SPECIALIZED TARMAC DISC
Worth the long wait
When Specialized released their new Tarmac last year, it had all the predictable great reviews that were expected from a build engineered by their top end frame builder S-work. It was sure footed, agile, light and exploded ahead of the rest when pedal was put to the metal. But that was in rim brake form, and Specialized finally released a disc brake version after a year, conforming to the current trend of disc brake road bikes.
According to Specialized, the construction of the carbon fibre (CF) frame for the Tarmac differs from their usual high end CF frames, allowing them to shed nearly 200 grams of weight. That is the equivalent of a 20 percent weight reduction, thanks to the genius engineering of their FACT 12r carbon. But what about the disc frame? Is it heavier than its rim brake counterpart? If we follow traditional standards it would be, and to disappoint you further, we can confirm that it is in fact heavier. However, that extra weight is only 67 grams and if you opt out of using a bottle cage, you can nearly make it as light as the rim version.
Nevertheless, the Tarmac Disc is still a revelation. The one that we received from Specialized Concept Store Petaling Jaya for a test run was still a sub 7kg bike, even though it was kitted out with an Ultegra groupset and aluminum handlebar, front stem and other components.
There are eight colours to choose from and the demo bike was decorated in Team Bora colours. The first thing that you’ll notice about the bike is how light it is lifted by hand. Although some disc brake bikes are light, they can still feel heavy. Not this one. The paint job is exuberantly shiny and feels thick and durable. You would think with a bike this light, they would skimp on the paint job, but it does feel like a good amount has been applied to the carbon fibre frame.
The Tarmac Disc’s geometry is similar to the rim version. In a nutshell: a short wheel base bike that delivers direct optimal power when needed. It also has clearance for up to 30mm tyres but the one given to us was laced with Specialized’s uniquely sized S-work tyre, coming in at 26mm. Speaking of tyres, the wheelset was surprisingly bolted onto the bike by a thru-axle. Specialized has really gone all out with this bike to give it the stiffness that today’s riders demand and the thru axle is a nice addition.
With all this stiffness mentioned, you can imagine that it might be one uncomfortable bike, but no, it really has a nice ride compliance. Testing it around Kuala Lumpur’s pot holed and endlessly blemished streets, the bike really did show that it had two sides to it.
When going on the less than perfectly smooth roads, it seems like the combination of Roval’s budget but raceworthy CL 50 carbon disc wheelset and the Tarmac’s carbon fibre frame really does well at absorbing road chatter as well as larger bumps. This is usually a characteristic of a soft bike with 28mm tyres, but the fact that the bike is stiff and has 26mm tyres was a bit of a revelation.
How do we know it’s stiff? Easy. When you really need to get off the
saddle and go attack, it doesn’t feel like a rubber band but instead is more akin to a turbocharged car with extra boost pushing you from the back.
But since this is a disc frame and disc road bike, the piece de resistance is of course the braking power that made us think, wow what have we all been missing out on? The Shimano Ultegra disc brake set is a hydraulic powered brakeset powerful, responsive and lets you control the bike effortlessly.
It allowed us to brake later and have more of a precise prediction of what braking power we need. The stiff frame and fork also did not show any tendency of movement through the extra strength of the brake disc, which shows the type of engineering that went into the Tarmac disc. No wonder it took Specialized and their S-work branch a year to come out with this frame and to be honest, it was well worth the wait.
The only thing I didn’t like about the bike was its tendency for carbon fibre creaks. That’s not when you’re riding, but when you’re transporting it in the car. This is easily solved however: put it on a roof rack instead and you’re ready to go.
The bike comes equipped with an 11-28 cassette, but we would have personally spec’d it with either an 11-30 or 11-32 for a more versatile use The Roval hub is quite silent, but it may increase in noise as the hub breaks in
Top The Tarmac is equipped with hydraulic actuated brake calipers so that you get better braking performance. Centre The Bora Hansgrohe livery is a tribute to Specialized’s professional racing team, headed by star rider Peter Sagan who is also riding a version of this bike at the moment. Bottom Internal cabling inserts on the downtube of the bike to help give it a clean look.