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Specialized launches new Tarmac SL7 for 2021

Specialized Tarmac SL 7
(Image credit: Specialized)

"No matter how fast the Venge was, no matter how well the SL6 handled in the mountains, we knew to choose between the two meant riders had to make compromises on race day. We just weren't OK with that, and that's where the new SL7 came from. We were simply unwilling to allow those compromises anymore." 

Those are the words of Cameron Piper, Product Manager at Specialized, who explained to Cyclingnews that the intentions of the 2021 Tarmac SL7 were to offer the best road bike no matter the terrain, and provide racers with 'one bike to rule them all'. 

Today, the American brand unveils that bike.

The new Specialized Tarmac

Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7

The new Specialized Tarmac (Image credit: Specialized)

Announcing the much-speculated launch of the new Tarmac SL7, Specialized says the new bike is stiffer, better handling and faster than ever. In fact, Specialized pitches the bike as the fastest in the peloton at 6.8kg, with the S-Works Dura-Ace Di2 model said to weigh 6.7kg straight out of the box, whilst saving 45 seconds compared to the outgoing Tarmac SL6.

In order to close the gap between the Tarmac SL6 and the Venge, the Tarmac SL7 is given an aerodynamic overhaul, including an integrated cockpit like that found on the Venge, albeit with a new proprietary-to-Tarmac stem. There are new tube shapes throughout, an all-new deeper Tarmac seatpost, and the S-Works models are also fitted with Roval's new Rapide CLX wheelset. Finally, Specialized has done away with press-fit in favour of a threaded bottom bracket.

In launching 'one bike to rule them all', Specialized has confirmed the Venge will be cycled out of production, and that while framesets will continue to be available in certain territories, there would no longer be an advantage to choosing it over the new Tarmac. In fact, the aerodynamic difference has been reduced down to 2.5 watts at 40kph (nine seconds over 40km), which suggests that for short, straight, flat courses, the Venge may still actually win out. However, in simulations over numerous course profiles (flat and rolling) that take into account cornering, accelerations, rider freshness, and of course elevation, Specialized found the Tarmac to be the victor.

There will be two levels available. The S-Works model will utilise the brand's FACT 12r carbon and will have a frame weight of 800 grams (size 56cm, painted). This weight is in line with the outgoing SL6. However, unlike the SL6, there will be no 'Ultralight' models available. 

The lower-specced Pro and Expert models will share the same silhouette but with FACT 10r carbon for a frame weight of 960g.

Integrated aero cockpit

Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7

Cables are routed through the Aerofly II handlebar, or beneath the tape on lower-specced models (Image credit: Specialized)

The new Tarmac is fitted with an aerodynamic, integrated cockpit, similar to that found on the Venge.

While the Tarmac SL7 will come with the same Aerofly II internally-routed handlebars as found on the Venge, the 'Venge stem' is replaced with a 'Tarmac stem', which follows the same design cues and uses the same cable-routing guides on the underside, but in a smaller, lighter form that saves 45 grams. 

All bikes will be specced with a -6 degree stem, but -12 degree options are available aftermarket. The steerer tube and handlebar clamp are both industry standard 1 ⅛ inch and 31.8mm respectively, and the bike will come complete with three headset covers, meaning both can be swapped out for aftermarket models at the owner's discretion. In fact, Deceuninck-QuickStep rider Julian Alaphilippe has done just that.

Specialized

(Image credit: Specialized)

Disc brakes and wide tyres

Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7

All models are committed to disc brakes (Image credit: Specialized)

The Tarmac SL7 can accommodate either mechanical or electronic groupsets, although following the recent trajectory of Specialized's performance road range, disc brakes are the only option. Like the Venge – and the Tarmac SL6 over the past year or so – the new frame is committed to hydraulic disc stoppers utilising the flat-mount disc-brake standard. 

All models will come fitted with 26c tyres, but Specialized has rated the tyre clearance at 32c with 4mm space either side when fitted on 21mm rims. 

Geometry: Same but different

Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7

Geometry is the same as the outgoing Tarmac and the Venge, but the stack and reach numbers will differ (Image credit: Specialized)

The geometry of the Tarmac SL7 is identical to that of both the Venge and Tarmac SL6. That said, eagle-eyed viewers will notice the stack and reach numbers differ from that of the outgoing Tarmac. This is because the stack and reach are measured to the centre of the top of the headtube which is then offset by the headset cover. By virtue of the updated headset configuration, once you factor in the height of the necessary headset cover, the stem's position ends up at the same point in space.

No more press-fit

Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7

Home-mechanics rejoice, the new Tarmac uses a threaded bottom bracket (Image credit: Specialized)

Specialized has done away with the press-fit bottom bracket in favour of a 68mm BSA-threaded bottom bracket. This will undoubtedly be popular among home-mechanics, for threaded bottom brackets generally require fewer tools to fit, are easier to service, and have tighter tolerances, meaning less chance of creaks.

Aero everywhere

Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7

New tube profiles include a deeper seat tube and pronounced seat stay junctions (Image credit: Specialized)

Taking from Specialized's Free Foil Library and utilising a supercomputer to run CFD and FDA programmes, tube shapes have been updated throughout the frame. This is most visible at the seat stay junctions, where a resemblance to those on the Venge can be found. The seat tube is also updated to be deeper, more aerodynamic, and features a larger gap between tyre and frame – something otherwise found on the latest Shiv – which we're told is more a comfort and weight play than for aerodynamic gains.

"Simply put, it's part of the balance," explains Cam Piper. "The upper part of the seat tube/stays are optimised around aero, as they see more freestream airflow [compared to the lower half that has water bottles in front of it]."

This deeper seat tube sees the introduction of an all-new proprietary seat post, which features integration for an electronic groupset's junction box, like that found on the Venge seatpost. It also comes complete with a blanking plate for SRAM eTap users.

Just add inner tubes

Roval Rapide CLX road wheels

The new Roval Rapide CLX wheels are wider than anything we've ever used on the road, but they can't be run tubeless (Image credit: Josh Croxton)

The amendments don't stop at the frame, though. As we reported last month, Roval has launched two new wheelsets and Specialized has taken advantage of the new Rapide CLX wheels, which are claimed to offer the best balance of speed in real-world applications. By pairing a 60mm deep rear rim with a 51mm deep, wider front rim, the new wheels are said to be less impacted by crosswinds, and thus better at retaining speed. 

The downside to these wheels is that they are not tubeless compatible, and, as such, any tubeless advocates are likely to be disappointed at the need to invest in an additional set of wheels when shopping for the new Tarmac.

The Specialized Tarmac is already available in certain retailers. UK consumers can shop the new range at Tredz and Rutland Cycling.

The 2021 Specialized Tarmac range

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Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 - Red eTap AXS - Green Tint Fade over Spectraflair/Chrome (Image credit: Specialized)
Image 2 of 8

Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 - Red eTap AXS - Carbon/Color Run Silver Green (Image credit: Specialized)
Image 3 of 8

Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 - Dura-Ace Di2 - Carbon/Color Run Silver Green (Image credit: Specialized)
Image 4 of 8

Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 - Dura-Ace Di2 - Flo Red/Red Tint/Tarmac Black/White (Image credit: Specialized)
Image 5 of 8

Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Specialized Tarmac Pro - Force eTap AXS - Abalone/Spectraflair (Image credit: Specialized)
Image 6 of 8

Specialized

Specialized Tarmac Pro - Ultegra Di2 - Blue Tint Fade/Smoke/Metallic White Silver (Image credit: Specialized)
Image 7 of 8

Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Specialized Tarmac Expert - Ultegra - Ultra Turquoise/Red Gold Pearl/Black (Image credit: Specialized)
Image 8 of 8

Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Specialized Tarmac Expert - Ultegra - Light Silver/Smoke Fade/Black (Image credit: Specialized)

S-Works Tarmac SRAM Red eTap AXS
Tarmac SL7 FACT 12r carbon
SRAM Red eTap AXS groupset
Aerofly II handlebars with Tarmac stem
Roval Rapide CLX wheels
SRAM Red AXS power meter
$12,000 / £10,500 / €11,499 / AU$18,000

S-Works Tarmac Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Tarmac SL7 FACT 12r carbon
Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset
Aerofly II handlebars with Tarmac stem
Roval Rapide CLX wheels
Shimano Dura-Ace power meter
$12,000 / £10,500 / €11,499 / AU$18,000

Specialized Tarmac Pro SRAM Force 1X
Tarmac SL7 FACT 10r carbon
SRAM Force eTap 1x
Aerofly II handlebars with Tarmac stem
Roval Rapide CL wheels
$7,000 / £6,500 / €7,399 / AU$10,500

Specialized Tarmac Pro UDi2
Tarmac SL7 FACT 10r carbon
Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset
Aerofly II handlebars with Tarmac stem
Roval Rapide CL wheels
$7,000 / £6,250 / €6,999 / AU$10,500

Specialized Tarmac Expert UDi2
Tarmac SL7 FACT 10r carbon
Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupset
Specialized Expert handlebars with Tarmac stem
DT R470 wheels
$5,000 / £4,750 / €5,299 / AU$7,500

Specialized Tarmac Expert
Tarmac SL7 FACT 10r carbon
Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset
Specialized Expert handlebars with Tarmac stem
Roval C38 wheels
$N/A / £N/A / €4,999 / AU$N/A

Specialized Tarmac Comp
Tarmac SL6 FACT 9r carbon
Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset
Specialized handlebars with 3D-Forged alloy stem
DT R470 wheels
$3,500 / £3,200 / €3,499 / AU$5,000

Specialized Tarmac Sport
Tarmac SL6 FACT 9r carbon
Shimano 105 mechanical groupset
Specialized handlebars with 3D-Forged alloy stem
DT R470 wheels
$2,600 / £2,500 / €2,699 / AU$4,000

S-Works Tarmac SL7 frameset

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Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Sagan edition (Image credit: Specialized)
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Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Flo Red/Red Tint/Tarmac Black/White (Image credit: Specialized)
Image 3 of 9

Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Bora Hansgrohe (Image credit: Specialized)
Image 4 of 9

Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Snake Eye/Satin Black (Image credit: Specialized)
Image 5 of 9

Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Dusty Blue Pearl/Cast Blue Metallic (Image credit: Specialized)
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Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Carbon/Chameleon Silver Green Color Run (Image credit: Specialized)
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Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Cobalt/Brassy Yellow/Blaze/Oasis (Image credit: Specialized)
Image 8 of 9

Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Abalone/Spectraflair (Image credit: Specialized)
Image 9 of 9

Specialized Tarmac SL 7

Green Tint Fade over Spectraflair/Chrome (Image credit: Specialized)

S-Works Tarmac Frameset
Tarmac SL7 FACT 12r carbon
Tarmac seatpost
Tarmac stem
Removable front derailleur hanger
$5,000 / £3,250 / €4,199 / AU$7,500