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First Ride Review: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 Dura-Ace Di2

Stu shares his initial thoughts on what it is like to ride Specialized's new aero and lightweight Tarmac SL7

The latest version of Specialized’s Tarmac, the SL7, is one of the fastest road bikes I have ever ridden, and that’s not just down to the fact that this top level S-Works version floats just above the UCI minimum weight limit. Aerodynamics also play a massive role.

2020 Specialized Tarmac SL7.jpg

The bike

The Tarmac SL7 has been launched today, although I’ve been lucky enough to have been riding one for just over a week now (on condition that I stay schtum until the release). The miles ridden haven’t been massive yet, but I reckon I’ve covered enough to give you my first thoughts on how the relationship is going.

Find out all the tech details on the new Specialized Tarmac SL7

Specialized have supplied us with the all-singing, all-dancing S-Works Tarmac Dura-Ace Di2 model, and what a beauty it is. Of course, priced £10,500, you'd expect it to be (the range opens with the Tarmac SL7 Expert at £4,750).

2020 Specialized Tarmac SL7 - crank.jpg

I won’t go into too much of the technical details of the new frame, fork and components because Mat has already done that here.

For your £10,500 you get a FACT 12r carbon-fibre frame and fork, a full Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset with dual-sided power meter, and an S-Works Aerofly II handlebar mated to an integrated stem.

2020 Specialized Tarmac SL7 - bars 3.jpg

The deep section Roval Rapide CLX carbon wheels are wrapped in Specialized’s Turbo Cotton 26mm tyres, and the build is topped off with a full-carbon Body Geometry S-Works Power saddle.

The whole package (56cm frame) weighs in at just 6.85kg (15.1lb) on the scales.

2020 Specialized Tarmac SL7 - riding 4.jpg

All about the aero

As you may have surmised from the photographs, the main focus in the development of the SL7 has been on aerodynamics, but without affecting overall weight. An amalgamation of the previous Tarmac and the aero Venge model, if you like.

Read our review of the Specialized S-Works Venge Di2

So far, I’ve ridden the SL7 on a couple of 90 minute A-road blasts and a longer three hour trek out into the backroads. It doesn’t seem to matter what the setting is, this Specialized Tarmac SL7 is ridiculously fast!

Initially I put a lot of this down to the weight. 6.85kg is very impressive for a bike with aero intentions, after all, specially when you consider it’s wearing hydraulic disc brakes and deep section wheels, adding to the weight.

2020 Specialized Tarmac SL7 - charging port.jpg

My rim braked B’Twin CF Ultra weighs exactly the same, though, and even with the deep section wheels fitted I haven’t achieved the average speeds that I can on the Specialized.

The thing I have noticed when riding the SL7 is that the effort required to ride fast – 19mph through to about 26mph, say – is lower than on many other bikes.

Once you’ve got the SL7 up there, you just need to keep it ticking over, and that feels easier than normal. I could ride faster for longer, and hitting the base of a hill in this relaxed sort of state means there is more left in the legs to push an incredibly light bike up the summit. It's all subjective, but that's the way it feels to me.

2020 Specialized Tarmac SL7 - clearance.jpg

Obviously, I’ll be testing this out more over the coming weeks on a lot of my favourite routes to see how much the early honeymoon period of riding a very light and stiff bike is affecting play.


Larger section tubing used on many aero bikes can often cause a firm or even harsh ride, but Specialized have achieved the opposite.

The stiffness around the bottom bracket junction, chainstays and down tube hasn’t let me down on the steep climbs or when racing the traffic, and things are tight at the front end too.

Even with the 26mm Turbo Cotton tyres pumped up to 95psi, there's no real feeling of vibration or harshness coming through from the road surfaces I’ve tried so far.

The saddle has a little bit of hull flex which also helps take the sting out, and the wide and flat Aerofly II handlebar is much more forgiving than I expected.

2020 Specialized Tarmac SL7 - riding 1.jpg

More to come

Well, I hope that’s enough to whet your appetite. This is in no way a full review, just my early impressions based on a few rides.

I’ll have  the Specialized Tarmac SL7 for another few weeks. I’ll be using that time to get under its skin and see what it is like to live with long term.

I’ll be back with a full review soon.

As part of the tech team here at F-At Digital, senior product reviewer Stu spends the majority of his time writing in-depth reviews for, and ebiketips using the knowledge gained from testing over 1,500 pieces of kit (plus 100's of bikes) since starting out as a freelancer back in 2009. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 170,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him, he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. With a background in design and engineering, he has an obsession with how things are developed and manufactured, has a borderline fetish for handbuilt metal frames and finds a rim braked road bike very aesthetically pleasing!

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MoutonDeMontagne | 3 years ago

Whats going on with the head tube - in the photo it looks like its got some sort of matt wrap on it that bubbled? Doesn't look like a £10k finish! 

willsdad | 3 years ago
1 like

Technologically great, but at what price? If it's so fast how will anyone know its the halo model apart from the paint job or if its outside a cafe not moving? 10 grand is for a bike that is designed to be ADAPTED TO FIT you rather than BUILT TO FIT you, really? And it comes in black or red. No doubt people will love it until the SL8 arrives!

mdavidford replied to willsdad | 3 years ago
1 like

willsdad wrote:

If it's so fast how will anyone know its the halo model apart from the paint job or if its outside a cafe not moving?

Presumably by paying attention to what they were buying when they were buying it.

willsdad replied to mdavidford | 3 years ago

Too True. Apparently, shepherds use that strategy at the market. But they all the sheep look pretty much the same in the field regardless of one costing twice as much.

For £10.5k you'd expect something to attract attention. I don't think there is even an option like Treks Project One.

fukawitribe replied to willsdad | 3 years ago

I quite like the muted look myself, but then I generally prefer that to something spangly just to let people know whatever the thing is, is expensive.. always going to be an incredibly personal choice. Custom paint option would be nice though, not really going to make that much of a dent in the overall cost.

Chris Hayes | 3 years ago

I'm sure its a great bike to ride, but I'm not keen on the spartan finish - or lack thereof... especially for £10k+ ...the red one looks better...

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