Specialized Tarmac Elite 2012 Review

The Specialized Tarmac Elite is one of the most versatile and flexible bikes on the market. While it sits within a formidable Specialized range, where it has to compete for attention with the Roubaix and the now legendary McLaren F1 linked Venge model, which Mark Cavendish got his green jersey riding, this is still a bike that can very much hold its own and is the ideal choice for many riders.

Where the Venge has its focus very much on aggressive, fast riding, and the Roubaix is designed more for comfort and can feel a bit wallowy, the Tarmac fills the all important space in between these extremes with a bike that is suited to most styles and offers the optimum balance of comfort and aggression.


The ride position on the Specialized Tarmac Elite bike is as aggressive as you are going to want it to be, and the handling is accurate and responsive. The amazing chassis on this model makes it a bike you can easily take up to your own limits without feeling that you are even coming close to the bike’s limit. In testing, we gave this bike hell and never once did it disappoint us or handle like a dog.

Ride Comfort

The comfort on the Specialized Tarmac bike is exceptional for a light bike in this class – it offers no irritating road buzz through the frame to your hands, and the position and seat are fine for long sessions riding it. The shock absorption is very good, meaning that even on badly maintained roads you won’t have too much to worry about comfort wise.

Other Features

The Specialized Tarmac Elite is furnished with gear set and brakes from Shimano 105 and also an FSA Gossamer BB30 crankset. While these options are perfectly fine, there is something of a sense that the chassis warrants something a bit more special, so it may be that you’d want to upgrade and modify this area of the bike a little using its excellent core as the base to develop something customized that really brings out the best in Specialized’s underlying engineering.
Other than the gearing, most of the components, including the saddle, are Specialized’s own designs, and are incredibly good – you really feel that they have worked to produce a bike that works solidly as a whole, even if there is some scope for improvement for a savvy owner.

Wheels and Tyres

With its Fulcrum Racing 6 wheels, coupled with Specialized’s superb Turbo Elite tyres, this bike does very well in the wheels department. The Racing 6 is what is in essence a Racing 7 with an upgraded hub and you can only get these for your bike as original equipment – we were very impressed with them, and don’t see a wheel upgrade as particularly high priority if you are looking to improve on this bike.

All in all, we fully recommend the Specialized Tarmac Elite, either as a new bike solution or as a basis for modifications. It offers one of the best cores on the market and gives the right balance between comfort and speed.

Specialized Tarmac Elite

Rating by Adam Samuel: 4.0 stars £££

Written by: