Stiffness is the main focus for Specialized?s Tarmac SL2, which in true Spinal Tap style scores an 11 on Specialized?s one-to-10 scale for the FACT carbon frame.

A one-and-a-half inch head tube makes space for a wider fork steerer and lower headset bearing, and also provides a larger surface area for the attachment of an oversized top tube and huge down tube. With the benefit of having their own integrated BB and cranks, Specialized?s engineers have also beefed up this critical tube junction.

There?s always a grey area between test results and how they translate to the road, but the SL2 is about as stiff as they come. While impressive lateral stiffness was welcomed in the bottom bracket area, I felt the front end stiffness was responsible for a few unnerving handling characteristics.

At 80kph I did not feel confident piloting the SL2 through a succession of sweeping bends and even small movements caused a wobble. Perhaps a small change to the geometry is needed to counter the nervousness.

The only non-oversized tubes are the seatstays, which are stick thin by comparison, and designed this way to hold back some of the road shock.

Although seemingly the must-have fashion accessory for 2008 there is no integrated seatpost, just a standard 27.2 carbon FACT seatpost with Zertz shock-absorbing inserts for further comfort. Specialized may not have followed market trends with the seatpost but it has not fallen short in the weight race, and the SL2 is a true featherweight at 13.5lb (6.1kg).

Specialized Tarmac SL2
Distributor Specialized UK 0208 391 3500 www.specialized.com
Price £4,999.99
Frame S-Works FACT 11r carbon, FACT IS construction, compact race design
Fork S-Works FACT monocoque carbon, 1.5in crown bearing race
Size range 49 to 61cm
Weight 13.5lb (6.1kg)
Groupset SRAM Force
Alterations S-Works FACT carbon crankset, integrated oversize design
Gear ratios 53-39, 12-23
Wheels Specialized Roval Rapide SL Carbon
Tyres Specialized S-Works Mondo Dual Compound
Bars S-Works Barmac Wedge one piece carbon bar/stem combo
Stem As above
Seatpost S-Works SL, FACT carbon w/ Zertz insert, 27.2mm
Saddle Specialized BG Toupe Gel 130
Size tested 56cm
CW FIRST IMPRESSION: 8/10