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New 2018 Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL6 – Ten Things to Know

June 30, 2017
New 2018 Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL6 – Ten Things to Know

Specialized has been busy over the past 12 months, already launching five new bikes for 2017; the Diverage, CruX and Allez, adding to the new Roubaix, Ruby and Venge Disc it launched last year.

Not content with that impressive line-up of new bikes, Specialized has now revamped its pure high-performance road bike, the Tarmac.

We've broken down the top ten things you need to know about the new S-Works Tarmac from Specialized.

1. "Nothing is lighter, faster or better handling."

When creating a new Tarmac, Specialized's goal wasn't modest. Its aim was to create a bike that was lighter, faster and better handling than anything else currently on the road. In order to do so, they shed a large amount of weight from the previous iteration, made it more aero, improved compliance, and refined the handling.

2. Rider Shared Platform

specialized-womens-s-works-tarmac-2018-ten-things-to-know-jpg

Specialized has accumulated a plethora of data from literally thousands of bike fittings (40,000 digital fit points to be exact) care of Retul, one of the most accurate and comprehensive bike fit systems on the market. The data has driven Specialized's approach of the shared platform whereby the carbon used, it's lay-up, and geometry is the same for men and women. As such, the Tarmac and Amira bikes have virtually merged into the one high-performance road bike that provides the same experience for both.

Specialized do however offer the Tarmac in both men's and women's versions, the difference being the three key touch points - handlebars, seat, and cranks. The women's bikes will have handlebars that are either one or two sizes smaller (i.e. from 42cm to either 40cm or 38cm), cranks that are 2.5mm shorter (i.e. 172.5mm to 170mm) and female specific saddles that feature wider contact points for wider sit bones, a broader overall shape to account for wider hips and a cut-out channel to alleviate pressure on soft tissues, improving blood flow and preventing numbness.

3. It's Aero

specialized-tarmac-dropped-seatstays-2018-ten-things-to-know-jpg

One of the most notable changes between the new and old Tarmac is the dropped seatstays. Specialized says this small change has resulted in big aerodynamic gains, removing the stagnant air from around the previously higher positioned seatstays and improving overall airflow and reducing drag. The SL6 is said to be 45 seconds faster over a distance of 40kph (at an average speed of 40kph) than other lightweight bikes in the same weight category.

Contributing to the aerodynamics gains is the reshaped downtube that features a more rounded leading edge to improve airflow, a truncated airfoil fork with far less volume that reduces turbulent air and increases tire clearance at the same time and new cable ports on the front of the bike that also creates a super clean front end. Specialized went through over 1,200 prototypes to finally settle on the new shape.

4. Weight Weenies rejoice

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The aerodynamic gains are substantial but if aero was everything you'd be more interested in the Specialized Venge than the versatile Tarmac. As such, many of you are probably wondering if the latest iteration has been slimmed down. And the answer is a big yes!

A 56cm SL6 Tarmac frame weighs in at 733g, a whopping 200g or almost 20% lighter than the previous Tarmac. And that figure can be further reduced by opting for the proprietary "Ultralight paint" process, which adds only 10g to the bare frame. Such a special paint will only be available at launch, with just a limited run of 500 bikes featuring that special coating.

5. Braking options

One of the biggest surprises regarding the launch of the new Tarmac was the absence of a disc brake version. As it stands, the new Tarmac is only being offered as a rim brake version, with no mention of a disc-brake option. The rim-brake version will be equipped with direct mount brakes that offer a sleeker aesthetic, some small aerodynamic gains and more braking strength.

Although there's no official word on a disc-brake option, as with the Venge, we would expect to see it make an eventual appearance. We're speculating that it may be towards the end of this year or start of 2018 when it's likely the use of discs will be given the green light in the WorldTour.

6. D-shaped seat post

specialized-tarmac-2018-rear-profile-ten-things-to-know-jpg

To add comfort and create the most well-rounded bike possible, Specialized has incorporated a proprietary a D-shaped truncated airfoil seatpost that aims to improve compliance and aerodynamics. In addition to lowering the seat clamp to allow more natural flex from the seat post (which increases comfort), the flat edge of the D-shape causes the post to flex in one direction, improving vertical compliance (comfort). Specialized also adjusted the layup to progressively add stiffness as it moved down the length of the seat post.

7. SL5 and SL6

Much like the launch of the new Roubaix and Ruby last year, Specialized will continue to offer the current Tarmac frameset with the latest groupsets in addition to the new range.

The new S-Works Tarmac will be referred to as the SL6, while the current (soon to be previous) version to be known as the SL5.

8. 500

There will be a limited run of 500 bikes produced globally with a proprietary paint process that only adds 10 grams to the raw frame. These 500 bikes will be sold as the 'S-Works Tarmac Ultralight'.

9. The line-up for the US

The S-Works SL6 Tarmac will come in six different colorways, plus a number of limited edition framesets including a World Championship version.

Below is a list of models that will be available in the US with advertised retail prices.

The Tarmac SL6

  • S-Works Tarmac Ultralight Shimano R9150 Di2: US$10,500 MSRP
  • S-Works Tarmac Men/Wmn Shimano R9150 Di2: US$10,000 MSRP
  • S-Works Tarmac Ultralight frameset: US$4,250 MSRP
  • S-Works Tarmac Men/Wmn frameset: US$4,000 MSRP

10. Availability

The Tarmac will start landing in limited numbers in August with the majority of stock due to land through September and beyond.


The Specialized Tarmac is not the only new bike being released in time to be ridden at the 2017 Tour de France, with the BMC Teammachine SLR, Trek Emonda, Cervelo R5 and Merida Reacto all being announced too. It's like Christmas in July.


Images provided by Specialized.


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