Testing... Specialized Tarmac Elite Road Bike 2013 Product Review | Rutland Cycling

Words by Aaron Scott

on 29/08/2013 19:29:00

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A pure bred racing machine from Specialized, the Tarmac Elite is the culmination of two decades of proprietary development into lightweight frames, incorporating the firm's latest FACT carbon fibre technology in this taut tubeset. Rolling on light, aero DT Swiss Axis 3 series wheels and operating with quality Shimano 105 components, the Elite is the entry into the Tarmac range and offers great value for money for such a high level of specification, yet with great potential for future upgrading, should you become the next Bradley Wiggins...

Specialized Tarmac Elite 2013 product review


In the saddle, the Tarmac Elite takes you by surprise with its direct response and instant drive, especially if this is your first proper road bike. Fast sweepers are a delight and feel planted, aided by that hard-core geometry that puts you over the front wheel, pushing that tyre into the tarmac to get you round at a rapid enough pace. Down hills are a blast too, as again, that riding position perfectly balances in such a way that speed wobbles are unlikely in your usual riding conditions, but going back up hill highlights the big gears and that responsiveness is dulled somewhat, but we're nit-picking; and you can upgrade chainsets once you can feel that pea in the mattress, which might be some time.


The Tarmac Elite's FACT carbon frame puts its rider into instant attack mode, pitching you forward with its aggressive geometry, featuring a strong tapered headset that stays light while punching above its weight in firmness. The way the tubeset delicately tapers towards the back reducing mass and looking great, while fattening up around the 1.5inch steerer tube and down at that chunky bottom bracket, all evoke the hallmarks of its high-end brethren. In all, this fantastic frame offers beautiful precision of the front end with the most direct transfer of power when you wind the pedals up. The top-drawer tapered forks are a monocoque design, no doubt aiding their stiff feel for a fork that looks more wayward than it feels, and delivering a ride that handles well at speed through all corners Buy the Specialized Tarmac Elite 2013 >>


The Elite is draped with a decent 105 groupset from Shimano, offering you tried and tested drivetrain mechanics that are precise and durable. The only exception to the Shimano kit is the double chainset, which is an FSA Gossamer item, in 52/36. Braking is undertaken by Shimano, 105 series, STI levers for a slick, fast shifting, while your contact points are fitted with Specialized branded components such as BodyGeometry saddle sitting atop a FACT carbon seat post. The DT Axis wheels are impressive, considering the overall price, and make for a seriously-minded piece of kit to use in competitive riding or training. They're agile and light-turning, but not at all skittish and imbue confidence, especially combined with the Turbo Elite tyres by Specialized, which feature the firm's Blackbelt puncture resistance technology. There's certainly no need to upgrade these for some time, and as the wheel set makes up one of the most fundamentally important parts of your bike, they're impressive kit for a sub-£1800 bike (with a carbon frame, let's not forget...).


The Elite is a great entry into Specialized's serious Tarmac road kit and simply benefiting from that same frameset technology as the top-shelf, multi grand bikes is reason enough, but throw in the lovely light DT Axis wheels and a 105 drivetrain and you've got a remarkable road package for a very reasonable price tag.


Coming from the same gene pool as bikes costing three times the price, the Specialized Tarmac Elite benefits from some excellent heritage. If you are looking to enter the road race fray and seriously push the limits of your riding without breaking the bank, the Tarmac Elite will go the distance with you. Buy the Specialized Tarmac Elite 2013 >>




  • Colours: White/Red/Black
  • Sizes: 49cm, 52cm, 54cm, 56cm, 58cm, 61cm
  • Frame: Specialized FACT 8r carbon, FACT IS construction, compact race design, 1-1/2" lower bearing, OSBB
  • Fork: Specialized FACT carbon, full monocoque, OS race for 1-1/2" bearing
  • Wheels: DT Axis 3.0
  • Front Tyre: Specialized Turbo Elite, BlackBelt, 100TPI, aramid bead, 700x23c
  • Rear Tyre: Specialized Turbo Elite, BlackBelt, 100TPI, aramid bead, 700x23c
  • Shifters: Shimano 105 STI
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano 105
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano 105
  • Chainset: FSA Gossamer Pro 52/36
  • Cassette: Shimano Tiagra, 10-speed, 11-28
  • Chain: Shimano Tiagra 10-speed
  • Bottom Bracket: OS integrated, sealed bearings
  • Front Brake: Shimano 105
  • Rear Brake: Shimano 105
  • Brake Levers: Shimano 105 STI
  • Saddle: BodyGeometry Toup� Sport, hollow Cr-Mo rails, 143mm
  • Seat Post: Specialized Comp, FACT carbon, 27.2mm
  • Handlebars: Specialized Tarmac Comp, alloy, deep bend
  • Grips: Specialized S-Wrap, w/ gel
  • Stem: Specialized Comp-Set 6061 alloy, cone head bolt, 12-degree, 4-degree shim, 31.8mm
  • Headset: 1-1/8" upper and 1-1/2" lower Cr-Mo cartridge bearings integrated w/ headset, 20mm cone spacer, w/ 20mm of spacers
  • Pedals: Nylon flat test ride, loose ball, w/ reflectors
  • Extras: Chainstay protector, chain catcher, derailleur hanger, clear coat, owners manual
  • Weight: Not Specified

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