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Specialized Tarmacs by Year - Whats the difference?

JackofallgradesJackofallgrades Posts: 44
edited January 2019 in Road buying advice
Hi all, first post on this lovely forum! *cue confetti and trumpets*

I'm looking into purchasing a frame/bike (whole separate issue) and came to wonder what the difference is between different years of Specialised Tarmac models (or indeed most bikes), particularly when the frames are listed as all having the same grade of carbon, for the sake of argument Fact 10r as in their Pro models. Is a Tarmac Pro of 2015 exactly the same as a Tarmac Pro of 2018 apart from the paint? If it is different, how much so? Is it true many manufacturers work in 'cycles' whereby the model will stay relatively unchanged for a number of years and then undergo a fairly large update to start a new cycle?

Enlighten me! :D

Posts

  • There would have been a shift in the past couple of years to accommodate wider tyres, and maybe internal cables.
    Thats usually about it.
    I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles
  • slowmartslowmart Posts: 4,088
    For the most part and applying the context of a club rider the difference is marketing censored . This frame is 20% stiffer and 6% lighter than last years previous model. So does that mean last years model was made from jelly?

    There's a lot to be said for buying a second hand bike and using the cash you've saved for a cycling holiday or two or some nice upgrades which means you revert back to fodder for the marketing bods.

    Most iterations are rarely sea changes in terms of capability and you will pay for the privilege which is fine if that's the route you choose as its about smiles per mile and if a new shiny bike gets you out more then its job done.
    “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring”

    Desmond Tutu
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,412
    Hi all, first post on this lovely forum! *cue confetti and trumpets*
    I can tell you're new because you're under the impression that it's lovely.. :wink: Seriously though, welcome..
    Is it true many manufacturers work in 'cycles' whereby the model will stay relatively unchanged for a number of years and then undergo a fairly large update to start a new cycle?
    In terms of the frameset, basically, yes. With Tarmacs it's easy because they number them - current model/range is the SL6. Other manufacturers will just bring out a new frame every 3 or 4 years with the same name (e.g. when Scott updated the Foil in 2016). Usually the frame looks different so you can tell that it's a new model by looking at it (if they are having a new frame designed with a new mould and layup schedule they may as well make it look new and different at the same time to reflect that for marketing purposes). Between years the frameset is likely to be exactly the same, usually with a different paint job each year. But the spec of complete bikes is likey to change slightly each year (different wheels, tyres, maybe groupset components at a given pricepoint, especially if Shimano or whoever have brought out a new version of their groupset).

    Many manufacturers will do two versions of the frameset for a given named model, a high-end one with a better layup using more high modulus carbon that's likely to be lighter for the same stiffness and possibly a little more lively to ride, and a lower end one that's maybe a bit heavier. There will be bikes offered at a range of price points with different qualities of components, with the higher-end frame used for the more expensive models. Sometimes the frame used is indicated in the name (e.g. Ridley Helium X vs. Helium SLX), sometimes it's not and you have to look at the detailed spec.
  • Slowmart wrote:
    For the most part and applying the context of a club rider the difference is marketing censored . This frame is 20% stiffer and 6% lighter than last years previous model. So does that mean last years model was made from jelly?

    There's a lot to be said for buying a second hand bike and using the cash you've saved for a cycling holiday or two or some nice upgrades which means you revert back to fodder for the marketing bods.

    Most iterations are rarely sea changes in terms of capability and you will pay for the privilege which is fine if that's the route you choose as its about smiles per mile and if a new shiny bike gets you out more then its job done.

    That’s what I was getting at really, if I can get the same carbon quality/general shaping then why not save some cash?
  • neeb wrote:
    Hi all, first post on this lovely forum! *cue confetti and trumpets*
    I can tell you're new because you're under the impression that it's lovely.. :wink: Seriously though, welcome..
    Is it true many manufacturers work in 'cycles' whereby the model will stay relatively unchanged for a number of years and then undergo a fairly large update to start a new cycle?
    In terms of the frameset, basically, yes. With Tarmacs it's easy because they number them - current model/range is the SL6. Other manufacturers will just bring out a new frame every 3 or 4 years with the same name (e.g. when Scott updated the Foil in 2016). Usually the frame looks different so you can tell that it's a new model by looking at it (if they are having a new frame designed with a new mould and layup schedule they may as well make it look new and different at the same time to reflect that for marketing purposes). Between years the frameset is likely to be exactly the same, usually with a different paint job each year. But the spec of complete bikes is likey to change slightly each year (different wheels, tyres, maybe groupset components at a given pricepoint, especially if Shimano or whoever have brought out a new version of their groupset).

    Many manufacturers will do two versions of the frameset for a given named model, a high-end one with a better layup using more high modulus carbon that's likely to be lighter for the same stiffness and possibly a little more lively to ride, and a lower end one that's maybe a bit heavier. There will be bikes offered at a range of price points with different qualities of components, with the higher-end frame used for the more expensive models. Sometimes the frame used is indicated in the name (e.g. Ridley Helium X vs. Helium SLX), sometimes it's not and you have to look at the detailed spec.

    Lovely ‘til proven otherwise :lol:

    So say I was looking at a SL5 vs a SL6, you’re saying there will be differences as that’s a new cycle starting?

    It’s kind of what I suspected but couldn’t know for sure, particularly as I’m looking at framesets where components don’t come into it. If I can get a Tarmac frame for under £1k vs one new and it’s basically the same bar paint - Happy days! I suspect not that simple but that’s how my wishful thinking goes...
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,412
    So say I was looking at a SL5 vs a SL6, you’re saying there will be differences as that’s a new cycle starting?

    It’s kind of what I suspected but couldn’t know for sure, particularly as I’m looking at framesets where components don’t come into it. If I can get a Tarmac frame for under £1k vs one new and it’s basically the same bar paint - Happy days! I suspect not that simple but that’s how my wishful thinking goes...
    Yes, If you google and look at pictures of the Tarmac SL5 and SL6 you will see that the frames are completely different - there was a major redesign with the SL6. Not that there was anything wrong with the SL5. How much of the difference is real and how much of marketing is a matter of controversial opinion.. ;-)

    But, basically yes, you can pick up real bargains 2nd hand if you know what you are looking at as the marketing-driven trends in cycling mean that new bikes depreciate in value very fast. Most of the supposed advances in bike frames over the last 5 or 10 years have been cosmetic, unless you want disc brakes or clearance for wider tyres, or really believe the claims of the marketing departments about supposed aero benefits (clue - the benefits probably exist but the are so tiny as to be almost meaningless in a frame alone).
  • That’s given me plenty to think about, thanks! 2nd hand bargains are too good to resist...

    Certainly not much a fan of discs look-wise and being a smaller fella, and wider clearance above 28 isn’t that big a deal, so I’ll get looking ;)
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,412
    That’s given me plenty to think about, thanks! 2nd hand bargains are too good to resist...

    Certainly not much a fan of discs look-wise and being a smaller fella, and wider clearance above 28 isn’t that big a deal, so I’ll get looking ;)
    You can often find old websites with information about how a particular model of a particular frame differed from others made at the same time. IMO if you are going 2nd hand it's worth looking for what would have been the more up-market version of a frame at the time it was made (the lighter one with the higher modulus layup). You've a good chance of finding what is effectively a pro-level frame identical to what would have been ridden in the TdF 3 or 4 years ago and likely better than the latest brand new entry-level frame. To some extent this stops being true once you go back more than 5-7 years as there have been significant advances in carbon frame design and manufacture in the last 10 years or so. The sweetspot is probably 2-6 years old.

    Just watch out for the pitalls - sizing/geometry (don't compromise on that to get a bargain), and frames that have been very heavily used and/or crashed... Be particularly wary of any visble damage to forks/steerer tubes..
  • slowmartslowmart Posts: 4,088
    The one caveat to Neebs suggestion is the lighter, stiffer frame option also means it’s not as sturdy or enjoys the longevity of the cheaper option. It’s just another part of the equation.

    Enjoy the journey as it’s always fun deciding what floats your boat best.
    “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring”

    Desmond Tutu
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,412
    Slowmart wrote:
    The one caveat to Neebs suggestion is the lighter, stiffer frame option also means it’s not as sturdy or enjoys the longevity of the cheaper option
    Don't know if that's necessarily true. The more expensive frames often just have more complex layups, they will use stiffer, lighter carbon in certain places but should be just as durable as long as they aren't crashed or abused. Problem with 2nd hand frames is that you don't know the history - best to get something that looks as close to new as possible and where the seller seems trustworthy and believable (or, even better, you know them already).

    Another pitfall - stolen bikes...
  • Yes, always a risk of second hand but at least eBay gives some indication of trustworthiness.

    Final question, is (for example) 2016 spec Fact10r Carbon the same as 2019 spec Fact10r Carbon or is this also subtly changing and improving year on year? Talking about the actually layup and material rather than the shaping?
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 11,256
    The 'fact10r' material will be the same. Layup? who knows/cares. These are all good frames and amateurs (and probably most pros) will be hard pushed to tell much - if any - difference between models from one year to the next.

    If you can win races on a 2019 Tarmac, you could probably also win the same race on a 2011 Tarmac. As someone once said "it's not about the bike"...
  • As has been pointed out the SL6 is a complete redesign. Have been on an SL6 for the last year and previously was on an SL5 for 3 years. There is a difference in ride quality IMO, the SL6 feels a little more comfortable with the dropped seatstays over really bad roads although in truth I never found the previous model particularly harsh at all. The sl6 is also 300g lighter but I find that is only really noticeable in big ring efforts on a climb. According to my Power numbers there seems to be a difference in the aerodynamics of the two frames, both bikes are set up with the same position and same components and I tend to find that the newer version requires less watts to hold similar speeds than the previous version but this is just my interpretation, there could be other reasons, physiological, environmental etc. at stake which could account for the difference also.

    Essentially the older models are still excellent frames and the difference between the two is marginal (although I know other cyclists who gave ridden both and think the difference is far greater).


    OP, do you know what size frame you ride? I hung on to the sl5 frame and would be happy to sell to a forum member. It is a size 52 in the Saxo bank colour scheme, see link to pic below (not my bike just frame colour for reference!)

    https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/product-news/tour-bike-alberto-contadors%E2%80%A8-specialized-s-works-tarmac-131629

    Drop me a DM if you are interested.
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    I got one of the bargain 2012 CR1-SL framesets when Scott discontinued them. Downside is no clearance for wider tyres, which would be nice, and it's all mechanical / external cabling which doesn't worry me at all. Upside is I got to build and ride a super light weight bike on a modest budget.

    If I was shopping for a bargain frameset now I'd be wary of odd BB and headset standards, integrated or proprietary seat posts, and slightly nervous about internally routed cables, but that's just me. I'd definitely want capacity for wider rims / tyres.

    Carbon frame manufacturing is pretty mature technology, so as long as you avoid crashed and stolen, the world's your lobster really.
  • bsharp77bsharp77 Posts: 533
    If your budget can stretch, Certini are doing 2015 S-Works Tarmac frames in a couple of colours for £1499 (depending on your size).
    I picked up a hyper red one last year from them for a lot more than that - simply can't recommend it highly enough. I look forward to being able to get out on it every week - and i've had a LOT of frames and bikes over the years.
    Its so good, that I don't worry about changing anymore. More than happy to keep the frame and replace components as needed - its a better bike than i'll ever be a rider.
  • Imposter wrote:
    The 'fact10r' material will be the same. Layup? who knows/cares. These are all good frames and amateurs (and probably most pros) will be hard pushed to tell much - if any - difference between models from one year to the next.

    If you can win races on a 2019 Tarmac, you could probably also win the same race on a 2011 Tarmac. As someone once said "it's not about the bike"...

    Very true sir, though I can’t help myself, and after all if it helps me get on the thing and ride thinking I’ll cut my times in half, it’s probably worth lying to myself a wee bit ;) But note taken!
  • Essentially the older models are still excellent frames and the difference between the two is marginal (although I know other cyclists who gave ridden both and think the difference is far greater).


    OP, do you know what size frame you ride? I hung on to the sl5 frame and would be happy to sell to a forum member. It is a size 52 in the Saxo bank colour scheme, see link to pic below (not my bike just frame colour for reference!)

    https://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/product-news/tour-bike-alberto-contadors%E2%80%A8-specialized-s-works-tarmac-131629

    Drop me a DM if you are interested.

    I’m not 100% sure as my present bike was a gift and not properly sized up, I’m 177cm and 81cm inseam, so looking around 52/54 I’m guessing. Need to really go and try a frame out. But thank you for the offer, once I suss out my size I may come knocking :)
  • bsharp77 wrote:
    If your budget can stretch, Certini are doing 2015 S-Works Tarmac frames in a couple of colours for £1499 (depending on your size).
    I picked up a hyper red one last year from them for a lot more than that - simply can't recommend it highly enough. I look forward to being able to get out on it every week - and i've had a LOT of frames and bikes over the years.
    Its so good, that I don't worry about changing anymore. More than happy to keep the frame and replace components as needed - its a better bike than i'll ever be a rider.

    I have seen these, they do look great, to be honest it’s probably a bit above budget for now, I’ve been looking at the complete bikes on Certini though and the older Tarmac Pros look pretty decent value, a long way til a decision though yet :D
  • Hi, my first reply.

    I currently own the Sworks SL6 bike and 4 years previously I owned the SL4. I can tell you now they are very different. Four years ago a 100 mile sportive on an SL4 bike would kill my back and with 23mm tyres would not have been the most enjoyable of rides. Today on my SL6 bike 100miles would be tough but I would still be able to walk at the end of it. Also now with 28mm tyres and 85psi pressure the bike is the best I have ever ridden. In my opinion in the last 4 years it has changed a lot. It's Geometry has moved towards the Roubaix but still keeping that racey feel. Hope that helps!!!
  • Chalky46 wrote:
    Hi, my first reply.

    I currently own the Sworks SL6 bike and 4 years previously I owned the SL4. I can tell you now they are very different. Four years ago a 100 mile sportive on an SL4 bike would kill my back and with 23mm tyres would not have been the most enjoyable of rides. Today on my SL6 bike 100miles would be tough but I would still be able to walk at the end of it. Also now with 28mm tyres and 85psi pressure the bike is the best I have ever ridden. In my opinion in the last 4 years it has changed a lot. It's Geometry has moved towards the Roubaix but still keeping that racey feel. Hope that helps!!!

    Thanks Chalky, it all helps, that’s interesting to hear, I have quite a racy geometry now but good to know it still has the comfort factor :)
  • I’m not 100% sure as my present bike was a gift and not properly sized up, I’m 177cm and 81cm inseam, so looking around 52/54 I’m guessing. Need to really go and try a frame out. But thank you for the offer, once I suss out my size I may come knocking

    No worries mate. I suspect at your height you will need a 54cm but you should be able to find a shop nearby to check it out. There are always plenty that come up on ebay so you should be able to get a decent frame in your size. Personally I would stick to the sl5 if budget allows, guess you would be looking at somewhere around £800-1300 depending on condition and age for a frame.
  • chrisw12chrisw12 Posts: 1,246
    There have been some significant changes to model lines, some marketing, some changes for the better (wide tyres) some for the worse (press fit bb). For me the cheaper sl6 has hit a sweet spot of having discs, capacity for wide tyres and good old screw in Bottom brackets.
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