same as PRO riders.

    No more Venge

    The Venge was mainly air-powered before, but the optimized design of air-power has been integrated into the Tarmac SL7, and the positioning of the Venge has been replaced. Maybe in the wind tunnel test, the current top-level Venge may still perform a little better than the Tarmac SL7, but its advantage is no longer so obvious, so Specialized said that there will be no new Venge in the future.

    BSA locking teeth specification BB

    Like TREK, Specialized’s new Tarmac SL7 has changed from the original press-in specification to a “toothed” BB with the BSA specification, which has existed for a long time and is extremely versatile.
     
    Dual-use “disc brake” frame with mechanical and electronic speed change
     
    The new Tarmac SL7 only has disc brakes, so welcome to the era of full disc braking. If you look at the newer high-end road bikes this year, all of them have disc brakes, so those who love rim-brake road bikes will have fewer and fewer choices. The author can only think of the GIANT TCR at the moment.
     
    The new Tarmac SL7 frame retains both mechanical and electronic transmission alignment designs, while the previous generation SL6 top-of-the-line frame only had one option for electronic transmission.

    Tire Width Allowance Increased

    The Tarmac SL7 has a maximum tire width tolerance of 32mm, a 2mm increase over the previous generation SL6 disc brake version.

    Test Riding Impression of Tarmac SL7

    Specialized Tarmac SL7 full bike test

    Weight of Tarmac SL7 full bike

    It is reported that the frame of this size 56, including paint and without fork, is 800 grams, while the weight of the previous generation, the top SL6 of the same size, is about 730 grams, which is slightly more weight, but the SL7 is a combination of air and climbing bikes (that is, except for Roubaix and Gravel).
     
    With other peripherals, the new Tarmac SL7 can easily reach the UCI’s lower weight limit of 6.7kg, and it doesn’t need to be paired with an incredibly light low-frame wheelset in order to challenge this weight, a size 56 Tarmac SL7 with a SRAM Red AXS or SHIMANO Dura-ACE Di2 plus a Roval Rapide CLX. A size 56 Tarmac SL7 with SRAM Red AXS or SHIMANO Dura-ACE Di2 and Roval Rapide CLX wheelset would be about right. All in all, with a frame of 800 grams, it’s not too difficult to get the bike to within 7 kg.
     
    Besides, I think we really don’t need to pay too much attention to the weight of the bike, because in fact, even if a bike with a total weight of 7kg is compared to a bike with a total weight of 9kg, it will not affect the performance significantly for the average person. If you don’t believe me, you can try to put the data into Bike Calculator to see, it is the rider himself that really affects the performance significantly, I really don’t think there is much point to worry about the weight of 100 or 200 grams. Occasionally, I see people share that they think the ghost is dragging when the wheelset is 50 or 100 grams more uphill, I really think this is a bit too much ……
     
    The top of the line SL7 uses Specialized’s top of the line FACT 12r bikebon, the next level PRO uses FACT 10r bikebon, the top and bottom of the line frames are made from the same set of molds and look identical. 920 grams
     
    Tarmac SL7 Pro – Ultegra Di2: The full weight of the 56 size without pedals is about 7.3 kg.
     
    Tarmac SL7 – Dura Ace Di2: the full weight of the 56 size without pedals is about 6.7 kg

    Paint Job

    Specialized Tarmac SL7 full bike Di2
    I think Specialized’s top model is very beautiful in paint design, and the color is very bold. The bike’s tail section is painted by hand, which means that even if you choose this style of paint, each bike will be slightly different and unique. 
    Specialized Tarmac SL7 full bike bright green highlights
    ▲The color of the bike is not exactly black, Specialized has added a bit of bright green to the outer layer of the protective paint, which reflects a bright green shine when reflecting.

    How does it feel to ride Tarmac SL7?

    How does it feel to ride …… Honestly, the author’s feeling is that the bike is very light and easy to ride, so that I ride until I am very tired. The disc brakes launched in the last year or two really don’t have the feeling of heavy dragging, compared with my 7.7kg SCOTT SOLACE 10, the Tarmac SL7 is really the same as paper. The instant weight reduction of 7~800 grams is indeed a great feeling.
    Specialized Tarmac SL7 full bike first impression
    The first feeling on the bike is that the cushion is really wide …… Now Specialized is equipped with a 155mm wide cushion for 52 and below the whole bike, I am a bit uncomfortable with 143mm. Not enough consumers do not have to worry, buy Specialized bike is to replace the width of the cushion suitable for their own. In addition, the SL7 PRO is also equipped with SW Aerofly II pneumatic handlebar, the evaluation of this handlebar has been more polarized. A part of the dislike of the upper handle is too wide, the grip is not good; but I personally still quite like this handlebar, I think the upper bending position is very wide and comfortable, with TT posture ride also more smooth.
     
    The SL7 is really fast on the flats and downhills, mainly due to aero gains. I personally think the aero gain is mainly attributed to the excellent performance of the Rapide wheelset. Seriously, the aero optimization on the frame, for sure, can not be tested for a while, only in the long-term use, through the data comparison with the ride of the old model (and also similar configuration), to come to a conclusion
     
    Handling and rigidity, are very familiar feelings. Based on the experience of riding the 10R FACT bike on SL6, the rigidity and comfort of the frame will not be significantly different from the 12R SW frame, but mainly the weight difference. This Tarmac SL7 PRO still maintains the tradition of high rigidity, and the power is very direct, which makes people have the desire to attack when climbing. However, the front brake slightly scuffs the disc when shaking the bike significantly.
     
    Although the Rapide wheelset is slightly more draggy than the previous CL50 and CLX50 when climbing, it is a strong climber when compared to disc brake wheelsets with the same frame height. In less than 10% of gentle slopes, there is no obvious feeling of heavy dragging, so one can’t help but guess what the climbing performance will be like with Alpinist.
     
    The handling is still very responsive, the body responds quickly when cornering and changing lanes, and it still has the same feeling of pointing and hitting. The lower five-way also provides some extra stability on high-speed descents, giving the user plenty of confidence on the long, high-speed descents of the test route.
     
    Theoretically, the thicker rear fork and riser seat tube shape will reduce the comfort of the rear end, but the general road riding feeling is not significantly lower than the SL6, or the standard race road bike flavor, the overall performance is relatively moderate. On rough roads, it still has the feeling that the front end of the SL6 is a little bumpier than the back end. In fact, I used to think the SL6 was a little bumpy, but after being “spoiled” by a new model recently, I don’t mind the SL6 and SL7 being bumpy anymore ……
     
    It is also worth mentioning that the SRAM FORCE AXS single-disc kit uses the front 44T and rear 10-36T gears to match, which is quite enough for 12%-15% gradients, but the higher difficult climbs are a bit “chicken”, and 44T with 10T is obviously not enough for high-speed descents.
     
    The Tarmac SL7 rides like a hard racing bike, it’s really a pure machine, and turning the power you put on the pedals into forwarding momentum is the highest priority for this kind of bike.
     
    The Tarmac SL7 is a bike that integrates all the features of a first-class racer, an aero bike, and a climber, and the only thing it doesn’t include is the option of “comfort”. This is unlike the Specialized Roubaix, which takes into account the rider’s comfort.
     
    Personally, I don’t really like Tarmac bikes, just like I don’t like FACTOR VAM and GIANT TCR. The common point of these bikes is that the head tube is short, the geometry is shorter and the reach is slightly longer, so you can ride a bike that is very “sprawling”. The pressure is on …… The bike is a very pure racing bike, which only considers how to convert the rider’s power to the highest efficiency.
     
    I really don’t like the current SRAM AXS, whether it’s a RED or a FORCE kit, the front shift adjustment tolerance is really low.
    S-works Aerofly II handlebar aero design
    ▲The Tarmac SL7’s concealed alignment design does not have to be paired with this pneumatic grip, nor does it have to be a dedicated one-piece grip.
    S-works Aerofly II handlebar grip position
    ▲This Tarmac SL7 air power handle looks really cool, but just looking at this shape makes me feel bad about holding it …… When I tried riding it, I found that it wasn’t too bad, of course it felt weird to “grip” it, but it was comfortable to put your palm on it like this.
    S-works Aerofly II handlebar flat aero position
    ▲The feel of the flat handlebar is also a bit strange, but it is very smooth to lean on it like this. The author climbed the Nakashe Road during the test drive, and without controlling the speed change, both hands were pressed against the flat handlebar position like this, and it was unexpectedly very easy.
    Specialized Tarmac SL7 full bike bright green highlights
    ▲The feel of the flat handlebar is also a bit strange, but it is very smooth to lean on it like this. The author climbed the Nakashe Road during the test drive, and without controlling the speed change, both hands were pressed against the flat handlebar position like this, and it was unexpectedly very easy.
    Specialized Tarmac SL7 full bike 11 types of paintings

    ▲The SL7 still retains the traditional item of “selling paint”, offering up to 11 types of paint for consumers to choose from.

    The frame geometry is basically the same as the SL6. The STACK changes seen are only due to the integrated bowl cover, resulting in a reduction in value. With the bowl cover and the necessary over-wire washer installed, the handlebar position is consistent with the SL6.

    Now over to you,

    Are you already riding on a Tarmac SL7?

    Or you are planning to build up your own bike with the new SL7 frameset?

    Or you want to update the S-Works Aerofly II handlebar?

    Either way please leave a comment and share what you think about this new Tarmac SL7.

     

    Frank-D
    Frank-D
    Crazy for cycling, bicycle mechanic for over 10 years.

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