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‘Speed Sniffer’ Makes New Specialized Tarmac SL8 Their Most Aero Bike Yet

It's also claimed to be the "lightest bike on Tour."

Specialized Tarmac SL8 flow viz
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The next generation Specialized Tarmac is here. And as you might expect, the new bike is lighter, faster, and more comfortable thanks to a number of Improvements. Starting with lessons learned from past bike development like the Aethos and Venge, Specialized states that they created an all-new development process called Front-Loading Development.

Front-Loading Development

Calling it a “loop between virtual carbon modeling and a virtual FEA and CFD test lab using ply-by-ply numerical models,” Front-Loading Development allowed Specialized to start with a number of design targets while creating a virtual testing world where they can examine up to 500 different layers. These layers can then be modified and tested in hours rather than days or weeks, which allowed Specialized to rapidly develop the new frame.

They claim to have started with the carbon layup from the Specialized Aethos, and then worked their way up, increasing stiffness where it was needed. After 54 iterations, the Tarmac SL8 hit all of their performance targets making it 16.6 seconds faster over a 40km course, 15% lighter, 33% better stiffness-to-weight ratio, and 6% more compliant than the outgoing Tarmac SL7.

Lightest Bike in the Peloton?

That 685g frame weight for a 56cm has led Specialized to claim that it is the lightest bike on Tour. That weight is for the 12r Carbon frames, but the 10r Carbon frames aren’t far behind – adding just 100g per frame. Fork weights are also low with a 358g 12r fork with 240mm steerer, or a 371g 10r fork. The end goal was to create a race-ready bike at 6.8kg including things like a power meter, water bottle cages, computer mount, etc. Specialized seems to have met that goal with a claimed complete weight of 6806g for a 56cm bike. Compare that to the Tarmac SL7 at 7055g, and the Venge at 7300g.

Complete bike weights are claimed to be roughly:

  • S-Works Di2 – 6.6kg
  • S-Works eTap – 6.8kg
  • Pro eTap – 7.4kg
  • Pro Di2 – 7.2kg
  • Expert eTap – 7.7kg
Specialized Tarmac SL8 downtube
The Strata Red frames “use very little paint to create a sense of movement with gorgeous texture.”

Even the paint has been obsessed over when it comes to weight, with the Specialized design team testing multiple finish options to deliver the most color with the fewest grams.

Specialized’ Most Aerodynamic Bike Yet

More important than just being lighter, the new SL8 is more aerodynamic as well – to the point that Specialized is calling it their most aero bike ever. That all starts with the amusingly-named Speed Sniffer, essentially a pointed head tube. By pushing the steerer tube back in the head tube, Specialized could make the leading edge pointier, with a profile they’re calling the Speed Sniffer.

While the head tube has a more aero profile, the downtube of the bike looks decidedly less-aero. According to Specialized, they’re putting “aero where it matters,” which means that the aero seat tube and downtube may not look more aero, but in the real world the dirty air that surrounds them makes it less of an advantage. And when you factor in the reduced comfort from the larger tube profiles, they claim the smaller tubes make for an overall faster ride in the real world

Along those lines, the seat tube is also substantially smaller with the seatpost of the SL7 the same size as the seat tube on the SL8. Available in seven sizes, the SL8 continues the Rider-First Engineered philosophy with each frame size optimized for the size and weight of the rider on board.

Geometry

Specialized Tarmac SL8 Geometry

When it comes to geometry, Specialized took an if-it-isn’t-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality. That means the SL8 features the same geometry as the outgoing SL7. Specialized also points out that there are no “women’s” versions of the new SL8, and that “creating male or female bikes is arbitrary and outdated.” As such, any rider will use whatever SL8 frame size fits them the best.

Frame Details

The frame itself features tire clearance for up to 700c x 32mm, it’s Di2 compatible with a battery mount in the seat tube, and it has a removable front derailleur mount if you want to run it 1x. Notably, the Tarmac SL8 is only compatible with electronic drivetrains and hydraulic disc brakes – no mechanical cable routing options here. Additional frame specs include a 68mm BSA threaded BB, 142 x 12mm rear and 100 x 12mm front thru-axles, and Shimano Flat Mount disc brake standard for 140/160mm rotors in the rear. The front brake is only compatible with 160mm flat-mount brakes.

Models & Pricing

Initially, the SL8 Tarmac will be offered in five different builds with two S-Works models, two Pro models, and one Expert. As mentioned above, all models will have an electronic drivetrain because that’s all the frames will accept. Pricing starts at $6,500 for the Expert, and tops out at $14,000 for the S-Works Tarmac SL8. According to Specialized, these will all be available online and in-store starting today!

S-WORKS TARMAC SL8 – SRAM RED ETAP AXS – $14,000

S-WORKS TARMAC SL8 – SHIMANO DURA-ACE DI2 – $14,000

TARMAC SL8 PRO – ULTEGRA DI2 – $8,500

TARMAC SL8 PRO – SRAM FORCE ETAP AXS – $8,500

TARMAC SL8 EXPERT – $6,500

S-WORKS TARMAC SL8 (12r) FRAMESET – $5,500

TARMAC SL8 (10r) FRAMESET – $3,500

specialized.com

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Samuel Vrooman
Samuel Vrooman
8 months ago

One time I used a speed sniffer (I call it my “nose”). Ended up with a possession charge and probation….

Patrick
Patrick
8 months ago

The ‘low end’ SL8 frame has a fantastic paint scheme. I wish something like it was available on the boring lookin Pro builds. The SL7 seemed pretty cool and this appear more refinement than revolution. Maybe some cool SL7 builds. Did you guys every throw a leg over an SL7? I didn’t see a link to any old coverage.

Patrick
Patrick
8 months ago
Reply to  Patrick

I used the search function and saw the previous review. Also, $1500 increase for the Pro build with the same/equivalent parts is rough.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
8 months ago
Reply to  Patrick

Yeah, diminishing returns with that extra money. Their mid-teir frames are already so light with the SL8. But think about the price difference between Ultegra and Dura Ace. That’s a bigger price difference than this.

Veganpotter
Veganpotter
8 months ago
Reply to  Patrick

There are authorized custom painters. I don’t think the cost is a big deal if you’re already considering an S-Works bike. I’m personally waiting to find a cracked frame to repair, then send it off to paint. Well… one of these or a Cannondale Supersix

hyphi
hyphi
8 months ago

funny they denied this last week

Kjoro
Kjoro
8 months ago
Reply to  hyphi

the quote is “Specialized ‘gratified at excitement’ but won’t comment on leaked Tarmac SL8 documents” That’s not a denial.

Last edited 8 months ago by Kjoro
Jaap
Jaap
8 months ago

TIL eTap is heavy.

Oliver
Oliver
8 months ago

The SL7 was significantly less aero than the Venge – Specialized claimed the opposite. They then tacitly admitted the SL7 data was junk. I doubt this is more aero than the SL7 in real world conditions, and I’m sure it’s still slower than the Venge. But it is so light that they can easily scrap the Aethos (sales dried up anyway), and potentially bring back a new Venge.

Last edited 8 months ago by Oliver
Larry T
7 months ago
Reply to  Oliver

Everything learned from the auto biz – planned obsolescence I think it’s called?

DTao
DTao
8 months ago

It dont look right.
Excellent design shld work AND look awesome.
This doesnt look awesome.
For $6500-14000 it had better!

Top tube is fatter than the downtube
Speed Sniffer looks wierd.
Swirly paints cool but wont be popular/top seller.

Trek Madone is still king.

Pmurf
Pmurf
8 months ago
Reply to  DTao

This is Spesh we’re talking about here…function before form. Remember when they cut a notch in the gen1 Venge’s downtube for caliper clearance? Effective, hideous.

I agree with you, but you’re not gonna see if from this company.

Jaap
Jaap
8 months ago
Reply to  DTao

I’d take swirly paints over a Trek any day.

Dinger
Dinger
8 months ago
Reply to  Jaap

Thing is, with the Trek you can get almost any kind of paint job you want and you can get a light all around frame of a slighly less light full-aero frame if you prefer.

John
John
8 months ago

I asked my girlfriend what she thought about the 10r pink paintjob. She thought it looked like rotten meat. Dang. I built a 12r sl7 last year with the pink camo colorway to replace a crashed allez sprint in acid pink, and am a fan of more solid pink colorways. Anyway this is mostly 1w more aero at 29mph if you don’t use their handlebar system, but the 10r is a little lighter than the sl7 12r, so would be a solid candidate for replacing my 2022 allez sprint which is a chunky boy with ugly wields. Just gotta wait until they have some decent paint jobs though.

Fake Namerton
Fake Namerton
8 months ago

Interesting will have to take a look at the S-Works version some time. What time does the C Group leave?

Jason DW
Jason DW
8 months ago

Cool bike but Speed Sniffer? C’mon, so cringe. Ditch the jargon now before you’re stuck with it.

Dave
Dave
8 months ago
Reply to  Jason DW

“Chamois sniffer” – BCJ

carlo
carlo
7 months ago

everythings ok on the years in the making… untill the german guy state “copy and paste” copy and paste from the atheos…

Larry T
7 months ago

Specialized also points out that there are no “women’s” versions of the new SL8, and that “creating male or female bikes is arbitrary and outdated.”
Just like the rest of this marketing hype, wait a few years and it’ll all be revealed as BS, despite the claims they made at the time. Same s__t, different day.
Meanwhile, just another $15K bling-mobile so the dentists of the world have yet another choice. The profit-margin on these things has gotta be obscene.

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