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Is Specialized set to unveil a new Tarmac SL6 race bike at the Tour de France?

If Specialized is set to unveil a new Tarmac SL6, and if so, what can we expect?

The Tour de France gets underway this weekend, and while most people’s attention will be on the contenders for the yellow jersey, the tech team are more interested in what new bikes and equipment will be on show. 

The race is commonly used to debut new products, and it looks like Specialized might have something new ready for the race. We’ve been following the Quick-Step Floors Cycling Team on Facebook for the past couple of weeks, one of two teams sponsored by the US bike company, and we’ve spotted a bike that doesn’t currently exist in its range in a couple of posts. 

Our best guess is that it’s a new Tarmac. We can go further than guessing, the UCI’s list of approved bikes and equipment includes two new bikes in the Specialized section, a Tarmac SL6 and Tarmac 18 Disc, both approved back in April. The current Tarmac is the SL5, the fifth generation model, though the brand dropped the SL tag from the model for the first time, so SL6 suggests the sixth iteration of the flagship race bike.

- Review: Specialized S-Works Tarmac Disc

So is the bike being used by a few select Quick-Step riders being the new Tarmac? We expect it is. And what can we speculate from the photo? Not a huge amount, but a few things stand out. 

The most immediately obvious change is the dropped seatstay design. They look reminiscent of the Venge ViAS seatstay design and we’d hazard a guess that the change produces better aero performance and possibly more comfort as well. 

- Review: Specialized Venge ViAS Expert Disc

The current Tarmac has a bowed top tube and curvaceous head tube and down tube, a look that has been a unique to the Tarmac for a good many years. It looks like Specialized has scrapped all that and taken the Tarmac in a new design direction. Curves are out and straight lines are in.

That could be to do with reducing weight. The current S-Works Tarmac frame is in the region of 966g for a size 56cm so they might have aimed to bring that weight down a bit to better compete with the 830g for the new Cervelo R5 and 790g for the new BMC Teammachine SLR01. 

- BMC launches new Teammachine with rim or disc brakes

The new bike looks to retain the same internal seat clamp as the current bike, which allows for increased seatpost extension for a bit more deflection at the saddle. And if we zoom in on the photos, it does look like the new frame utilises Shimano’s direct mount brake calipers instead of the previous dual pivot brakes.

And what of the disc brake version? we’ve not spotted a photo of that yet. We do know that Specialized developed the disc version of the previous Tarmac SL5 at the same time as the rim brake version, so we’d expect it’s done the same again. A change we’ll probably see if thru-axles instead of quick releases and flat mount disc brakes.

Introduced on the current Tarmac for the first time was Rider-First Engineered, the company’s take on size specific frame construction. We’d expect the new frame to continue this key selling feature, and possibly in an enhanced state.

- Cervelo's new R5 is stiffer, more aero and comfortable, and is available with disc brakes

With Dan Martin and Philippe Gilbert spotted racing the new bike Specialized will have been getting some top quality feedback from the team. Will the entire team be using the new bike at the Tour or will it be a few select riders still? We’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out (Saturday is a time trial).  Watch this space.

In other new bike news, Trek looks to be close to launching a new Emondo as well. 

David worked on the tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes

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StraelGuy | 6 years ago

'Qualtifiable?' My god man! That bike's so new, improved and clearly all-round goddamn awesomer, they've had to invent a new word  !!!

Bigtwin | 6 years ago

The dropped stays will almost automatically mean 18% more direct lateral compliance with qualtifiable superlatives.  Re-designed aero tubing will generate up to 23% more overuse of newly designated F.L.A.s (four letter abbreviations - FACT!).  A larger bottom bracket will precipitate an estimated whopping 38% increase in upper-lip stiffness when after purchase riding reveals absolutely no discernable difference whatsoever.  Obviousy, this will be achieved with a minus 1,876,943 percent bank balance on-the-fly adjustment.

EddyBerckx | 6 years ago

Lighter, stiffer, more compliant.


And it'll ride on water.


You're welcome.

barongreenback replied to EddyBerckx | 6 years ago

StoopidUserName wrote:

Lighter, stiffer, more compliant.


And it'll ride on water.


You're welcome.


Sorry, this marketing blurb is meaningless without meaningless percentages to add to the meaningless marketing blurb.  I suggest a minimum of 15% to get Specialized started.

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