Can't choose between an Allez, Tarmac and Roubaix? We shed some light upon the differences to help you decide
The big red ‘S’ of Specialized is hard to miss – go to any cycling event and you’d need to be somewhere pretty obscure to dodge the sighting of at least a few of the brand’s creations.
Specialized didn’t emerge on the scene as a bike manufacturer. The brand was founded by Mike Sinyard in 1974, who initially imported Italian made components and sold them in the US.
The first bikes arrived in 1981 – in the shape of the Specialized Allez road bike, Sequoia touring bike and Stumpjumper mountain bike.
The brand grew steadily from there, though a decision to move into lower end, affordable bikes under the title ‘Full Force’ in 1995 saw it lose the support of distributors and suffer financially. In 2001, it sold 49 per cent of the business to Merida bikes, whilst Sinyard maintained his majority stake and position as CEO.
The brands’ collection is expansive – ranging from aero road bikes to full-suspension mountain bikes, and covering off pretty much everything in between. We’ve taken a good look at the key road models, explaining the differences between the models to help you choose the best for you.
Useful links for road bike shoppers…
Specialized Venge ViAS
The Venge ViAS is the Specialized take on the aero road bike – its tubes have been shaped to slice through the air as efficiently as possible.
When we directly compared a host of aero road bikes, the Venge came a very close, almost negligible, second to the Trek Madone. We concluded: “[The] results are so close they are potentially within the realm of experimental error with both bikes representing the fastest available” – but did note at the time the Venge was somewhat heavier.
Designed around a focus on speed and speed alone, the Venge ViAS features entirely integrated cables and hidden brakes where rim versions are used, whilst the newer disc version is said to offer slightly improved aerodynamics thanks to the less bulbous fork rear and seat stay.
The Aerofly ViAS handlebars and Post Moderne stem are designed to work together to offer a reduction in drag whilst still being accessible. Specialized found that a negative 17 degree stem was the best option in terms of aerodynamics, but the bars graduate in a gentle wave to raise the overall height, thus making them comfortable enough for those without abs of steel and the flexibility of a cobra.
Specialized Venge reviews
If considering a Venge ViAS, it’s worth being aware that in this case comfort has been well and truly sacrificed in place of speed. The Venge is a harsh race bike to ride and it won’t soften the bumps for day-long adventures.
Specialized Tarmac and Amira
The Specialized Tarmac was designed to be a complete race bike. It’s the GC leader of the Specialized squad, putting the rider in an aggressive position and offering quick handling, whilst being light enough to climb well with a level of compliance that means the rider gets ample feedback from the road without witnessing every crease in the tarmac from the cockpit.
If it sounds like we’re gushing that this is a genuine do-it-all, then we are, because it is.
The most recent, 2018 adaptation of the Tarmac is the lightest bike Specialized claim to have created. FACT 12r carbon – which is stiff without adding the bulk of the oversized structure we’re used to seeing – drops the weight of a 56cm frame of just 733g.
The 2018 version also incorporates learnings from the aero Venge, with a reduced frontal area at the fork, lowered seat stays and D-shaped seat tube – apparently saving 45 seconds over 40km compared to bikes in a similar weight class.
Specialized Tarmac reviews
- Specialized Tarmac 2018 first ride
- Specialized Tarmac Expert review
- Specialized Tarmac Elite review
- Pro Bike: Dan Martin’s Specialized Tarmac S-Works
- Specialized Amira Pro Review
- Pro Bike: Lizzie Armitstead (now Deignan)’s Specialized Amira
Up until the 2018 model launch, Specialized offered the Amira as a race bike for women – but it concluded from Retul geometry data from over 40,000 bike fits that the separate geometries were not required and thus now offer a men’s and women’s Tarmac with identical frames and components to suit. The Amira is still available at Expert level and below for 2018
The unisex 2018 Tarmac has a slightly shorter reach and slightly higher stack than the 2017 versions, effectively making it a middle ground.
The Tarmac, though a proven pro race machine, is an affordable platform. Models start at £1,500 for the Specialized Tarmac SL4, with a Shimano Tiagra groupset but peak at £9000 for the Ultralight S-Works creation.
The aluminium Specialized Allez has been a firm favourite for decades. It’s an all-rounder that pitches at an affordable price range, with models from £599 to £999 – sitting jut below the Cycle to Work voucher threshold thus confirming its place as a popular commuter.
The Allez always had a fairly racey geometry, but the most recent model has seen this relaxed slightly under the title ‘wide ranging geometry’ which makes it more accessible and comfortable for those after a slightly more relaxed position. The stem can still be slammed, however, to give a position not that far off the Tarmac.
The newest Allez has a full carbon fork which previously featured on S-Works models and substantially reduces the weight. Mudguard and pannier eyelets are included to make commuting an option, too.
The bikes all come with compact 50/34 chainsets and 11-32 cassettes – these will allow plenty of room for shifting down on the hills. However, you’ll notice larger jumps between gears when compared with a narrower cassette – but if this is a problem it’s an easy component to swap.
When we tested the Allez E5 Elite, we also noted the wheels specced – DT R460’s – made the ride more sluggish and could do with an upgrade.
The Specialized Allez E5 bikes are not to be confused with the Specialized Allez Sprint bikes. The Specialized Allez Sprint Comp comes in at £1600 with Shimano 105 and is designed with to be a crit racers go-to machine, with an exceptionally stiff frame and head-down geometry.
The Specialized Dolce is the brand’s entry level women’s platform. Like the Allez, it’s constructed from an aluminium frame but the design places a greater emphasis on comfort.
The geometry offers a slightly more upright stance, as well as a lower standover height.
Specialized has used ‘Zertz inserts’ at the fork and seat stays to dampen out road vibrations. Stiffness has not been sacrificed, however, as ‘DSW technology’ is used to pace more welding material where required to ensure optimum power transfer.
Like the Allez, the Dolce bikes come fitted with compact chainsets 11-32 cassettes, and prices climb from £575 to £1000 for the Elite E5 with Shimano Tiagra. All options come with Axis Sport hoops, which if upgraded would make a big differance to the ride as they’re entry level wheels.
There are also two EVO models at £1100 and £1600. These offer a very different experience – with disc brakes and wide 32mm tyres on an adventure capable platform designed for varied terrain.
Specialized Roubaix and Ruby
The defining feature of both the Specialized Ruby and Roubaix is the ‘future shock’ front suspension. This comes with 20mm of travel, which can be adjusted pending rider weight and planned terrain to fine tune the ride.
This future shock adaptation was released in 2016 as part of the 2017 line up, and though there was some initial scepticism, we found when we reviewed the bike that the addition did provide a smoother ride without impacting power transfer or feedback from the road.
Future shock has since been added to the Diverge adventure bike so clearly the brand felt it was a successful venture.
Specialized Roubaix and Ruby reviews
All of the Roubaix and Ruby models come with the brand’s CG-R seat post. With its 27.2mm diameter and unique switchback shape, this was designed with the cobbles of the spring classics in mind, with the goal of reducing vibration.
Across both models, the range starts at £2,100 with the Expert spec, complete with Shimano 105 and all bikes feature disc brakes – mechanical at the entry level and hydraulic from Comp level at £2,650.
Once you reach the Expert level, with hydraulic disc brakes and Shimano Ultegra, the bike also comes with what Spesh call a ‘SWAT’ box which sits above the bottom bracket and holds an inner tube, C02 and tyre levers.
All of the bikes come with compact chainsets and 11-32 cassettes, providing a wide range of gears which will offer plenty of help on the hills – though this will mean jumps between gears are a little more clunky and noticeable.
The Specialized Roubaix and women’s Specialized Ruby are very different bikes. Up until the 2017 range, released in 2016, they were both completely focused on endurance miles.
In the overhaul which saw the addition of the future shock, Specialized adjusted the Roubaix geometry to be more aggressive, saying Retul bike fit data showed that the riders buying this bike were looking for a more racey ride. The Ruby female riders, it said, wanted a more relaxed and endurance focused offer which is what they continue to make.
The Specialized Diverge has undergone a gradual transformation since its launch in 2014. Initially it was a ‘do it all’ endurance road bike, which could tackle a little bit of mixed terrain if need be. In the 2018 line-up, it’s shifted slightly to sit more comfortably in the rapidly popularised adventure road/gravel bike category.
Like the Roubaix and Ruby, the Diverge comes with a ‘future shock’ suspension spring at the front. In this case, it uses a progressive spring which adjusts throughout the compression to prevent bottoming out on heavy impact.
The brand made some additional alterations to further prepare the Diverge for off-road terrain – notably adding the capability to spec 650b wheels (the bikes come with 700c wheels which can be swapped out) and a dropper seat post on the most expensive versions. ‘Open road geometry’ is also designed to lower the centre of gravity to create a more stable ride off-road.
For gravel riding the 700c wheels are best fitted with 38c tyres (use lower volume for the road) – according to the brand – but 650b wheels are best suited to 45c tyres, making them a better option for someone who wants the additional suspension effect afforded by wider volume tyres. The dropper seat post means the rider can drop the post to get low and further back on to help control on descents.
The new range models start from £799, with an aluminium frame, mechanical disc brakes and Shimano Claris, though future shock doesn’t appear in the range until the £1,500 price point. The top end S-Works version (£8,500) features carbon frame, Shimano Dura-Ace shifting, hydraulic disc brakes, the dropper seat post and SWAT storage box which hold essentials above the bottom bracket.
Most bikes have a 48/32 chainring and 11-32 cassette whilst top end versions come with a single 42T chainring and 11-40t cassette – again aligning it closer to off-road duties by cutting down on maintenance.
Unlike the Roubaix and Ruby, and in a similar fashion to the new Tarmac range, the Diverge frame is designed not to be gender-specific. Instead, women’s versions come with narrower handlebars, women’s saddle, shorter cranks and stems.
For those after a mixed terrain bike that’s more appropriately designed for touring, there’s the Specialized Sequoia (review here) with plenty of capacity for bike packing equipment, whilst the Specialized AWOL comes with mounts and racks just as suited to city rides as long distance adventures.
Whilst the Diverge has stepped into gravel road terrain, the 2018 Crux has gone fully race focused. A cyclocross rig set up for one-hour threshold+ efforts, the Crux features disc brakes throughout and 33c tyres and lacks mounts for bottles or mudguards.
Specialized Crux reviews
- Specialized Crux: 2018 update
- Specialized Crux Expert X1 review
- Specialized Crux Elite Carbon review
There’s an aluminium version, the CruX E5 for £1,250 with Shimano Tiagra groupset, but after that all models come with carbon frames up to the ExpertX1 at £3,500.
The E5 is also the only version to feature a double chainring – with an 46/36 at the front and 11-32T at the rear. This will offer plenty of gears for the hills, but the rest of the range sports a single 40T chainring and assorted wide ranging cassettes which is ideal for ‘cross as maintenance is lower and mud build-up becomes less of an issue.
The 2018 Crux is a little lighter than previous models – with 400g shaved off the frame weight, and Rider First engineering means the lay up is adjusted to suit the requirements of average rider weight at each size. The reach has become slightly longer than previous iterations, making it more racey and aggressive whilst the bridgeless rear stay remains, aiding mud clearance.
The Specialized Langster is a track bike, with ‘track specific geometry’ that’s been designed with rides on the boards of a velodrome at front of mind. However, it’s not the most aggressive track bike on the market. As a result, it’s incredibly popular as an about town singlespeed town bike.
This rig is available in two guises – the Langster and Langster Street – both with an RRP of £600. The frame is identical (aside from colour), and the gearing supplied is the same – that means a 48T chainring and 17T rear cog which makes for a 76″ gear which would definitely need to be swapped for track riding.
The standard Langster comes with drop bars and 23mm tyres whilst the street has crowhorn bars and 25mm tyres – which are the key difference between the two.
Both come with Tektro caliper brakes which can of course be removed for the velodrome.
The Specialized Shiv is raced at every level – seen at dawn on British dual carriageways in time trials and raced at World Tour level by pros. Created to meet time trial and triathlon needs, the Shiv features aero tube shapes and a ‘Fuelselage Integrated Hydration System’ which sees a drink storage unit housed in the frame, with a tube between the bars.
There are two models – the Shiv Elite with Shimano 105 shifting for £2,600 and the Expert with Shimano Ultegra for £3,000.
The wheels are Axis Elite in both cases – a standard alloy wheelset which again you may wish to upgrade to an aero version. Effectively in the Shiv you’re largely paying for the technology behind the aero frame and its ‘crosswind-optimized airfoils’ as opposed to the finishing kit, which might you’ll want to swap out over time.
You do however get a Body Geometry Sitero Expert saddle which has been engineered for the time trial position which often places more pressure on soft tissue.
Both Shiv builds come with a 52/3 chainring and 11-28 cassette, which you might want to swap for a narrower ratio on a flat dual carriageway but will give you the gears for a hilly event. The brakes are the brand’s own Aero Side Pull rim stoppers, which are hidden from view and airflow.