Specialized has released the latest incarnation of its road race frame – the Tarmac SL3.
We were a little critical of the SL2 when it first came on to the market two years ago. While we never doubted its capabilities we found the front end to be slightly nervous, like it didn’t want to hold a constant arc when cornering – perhaps best described as flighty. Which is not to take away from it, more that it just wasn’t what we were looking for in a finely-honed race machine.
We were expecting the SL3 to be more of the same, just slightly lighter and stiffer. Not so – it’s much more to our liking.
Initial ride feel isn’t typical Specialized – it has a feel more reminiscent of a handmade custom machine, with a real zing. Compared to the SL2 it is sharper yet more compliant at the rear end, at the same time slightly less twitchy up front.
Certainly Specialized hasn’t turned its back on what’s gone before, rather it has listened to feedback from the teams and if the SL2 was a result of listening to Quick Step, you can bet Saxo Bank had a big input into the SL3.
Our test bike was one of the American press samples so isn’t exactly the same spec as those in your local dealer, but importantly the frame is the same. A 1.5-inch lower bearing in the fork and FACT 11r carbon-fibre combine with slimmed-down seatstays to give a stiff bottom end, yet allow a small amount of comfort.
We're impressed and can't wait to get on familiar British roads for some good long rides, but on first acquaintances this is a belter of a machine. Price quoted is for frameset.