Recently I got an email from Specialized Bicycle Purveyors informing me that they’d concocted a new Tarmac, which is a type of road racing bicycle. “Huh,” I thought to myself. Then I opened the email and saw this in red letters:
UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL July 28, 2020 9 am PT (18:00 CET)
Wait, embargoed?!? Before reading this I had only been mildly interested, and for all I knew the latest iteration of the Tarmac was already out in stores. But now that I knew that this bike was not only unavailable but also embargoed, I realized was now sitting on TOP SECRET INFORMATION. This made me feel important, and it also compelled me to want to know all about a bicycle to which I had been borderline indifferent mere moments before.
Such is the profound marketing power of the “E” world.
So what’s the deal with the new Tarmac, anyway? Well, this one’s called the Tarmac SL7, either because there have been six Tarmacs (Tarmaces?) before it, or because it’s harnessing the profound cultural, historical, and spiritual significance of the number seven. (You know, seven days in the week, seven wonders of the world, the seven fire-breathing heads of Jesus, and so forth.) You can read all about the Tarmac SL7 here. Also, there’s a video about it, which I’m putting here not because I think you should watch it, but because when you’re reading a post about a new bicycle this is exactly the point at which you’d expect to find a video or some other form of media to break up the text:
As for the attributes of the bicycle itself, instead of providing you with a thorough analysis, I will instead regurgitate bits from their various press release materials and website copy without providing any context (you know, like most of the news outlets you follow):
FASTER – BY 45 SECONDS
Mating tube shapes from our FreeFoil Shape Library with our Aerofly II bars, hidden cables, and new Roval Rapide CLX wheels, we’ve created a package that’s 45 seconds faster over 40k than the Tarmac SL6 yet doesn’t add a gram of weight.
I’m not sure what a “FreeFoil Shape Library” is, but I’m assuming it’s some sort of STEM toy for children ages 3-5. As for the bike being 45 seconds faster than the previous one, it’s important to note the previous Tarmac was also 45 seconds faster than the previous previous Tarmac:
When we developed the Tarmac Disc, we didn’t just want it to be fast. We wanted it to be fast everywhere. Long climbs, windy flats, Grand Tour stages, local fondos—we built a race bike to be the most complete out there. How’d we do it? We started with our 500-piece, Rider-First Engineered™ frame with a perfectly-tuned ride quality for every size, added in some serious aero tech that makes it 45 seconds faster than the Tarmac SL5, and then made it 20% lighter. Nothing is lighter, faster, and better handling.
So basically every Tarmac is somehow 45 seconds than the one that preceded it. What this means is that if you were to buy a Tarmac SL7 and race against someone on the original Tarmac (assuming you can still find one that hasn’t yet fallen apart, which they all did, go ahead and ask me how I know), a hole would open up in the fabric of space/time and the rider on the original Tarmac would be sucked through it and sent back into next week. That’s called “science,” and if you don’t believe that Specialized have unlocked the secrets of time travel in their Morgan Hill wind tunnel then go ahead and buy some crappy bicycle that only operates in one dimension, such as a Trek or a Cannondale.
Not convinced you should buy a Tarmac SL7 yet? Well suck on this:
One of the main tenets of innovation is the ability to identify problems and then use everything within your means to solve for them. Here at Specialized, the ethos “Innovate or Die” permeates nearly everything, so it should go without saying that with every new project, we’re focused on that idea from day one. In fact, it’s often times even before day one…
You’re goddamn right that ethos permeates nearly everything at Specialized. In fact, at least six people on the new Tarmac team have been “disappeared” by Mike Sinyard. This is nothing new, either. Rumor has it that a few years back a small group of people at Specialized who thought the company should still offer road bikes with rim brakes were summarily shot. However, nobody dares utter a word about the “Rim Brake Eight” in the vicinity of Specialized headquarters lest they suffer the same fate.
Do you find all that disturbing? If so, you’re probably the kind of wuss who “compromises:”
The goal? To push the limits of technology and create the first race bike with zero compromise. Introducing the Specialized Tarmac SL7—never again will riders have to choose between aerodynamics and weight, or between ride quality and speed. This bike does it all.
Anyway, there’s no doubt the Tarmac SL7 is all they say it is and more, because it even has “telepathic handling:”
The Tarmac has set the bar for race bike handling for years, and the new Tarmac SL7 is the most balanced Tarmac ever and the greatest example of our Rider First Engineered™ philosophy we’ve ever made.
Yes, simply insert Specialized’s new Mind Control™ handling chip into your cerebral cortex and you’ll never have to steer again:
The viral Peter Sagan videos you’ll be served with do grow tiresome, though:
No doubt you’ve already put down a deposit on a new SL7, but just in case you haven’t, you should note that simply designing it makes a SpaceX launch look like flying a paper airplane:
The team that worked on Tarmac SL7 had three cloud-based super computers going day and night. Every single ply of carbon in every frame iteration required upwards of 21,000 calculations in FEA. Equivalent to millions of calculations for every frame and for every layup revision in development. Keep in mind, as a Rider-First Engineered™ bike, every size Tarmac SL7, 44-61cm, got the same treatment.
But these numbers only tell a fraction of the story, says Nadia Carroll, “It goes so much deeper than those simple numbers—especially if you pull out EVERY calculation that is running in the background of our simulation software and how many times it iterates on top of itself. Meaning there are even more calculations running in the background, so the computational hours compound on themselves. So, thinking of that time, there’s no chance I could complete one of the complex rounds of calculations by hand, even if I worked on it full time for the duration of the Tarmac project.”
Incidentally, Nadia Carroll’s quote is a verbatim excerpt from a memo she wrote to Mike Sinyard asking for a raise. (Her request was denied.)
But the most mind-blowing thing about this bike isn’t the round-the-clock supercomputing, or the 500 pieces of crabon, or the 45-second time gains. No, by far the most revolutionary aspect of this bicycle (judging from the photos anyway) is that it features a threaded bottom bracket:
Wow, they sure spent a shitload of time and money to figure out that integrated bottom brackets suck.