We brought you news yesterday that all Specialized Roubaix and Tarmac models will have SL4 frames in model year 2014.
Today, we’ll take a close look at what that will mean for the Tarmac range, whose flagship S-Works model is ridden in cycling’s elite WorldTour by riders from Astana, Omega Pharma-QuickStep, and Saxo-Tinkoff.
We’ll also cast an eye over the new Venge line, made with a different process to SL4, and subject to more subtle changes for the year ahead.
For a detailed look at the MY 2014 Roubaix and CruX ranges, click here. Read on for more on the Tarmac, Venge, and what is meant by the term, SL4.
SL4 to the floor
The SL4 is the latest incarnation of a design family whose first generation was supplied to the now-defunct Gerolsteiner team. Its successor, the SL2 was debuted by QuickStep, who have continued their association with Specialized, launching the SL4 at the Ronde van Vlaanderen just two years ago, when their S-Works frames were the only ones on which the then-new construction was deployed. The Morgan Hill firm’s big news for 2014 is the use of SL4 throughout the Roubaix and Tarmac ranges. So what makes a frame an SL4?
“To be honest, a lot of things,” says James Booth, Specialized’s team liaison in the UK. With the SL4, he explains, the headtube, top tube and downtube are made as a single entity, as are the bottom bracket and seat-tube, before both are bonded together.
The diameter of the lower bearing has been reduced from 1.5” to 1-1/38” for MY2014 – an increasingly popular trend. For Specialized, the reduction was driven by the search for greater compliance without sacrificing stiffness: look closely, says Booth, and the downtube wraps more effectively around the headtube, making it stiffer. The claimed gains in compliance come from a “less dramatic” taper in the headtube.
The SL4 continues Specialized’s use of size specific tubing, where tube lengths and diameters change with the frame size. “The person buying a 49cm frame isn’t going to weigh the same as the person buying a 60cm frame,” Booth explains. “It sounds simple, but it helps us keep ride characteristics consistent across the board.”
Specialized’s goal for its SL4 construction were those of most manufacturers: to increase stiffness in the bottom half of the bike and compliance in its upper half. Have they succeeded with the model year 2014 iterations? We’ll be visiting Specialized HQ in the near future, so watch this space. In the meantime, here’s a look at the new bikes.
The Tarmac range tops out at £9,000 with an S-Works frame dressed in Shimano Dura Ace Di2 9070, a Specialized FACT carbon crank, and Specialized Roval CLX 40 wheels, with Specialized-designed, DT-manufactured hubs rolling on ceramic bearings. The same build, but with Shimano Dura Ace 9000 mechanical shifting will cost £6,500.
While at £1,300, the price of the Sora-equipped entry to the Tarmac range has risen by £100 since last year, Specialized firmly believe that the value of an SL4 frame exceeds the increase. The £1,600 Tarmac Sport is equipped this year with an FSA Gossamer chainset, and Shimano 105 shifters, while another £300 will buy you the £1,900 Tarmac Elite with 105 brakes as well as shifters and Fulcrum Racing Five wheels.
The mid-range Tarmac Comp models are separated by electronic shifting and £1,300 (£2,200 for the Ultegra mechanical model; £3500 with Ultegra Di2, both rolling on Fulcrum Racing Five wheels) and the reintroduction of the Pro tier has created a £4,000 machine with a proprietary FACT chainset, in-house Roval Fusee aluminium clinchers, Dura Ace shifting and Ultegra braking.
The entry-level Tarmac will be first into the shops, perhaps as soon as the end of August, while those with £9,000 burning a hole in their pocket may have to wait until November.
The new, top-tier Tarmac S-Works frame can be routed for electronic or mechanical cables. It will be sold at £2,600 in four colourways, including those of two of the three UCI WorldTour teams supplied by Specialized: the blue, black, and gold of Saxo Tinkoff, and the black, white, and turquoise of Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
With Specialized’s focus for 2014 centered on the deployment of the SL4 platform throughout the Roubaix and Tarmac ranges, the biggest story for this year’s Venge is the introduction of a Mark Cavendish Specialized Edition frame to company’s UK range. It’s an S-Works model, but bearing the Manx Missile’s signature and, of course, the C V N D S H logo. It will sell for £2,800, or £200 more than the standard S-Works Venge frameset, which includes Omega Pharma-QuickStep livery among its three colourways.
The flagship S-Works Venge is finished in a suitably stealthy satin black, equipped with Shimano Dura Ace Di2 9070, and rolls on Roval CLX 80mm carbon wheels. To you, sir? £9,000. In common with the Roubaix and Tarmac ranges, the second S-Works offering of the Venge line sees the electronic offering replaced with a Dura Ace 9000 mechanical groupset for a saving of £2,500. In all other regards, the S-Works Venge and S-Works Venge Di2 are the same machine, right down to the FACT carbon crank.
Last year saw the Venge range broadened to the Elite tier, and the 105-equipped offering this year has a sleeker appearance thanks to the abandonment of red graphics. The DT Axis 4.0 hoops have been replaced by Fulcrum Racing 5 hoops. At £2,600, it’s £100 more expensive than the model year 2013 equivalent.
The Ultegra-specced Comp model rolls on Fulcrum Racing Four hoops and will cost £3,000, while the Venge Expert, presented this year in a pearlescent white with silver and blue detailing, is equipped with Roval Rapide SL aluminium clinchers and an FSA SL-K Light chainset with carbon crank arms, and costs £3,500.
The official UK launch date for all of the models in Specialized’s MY2014 portfolio is Friday August 2, 2013, and while the bikes are expected to filter into shops soon after, certain models won’t be available until November. We’ve been invited to Specialized’s UK headquarters and will bring you more news as it becomes available.