Specialized Tarmac SL7 Review

When deciding which of two road bikes to select for a specific race, one will likely have to make certain concessions. Specialized had to determine between the Venge which has the most optimal air resistance, or the Tarmac which is more lightweight and has a sturdier frame ideal for sprinting.

What’s new about the 2021 Specialized Tarmac SL7

It’s lighter in all the right ways

First off, it’s lighter. As in, the real world the lighter. A 56 size with painting, including the front derailleur hanger, can weigh as little as 800g. The only part of the frame that can be taken off when running 1x gearing is the hardware, and it can save about 15 grams of weight.

The fact that the weight is so low is made all the more remarkable due to the BSA bottom bracket having been replaced with a threaded version that requires metal inserts to be affixed to the frame as opposed to the press-fit OSBB standard used in the SL6.

All bicycles receive a newly incorporated stem that weighs 45g lighter than the prior version and facilitates the inner cabling to be serviced more conveniently.

It is said that it used to be extremely difficult to significantly reduce the weight of items as their size was becoming more compact. A 52 may be only slightly lighter than a 56 in weight.

But with their new approach to layups, the change in results could be considerable. The difference between a size 52 and 56 will be more sizeable (and the 52 will be much lighter) on the SL7 than on the SL6.

On the other hand, increasing frame sizes will not lead to a large increase in weight since they were successful in attaining the desired level of sturdiness and rigidity for bigger riders but not having to employ a lot of additional material.

Finally, the non-S Works versions are lighter than before. S-Works frames use their top-level FACT 12R carbon. The others are receiving the FACT 10R, and although that version is only 120 grams heavier, it is still 40 grams lighter than the earlier FACT 10R SL6.

The S-Works SL7 Di2 Carbon/Color Run Silver Green model is said to weigh 6.7kg or 14.77lb. The Tarmac SL7 Pro UDi2 has a weight of 7.3kg (16.09lb), while the Expert UDi2 is heavier, at 7.65kg (16.87lb).

It’s more aerodynamic

The SL7 offers a 445-second faster time than the SL6 during 40km time trials. How? Improved system aerodynamics.

Specific details about the frame are not being provided by Specialized, what is being discussed is the bicycle as a whole.

Particularly, bikes fitted with Roval Rapide CLX wheels and an Aerofly II handlebar and stem combination. This combination creates an arrangement that optimizes system airflow.

Despite the lack of aerodynamic features listed in the technical specifications, the newly-developed bicycle is more streamlined due to its modified tube shapes. The Venge’s distinctive seat stay/seat tube junction is incorporated into this model, and the seat tube has a much more curved aerodynamic shape.

This results in a narrower seat post, where the Di2 junction box is located at the top, contained in a broader portion below the saddle’s mounting section. The top of the item will be smooth to work with both electronic and mechanical bike drivetrains.

Aerofly II bars are included as a feature of the four best models, keeping all of their components tucked away before connecting to the stem in a fixed position.

For disc brakes only, brake hoses are attached using a clamp, routed to the rear and not visible anymore, going into the fork and frame.

The cables of the Di2 system will be routed with the brake lines, and all models of the SL7 will be equipped with either an SRAM eTAP or a Shimano Di2 group set.

If you buy a frameset and opt for a mechanical shifting option, you will be given an upper headset cover apart from it which has openings in it for the cable housing to pass through. The end result is a remarkably tidy appearance no matter how it is created.

One other note on the internal routing. The fork has to be taken off to put it in or repair it and there are not any canals or pipes inside.

Specialized places foam tubes referred to as “churro” tubing over the brake hoses and offer them available for mechanical installations, thus stopping anything from shaking around inside the downtube. There is a minimal dock down below the bottom bracket to help you direct whatever it is to the needed chain stay.

Interestingly, Specialized has identified the head tube, seat tube, fork legs and seat stays as the parts that have been changed to boost aerodynamics, but not the downtube.

Specialized stated that attempting to shape the downtube for more aerodynamic purposes did not generate enough performance gain to outweigh the added weight and loss of overall handling and ride quality.

This further emphasizes the idea that the bike is most aerodynamic when its full system is used, yet is still streamlined even when outfitted using typical handlebars and other aerodynamic wheels.

However, the wheels… The most advanced two models are equipped with the new Roval Rapide CLX wheels, featuring different wheel profiles and depths for the front and back axles. Particularly, it is reported that the expansive 35mm width of the front end helps to diminish the influence of any wind coming from the side, enhancing steadiness and, consequently, greater speed.

Have a look at the comprehensive technical specifications of these wheels to find out what distinguishes them. Only tubeless rims are supplied with the bike when it is purchased, paired with the Specialized Turbo Cotton 320tpi 700×26 tires that lack tubes.

It rides and handles better

The Tarmacs of the past were ideally suited for crit racers and professional, sponsored cyclists, but over the years, it has become much more simple for the average person to use. The SL7 has made the layup process even more balanced than previous Tarmac models.

The SL7 has a reduced stack height of 10mm across all sizes as a result of higher-capacity head tube covers compared to the SL6.

Therefore, with the same quantity of spacers, the outcome is the same as the SL6. Same process, and the same function; no difference between the SL6, SL7, and Venge in terms of geometry.

The improvement in ride quality and performance is due to the layup and design. Cameron Piper, the Product Manager at Specialized, informed us that their pros commented that the SL6 felt firmer at the front than in the back and that its performance was unequalled.

They decided to balance out the rigidity of the Venge’s back end with the unwavering lateral/twisting firmness of the SL6’s front side.

Piper claims that the SL7’s seat tube’s deeper aerodynamic shape provides the type of stiffness for higher power transmission that they desired. Nevertheless, the rigidity was improved, yet the suppleness and riding ease were retained.

The frame’s rigidity, comfort, and acceptability are now more balanced from the front to the back.

One would assume that the ability to fit larger tires would be beneficial, and this particular unit can manage tires as large as 700x32mm. So far, after reviewing the S-Works model, we feel quite pleased with how it sits, even on longer trips. Be sure to check back in by the end of August for an in-depth examination.

Frame and fork

Even though it’s made of carbon that is of lower quality, the Tarmac SL7 Expert’s design follows that of the S-Works version, meaning that Specialized has observed that it is 45 seconds faster than the SL6 when taking a 40km trip at a speed of 50kph (measured according to Specialized’s “Win Tunnel”).

Compared to its predecessor, the Venge, the Tarmac moves slower but is quite similar when gazing at it from afar. However, the depth of the Tarmac’s down tube is shallower, the fork is distinct, and the tubing is more slender.

The Tarmac’s design was taken from the Venge’s and the FreeFoil Shape Library was used; as with BMC and Scott, the Tarmac is disc-only. Whether you are in favour of it or not, this renders it with very crisp edges.

The cable integration is derived from the S-Works version. The hydraulic hoses and Di2 wires disappeared into the opening at the top of the head tube.

The junction box was placed at the back of the seat post, though the mechanic made their own changes and put it in the typical spot on the handlebar where it can be viewed during the ride.

Setting up the front-end integration won’t be an easy task, but the hidden cabling will result in a few energy-saving watts.

The difference between the Scott’s and the proprietary spacers is that the latter isn’t divided, meaning that if you wish to shorten the steerer tube and lower the front part of the saddle, you need to disconnect the hoses and cables. Additionally, there’s no way to mount them above the stem.

Specializing has gone back to using an internally threaded 68mm bottom bracket housing. It appears going backwards a bit since not all press-fit bottom brackets squeak, and they can be a superior building solution for a carbon frame, but that’s what customers want.

Specialized has chosen a geometry based on earlier Tarmacs which works well; the stack/reach ratio of the size 56 is 1.39, which is more aggressive than other bikes tested (the average being around 1.44) but they have surprisingly equipped a short 100mm stem, spoiling its low, long shape.


The design focuses on the Shimano Ultegra Di2 with a chainring of 52/36 and a cassette of 11-30. It has been pointed out numerous times how great this group set is; the upcoming one being released later this year has a lot to live up to.

The bar and stem are Specialized in-house components. They’re separated but the stem is proprietary.

This aluminium compact bar has a standard design, with no internal pathways for cables. Its size is 42cm. Wires emerge from beneath the handlebar tape (which is especially snug and provides a tight grip: Supacaz Super Sticky Kush) and move along the underside of the stem into the head tube cover.

There are a lot of smart features where when tallied it is clear the Specialized Tarmac Expert SL7 is only an insignificant step down in its performance and weight, considering it is half the price of the S-Works. Nevertheless, the most apparent drawback may be the wheels.

Although Giant and Scott have been able to offer their less competitive bikes for about £5,000 with an Ultegra Di2 group set and a nice pair of carbon wheels, Specialized hasn’t been able to provide the same. The DT Swiss R 470 aluminium rims combined with the non-series hubs from Specialized are the lowest quality one can expect.

You can purchase these wheels at Wiggle for £39.99 a piece. The weight of the wheelset is 1,790g, which seems strange for a bicycle that costs £5,000. The Tarmac weighed in at 7.81kg making it the second heaviest of the bicycles being investigated, however, if we’d put it on a set of wheels at 1,500g, it would have then outstripped the Giant (7.37kg) as the lightest one.

The S-Works Turbo tires made by Specialized (26mm in width) are extremely remarkable and surpassed all expectations.

The Specialized Power saddle has been accepted by many riders due to its usability, making it a popular choice.


The general agreement is that the SL7 is stiffer compared to the SL6, which makes sense since the tubing is more efficient aerodynamically and the Seat post has a thinner shape.

Remarkably, the Specialized Tarmac SL7 Expert frame can produce such good performance with low-cost wheels.

It seems that some bicycles, like the BMC Teammachine SLR TWO, are too sensitive to be able to absorb the roughness of inexpensive accessories, but the Specialized seems to be able to handle it without hindering its ride quality.

The Tarmac is the best choice for the road enthusiast, offering excellent manoeuvrability, speed, and lightness. It will keep you comfortable on climbs, descents, and flat terrain, performing suitably for any road riding you take on – from competitive cycling to a regular club ride to just having some fun.


Those budget wheels are the crux of the matter. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable that they are not only low-cost but incredibly inexpensive, making it reasonable for people to anticipate more for their £5,250.

The difficulty Spesh is facing is that other companies marketing comparably priced bikes for the average user – specifically Giant and Scott examined in our testing – have achieved the ability to spec quality carbon wheels with in-store prices that exceed £1,000.

Yes, the Specialized Tarmac SL7 Expert has an awesome frame structure with fantastic ride quality and, to my eye, looks magnificent with that paintwork. However, unless you absolutely must have a Tarmac SL7, the other brands present better performance for your money with their superior wheels.


Frame: Tarmac SL7 FACT 10r Carbon, Rider-First Engineered, Win Tunnel Engineered, Clean Routing, Threaded BB, 12x142mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc
Fork: FACT Carbon, 12x100mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc
Stem: Tarmac integrated stem, 6-degree
Bars: Specialized Expert Shallow Drop, alloy, 125mm drop x 75mm reach
Front Brake: Shimano Ultegra R8170, hydraulic disc
Rear Brake: Shimano Ultegra R8170, hydraulic disc
Front Mech: Shimano Ultegra R8150, braze-on
Rear Mech: Shimano Ultegra R8150, 12-speed
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra R8170, hydraulic disc
Speed: 24
Rims: Roval C38
Front Tyre: S-Works Turbo, 120 TPI, folding bead, BlackBelt protection, 700x26mm
Rear Tyre: S-Works Turbo, 120 TPI, folding bead, BlackBelt protection, 700x26mm
Seat Post: 2021 S-Works Tarmac Carbon seat post, FACT Carbon, 20mm offset
Saddle: Body Geometry Power Expert, titanium rails
Chainset: Shimano Ultegra R8100 52/36T
Bottom Bracket: Shimano Threaded BSA BB
Chain: Shimano Ultegra, 12-speed
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra, 12-speed, 11-30t

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