Bike of the Week : Specialized Tarmac SL7
The answer to all our questions?
For anyone that has been shopping for a new bike, the Tarmac SL7, or as we have been calling it, “the Tarvenge,” offers a very balanced road race style with aero-optimization. The choice to be aero- or weight-optimized is simplified. As we step back and analyze the new SL7, it’s clear to us that Venge owners will get a fairly significant overall gain if they make the switch. SL6 owners will gain some aero advantage, but ride quality is a bit stiffer in the saddle.
On the road, the SL7 feels and responds like its predecessor. Cornering is predictable and responsive, offering lots of confidence even when pushing the limits. Out of the saddle, the bike responds to efforts rapidly. In the saddle, the SL7 is a bit stiffer than the SL6 but significantly more comfortable than the Venge.
The ride characteristics of this bike have remained some of our favorites. The added benefit to fit 32mm tires with room to spare makes it even more versatile. With that said, it is still very much a race-oriented bike. This doesn’t mean you need to race it, but a confident rider with moderate experience will get the most out of it.
Also to note that there is no gender-specific sizing, and all SL7 frames are optimized for the frame size and range from 44cm to 61cm.
For us, the SL7 is a great option, and to be honest, the Pro model is probably the way to go for most. Yes, it’s constructed of a lower grade of carbon, but it’s only 120 grams different in total frame weight. If you choose the $12,000 S-Works version, you’re paying a premium for the badging and some fancier parts. There might be a slight uptick in performance, but we think it would be hard to quantify.
This may sound odd, but what got us most excited about the new SL7 is simply the fact that it has a threaded bottom bracket. Sure, marketing companies have pounded BB30 or PF30 into our brains for years, including Specialized, but the truth is, 30mm Press-Fit bottom brackets have been the single-most problematic aspect of any bike we’ve tested.
The SL7 is available in a variety of builds and framesets, starting off with a 10R $3000 frame and fork or $5000 for the S-Works version. An Expert will set you back $5000 with Shimano Ultegra Di2 and $7000 Will get you one of the two Pro models. A whopping $12,000 for either S-Works version with SRAM or Shimano top tier components.
Weight: 16.75 pounds
Sizes: 44cm, 49cm, 52cm, 54cm (tested), 56cm, 58cm, 61cm
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