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    Creating a Race Bike with No Compromises

    Innovate or Die

    One of the main tenets of innovation is the ability to identify problems and then use everything within your means to solve for them. Here at Specialized, the ethos “Innovate or Die” permeates nearly everything, so it should go without saying that with every new project, we’re focused on that idea from day one. In fact, it’s often times even before day one…

    "“The path of innovation is a gradual experience, if you’re not looking for the details along the way, you’re not going to find them. Which is why we immediately started designing the Tarmac SL7 just as the SL6 was launching.”"

    Ian Milliken – Design Engineer

    Was there a problem with the SL6? Certainly not, and by all means of analysis, it remains at the very top of all available race bikes today. But we wouldn’t let that hold us back from trying to push this evolution even further, especially when there is momentum to be gained by taking what was typically a two-bike scenario down to one.

    World Tour racers are a fickle bunch and they are continually looking for ways to improve and find every advantage available to them. This often times provides us with some of the most valuable insights and, consequently, turns them into our Insight Engine that unlocks what’s next. This bike is the perfect example of those requests coming to life.

    "“A bike that can combine the best of the Tarmac and the best of the Venge? That’s a dream for everybody. Knowing that performance is not compromised, is the perfect scenario.”"

    Ricardo Scheidecker - Deceuninck–Quick-Step Technical and Development Director

    By combining the CFD aerodynamic values and putting that up against the tube shape and structure simulations from our Free Foil Library, we were able to virtually test hundreds of frame designs before the first frame layups even took place. Where would we find that optimal balance between weight and aero? Which tubes could be tweaked in all the right places to give us exactly what we needed? These were the questions we were asking.

    The New Shape of Speed is something that you hear us talk about often, and simply put, it is a mindset that helps us find aero gains in the most efficient way possible. Since its adoption, it has defined every race bike that we make and pushed our holistic approach to the creation process. So, it would only make sense that when we’re updating the most advanced road bike on the market, and in the peloton, this philosophy would play heavily into our thinking.

    The goal? To push the limits of technology and create the first race bike with zero compromise. Introducing the Specialized Tarmac SL7—never again will riders have to choose between aerodynamics and weight, or between ride quality and speed. This bike does it all.



    With an 800g S-Works frame (size 56cm), the new Tarmac SL7 is 6.7kg out of the box.

    No Compromises

    Our pursuit of performance has created a bike that performs at the pinnacle of every metric that matters on race day.

    “This is the type of project engineers equally love and hate. Hate because all the priorities seem to be opposing each other, love because it’s challenges like this that allow us to design right on the edge,” states Nadia Carroll, Active Engineering. It’s an apt metaphor because that edge is where the SL7 lives, that edge is exactly what rocketing through a corner, or holding on for dear life while sprinting for the finish line, feels like. That edge is racing.

    It is worth noting that every year the races on the professional circuit get faster and include more climbing. This is just a reality that goes along with increasing the spectatorship of the sport. It presents a unique series of challenges for the riders each time they take to the start line. Do they swing a leg over the Venge for an aero tubeset that saves time on the flats and crushes into headwinds, or climb on the Tarmac for the lightest, best handling bike both up and down mountains?

    The team that worked on Tarmac SL7 had three cloud-based super computers going day and night. Every single ply of carbon in every frame iteration required upwards of 21,000 calculations in FEA. Equivalent to millions of calculations for every frame and for every layup revision in development. Keep in mind, as a Rider-First Engineered™ bike, every size Tarmac SL7, 44-61cm, got the same treatment.

    But these numbers only tell a fraction of the story, says Nadia Carroll, “It goes so much deeper than those simple numbers—especially if you pull out EVERY calculation that is running in the background of our simulation software and how many times it iterates on top of itself. Meaning there are even more calculations running in the background, so the computational hours compound on themselves. So, thinking of that time, there's no chance I could complete one of the complex rounds of calculations by hand, even if I worked on it full time for the duration of the Tarmac project.”

    This level of obsession is how you combine a trio of characteristics that were previously thought to be unheard of—aerodynamic, lightweight and superior handling.

    That’s where the new Tarmac SL7 comes into play.

    “No cyclist wants to race a bike that has some sort of disadvantage in performance,” says Cameron Piper, Product Manager for the Tarmac SL7. “So, that was the goal - to design a bike that not only has no compromises, but in doing so, eliminates the mental aspect of even having to choose between two different bikes. As we all know, racing isn’t just about being on the best equipment and fitness, there’s also a significant mental advantage knowing everyone around you is still having to make those compromises.” Cameron makes the case not only because of the time that he spent running the Win Tunnel early in his career with Specialized, but also as a cyclist for a UCI professional team. So, you could say that he’s spent a lot of time thinking about where this bike will take him.

    “Really what it came down to is the question, ‘Why can’t we have all those things in one bike?’”

    Whether the road turns up, the headwinds kick in, or you’re lining it up for the closing sprint on the day, this bike is ready for anything that racing can throw at it.

    MÖT Teamet

    Det krävs ett team på hundratals medarbetare för att skapa en cykel som Tarmac och teamet leds av ingenjörer och designers som är helt besatta av innovation.

    Cam Piper

    Tarmac SL7 Product Manager

    Ian Milliken

    Design Engineer

    Nadia Carroll

    Composites Engineer

    Stewart Thompson

    Road and Gravel Product Leader

    Harry Chi

    Manufacturing Engineer

    Glenn Bennett

    Design Engineer