Sitting one from bottom of the the Tarmac range, can the Specialized Tarmac Elite match the excellent ride of its bigger brothers?

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 7

Specialized Tarmac Elite

Pros:

  • Good acceleration
  • Fast up climbs
  • Confidence-inspiring handling
  • Good quality finishing kit

Cons:

  • Not the most exciting ride
  • Looks may not be to everyone's taste
  • Expensive for the spec

Product:

Specialized Tarmac Elite

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£1,800.00

Frame

While the upper echelons of the Specialized Tarmac range have been overhauled for 2015, lower-end models such as the Tarmac Elite retain the SL4 frame of previous years. And that’s no bad thing.

The Tarmac Elite features the FACT construction of the more exclusive frames, which means the carbon-fibres run continuously around vital areas such as the bottom bracket and head tube. This, it is claimed, improves weight, stiffness and strength.

>>>Review: B’Twin Ultra 900

The bulbous frame shape of the head tube and gently curving top tube may not be to everyone’s taste but the looks are improved with internal cable routing.

SL4 frame uses FACT construction

SL4 frame uses FACT construction

Specification

The Fulcrum Racing S5 wheelset provides a step up from the 77s found on the similarly specced Cube Agree GTC Pro, with benefits that include aero-profile spokes and a 100g weight saving.

The other notable upgrade is the 52-36t Turn Zayante chainset that is double the price of its Shimano 105 equivalent but, beyond the 30g weight saving, offers little extra in terms of performance. Shimano 105 accounts for the rest of the groupset.

The rest of the finishing kit is Specialized’s own-brand offerings, including the excellent Toupe Comp Gel saddle, although we were slightly disappointed to have the comfort gains of this fine perch compromised by the choice of 23mm tyres.

Comfortable Toupe Comp Gel saddle

Comfortable Toupe Comp Gel saddle

Ride

Given the higher price tag, we felt slightly let down by the ride. The Tarmac Elite is perfectly efficient and functional; it just lacks that certain something when it comes to excitement.

Acceleration is good, particularly on the flat, and climbing is also a pleasure. That said, the Specialized feels better suited to short, punchy climbs than it is to long, draggy hills.

Descending revealed the bike’s competent handling with the steep front end and excellent compact bars encouraging us to push through the bends, with only the 23mm tyres stopping us from committing with confidence.

Value

We’re not convinced that the Specialized does quite enough to justify the £1,800 price tag. As with all bikes in the Tarmac range, the frame is excellent and certainly worthy of a bike of this price, but for this sort of money we expected a smattering of Ultegra components or at least a
bigger step up in the wheelset.

Verdict

The Specialized Tarmac Elite provides a good ride responding well to accelerations especially when climbing. That said it is a little expensive given the all 105 spec.

Details

Miles ridden :212
Frame :Specialized FACT 9r Carbon
Fork :Specialized FACT Carbon
Size tested :56cm
Size range :49-61cm
Weight :8.25kg/18.19lb
Groupset :Shimano 105/Praxis Works TURN Zayante chainset
Alterations :None
Gear ratios :11-28t cassette, 52/36t chainset
Wheels :Fulcrum S5
Tyres :Specialized Turbo Pro 23mm
Bar :Specialized Comp
Stem :Specialized Comp Multi
Seatpost :Specialized Comp, FACT Carbon
Saddle :Specialized Body Geometry Toupe Comp Gel
Distributor:www.specialized.com