The new re-engineered S-Works Tarmac Disc is here. La Velocita joined the guys from Specialized Australia at their 'Test the Best' day near Kinglake, north of Melbourne to test this machine.
The new S-Works Tarmac benefits from the same awesome geometry of the SL4 combined with improvements from Specialized. To say the result is great would be an understatement. This bike does it all, and does it fast.
The S-Works Tarmac Disc that Specialized lined up for us is their top of the line road bike. It's a mean looking bike with black on black graphics. Specialized have gone with Shimano Dura-ace Di2 11-speed with an S-Works FACT carbon, 52/36 chain set and Shimano 785 and hydraulic disc brakes to do the stopping. Wheels are Roval Rapide CLX 40 SCS Disc with ceramic bearings. The bars, stem, seat post and other finishing kit are all Specialized's own S-Works carbon offerings.
The Disc version has the same geometry as the non-disc version, which is good news. More good news is that Specialized have stuck with the same geometry as the previous SL4. We are especially pleased by this as the SL4 was a bike that we really rated. The question is how much better can the 2015 S-Works Tarmac be?
Having a look over our 58cm test bike, the most obvious differences to the SL4 is the junction of the seat post and top tube. The extended seat tube has completely gone. This has resulted in a redesigned clamp for the seat tube. Otherwise the down tube is more oval shaped and quite a bit larger than on the SL4. The increased oval shaping continues to the chain stays.
The big difference for the S-Works Tarmac 2015 is the introduction of 'rider first engineering'. Put simply, this means that each size has been independently designed to offer the same ride characteristics. Larger, and more powerful, riders on larger sizes should enjoy the same levels of stiffness as riders on a smaller sized frame. What this also means is a proportionately heavier frame for larger sizes.
I am a 58cm frame so, in theory, should get some benefit out of this design philosophy. However, riders on more medium sizes may not get as much benefit.
The Specialized Tarmac is well finished. The Roval wheels are stiff and fast and the Dura-ace Di2 performed flawlessly. The previous iterations of this bike on our local club rides look great two, three and more years on. I think it's a safe bet that the same will be true with the new model.
The S-Works Tarmac is also available in a non-disc version with Dura Ace or Sram Red. Talk with your local Specialized dealer if you want a specific build.
The loop Spezialized set out at Kinglake gave us a great opportunity to test the bike on a variety of surfaces, climbs and descents, and in changable wind conditions.
First impressions were that while the bike felt stiff, it did not feel harsh like some race level bikes. On rough roads, over rumble strips and unmade sections of road, the Tarmac felt planted and secure. At the same time we found that, the with slightest increase in pressure on the pedals, the S-Works Tarmac jumped forward.
On the climbs the Tarmac really excelled. Out of the saddle the bike felt stiffer than the SL4 and there was also an improvement in seated climbing, but not as noticeable as when standing. This is likely due to the the new bottom bracket and chain stays being constructed as one piece, together with the larger frame being constructed using Specialized rider first engineering.
Descending was fast, safe and super enjoyable. Even when being hit by big crosswinds the S-Works Tarmac stayed on course. The question is, was it better than the SL4? Our view is not really. I don't think I would be able to tell the difference if I was blindfolded. They are both excellent though.
One thing we loved were the disc brakes. The feel was awesome, they were quiet (in the dry) and offered fantastic modulation. We can really see why many people are making the move to disc brakes. The difference was so substantial that when I jumped on the next test bike, minus disc brakes, I had to pull over as I thought there was something wrong with the brakes!
The S-WorksTarmac is available in 6 stock sizes including 49, 52, 54, 56, 58 and 61.
- S-Works Tarmac Disc: RRP $11,999 AUD
- S-Works Tarmac Dura-Ace: RRP $9,499 AUD
- S-Works Tarmac RED: RRP $9,499 AUD
This is a great bike. It handles well, climbs well, is capable of getting you through some big rides in relative comfort, while doing it at speed. Descending will leave you with an ear-to-ear smile and the brakes will pull you up quickly. The wheel set is something special (we'll be reviewing the Roval's later in the year) and the bike is well finished.
The big question is; should you buy one if you already have an SL4? There are definite improvements in the new bike and if you have to have the latest and greatest, you will find benefit in the new model and will not be disappointed. However, for us, the S-Works Tarmac 2015 is more of a natural progression in the development of the Tarmac, rather than a complete step-change.
If you are a bigger rider, especially pushing toward a 61cm frame, this bike is worth looking at as you'll most likely get benefit from the design being tailored to your size.
One thing is for sure; if you are in the market for a new top-end bike the S-Works 2015 is well worth a look.