Any discussion about best bike in the pro peloton has to include the S-Works Tarmac. As a brand, Specialized is polarizing; as a designer and builder of high-end race bikes, the company knows exactly what it’s doing. There are many examples in the company’s lineup, but none shine quite as brightly as the Tarmac, and especially this version.
The things the Tarmac is supposed to do — climb, accelerate, sprint, turn, and stop — it does as well as or better than any race bike out there. “Best handling bike I’ve ever ridden,” said one tester. Specialized’s rider-tuned layups — every frame size gets a unique layup, so that riders on small frames have the same experience as those on large sizes — certainly helps with this. That means handling is dialed for the size, rather than an average.
As expected of a bike this light with such enviable lab numbers, the Tarmac rewards hard sprints and comes to life on the climbs, while the stiff front end, aero wheels, and hydraulic discs encourage wide-open descending. Whether or not discs will catch on in the pro peloton is still very much in question, but for consumers who don’t have to worry as much about fast wheel changes, the benefits are obvious.
No surprise that all of our testers loved the Dura-Ace Di2 build; Shimano’s top-tier road group is second to none. What we didn’t expect was that the Tarmac would be this comfortable. No doubt the 24mm, 320tpi cotton Turbo tires helped, but the Tarmac frame also has a way of holding the rider in place. It’s more like wearing a bike than riding it.
The S-Works Tarmac Disc is as all-around as all-around race bikes get.
Component highlights: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 drivetrain; Specialized 52/36 crankset and Dura-Ace 11-28 cassette; Shimano R785 hydraulic disc brakes; Roval Rapide CLX40 disc wheelset