Specialized S-Works Tarmac Red

It’s been a little under a year since the all-new Tarmac was launched to the public but surprisingly it didn’t come during the days before a grand tour depart. Instead, Specialized released the first images to anyone with high-speed internet.

Most assumed a new road model would arrive in time for the Giro d’Italia (in 2014), and it did. Three weeks later, after an Irish start, two Specialized riders – Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Fabio Aru (Astana) – stood on the final podium in Trieste. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) became the first Italian since Marco Pantani to take to the top step of the Tour de France in Paris, Alberto Contador won the Vuelta and then Michal Kwiatkowski took another victory at the World Road Race Championships. But results aside, there’s a bigger story to the new Tarmac.


The latest incarnation of the long-standing road racer wasn’t given a model name based on numerical stature. Nope. The Tarmac was a complete do-over of the previous SL4 – a ‘back to the drawing board’ of sorts, according to Specialized. Essentially it came down to creating a bike that would feel, handle and ride the same, regardless of size.


It’s a feature that has been used by a number of manufacturers over the years, but generally speaking a custom-made frame would need to be purchased for this kind of promise. As competition heats up and the sport attracts a wider range of body types, it was time small and tall riders aboard Tarmacs got a better deal. Greater levels of compliance for smaller frames and better ride handling for larger, more powerful riders: that’s what Specialized sought to achieve with the new platform.


However, the new model has gone further than just riders pecific geometry, accommodating the needs of the great and small. Tubing diameter, tubing shapes, carbon lay-up and even headset bearing size is now tuned for each of the seven sizes. It’s the kind of real service you expect from a brand that has countless concept stores around the country and prides itself on delivering world-class products. So, with that all covered, how does it ride, and what do we think? Stay tuned, as we’ll be telling all soon.