by: racing yang Translator: alanyu
Most brands have updated their bikes this year, while Specialized seems to give a “cross counter”, playing the trump card after others.
However, people have already spotted the prototype SL7 when it was tested by the team. A lot of HD photos and product pictures, including those photos of the team training, were unveiled since May, making SL7 no more a secret. People all know how it looks like and are waiting for the official release day.
Specialized held a conference for the test ride of the insiders in Zhangjiajie on 22th to 23th, July. Fortunately, I was traveling there, no reason to miss this free ride.
Where I lived during the conference.
The location of test ride was in the Wulinyuan district, away from the city, and the test ride started in the early morning, so I can only live in the homestay for one night.
It was said that Cameron Piper, the product manager of the road bike department of Specialized, introduced the new products via the internet. I’m lucky that I have attend his conference on the release of Venge.
This is the same red-black paint SL7 as that in those spy shots. There are quite a lot of new models this year. However, except Trek Emonda, most are some small upgrades based on the original models, basically in the apart of aerodynamics.
At first, I was not interested in SL7 as it is also a small uprade, until I saw the new SLR01…
The most significant upgrade is the seat stay at the first glance, which is almost the same tube shape as that of Venge. The aero foil shape can reduce a bit drag.
The aero foil shaped dropout is also similar to Venge.
I suspect that they copied the mold from Venge.
Another outstanding update is the wider seatpost, which also improves the aerodynamics. Di2 RS910 junction box can be hidden in the seatpost, but the seatpost is not as wide as that of Venge, so you will need a cover for SL7, which makes it a bit ugly. If you mount the box in the bar, or use AXS wireless groupset, this cover will be replaced by a cap.
The seat tube is also a bit wider of course. The paint on the seat tube has a naked eye 3D effect, which is interesting to me.
The space between the seat tube and the rear wheel is larger than that of SL6, to provide the clearance of 32c tire, though it is less harmonious.
It is expected that SL7 has a BSA BB, which is the same as new Roubaix. As the Chinese saying goes, Fengshui turns. All their sponsored teams are using Shimano cranksets so it is not a problem. However, it’s a pity that there will be no more S-works carbon crankset.
The shape of the fork is also optimized for aero and you can see that the dropout part is also blade shape, similar to that of Venge. However, to keep a low weight, the fork and head tube don’t have a head-to-toe aero profile.
It’s also upgraded to fully internal routing by a 1.5” upper bearing, which won’t reduce the stiffness around the head tube part. The frame has three different headset covers, compatible with electronic groupset, mechanic groupset and normal stem, respectively.
The integrated headset cover, stem and Aerofly II dropbar can be considered as a copy of Venge, but actually the stem is 45g lighter than Venge’s stem. There are still two options of the stem aero cover and the exhibited one is compatible with the round cap. I have to say that, the aero cover is not easy to loosen now. Recalling the conference of Venge, we never stopped laughing at the loosen aero cover at that time.
Specialized claimed that SL7 is 45 seconds faster than SL6 over 40km.
Another improvement is the weight. The claimed weight of a size 56 frame is 800g with paint and the weight of the flagship SL7 is 6.7kg without pedals. The Specialized China stuff said that a size 54 matt paint frame is only 760g on their scale. Tell you the truth, my granite paint S-works SL6 rim brake frame is over 900g…
The British racing green paint is popular this year and I really like this paint.
Specialized still keeps their tradition for SL7: sell the paint. They offer 11 different paints in the first release.
The geometry is similar to SL6. The stack is a tad lower due to the integrated design. You have to use a special spacer to hide the cable and housing. Thus, the actual stack is almost the same to SL6.
All the test bikes were ready.
Since there were only two size 52 bikes, I rode this 1X version Tarmac SL7 pro, equipped with Rapide CL wheelset, in the 100km test ride. The route is hilly, which is good for test the performance of the new Tarmac.
First, I’m a rider of a rim brake Tarmac SL6 and I have bought quite a few Specialized products, but I am not keen on any brands. I always choose a better performance over a better brand, so I’m not biased.
My first impression was: the saddle is really, really wide… Now Specialized equips 155mm saddle for their bike smaller than size 52, which I’m not used to as I use a 143mm saddle. However, you don’t need to worry about it as you can choose a suitable width when you buy it. Another point is that SL7 pro is also equipped with Aerofly II dropbar, whose remarks are polarized. Some remarks the bar top is too wide to grab; I’m on the other side, the bending behind the hood is comfort and I can easily use TT posture.
SL7 is very fast on flat and descending, thanks to aerodynamics. However, I think aerodynamics is mainly contributed by Rapide wheelset. To be honest, it’s hard to test the frame aero difference in a 100km ride. One can only get the conclusion by comparing the data between SL6 and SL7 (with similar components) in a long-term test.
As to controlling and stiffness, they are both a familiar feeling. There is no significant difference in stiffness and comfort between 10R SL6 and 12W S-works based on my experience. The main difference is the weight. (Translator’s note: the main difference is first the logo, second the weight) Tarmac SL7 pro is very stiff and responses quickly, which makes me want to attack during a climb. However, the front disc rubbed the pads when I pushed hard out of saddle.
Although I felt Rapide wheelset a bit slower during the climb compared to CL50 and CLX50, it’s better than other wheelsets with a similar height. I didn’t feel heavy when it was below 10% gradient, which made me wondering what if it was equipped with Alpinist.
It’s very agile and response fast when cornering and changing the route. Similar to SL6, I can point to exactly where I want. A lower bottom bracket offers a bit more stability when descending. I was very confident when descending in the test ride.
Theoretically, the shape of seat stays and the wider seatpost and wider seat tube can reduce the comfort. However, I didn’t feel a lower comfort on the road here. (Translator’s note: the average road quality is better than that in Europe, USA, etc.) It’s still the feeling of a racing bike. On a rough road, I still felt a harsher front part. Actually, I remarked SL6 a bit harsh before. After I tried some new model recently, I have never been disgusted with the comfort of SL6 and SL7 any more.
One more word on Sram Force AXS 1X groupset. This 1X groupset was 44T crankset and 10-36T cassette. It’s enough for me to deal with a 12%-15% climb, but I want a smaller gear ratio for a harder climb. However, 44T-10T combo is never enough for a fast descending.
Since a lot of people choose an S-works frame to build their bikes with what they want, I tested S works SL7 at last. I tested it alone when others were resting in the afternoon.
The S-works frame is lighter and the bike has better components than SL7 pro. A higher stiffness to weight ratio and a high power to whole weight ratio make a better climbing performance. I felt S-works SL7 faster than SL7 pro when climbing. I didn’t notice any disc rubbing, but I don’t know whether it is related to a stiffer fork or a better brake (Dura Ace).
I’d like to talk about my suggestions in the end. Since I’m not keen on the disc brake and I like my SL6 rim brake bike, I have no desire to upgrade to SL7. Although I’m very satisfied with the performance of SL7 and I feel it is better than my SL6, I don’t want to switch to the disc brake SL7, as rim brake is more than enough for my routes. It’s not necessary to waste money as I’m not rich. However, if you want to upgrade to a disc brake bike or buy a new bike, I would highly recommend SL7, since it won’t get wrong: a good paint, a good overall performance and a good value preservation. If you have been hesitating between Venge and Tarmac before, now it’s a no-brain: Choose Tarmac.
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