The Specialized Tarmac SL has so far been through 6 generations. It’s Specialized’s workhorse frame and the bike that can do anything thrown at it. It’s been raved as a great sprinter’s bike even though is not marketed as one, yet it’s propelled Peter Sagan victorious to plenty of final bunch sprints, while at the same time climbing on top of the world’s highest elevations with the likes of Vincenzo Nibali or Alberto Contador. But how does it fare in the real world? Instead of getting down to the numbers and research results, we sit down with Dave Mendez who like the rest of us, is a mortal day-to-day cyclist and ask him his honest opinions on his new S-Works SL6.
So Dave, what made you pull the trigger and purchase the new SL6?
Figured I’d sell my SL5 before it depreciates more. I would’ve kept the sl5 had the new frame not been “redesigned”. Rather have lost a little bit of money now, instead of one year down the line. My sl5 was 2016 with Shimano Dura Ace 9100 and Roval CLX40’s.
Since you had an SL5 prior, how does it compare?
SL6 rides like the SL5’s big brother. Very similar characteristics but with improvements. First, it is much more comfortable than the previous generation. Not saying the SL5 was uncomfortable, but the SL6 is that much better. I personally don’t feel as aggressive due to taller head tube. Yet still, the SL6 being “less aggressive” is faster and holds speed better. The geometry on this bike is what has impressed me the most. Not sure if it’s me, but I feel with every bike I’ve owned there is a certain position that gives me better pedal stroke/power output. With the sl6 every position feels responsive. I can be in the drops all day since it absorbs road vibrations much better.
What’s the best characteristic of the ones you just described, the one most new SL6 owners will appreciate the most?
Overall? Comfort/geometry is amazing. Almost feels as if you aren’t going fast but then look down at your computer and you’re holding speed easily.
Going specifically to it’s handling, how does it sprint, climb or hold speed?
Sprinting bikes tend to be light in the front. They love to rock side to side. All-round bikes love to pedal from middle of the frame/bottom. The SL6 is an even combination of both. Does great moving side while holding its control and comfort. Overall the sprinting is much better than previous generation. Technically this bike is not a “sprinting” bike.
How about it’s looks, a lot has changed from the SL5. How do you like it?
The matte looks so clean! At first wasn’t too thrilled on the new shape. I actually preferred the SL5 mold at first. Now? I love it. Catch myself staring at the bike ahaha.
I know you also have an Allez Sprint, how do they compare?
Allez is a great bike for hitting turns at high speed and getting in the drops and sprinting. Due to the geometry, I like sprinting on the Allez Sprint a bit more. Still overall the tarmac is much faster. Allez Sprint is an aluminum bike but I feel the Tarmac can counter attacks much better.