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Specialized Tarmac SL8: leaked details of “the world's fastest race bike” appear online

Documents say new model features a ‘Speed Sniffer’ nose cone for aero gains with the S-Works frame weighing just 685g frame and complete bikes starting at 6.62kg

The unreleased Specialized Tarmac SL8 will feature a ‘Speed Sniffer’ nose cone that’s designed to improve aerodynamic efficiency and will offer 33% higher stiffness-to-weight and 6% more compliance than the existing Tarmac SL7, according to new documents that have appeared all over the Internet in what is either a very elaborate hoax or a leak of Specialized's bona fide product details for the new SL8. We know where we're putting our money on this one.

Everyone has suspected for some time that a new Tarmac is on the way, especially since pictures of a new bike being ridden by members of Soudal QuickStep were shared online last month.

> New Specialized road bike leaked with unique oversized head tube — is this the new Tarmac SL8 or a revamped Roubaix? 

Now, though, the leak isn’t really a leak anymore. Thanks to a loads of pdfs listed on Weight Weenies and shared elsewhere, it’s more of a raging torrent. If these documents are genuine – and we have every reason to think that they are – we now know plenty about the new bike.

“Nothing is faster than the Tarmac SL8 thanks to a combination of aerodynamics, lightweight, and ride quality previously thought impossible,” says Specialized, on what would seem to be a genuine sell-sheet for the new bike that has been shared on the Weight Weenies forum and on social media and which we'll be quoting from extensively below.

“After eight generations and over two decades of development, it’s more than the fastest Tarmac ever - it's the world's fastest race bike. Your legs up for it?”

Getting down to specifics, Specialized says that the Tarmac SL8 is its most aerodynamically efficient road bike ever. Obviously, that means it’s more aero than the Venge, the bike that Specialized shelved when it introduced the Tarmac SL7.

> New Tarmac SL7: lightweight AND super aero, says Specialized 

“Clean air is optimised for maximum advantage with the Tarmac's new nose cone - the Speed Sniffer,” says Specialized.

Interesting name.

“By moving the steer tube back – the tube that determines head tube width – the leading edge of the head tube can be much sharper, delivering a much lower drag shape,” it says.

Specialized says it has taken advantage of new UCI rules to create its most aero seatpost ever, “ensuring fast-moving, dirty air around the legs can flow back more cleanly.”

Specialized also says that the Tarmac SL8 has a much higher stiffness-to-weight ratio than its predecessor. We’re used to big boasts when new bikes are launched but Specialized reckons there has been an improvement of 33% here. That’s a massive claim.

“The Tarmac SL8 takes legendary handling, aggressive responsiveness and World Championship-proven geometry to the next level,” says Specialized.

“The bike is stiffer at the pedals, more precise at the bars, and combines it with a compliant ride in the saddle that sets a new benchmark for race bike comfort. Thanks to our Rider-First Engineering, every rider, regardless of size, gets the same unprecedented ride quality and handling.

“In the saddle, the Tarmac SL8 delivers 6% more compliance, floating over rough road with a supple feel unique in the high-strung world of race bikes.”

2023 Specialized Tarmac SL8 frameset leak - 1

One thing that’s unaltered is the geometry. The Tarmac SL8 is exactly the same as the SL7 in this respect. The same goes for clearance; you can still fit tyres up to a maximum width of 32mm. Specialized won’t be providing separate men’s and women’s models, reasoning that “creating male or female bikes is arbitrary and outdated”.

The existing Tarmac SL7 frame is available in two different versions: one with what Specialized calls FACT 10r Carbon and the higher level Fact 12r Carbon for the super-duper S-Works model. The same is true for the Tarmac SL8.

Specialized claims a weight of 685g for the FACT 12r Carbon frame (size 56cm) and 1.41kg for the frameset – which comprises the frame, fork, seatpost and wedge-type seat binder (1.37kg for the ‘Ready to Paint’ frameset in a Satin Carbon/Snake Eye minimalist colourway with decals over a clear coat for easy removal for custom painting).

The FACT 10r Carbon frame (size 56cm) has a claimed weight of 780g and a frameset (frame, fork, seatpost, seat binder, stem) weight of 1.69kg.

For comparison, the Tarmac SL7  FACT 10r Carbon frame weight was a claimed 920g, with 800g for the S-Works version.

We’ve seen sell sheets for the following builds (with claimed weights):

  • Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 (6.62kg)
  • Shimano Ultegra Di2 (7.16kg)
  • SRAM Red eTap AXS (6.85kg)
  • SRAM Force eTap AXS (7.44kg)
  • SRAM Rival eTap AXS (7.77kg)

All models have power meters – from 4iiii in the case of the Shimano-equipped bikes, and from SRAM on the bikes fitted with SRAM groupsets – and Roval wheels. All the tyres are 26mm wide and, on all but the SRAM Rival model, tubeless.

Prices? Looks like we’ll have to wait patiently for Specialized to reveal those… or maybe someone will leak those onto the Internet too.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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Glov Zaroff | 9 months ago

It looks...depressing. 

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