The Specialized S-Works Tarmac is one of the big players in the pro peloton and has bagged many legendary titles over the years. The workhorse of defending World Champion Peter Sagan has been extensively revised for the 2018 season. Let’s see how the S-Works Tarmac stands up against very fierce competition.

For an overview of the test fleet head to the main article: What’s the best road bike of 2018? – 12 race bikes put to the test

Specialized S-Works Tarmac is the best bike in test.
Specialized S-Works Tarmac 2018 | 6.82 kg | € 9,999

With its price tag of € 9,499, the Specialized S-Works Tarmac is not exactly a bargain. However, its many clever features make it the perfect all-round racing bike. The new, aerodynamically-optimized carbon frame, the custom carbon layup, and three size-specific carbon forks are designed to offer a consistent performance across all sizes – this means optimised riding performance and rider-specific geometries throughout frame sizes from 49 to 61! The Californians deliver top pro performance with an explosive mix of high-end components such as Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, direct mount brakes, Roval CLX 50 Rapide carbon wheels, Specialized’s in-house componentry such as an S-Works Fact Carbon seatpost and S-Works SL carbon handlebars, and even CeramicSpeed bearing upgrades in the BB and hubs.

The S-Works Tarmac is the best-looking bike in the entire test fleet. The matte-black carbon frame and the gorgeous carbon look of the spec seem to be melting into each other. The Specialized Turbo Cotton tires with skinwall look are the icing on the cake.

Nada de nada

The Specialized Tarmac S-Works gives you a huge endorphin rush from the very first pedal stroke. Thanks to a weight of just 6.38 kg in size 56, the Tarmac nimbly winds itself up the steep hills of Girona; none of the other bikes feels this agile. But that’s not all: the very precise, responsive, and confidence-inspiring handling of the Tarmac impressed us on the downhill too. The Tarmac eats tight turns for breakfast and Spanish switchbacks for lunch, which is partly due to its very short chainstays – 405 mm on a 56 frame. At the same time, the Specialized impresses with very balanced handling; even in extreme situations the Tarmac feels predictable and good-natured, and is therefore a fun option for both pros and beginners.

The S-Works Tarmac is not just damn fast, but thanks to the powerful Shimano Dura-Ace direct mount brakes, it also decelerates extremely well. With the great modulation of the brakes and the outstanding grip of the Specialized Turbo Cotton tires, you won’t miss the performance of disc brakes for a second – at least in dry conditions.

Helmet KASK PROTONE | Glasses 100% Speedcraft | Jersey Huez Inverse Rock Jersey | Bibshorts Isadore Bibshorts | Socks Stance Socks 2Pac | Shoes Giro Prolight Techlace

In short, the Specialized S-Works Tarmac offers the best overall performance and ruled the entire test field. On the Roval CLX 50 wheels, the 26 mm-wide Specialized Turbo Cotton reach an effective width of 28 mm and make for a very smooth ride. The extremely grippy rubber compound lends the tires superb cornering traction and excellent damping qualities. The good compliance of the carbon seatpost puts the final touch on the excellent riding characteristics of the Tarmac, which we can only describe as damn fast, comfortable, confidence-inspiring, responsive, precise, and balanced. All of these qualities were proved in our GRAN FONDO Race Session, in which all four test riders nailed their fastest lap on the Tarmac!

  even in extreme situations the Tarmac feels predictable and good-natured, and is therefore a fun option for both pros and beginners.

The Specialized S-Works Tarmac 2018 in detail

Drivetrain Shimano Dura Ace Di2
Wheelset Roval CLX50 Rapide
Brakes Shimano Dura Ace Rim
Tires Specialized Turbo Cotton
Weight 6.82 kg
Price € 9,999

CeramicSpeed bearings: the Californians offer pro-level performance from the bottom bracket to the hubs.
Great details at the Specialized S-Works Tarmac add up and make the best road bike even better
Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9100 with the Junction Box in the S-Works SL carbon handlebar.
The good compliance of the carbon seatpost is the final touch on the superb riding characteristics of the Tarmac.
Thanks to the direct mount brakes, the Shimano Dura-Ace R9110 RS offers World Champ shifting performance while delivering great modulation.
The Specialized Turbo Cotton tires with exclusive skinwall round off the look of the Tarmac and deliver great performance in dry conditions.

The geometry of the Specialized S-Works Tarmac 2018


The Specialized S-Works Tarmac 2018 is the fastest racing bike of 2018. The American all-round talent shines in all disciplines and offers a superb overall package. Thanks to the excellent handling qualities and outstanding control in all situations, the Tarmac inspires tons of confidence despite its light construction and ridiculous weight of 6.38 kg. This makes the Tarmac the ultimate racing beast for everyone from beginners to professionals. A well-deserved Best in Test!


– Outstanding riding performance
– 1st place in the GRAN FONDO Race Session
– Stealth look
– Best tires in test


– Cable routing in the cockpit (we wouldn’t expect a shrinking-hose in this price range)


For more info head to:

For an overview of the test fleet head to the main article: What’s the best road bike of 2018? – 12 race bikes put to the test

All bikes in the test: 3T Strada | BMC Teammachine SLR 01 Disc Team | Canyon Aeroad CF SLX Disc 9.0 Di2 | Corratec EVO eTap Konfi | Fuji SL 1.1 | Rose X-Lite 6 eTap | Scott Addict RC Ultimate Disc | Speedvagen Road | Standert Triebwerk Mach 3 | Trek Emonda SLR 8 Disc | Wilier Superleggera SL

This article is from GRAN FONDO issue #008

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Words: Manuel Buck, Robin Schmitt, Benjamin Topf Photos: Noah Haxel