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Specialized Tarmac SL 8 vs. SL 7

Specialized Tarmac SL 8 vs. SL 7

What's up with the new S-Works?

It's finally here! In the last few weeks, several leaked pictures have been circulating on the web, giving us first impressions of the long-awaited new Specialized SL 8. Last Sunday, the time had officially come: Remco Evenpoel was allowed to race the brand new bike from Edinburgh to Glasgow at the UCI Men's Championships. That's why we're taking a closer look at the SL 8 today, comparing it to the successful previous model SL 7 and answer the burning question: Is the upgrade worth it?

1. aerodynamics

It has long been speculated that Specialized would return to old ways and offer a bike for the mountains as well as a separate aerobike. However, the SL 8 is once again an all-rounder: Specialized has the combined the best features of the Aero Venge and the featherweight Aethos and created "the one bike to rule them all". Quite the confident claim... So what's behind it?

The SL 8 has been equipped with three major aerodynamic improvements: The seat post and the seat tube of the SL8 have the same width as those of the Venge and are thus much narrower than those of the SL7. This makes them not only more aerodynamic, but also quite a bit lighter. In addition, the seatpost is said to be 6% more compliant than the SL7 while maintaining the same lateral stiffness. Which all in all slightly improves the ride quality!

To further improve the head tube and aerodynamics at the front, Specialized has added, alongside the slightly deeper fork, the new one-piece Rival Rapide handlebar and stem. It reportedly saves up to 4 watts and is 50 grams lighter than the two-piece SL7 handlebar. The cables are also routed much cleaner through a single hole.

The biggest aerodynamic highlight is and remains the new head tube design: The reach is 3 mm shorter and the stack 10 mm higher, which makes you sit much more comfortably. But the new, cone-like shape of the head tube, which Specialized calls "Speed Sniffer", is particularly striking. Through CFD and wind tunnel testing, it was found to decisively reduce drag due to laminar airflow, even though it weighs 25 grams more. The new design does results in an unconventional look, but it sure does its job.

Because together with the new seat tube and the Rival Rapide cockpit, this speed sniffer ensures that the SL 8 is a whole 16.6 seconds faster than the SL 7 over 40 km. And that's neat.

2. weight

The SL 8 is not only more aerodynamic than the Specialized Venge, it is also much lighter than the SL 7. The frame weighs 100g less, mainly thanks to the carbon material used: The Specialized FACT 12r Carbon layer is thinner than the FACT 10r used on the SL 7, making it lighter but also stiffer. This increases the performance, but also reduces the comfort.

3. tire clearance and components

Specialized has increased the tire clearance on the SL 8 a little. The latest S-Works has room for tires of up to 32 mm width, in the SL 7 it was only 30 mm. A nice extra? The new second generation tubelessRoval Rapide CLX II wheelset.

As for components, we would recommend you the model equipped with Shimano's Dura Ace, but... SRAM should probably soon launch the new version of SRAM Red and this group may be worth a little wait.

4. price

Surprisingly, Specialized has decided against raising the price of the SL 8 despite the mentioned updates. Which means that you'll get an SL 8 in the same price ranges as the SL 7: starting at 6,500€ you can get an entry level model with Roval carbon wheels and for the high-end model with SRAM Rival or Shimano Dura Ace you can spend up to 14,000 €.

However, if we take a look at the color scheme, the SL 8 remains... Well. Classic. So far, there are mainly monochrome paint jobs, but hopefully Specialized will add some more exciting colorways in the future.

5. summary

To cut to the chase: The SL 8 is more aerodynamic, much stiffer and lighter but about as comfortable as the SL 7, considering both the new carbon material and the frame geometry. You get a new, thinner seatpost (which has a nicer and sleeker design in my opinion) and a new, awesome cockpit.

Which - despite all the excitement - is not really groundbreaking. An SL7 or SL6 with disc brakes will give you almost the same riding experience. So if you already own one of these models, we can assure you that your Tarmac is still perfectly fine. An upgrade to the SL 8 is not necessarily worth it.

But if you're looking for a new bike and are eyeing a Tarmac, the investment in the new SL 8 could just be worth it. But also keep your eyes open for the older models, because they are going to be much cheaper now that the SL8 hits the market. And if you buy them pre-owned, like at buycycleyou save double. We currently have many Tarmacs on our website, so check them out!

If you have any questions about the SL 8 or SL 7, our team is always here for more information and if you want to learn more about bicycles in general head to the blog.  But for now we wish you: Happy browsing, happy cycling!