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Verdict: 
Racing heritage shines through with sparkling ride backed up by no-nonsense build
Weight: 
8,240g
Specialized Tarmac Comp road bike
9 10

Specialized's £2,000 Tarmac Comp is a smart looking and well packaged bike that offers the sort of fast and engaging ride that will suit budding racers, along with sportive cyclists who favour a less upright position than is provided by the company's own Roubaix model.

Race proven frameset

Until the launch of the new Tarmac last summer, the frame on this Tarmac Comp was essentially the same frame as used right at the top of the range, and raced by the professionals over the last few years.

Despite its age - this generation Tarmac was introduced in 2011 - the frame is still modern looking. It certainly doesn't look out of place alongside more cutting-edge offerings.

The critical difference between this model and the high-end versions is not in the shape and profile of the tubes, which are identical, but in the carbon fibre used in the manufacturing process. The Comp uses a more affordable grade of carbon fibre, Specialized's own FACT 9r to be precise. That keeps the cost down, but does impact weight a bit.

Details that still ensure the Tarmac Comp cuts it with more modern alternatives include the full carbon fibre tapered steerer tube with an hourglass shaped head tube, full internal cable routing (which is Di2 compatible), and BB30 bottom bracket.

Build kit

The Specialized Tarmac Comp might be outgunned on paper by some of the direct-sales companies but it's still a well packaged bike for the price. In fact, looking at some of those direct-sales rivals, the gap isn't as wide as you'd expect. That's helped by Specialized managing to knock £200 of the bike compared to last year's model.

The groupset is predominantly Shimano Ultegra 11-speed, a common sight at this price, except for the excellent Praxis Works Turn Zayante chainset. It's the first time I've used this new chainset it worked just fine, offering a similar level of stiffness and shifting as an Ultegra chainset. It won't win any beauty awards with its rather agricultural appearance though, but looks are subjective.

Gearing is spot on, with a 52/36 chainset. I'm a big fan of this setup, which is starting to replace both compact and standard double chainsets on many bikes. It's geared well for most road racing yet makes life a little easier on hilly parcours, especially if out for the day. There's an 11-28 cassette hanging off the back wheel so you're not really going to struggle with the gear choice.

For the wheels Specialized have turned to Italian brand Fulcrum. The S4 wheels are a fusion between a Fulcrum 5 hub and Fulcrum 3 rim, they're produced for Specialized and you can't buy them off-the-shelf.

While they do help Specialized keep the bike on budget, there's certainly nothing discounted about their performance. They proved reliable and fast rolling, with good spoke tension and decent wheel stiffness when pushed hard. You're really only going to notice the weight if you look for it hard enough on the steeper climbs.

Fitted to the wheels are Specialized's own tyre. Its latest tyres are really very good, an adequate, if not better, match for any tyre normally seen at this price. These Turbo Pro tyres are 23mm wide and feature a 127 tpi construction. The BlackBelt puncture protection did a stellar job of keeping the test ride free of punctures, along with impressive speed and traction in a range of conditions.

With wider tyres gaining much popularity, it might look odd that Specialized have resisted the opportunity to spec 25mm tyres on the bike, especially given the likely buyer who might be interested in day long comfort as much as all-out racing.

Specialized again keep it own-brand with the aluminium handlebar, stem, bar tape and seatpost. It's all decent kit that caused no concerns and the handlebars have a really comfortable shape with a good reach.

A highlight is the Body Geometry Toupe Comp Gel saddle, with weight saving chromoly rails. It's not unusual to get some ugly and uncomfortable saddle on bikes at this price, and I normally swap them for my personal fave anyway, but the Toupe hit the sweet spot, and stayed on for the entire test.

At 8.24kg (18.16lb) as pictured the Tarmac Comp is a healthy weight and certainly within respectable limits for the price and pitch of the bike. Some bikes feel their weight more than others, the Tarmac Comp did an impressive job of masking the weight in the way it delivered speed, momentum and bursts of acceleration.

Ride

The geometry is what you would expect from a race bike; it strikes a good balance and is very accommodating of new cyclists as it is to experienced racers. The 20mm headset cap limits how low you can go on the front but that could easily be swapped out for a zero rise cap.

Despite that, I really got on well with the position on the 56cm Tarmac. I've ridden previous generation Tarmacs and always found them easy to get on with. There are no handling quirks, it's very predictable and easy to live with, and you feel right at home very easily.

It's a versatile bike, but not in the way that you might be thinking. No, what I mean is that it's a bike that can equally be ridden all-day long in comfort, booted around a tight and twisty criterium circuit, ridden to work, used on the chaingang, or just lazy Sunday morning rides to the coffee shop. It's happy pootling or going flat out.

It's simply a very good road bike, with an emphasis on speed and that highly tuned handling that has been developed on the racing circuit making it a lot of fun to ride.

It was surprising just how comfortable the Tarmac Comp proved to be. The frame and fork display excellent vibration damping when heading down crumbly roads. It's certainly not going to trouble a Roubaix or Synapse for outright smoothness, but the gap isn't as wide as you'd expect. Switching the 23mm tyres to 25mm, which the frame will accommodate, easily narrowed that gap.

The impression I was left with the most after riding the Tarmac Comp was just how much fun it was to ride. Whether it's chasing personal bests, closing a gap in a race, or tackling a hilly sportive, it's an ideal bike for a lot of cyclists. For many people, the Tarmac has always been a benchmark, and at this £2,000 price point, this certainly holds true.

Conclusion

There's a lot to like about the Tarmac Comp. It's a genuinely race proven bike that is perfect for any amateur racers, and the build kit gets the job done without complaint. It's a bike that would stand a few choice upgrades throughout its life - swap to some light and aero carbon wheels and you'll find the performance lifted to another level.

Yes it's from the 'race bike' mould of bicycle design, but it's so much more than just a race bike. For simply getting out at the weekends, signing up for a sportive of joining the local Sunday club run, the Specialized Tarmac Comp is simply a very high quality and highly impressive road bike.

Verdict

Racing heritage shines through with sparkling ride backed up by no-nonsense build

road.cc test report

Make and model: Specialized Tarmac Comp

Size tested: 56, white

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

The Tarmac Comp is a pure and unbridled race machine. It climbs effortlessly, descends confidently, and sprints ferociously. Bottom line, you'll be faster on this bike. With a Shimano Ultegra 11-speed drivetrain for flawless shifting, it can handle weekend races and long days in the saddle perfectly.

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

FACT 9r carbon frame is ultra-stiff and lightweight for pure speed

Fulcrum S4 wheelset is a fast rolling, lightweight all-around performer

Specialized Turbo Pro, 700x23c tyres offer grip and fast rolling speed

Turn Zayante compact crankset delivers excellent power transfer and consistent shifting

Shimano Ultegra brakes offer expert brake power and modulation

Shimano Ultegra, 11-speed rear derailleur is lightweight w/ smooth and crisp shifting

Body Geometry Toupé Comp Gel saddle w/ hollow Cr-Mo rails for comfort without compromise

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

Racy yes, but not aggressive and scary, and very accommodating of new cyclists.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Surprisingly comfortable providing good comfort for longer rides.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

Plenty of stiffness for racing and sprinting and generally riding hard and fast.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Very predictable and easy to get the best out of. It shines in most situations and at all speeds.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

The Shimano Ultegra 11-speed groupset is flawless, and the Praxis Works Turn Zayante chainset, while not the best looking thing ever, worked really well. I'd replace the 23mm tyres with 25mm tyres if you want a bit more comfort.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
9/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
7/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
9/10

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
8/10

Some 25mm tyres would be a good comfort boost.

Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
8/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
9/10

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.

Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
9/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
8/10

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

There's a lot to like about the Tarmac Comp. It's a genuinely race proven bike that is perfect for any amateur racers, and the build kit gets the job done without complaint. It's a bike that would stand a few choice upgrades throughout its life - swap to some light and aero carbon bikes and you'll find the performance lifted to another level.

Yes it's from the 'race bike' mould of bicycle design, but it's so much more than just a race bike. For simply getting out at the weekends, signing up for a sportive of joining the local Sunday club run, the Specialized is simply a very high quality and highly impressive road bike.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180  Weight: 67

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,

 

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

15 comments

Avatar
1860 [35 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Did you keep the dork disc on during the testing?

Avatar
hylozoist [68 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
1860 wrote:

Did you keep the dork disc on during the testing?

If only there were some photos or something in the article showing the bike being tested, then we might be able to find an answer to this tricky and important question. Oh wait...  39

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barkingfishes [28 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Not as nice as my new shiny Rose RS3000 with Ultergra also, but only 7kg and £500 cheaper. And doesn’t come with a ‘dork disk’  16

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Ron Evans [5 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Have an older version and love the ride. Would love another and could then use one for best...but can't justify it  3

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brighty [9 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Ha ha. Dork disc. Classic Did you know that they only actually fit that little disc precisely to give self important plebs the chance to be sniffy about new cyclists?

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Lungsofa74yearold [293 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Last year's Rose RS 3000 is even cheaper now - £1148 -http://www.rosebikes.co.uk/bike/rose-xeon-rs-3000-669083/aid:669196?forc... .....  4 7kg for an Al frame bike is pretty incredible?!

Avatar
David Arthur @d... [859 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
1860 wrote:

Did you keep the dork disc on during the testing?

Yes

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wrevilo [108 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Sounds like it is a great ride, but the paint scheme isn't very inspiring in my opinion.

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mylesrants [404 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

The Frame is the SL4 which won a Tour De France....so mighty design. Nice to see Specialized getting their prices balanced with the rest of the planet.

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1860 [35 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

"It climbs effortlessly, descends confidently, and sprints ferociously. Bottom line, you'll be faster on this bike."

Just imagine what it would have been like with an additional 10g less of weight! The whole article would have to be rewritten looking for even more amazing adjectives!

To quote the Velominati: "This part exists for the same reason as blue M&Ms: one we can’t explain."

Avatar
MartyMcCann [283 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
1860 wrote:

To quote the Velominati: "This part exists for the same reason as blue M&Ms: one we can’t explain."

Wow- "dork disc" and a reference to the Rules in one thread- ease up there fella- you will use up all the entries from your "Big Book of Commenting on Cycling Thread Clichés" before the end of the month.

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1860 [35 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

At least the valve caps were taken off, otherwise the test results would have been totally inaccurate.

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andyp [1572 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

They've probably left the apportace springs on too.

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1860 [35 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I can't seem to find the apportace springs either...

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hampstead_bandit [614 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

decent bike for the money

frame is a little heavy (1.2kg when I weighed my 54cm), but the geometry is dialled and its got really sweet handling, especially when the going gets rowdy or frantic on fast decents

Nice to see a decent chainset fitted at last (after all the FSA rubbish over the years) and the Body Geometry finishing kit is absolutely "spot on" and about as good as it gets for own brand.

New tires and wheels are decent too, finally Gripton compound making to the sub s-works tire models.