Product Review | Specialized Tarmac Disc Expert
I’ve been curious about disc brakes on road bikes for some time now. It feels like the bike industry is shoving disc brakes down our throats. I wanted to see what all the hype is about.
Well, just about everything. The Tarmac frame has been totally re-engineered. It is hard to find any similarity to its predecessor the tried and true SL5. We really love the SL5. The SL6 is more aero and lighter than the SL5. For example the S-Works version of the SL6 is 200 grams lighter than the S-Works version of the SL5. And Specialized reports that the SL6 is more aero than their early model Venge’s (their aero specific road bike).
Reportedly the aerodynamic improvements come from a much more narrow frame. Which is noticeable by the eye. There were three areas of focus. The fork, seat post/tube and chain stays all making for a faster Tarmac.
Here’s a look at the fork. We like that there is plenty of room for wider rims & tires.
The seat post/tube has a D shape which improves air flow. The chain stays were dropped also given a more aero tube shape. These three areas helped to make the new Tarmac faster.
Again plenty of room for wider rims and tires.
HOW DOES IT RIDE?
Stiff. This bike is much stiffer in feel than the SL5. But not stiff in a bad way it was just immediately noticeable. Both in front and back. We think that thru axles have something to do with that. Finn from The Bike Route noticed it as well. She went from a rim brake SL6 to disc and noticed the change in stiffness. So essentially the only thing that was different was the thru axles. But like I said the increased stiffness is not a bad thing. Steering is more crisp and the bike is lively on all levels. We absolutely love the way the wheels spin up and how this bike climbs. The acceleration is really pronounced. This bike screams race machine. If the improvements on paper are real then the new Tarmac has set the benchmark even higher. But proof is in the pudding. So many World Tour victories came on the Tarmac this year. Now go check one out for yourself at The Bike Route.
Specialized is knocking the ball out of the park with its chameleon paint schemes. I mean, if you are into turning heads at the local group ride. Wow!
THOUGHTS ON DISC
The first couple weeks I would hit a hard bump and the brakes would rub for a bit then stop. That was annoying. But after the pads broke in and wore down a bit that stopped. It makes the bike heavier. This size 54 weighs in around 17 lbs. That is not light. But we feel like more emphasis should be put on aerodynamics rather than weight these days. Disc brakes are really nice to have on longer descents and rainy days but we don’t think they are absolutely necessary for road bikes. Now having said that, we have no issues running disc on road. If that is where the industry is going well then so be it. Next year will be interesting to see what pros are running disc.
BOTTOM BRACKET – Praxis, BB30 for Shimano
CHAIN – Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed
CRANKSET – Shimano Ultegra R8000, HollowTech 2, 11-speed
SHIFT LEVERS – Shimano Ultegra Disc R8020
FRONT DERAILLEUR – Shimano Ultegra R8000, braze-on
CASSETTE – Shimano Ultegra R8000, 11-speed, 11-30t
CHAINRINGS – 52/36T
REAR DERAILLEUR – Shimano Ultegra R8000-GS, medium cage
FORK – FACT 10r carbon, 12x100mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc
REAR WHEEL – Roval C 38 Disc, carbon, tubeless-ready, 38mm depth, 24h
INNER TUBES – Turbo Ultralight, 48mm Presta valve
FRONT TIRE – S-Works Turbo, 120 TPI, folding bead, BlackBelt protection, 700x26mm
REAR TIRE – S-Works Turbo, 120 TPI, folding bead, BlackBelt protection, 700x26mm
FRONT WHEEL – Roval C 38 Disc, carbon, tubeless-ready, 38mm depth, 24h
SADDLE – Toupe Expert Gel, 143mm, hollow titanium rails, Adaptive Edge
SEAT BINDER – Tarmac SL6 clamp assembly
TAPE – S-Wrap Roubaix w/ sticky gel
SEATPOST – S-Works FACT Carbon Tarmac seatpost, 20mm offset
HANDLEBARS – Specialized Expert Shallow Drop, alloy, 125mm drop x 75mm reach
FRAME – Tarmac SL6, FACT 10r carbon, Rider-First Engineered™, OSBB, clean routing, internally integrated seat clamp, 12x142mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc