The Specialized Tarmac Expert continues to be a great bike; few details and it could be perfect.
Somewhere on Facebook I once saw this joke about Specialized. A girl is talking with some friends. “He told me he had a great bike,” she said referring to the guy she had dated. Then she adds: “But then he showed up with a Specialized!” Laughter.
Despite the jokes and the fact that this is a lower-range version of the S-Works Tarmac ridden by the pros, the Specialized Tarmac Expert is definitely a super fast and comfortable bicycle. And if you compare it with other bikes of the same price tag (£3,000), this is one of the best one out there.
Although the Specialized Tarmac Expert comes only on the satin carbon/red/hyper colour (and either you love it or you hate it), it’s a bike that for the shape of its tubes will definitely catch your eyes. The shape is in fact aesthetically pleasing, with a cool ‘fat’ top tube and an internal routing system to keep it clean. The composition of the FACT 10r carbon fibre makes this frame stiff, light and extremely responsive.
The geometry of this bike is specifically designed for racing and when you get on it for the first ride, you immediately feel how fast it can be. However, the Specialized Tarmac Expert is not only fast, but also super stable as its performances while cornering and descending are simply incredible.
With the exception of the FSA SL-K Light chainset, the Specialized Tarmac Expert mounts a full Shimano Ultegra groupset, which is what you’d expect for a £3,000 bike. The downside of what is a great set-up is however the wheelset this bike comes with. Even though the Fulcrum Racing S-19 represent an upgrade compared to the previously specced S-4, they didn’t show to be very responsive uphill or when pushing a harder pace.
The fork of the Tarmas is an S-Works FACT carbon fork and is the same Specialized uses for the top end of its category, that is the Tarmac Pro Race and the Tarmac S-Works (the one ridden by several pro teams). The same high-end spec is featured also on the seatpost which also comes from the S-Works series; a further element that confirm the great specifications of this bike.
Watch: Shimano Ultegra groupset review
The ride is always pleasant and even thought the Specialized Tarmac Expert has got a racy geometry, over the course of this years’ Ditchling Devil Audax (London to Brighton and back for a total of 205km), it always felt very comfortable. On the descents, the bike is super stable and it doesn’t twitch at all. The carbon components are stiff but really responsive, and you always have the feeling of being in control of what is happening.
Even thought for this kind of ride, you’d might go for a sportive and endurance bike, the ride along the hilly and long course was always great with the Tarmac. Not only it was fast and helped the bunch going faster when I found myself on the front, but it was always super comfortable and it didn’t feel hard to ride on it the whole day.
The Specialized Tarmac Expert’s £3,000 price tag is largely justified. You will, however, need to ‘put up’ with mechanical shifting instead of electronic, and learn to live with the fact that the wheels it comes with are not the top of the line. With a different wheelset (of course you can upgrade, but the price will rise considerably if you decide to do that), this bike would have few competitors on the market.
The Specialized Tarmac Expert is one of the best bikes you can buy around £3,000. The frame is made of premium carbon fibre, it performs very well on short and long rides, and it can also be very comfortable on bumpy terrain (not that this is its natural environment, but sometimes it can happen). A very great ride overall, but the wheelset is not at the same standard level of the rest of the Tarmac's spec.