Specialized Tarmac SL7 review

16 Oct 2020

Page 2 of 2Specialized Tarmac SL7 first ride review: is it really good enough to see off the Venge?


Going fast on a bike you’d be happy to ride all day has never felt so good as it does on the Specialized Tarmac SL7. Photos: Mike Massaro

Cyclist Rating: 
Impressively light and fast • Ample comfort
No tubeless compatibility

Specialized Tarmac SL7 first ride review: is it really good enough to see off the Venge?

First ride review: thoughts and impressions of the all new Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7

Stu Bowers – July 2020

Having ridden and tested all the various iterations of both Specialized Tarmac and Venge over the years, I can say that I did indeed get that sense of the unification of those two bikes in the Specialized Tarmac SL7.

For me there was a pleasing amount of familiarity about it, like going back to my mum and dad’s house for Sunday dinner, but with the meal that I was served up having in fact been created by a team of Michelin-starred chefs. Because what Specialized has dished up here is unmistakably a truly polished and distinguished product, that exudes class on the road.

Watch – The new Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7: Explainer and first ride review


The Specialized Tarmac SL7's stiffness is immediately apparent. Sprinting away from a standing start or attacking a steep incline full-gas, both the frame and wheels stood resolutely firm and with a solidity that undeniably delivered results in terms of forward propulsion.

So too that rigidity throughout, combined with the low weight, afforded the SL7 an agile feel. Something that I will always remember fondly about the SL6 is what I would describe as its very agreeable handling and thankfully that has been maintained in SL7.

As I have found often in the past, testing in the real world makes it hard to see with certainty the additional speed Specialized is claiming the new Tarmac SL7 offers over the SL6. Being 45 seconds faster over 40km (measured at a speed of 50kmh) is not something I can replicate, short of building my own wind-tunnel.

So to corroborate Specialized’s claims I simply refer to a number of set training loops that I ride regularly, for which I have many years of data to serve as my benchmark when I’m testing a bike. Straight off the bat the Specialized Tarmac SL7 impressed.

I was able to hold impressive speeds on the flat and rolling sections while climbing on the Tarmac SL7 felt equally adept, such that my overall times were right up there with some of my fastest ever, and I might add, this was at a point in time where I’m a good way off my best form.

I find it curious that the latest wheels from Specialized’s in-house brand, Roval, are not tubeless compatible, as I think this tyre technology brings multiple benefits. When I challenged product manager, Cameron Piper, about this he told me the priority was getting the fastest rim shape and that it had not been possible to achieve that with a tubeless compatible rim bed, at the time of this launch.

Putting tubeless aside, I’ll still be interested to test the Specialized Tarmac SL7 with some wider tyres. The 26mm Turbo 320tpi tyres that came fitted sit well within the overall width (35mm) of the rims, which as an aside appears a little odd when looking down from above as you ride (something that was first seen employed by Cannondale when it launched its System Six aero bike with its own Knot wheels).


While Specialized suggests 26mm as the optimal tyre width for aerodynamics, personally I feel like I would rather afford the bike a touch more comfort with 28mm tyres.

Furthermore, it seems odd too that Specialized has chosen not to borrow the seat post technology from its highly regarded Roubaix, where the post is clamped much further down the seat tube, to allow more vertical compliance from the seat post itself.

That’s not to say I found the Specialized Tarmac SL7 a jarring ride. It’s definitely not anywhere near as harsh as the original Venge or Venge Vias, and let’s not forget it’s aerodynamically faster than both of those models, so Specialized deserves credit for the achievements it’s made in moving ever closer to that holy grail of having the speed without the sacrifices that used to have to be accepted in comfort and handling.

Keep an eye out on for a full indepth review in due course, once I’ve had some more time to get to know the new Specialized Tarmac SL7.


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Page 2 of 2Specialized Tarmac SL7 first ride review: is it really good enough to see off the Venge?