The Best Bikes: Specialized Tarmac SL6
Call it an instinct to root for the underdog, but I have never been a huge Specialized fan boy. I owned a Tarmac ages ago, when I first started racing and it was a great bike. But somewhere between the Cafe Roubaix debacle from years ago, and an increased skepticism toward the industry marketing-speak that is required to sell consumers on each incremental improvement (for the industry as a whole, not just Spesh) I admittedly tuned out a lot of what was going on with Specialized product. Sure, last year Clay was quite positive on his experience with the Diverge, and I have a sweet spot for alloy bikes so the Allez Sprint has always been in the periphery, but it had been a long time since I personally thought seriously about the Tarmac.
That is until this past weekend when I flew out to Specialized HQ for some unrelated meetings and was handed this beautiful Tarmac to ride for seventy-two hours. First things first, the “Gloss Metallic White Silver/Lite Silver Fade” was spectacular in person. Paint is obviously a very personal preference and the images here definitely don’t do justice to how much this scheme sparkled in daylight, but I think this may be my favorite paint scheme to ever come out of the Specialized production line. It was absolutely sublime in person. And from there the build was just as impressive with the brand new SRAM RED AXS 12-speed groupset and Roval CLX 50’s (I have been been a fan of Roval wheels for several years). I’m going to compile my thoughts on AXS in a separate Journal entry, but spoiler alert: despite riding nothing but Shimano for years, I think I’m a believer.
Which brings us to the performance: this bike absolutely ripped. I only had a few days on it, but in that time we tackled some hour long climbs, the famous Specialized lunch ride, and some brutal crosswind riding on gusty days in Morgan Hill. I am still very much in the “the best bike is the one you ride” camp and I honestly believe that for most people the best bike is probably an alloy rig like the Allez Sprint or Cannondale’s CAAD13 (when it comes out). But if you are looking to spend five figures on a bicycle, this S-Works Tarmac is a most excellent way to do so. It looks great and was a blast to ride. In short: A+, would definitely ride again.
The Specialized Tarmac (SL6) SRAM eTap Build
Cost as ridden: $11,000
Groupset: SRAM RED AXS complete with Power Meter
Gearing: 48/35T front, 10-33T rear (12 speed)
Cockpit: S-Works carbon handlebars and seatpost, S-Works SL stem
Wheels: Roval CLX50 disc