2015 specialized bikes new tarmac s works mc laren rider first engineered™ reviews china
2015 specialized bikes new Tarmac S Works McLaren Rider First Engineered™ reviews china
2015 specialized bikes Tarmac S Works called SL5? NO! McLaren Rider First Engineered™ new road
framesets.Don’t call it the SL5. The company says its new top-end race bike is neither lighter nor stiffer
than its predecessor—it’s just better.
Did you know you rode a 56cm? It doesn’t matter if you are 5’3” or 6’3”, you’ve been riding a
56cm frame, it may have been scaled up or down to fit you, but it is based on performance targets
created around a 56cm.
When Specialized began designing a Tarmac to replace the all-conquering SL4 they decided to create
performance targets based on data collected while riding, not on a static test bench and they learned
something startling, scaling a 56cm to fit taller or shorter riders was missing the mark dramatically. Quite
simply, the way designing bikes has been done since the beginning of time doesn’t work – unless you
ride a 56cm.
So what does Rider-First Engineered mean?It is a completely new approach to frame design that begins
and ends with the rider.Real-time data was cllected which was then used to set optimal performance
targets for each size frame.Specialized engineers then hit those targets,delivering unprecedented
complete performance in acceleration,handling and compliance all in a weight-optimized package.
The launch of this new Specialized – it’s just a Tarmac, no more SL designations – is more than the
launch of a new bike, it’s the launch of a new way to design a bike. Specialized calls it ‘Rider-First
Engineered’, a cute phrase to be sure, but thankfully it is the only one. This 2015 Tarmac is refreshingly
devoid of marketing slogans. There are no ‘power transfer thing-ama-jigs’ or ‘optimally compacted
smooth wall do-hickeys’. Specialized measured rider induced forces with on bike data points for every
single size they make, from 49cm to 64cm. This created a discrete set of performance targets for each
and every size. Gone were the days of just making the tubes a bit bigger or smaller and hoping they
reflected the performance of the 56cm. This new Tarmac is essentially seven new Tarmacs to ensure
each handles like the new 56cm Tarmac, which had performance targets well beyond the old SL4.
Understanding Center of Gravity’s Influence
It was during high speed cornering that Specialized first understood the different demands rider size put
on a frame. They found riders on the 56cm SL4 could turn in and hit their line with perfection while riders
on the 58cm or 61cm would turn in but then make corrections to find the apex as the frame deflected,
loading and unloading the frame during the corner. Interestingly, riders on the big sizes still equated this
with cornering well, they didn’t realize what they were missing. Specialized looked closely at what a bike
actually does to help you corner and found it destabilizes you, allowing you to fall into the corner, then
catches you with the front wheel creating the apex. This motion puts loads on the frame a simple, static
torsion test never reveals and it’s all due to the rider’s center of gravity. For every 10% your center of
gravity rises, loads increase 18%. The exact demands a big rider puts on a bike were truly understood for
the first time. Conversely Specialized knew the small bikes were stiffer than necessary, and they could
create an even better handling experience.
While this example uses the forces created while cornering the new Tarmacs, all seven of them, were
created from unique performance targets for power transfer, compliance and everything else an
all-around race bike needs to do. Using ride quality, handling and power transfer as your only barometer
resulted in the 56cm and smaller bikes getting lighter, but the 58cm and larger are actually heavier than
the SL4, 81grams heavier for the 61cm. Of course, only in the rabbit hole of cycling marketing and media
is 81grams, the weight of an empty water bottle, a big deal. A 61cm 2015 Tarmac can still easily break
the 15lb barrier.
There are many more details associated with the new bike beyond the ‘Rider First Engineering’ marching
orders. While the geometry is identical to the SL4 the new head tube features size specific headset
tapers. The SL4’s seat collar is gone, in place of an integrated binder, which exposes 3.5cm more seat
post to help compliance in the saddle with more seat post deflection. The bottom bracket is still 68mm
wide. Specialized has found while going wider may be a strategy for increased frame stiffness, all those
improvements and more are lost by leaving the crank spindle unsupported by bearings for such a large
span. The bottom bracket and stays are molded together to eliminate a bond joint in that critical area and
the rear dropouts are molded as a single piece within the stays improving stiffness dramatically, a feature
they use to full effect with the new disc Tarmac.
Yes, the 2015 Specialized Tarmac has a disc option, and unlike many disc options, Specialized managed
to keep the geometry identical to the rim brake version. With the 135mm rear dropout spacing this
requires a disc specific derailleur hanger, which slides the derailleur inboard 2.5mm to ensure optimal
chain line even with the tight rear stays. What this means is for the first time a bike with the incredible
modulation of discs actually has the tight geometry to take full advantage of it on a descent.
While two rides over new terrain are typically insufficient to make many definitive statements about a bike,
the two rides we enjoyed on the new Tarmac were long, hilly and very challenging. We did over 190 miles
in two days, up and down some of the most scenic roads in Northern California. While we will wait for a
long-term test bike’s arrival at our Ojai Test HQ for detailed rider feedback we feel qualified to share
some educated impressions.
First off the bike is stiff, the size 61cm we rode feels stiff vertically, at least as stiff as the 58cm SL4 we
tested previously. After 6hour days in the saddle we weren’t beaten up, but it communicates with the road
very directly. In terms of pure power transfer it feels a hint livelier, which is incredible, since the SL4 was
the benchmark rocket ship, but more testing is necessary to say this with true conviction.
What we can say, unequivocally, is the bike is faster in the corners and downhill than the SL4, and faster
than anything we have ever ridden. The 61cm, a size typically associated with sluggish downhill
performance, corners on rails. Countersteer, set your line with the front wheel and rocket through the
corner with total confidence. Day one on the bike took some getting used to as we cut apexes too tight. It
was then we realized that our other bikes, SL4 included, required us to hunt for the line a second time as
the frame loaded and unloaded. Both the 58cm and 61cm hit the target immediately and stay locked on.
If this is how the 56cm’s have been cornering we finally know what we have been missing. Bike handling
is the single area of bike performance where we can push the bike as hard as the pros. You don’t need to
be a genetic freak to go downhill fast, so focusing on the Tarmac’s handling means more of its improved
performance is available for mortals.
For reference, here’s the second day’s Strava file - 105.8miles, with over 9k feet of climbing if the iPhone
is to be believed. We rode a segment called the West Alpine Descent , ridden by 2315 people. It’s a tree
covered, snaking, rollercoaster of a descent. On the first trip down following a rider who knew the road
and staying well within the comfort zone we posted a top ten result. The only conclusion we can draw
from this is the 2015 Tarmac has taken what was the ragged edge and moved it well within our comfort
zone meaning the new edge, the new line, has been moved much faster and farther away. We can’t wait
to explore our new limits with the 2015 Tarmac just as soon as we get our hands on a long-term loaner.
We’ll share that experience and more details about the bike in an upcoming issue of peloton magazine.
Seven different models with the new 2015 Tarmac Rider-First Engineered
frame set are available in seven sizes: 49cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm, 61cm,
S-Works Tarmac Disc: Dura Ace Di2 11 Speed, R785 Hydro and Roval
Rapide CLX 40 SCS Disc carbon clinchers. Fact 11r frame. $9500
S-Works Tarmac Dura Ace: 11 Speed mechanical with rim brakes and Roval
Rapide CLX 40 carbon clinchers. Fact 11r frame. $8250
S-Works Tarmac Red: SRAM Red 22 with rim brakes and Roval Rapide CLX
40 carbon clinchers. Fact 11r frame. $8250
Tarmac PRO Disc Race UDi2: Ultegra Di2 11 Speed, R785 Hydro and Roval
Rapide CL 40 SCS Disc carbon clinchers. Fact 10r frame.
Tarmac PRO Disc Race: Ultegra 11 Speed mechanical, R785 Hydro and
Roval Rapide CL 40 SCS Disc carbon clinchers. Fact 10r frame.
Tarmac PRO Race: Ultegra 11 Speed mechanical and Roval Rapide CL 40
carbon clinchers. Fact 10r frame.
Tarmac Expert Race: Ultegra 11 Speed mechanical and Fulcrum S4 alloy
clinchers. Fact 10r frame.
The 2015 Tarmac is Available for pre-order at your local Specialized dealer
“TESTING THE BIKE ON DIFFERENT TYPES OF CLIMBS HAS PROVEN IT’S VERY
FAST,ESPECIALLY WHEN STANING ON THE PEDALS. GOING DOWNHILL, IT’S A VERY GOOD
HANDLING BIKE THAT GOES WHERE YOU WANT IT TO GO.IT’S AN UNBEATABLE FEELING.ONE
OF THE BEST FEATURES IS THE ENORMOUS STIFFNESS,WHICH TRANSLATES TO A HIGH
CAPACITY TO TRANSMIT POWER,AND THAT’S WHAT WE’RE ALL LOOKING FOR.”–Alberto
Contador,Winner of all 3 Grand Tours
The 2015 Tarmac represents a revolution in bicycle design that begins and ends with the rider. We call it
Rider-First Engineered™ and it was inspired by our partnership with the leaders in Formula 1
development, McLaren*. Each of the seven frame sizes were developed independently, based
exclusively on the real world stresses introduced by the corresponding rider. The result is a significant
advance of complete performance in every frame size, from 49 to 56 to 61, and everything in between. In
short – breakthrough climbing, sprinting, cornering and performance for riders of every size. Because
there’s only one bike you care about. Yours.
*An S-Works+McLaren Tarmac will be released at the 2014 Tour de France.
Rider performance needs are defined to achieve complete performance.
Each frame size developed exclusively to its own performance targets
Rider input forces were measured and collected for every frame size.
Optimal stiffness and compliance targets were established for every frame size
Lower bearing size varies by frame size to achieve steering response targets established by Rider-First
Dedicated seatstays for each size frame tunes rear-end stiffness for optimized power transfer and
Exclusive ROVAL SC S hub enables short chainstays required for optimal handling and ideal chainline
for flawless shifting.
FACT Monocoque Chainstay/BB-Seamless design to optimize stiffness and handling across all seven
Disc brakes-Every model Tarmac is available disc brakes for unparalleled control and modulation-no
matter the conditions.
RIDER-FIRST ENGINEERED™ TARMAC
Every aspect of the new Tarmac has been specifically designed
to achieve the optimal balance of performance and ride quality.
INTEGRATED SEAT COLLAR
Improved vertical compliances in a seamless and efficient design.
Rider-First Engineered™ development approach for rider-size specific complete performance.
ONE-PIECE BB DESIGN
One-piece BB design for optimal power transfer.
TAPERED HEAD TUBE
Tapered head tube for direct and precise steering.
“THE NEW TARMAC IS SMOOTHER AND EASIER TO HANDLE, ESPECIALLY WHEN CHANGING
SPEED AND OVERALL HAS A BETTER BALANCE OF STIFFNESS AND STABILITY. IT FEELS
LIKE THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF THE SL4, RESPONSIVENESS AND STIFFNESS, ARE
-Vincenzo Nibali, Defending
It’s bike launch season, when manufacturers begin rolling out new models for the coming year. That’s
right: even as we’re only finishing up with this year’s bikes, a whole new fleet is being assembled for
Specialized wouldn’t say what was in store for us ahead of their most recent road launch, which took
place last week in Santa Cruz, just down the road from their Morgan Hill, California, headquarters. But
based on photos that began surfacing from the Pro Tour ranks in recent weeks, I went in expecting the
new Tarmac SL5. And that’s what Specialized unveiled—sort of.
Three years have passed since Specialized revamped its top-shelf race bike, which is quite a long
interval for the company. “It has taken a while because we wanted to address who the rider is and what
their needs are,” Chris Riekert, marketing manager at Specialized told us the first night we arrived. “We
didn’t want it to just be ’10-percent stiffer and 10-percent lighter.’”
As Specialized tells it, the typical upgrade strategy employed by most bike manufacturers in recent
years—Specialized included—of simply making a bike lighter and stiffer has reached its endgame. The
company realized this in part when they received feedback from some of their pro riders, Alberto
Contador in particular, that the Tarmac SL4 was too stiff.
Around the same time, Chris d’Alusio, Specialized’s director of Advanced Research and Design, and
Sam Pickman, an Advanced R&D engineer, had a revelation while out riding their SL4s together.
Pickman is a lanky, big-boned guy who fits a size 58cm, while d’Alusio is short and slight and rides a
52cm. Both are accomplished racers and excellent riders. While the two were descending a sinuous,
two-lane road in the rolling countryside near Morgan Hill, d’Alusio noticed that Pickman looked a bit
uncomfortable and unsure of his lines. The two got to talking afterward and realized that their ride
experiences on the SL4 were very different.
To grasp why that is, you have to understand the way that bike engineering works. In the past, when
Specialized wanted to update a road bike, they set weight, stiffness, and compliance benchmarks for the
project based on the previous model—the “10-percent-stiffer-and-lighter” adage referenced by Riekert.
Next they engineered a size 56cm frame, which is considered the middle of the road, to meet those new
standards. And once they had a finished product they were happy with, they used extrapolations to scale
the frame layups and tube diameters to the full size range.
The result? While a size 56 was sure to meet the new standards—even if those standards were
arbitrary—other sizes were likely different. “Based on that model, the smaller bikes would end up stiffer
and the larger bikes flexier,” d’Alusio explained. According to Specialized, every non-custom bike brand
in the world uses some iteration of this system.
For the new Tarmac, the team at Specialized set out to quantitatively measure the forces a rider exerts
on the bike in the field and then engineer each frame size to address those varied forces. They
developed a framework of strain gauges that attached to multiple parts of the bike, including stem and
Those gauges then recorded the forces and sent them to a computer in real time. The measurements
showed that while rider weight played a role in the force exerted on a frame, in fact rider size (the height
of the rider) was an even bigger factor. Specialized then built each of the seven models (size 49 to 64) to
specifically meet the stiffness and compliance benchmarks established by the data. “Using what we
learned, we’ve reversed the curve. Bigger and taller riders get much stiffer bikes to address their needs,
and smaller riders get more compliance,” d’Alusio said. “Most importantly, every rider should now have
the exact same ride experience no matter what size bike they ride.”
Specialized calls the process Rider First Engineering, and while only the Tarmac will employ the system
for now, it’s clear that the company plans to revamp other models using the same tests and criterion. In
2015, the top three models of the Tarmac (S-Works, Pro, and Expert) will get the new
Rider-First-Engineered frame, while the four lower-tier models will continue forward as the SL4.
Specialized chose not to call the new model the SL5 in part because they see it as a very different
creature from its predecessor and in part because they felt the nomenclature was getting out of hand. “It
started seeming silly when we looked down the line and thought about the SL13 or the SL19,” Riekert
The biggest change to the new Tarmac is at the seat post junction, where an internal binder system has
allowed Specialized to almost eliminate the tubing above the top tube, thus adding compliance to the
frame. While much of the tubing looks similar to the past iteration, including a massive down tube and
huge oversize bottom bracket area, the seat stays are more tapered and curved and the chain stays shift
from a boxy profile to a more rounded shape—both of which add to ride comfort.
Specialized claims they have also used some of the shaping technology derived from the Venge to add
small aerodynamic gains to the new Tarmac. Frame weights versus the SL4 vary by size, with the
smallest frames lighter than before, the size 56 “within spitting distance,” according to d’Alusio, and the
largest frames approximately 80 grams heavier.
In addition to a mechanical-brake version of the bike, Specialized is releasing a disc-brake equipped
model. The inclusion of the new technology on a top-end race bike signals that Specialized believes that,
sooner or later, the technology will likely be adopted by the UCI. Frame weights between disc and
non-disc are virtually identical, though a complete size 56cm disc-equipped S-Works Tarmac will be
approximately a pound heavier than the non-disc model.
In Santa Cruz, we spent two huge days in the saddle on the new bikes, the first on the disc model and the
second on the mechanical. In terms of ride feel and handling, the bikes are virtually identical. However
with over 10,000 feet of climbing and descending each day, everyone agreed that the braking
performance of the discs was superior.
That was a bit of a revelation since many of the testers are racers, most of whom are skeptical of the
need for discs. Other than the braking performance, the bikes have the same snappy responsiveness as
the previous model, but feel more confident in the corners. It’s hard to tell without back-to-back
comparisons, but most testers felt that the new Tarmac was also slightly less brassy and harsh than the
Pricing hasn’t been set for the new Tarmac, though it’s likely to be in line with current models, ranging
from between $8,500 and $10,500 for the S-Works models down to $3,800 for the Expert. The bike
debuted under all three of Specialized’s sponsored Pro Tour teams on stage one of the Giro d’Italia
Friday, including Astana, Tinkov-Saxo, and Omega Pharma–Quick-Step. We’ll be taking delivery of one
of the new bikes soon and will report back with a full ride review.