I had always dreamed of owning a Specialized S-Works Tarmac, and like many people, this dream became further and further away the more expensive the bike became. The launch of the SL7 Specialized S-Works Tarmac model caused me particular excitement and the thought (dream) of having it in the standard red awoke the desire all over again. But alas, being no closer to affording it, I still had to be a window gazer.
I then looked at the Specialized Tarmac SL7 Pro and did so with no concerns of it being a diluted S-Works, but instead, a super-charged Tarmac. At just over £7,500 and soon to be launched in the UK, it was a top heavy bike and by far the most expensive I had ever considered. But the pictures of that bike in its pure white frame, cockpit cable less handlebars and deep rim wheels meant that I was searching YouTube endlessly for people who might have an opinion on it. I couldn’t find a good one, so now having owned the bike for seven months, here is mine.
Lets face it, they do matter and a lot. What I love most about this bike is the fact that Specialized removed the normal over-stated brand name from most parts of the frame and reserved it for the down tube. The result is a magnificent clean looking frame that sparkles in its white pearlescent finish that contrasts brilliantly with the remaining black components. With the cable less cockpit, there wasn’t much to distract the eye from the bikes simple beauty and only the carbon bottle cages I added later attempted to do so.
What matters most is understandably the ride and I was advised by the Specialized dealer Total Fitness in Bath that this was going to be fast and stiff experience that is nothing like the Roubaix that I was already loving. You can read my thoughts on that Roubaix here.
The bike is fast and way faster than I can ride it. It is responsive but smooth, decisive but not twitchy and stiff enough to feel the immediate benefit of any effort – whether attacking a short hill or digging out a quick effort to chase down a friend. I was a bit worried about the wheels due to the depth as I had read a lot about the impact of side wind and I have never been a fan of that adrenalin rush you get when it hits you. At first I was very conscious of it, nervous in the wind and even eased off a little in certain situations. I was never too sure whether my tense shoulders and arms meant the bike felt a little uneasy or whether it was the wind hitting the wheels.
Having now ridden the bike in the Alpes of France and descended some pretty windy mountain roads such as Col de Madelaine, Galibier and a few others, I think most of it was in my mind. After a few thousand miles I was now so used to the bike that I was more focused on getting the maximum speed out of every bend, tucking into an aero position, or even applying the brakes to ensure I got home in one piece. For full disclosure, I intend to only really use this bike in the main dry months of the year which, contrary to popular belief the UK does have many of, but in reality once the weather hardens I will go back to the Roubaix and its wider tyres and of course the FutureShock 2. Both of which suit our winter roads better.
One area that did make a difference to me was the air pressure of the tyres. For reasons I have never figured out, I would routinely pump them to about 90 psi, only to then enjoy the ride better when they had lost some of the air – typically on that ride that took place two days later. If I were picking a number to go with, I would stick 85psi in and that is based on the stock tyres (which have lasted a good 3,000 miles and counting). However, I still can’t help but twitch that pump one more time when I see the needle at 85!
SRAM wasn’t new to me, although Force was. It was also my first dual sided power metre and, along with my heart rate monitor, I like how my fitness can be measured with more accuracy in apps like Strava and Garmin. Is it better than Shimano? I honestly don’t know or even care to compare specs on weight and read forums but I can tell you it’s a joy to use, the apps work brilliantly, the data appears on my Garmin and I would not hesitate to buy it again. I charge the batteries about once a month and its not an inconvenience. But don’t forget!
So my main conclusion is that the bike has more than fulfilled my dreams. I love riding it, seeing it, getting on it and knowing it’s mine. I care not about what people think of Specialized the company as they have always been good to me and their bikes have always delivered more than the sum of their parts would suggest. It’s an expensive bike, and now in the UK it retails for £1,100 more than when I ordered it, but likewise, if you knew the inflation figure here right now that wouldn’t surprise you.
So in short, if you can get an S-Works, get one and live the dream. But if you can get a Tarmac Pro SL7 in white as it looks great and is a real dream to ride.
Footnote: I don’t ride bikes competitively and neither am I paid or influenced for my views. This is the honest view of a man in his early 50’s who has had the pleasure of riding a great bike.