With the release of the new Tarmac SL7 from Specialized, we thought it'd be interesting to have a quick chat with Becky Hair (Specialized Ambassador) who has been lucky enough to ride both of these bikes. Becky rides regularly, competes in crit races and hill climbs, as well as leading ladies rides around Cambridgeshire. Becky has the SL7 S-Works for a few months, to use for her hill climbing racing around the UK - Let's see what she says!
When I was first taken on with Specialized in 2017 I was waiting for a bike to be available in my size. So I was given a demo bike to have a play about on. This was the Tarmac SL6 S-Works. I rode this for a couple of months, during this time I fell in love with the bike and I realised quite quickly that I never thought I would ride another bike like that again. I thought that opportunity would only be given to me once in a lifetime.
Since then I have ridden the Tarmac SL6 Comp (disc) for a couple of years, and I have loved this bike too. Obviously, the specification of this bike was not quite the S-Works level, but the geometry was still the same. Add to the Comp some new lighter wheels (I went for some Hunt 30 Carbon Aero's), and it's immediately another level up. The ride on the tarmac SL6 is like no other bike, but I do like a racing geometry bike.
I have learnt to ride my bike, and learnt to love racing and crit racing since I have had that Tarmac. It has enabled me to be a better rider as I've got fitter, and given me the confidence in my ability to really push the bike - I do put this down to the comfort that I have had whilst riding, and the experience that it gives me. I can throw that bike round corners, drive it hard up the hills into the mountains in Mallorca and it will take whatever I throw at it because the handling is just insane.
A new chapter began a few months ago, in July 2020, when along came the Tarmac SL7. I could not believe my eyes when I first saw this bike, another beauty. The virtual reality 'soft launch' was fantastic, I kept secretly putting one in my living room, and spinning it round. One bike to rule them all, one bike that has amalgamated aero and handling. I mean, can it get any better? The SL6 was a racing bike. This newcomer is built for riding long distances, as well as aero enough to race on. I heard the news that I'd be able to ride one of these beauties, and I was speechless. Now, anyone that knows me, knows that doesn't happen very often. I didn't believe it, I refused to, until I was called down to Specialized HQ to go and pick it up. My gosh it was even better in real life - the excitement was out of this world. We transferred my fit details to the new bike, and off I went!
The specifications are below. The bike is a similar spec to the previous SL6 S-Works that I rode, but my gosh does it feel different. It is around the same weight, again with Dura Ace groupset (now with bilateral power meter), but with the Alpiniste wheels and wider tyres, it is faster. Full stop. Nothing can argue with that.
One of the first things I did on this bike was to ride my normal 'chain gang' route - 25miles, a little undulating route, around the north of Cambridge. Now, normally if there are 8 of us in the group, we hold about 21-22mph. I got 3 personal records on this solo ride, and I was doing a session of 3 min efforts with 5mins zone 1 in-between! Mind blowing! I've since taken it round a TT course that I did on the previous SL6, and I knocked off even more time (and I was on tired legs!).
This bike is fast, real fast. As part of our summer getaways we went to the Lake District and I took the bike with us, just to put it through it's paces. I rode on one of the hilliest routes I could put together (along with a little help from Cold Dark North for route planning) and the descents were fantastic! We rode from Windermere, up Kirkstone Pass, came down 'The Struggle' and then up Wrynose Pass and down towards Hardknott's before coming back up and round Coniston. The bike flew! It is a monster - it just wants to push you down those roads, and pull you up those hills. I even managed a couple of QOMs!
The handling is stiffer than the previous model, the front end is super light, and the integrated handlebars make it just impeccable to ride.
The only thing that I have needed to fiddle with is my set up on this bike, and I've heard this through feedback of other riders too. So perhaps the geometry change from SL6 to SL7 isn't directly applicable. It's taken a little bit of saddle movement to get the reach the same, potentially because the integrated handlebars add on the extra few millimetres that make the difference. However, a few rides, and this is sorted, so it's nothing to be worried about.
I'm looking forward to racing this bike over the next 4-6 weeks in my hill climb races, and hoping that I can continue to do it justice until the national championships. If you're thinking of investing in the SL7 - any model - just do it. Life is too short to wonder what it could have been like to ride that bike.
So - which is better? Well, you cannot compare a bike that is made for different purposes can you? Personally though, I prefer the new SL7 because it is just a better looking bike! The switch to disc brakes is a game-changer, and the integrated headset is a real selling point for me.
Specialized Tarmac SL7 S-Works Dura Ace Di2 2021 Carbon Road Bike
Aero, stiff, light. When it comes to choosing a road bike, you've always had to compromise - until now. The brand-new Tarmac SL7 is truly the one bike to rule them all.
With the SL7 Specialized aimed to create the fastest lightweight race bike available, and they have delivered. Using their Free Foil library Specialized have built a frameset that perfectly blends aerodynamic tube shapes with the staple race bike features of low weight and sharp handling. The result, a lightweight race bike that is a whole 45 seconds faster over 40km than the Tarmac SL6.
- Frame - S-Works Tarmac SL7 FACT 12r Carbon, Rider First Engineered�
- Fork - S-Works FACT Carbon, 12x100mm thru-axle
- Drivetrain - Shimano Dura-Ace R9100
- Brakes - Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Disc R9170
- Wheels - Roval Rapide CLX
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