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Julian Alaphilippe's Specialized Tarmac SL7 has alloy bars, a normal saddle and short stem — does he know something other Tour de France riders don't?

The French puncheur's bike has some really unique touches and features. Should you consider them for your bike set-up?

You can always count on Alaphilippe to light up a rolling Tour de France stage, and in 2023 he looks back to his former electrifying self. Here's a closer look at his Specialized S Works Tarmac SL7, with some unique component choices and things to consider on your own bike.

2023 Dauphine Specialized Tarmac SL7 Alaphilippe - 1

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Alaphilippe and his Soudal Quick-step team have been using S-Works Tarmac SL7 bikes for several seasons now (and it'll be the last before the SL8 is introduced according to speculation). Whether the rumours are true or not, Alaphilippe has certainly had plenty of time to refine his current equipment choices.

Like many pro cyclists, Alaphilippe opts for a smaller frame size than a size guide would have you believe. The 52cm Tarmac SL7 frame he rides was propelled to a World Championships Road Race victory in 2021. It's recommended for riders from 1.62m to 1.70m, but Alaphillipe is reportedly a little taller than that at 1.73m. 

2022 Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 Julian Alaphilippe  - 3.jpg

> Should you get a bike fit?

This is by no means the first time we've seen riders downsizing their bike frames in order to take advantage of the shorter headtubes for a more aggressive position. Like much of the pro peloton, Alaphilippe also opts for a zero-setback seatpost to help him get further over the cranks for maximum power transfer. 

2023 Dauphine Julian Alaphilippe Tarmac SL7 direct mount mech hangar

The pros also absolutely love direct mount mech hangars. Instead of using the standard dog leg link at the top of the rear mech, this extended mech hangar can be removed, which is said to be stiffer for more precise gear changes. Obviously, you don't want your mech hangar to be too strong, as then you're at greater risk of breaking something more expensive such as your frame. 

These direct mount hangars don't come as standard on the SL7 Tarmac frames, but they are available as a spare part from most Specialized dealers. Or, you could get a really bright-coloured aftermarket one if you're looking to bling up your bike. I also quite like how the Di2 wire is taped so it doesn't catch on the cassette, or anything else in the heat of a mid-race wheel change.

2023 Dauphine Julian Alaphilippe Tarmac SL7 crankset

> Q-Factors and knee pain

The groupset is the latest generation Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 complete with a double-sided power meter. The 12-speed groupset uses 54/40T rings at the front and for this particular stage, Alaphilippe opted for an 11/30T cassette at the back.

Alaphilippe is also using the latest generation Shimano Dura-Ace pedals (R9100) and like plenty of the pro peloton is using the 4mm wider spindle option. When you're riding 3,405km in just three weeks the last thing you want is knee pain - just ask Alaphilippe's fellow Frenchman Thibaut Pinot!

2023 Dauphine Julian Alaphilippe Tarmac SL7 +4mm pedals

Like for all of the Specialized-sponsored teams, the wheels come from Roval. This particular set is the Rapide CLX, which measure 51mm and 60mm at the front and rear respectively.

The front wheel is also super wider at 35mm at its widest point. For more mountainous stages the riders will take advantage of the lighter, shallower Alpinist CLX wheels.

2023 Dauphine Julian Alaphilippe Tarmac SL7 s works

> Testing deep carbon rims vs classic aluminium

Interestingly these are the first-generation Roval Rapide CLX wheels rather than the latest ones, and this is a trend we've seen happening at the other teams sponsored by Specialized too. 

This is most likely because, for dry stages at least, the Specialized teams are using tube-type clincher S-Works Turbo Cotton tyres (26mm for Alaphilippe) with latex inner tubes inside. This means the teams don't need the added rim bed reinforcement of the second gen wheels, which are heavier at 1,520g compared to these at around 1,400g.

So there's some buying advice for you. If you're not interested in tubeless then see if you can pick up a set of the older wheels, because it appears that the teams reckon they're just as fast!

2023 Dauphine Julian Alaphilippe Tarmac SL7 chain catcher

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This chain looks waxed to me, and that's unsurprising given the watt savings we're told they can bring.

Independent studies such as those conducted by zero friction cycling have shown that a waxed chain can save between 1-1.5% of your total watt output. That might not sound like a lot, and to be fair it isn't; but when Alaphillipe is smashing it up a hill at 400 watts, he might be saving between four and six watts. At the top level where margins are fine, you'd have to conclude that the purported advantage is definitely worth having

2023 Dauphine Julian Alaphilippe Tarmac SL7 rear mech

So should you go out and wax your own chain? Well, I choose to for summer but have found that they're less good in the wet. It's also a bit of a faff to reapply or top up wax every few hundred miles or so, but if you want the most efficient drivetrain possible then this is probably the way to go.

Alaphilippe is also well and truly on the chain catcher bandwagon with this blue K-Edge design. K-Edge also provides the custom out-front mount for the Wahoo cycle computer.

2023 Dauphine Julian Alaphilippe Tarmac SL7 pro alloy bars

The computer mount has a small tab of foam-backed insulation tape in the bottom of it, presumably to prevent the computer from rattling over rough surfaces as the tabs do wear over time.

The stem certainly isn't the longest we've seen, at 100mm long and with just a six-degree negative angle. Many of Alaphilippe's Soudal Quick-Step teammates were seen with the negative 12-degree variety in lengths of 130mm plus, which absolutely dwarfs this one!

Alaphilippe Brabantse Pijl crash

The bars in question are the PRO Vibe Alloy in a 40cm width. Despite the rise and rise of carbon fibre bars, some riders still opt for aluminium options. 

While carbon fibre is a wonderful material with excellent strength to weight and sometimes vibration-dampening qualities, its impact strength is often superseded by alloys. This means that in the event of a crash it's sometimes difficult to assess the damage, especially when hidden under bar tape, so we suspect that the primary reason for choosing alloy bars could be safety-related.

If you're wondering how Alaphillippe can get away with not using the Specialized or Roval bars, it's not because he gets free choice. Pro is a subsidiary of Shimano, one of Soudal Quick-Step's other sponsors. 

2023 Dauphine Julian Alaphilippe Tarmac SL7 saddle

> Best road bike saddles

Sticking to the more traditional theme, there's no 3D-printed saddle upper or short-nosed design either on this Specialized Romin EVO with carbon rails. It is, of course, mounted nearly all the way forwards.

On the rear of the seatpost is the all-important number holder, that the UCI requires every rider to have on their bike at all times. Many bikes now use a 3D-printed band clamp tailored to the proprietary seatpost shape, but the Soudal Quickstep mechanics have taken advantage of the flat back of the Kamm tail seatpost and bonded it straight on. It does look neat!

2023 Dauphine Julian Alaphilippe Tarmac SL7 number holder

> Are expensive carbon road bike wheels worth the money?

We're also assuming that the absence of the rubber cover that goes over the seatpost clamp bolt is deliberate, rather than it simply being MIA. We suspect this could be to allow for easier seatpost height changes from the team car when on the move. 

Tacx bottle cages and Supacaz bar tape complete the build. 

Are there any features or ideas that you fancy borrowing for your own bike? Let us know in the comments section below...

Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the road.cc team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...

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5 comments

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Glov Zaroff | 9 months ago
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"Interestingly these are the first-generation Roval Rapide CLX wheels" - are you basing this on the fact that clinchers were installed? The CLX II runs tubeless (safely) and clinchers. The CLX and CLX II both say 'CLX' on the rim. 

Avatar
LookAhead replied to Glov Zaroff | 9 months ago
2 likes

Nope, check the valve stem location. On the gen1 wheels, it's centered between the Roval decals (as on Alaphilippe's bike); on gen2, it's aligned with one of the Roval decals.

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check12 | 9 months ago
0 likes

Waxes chain for 6watt gain, round bars for 6 watt loss.... 0 profit 

Avatar
AlsoSomniloquism replied to check12 | 9 months ago
6 likes

Waxes chain so can have a more comfortable round bar without losing 6 watts?

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check12 replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 9 months ago
0 likes

You may be on to something - Maybe that's why Patrick is so annoyed at him, prioritising comfort over going fast 

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