In this article, I’ll guide you through a comparison between the Specialized Tarmac SL8 and Cervelo R5; both popular road bikes among cyclists.
I’ll walk through the Specialized Tarmac SL8 and Cervelo R5 models lineup, their specifications, and retail pricing (USD). I’ll explain the carbon fiber technology used (Specialized FACT vs ), and unique frameset features for each bike.
The goal is to help you get a better understanding before you make your final purchasing decision.
|Specialized Tarmac SL8||Cervelo R5|
|Type of bike||All-rounder||Lightweight, all-rounder|
|Frame material||FACT 12r carbon|
FACT 10r carbon
|Frame sizes||44, 49, 52, 54, 56, 58, 61||48, 51, 54, 56, 58, 61|
|Groupset||Shimano, SRAM (12-speed)||Shimano, SRAM (12-speed)|
|Brakes||Hydraulic disc||Hydraulic disc|
|Price (USD)||$6,500 to $14,000||$9,000 to $13,000|
Specialized Tarmac SL8
The Specialized Tarmac SL8 is the latest, all-rounder race bike.
Now in its eighth iteration, hence SL8, the Specialized Tarmac improves on the features of the Tarmac SL7 that made it one of the best bikes in professional cycling and a leading bike brand among amateur cyclists.
According to Specialized, the Tarmac SL8 has a 33% improvement in stiffness-to-weight ratio compared to the Tarmac SL7. The most significant improvement is in aerodynamics; a larger head tube with a sharper nose cone. Specialized calls this the Speed Sniffer.
The S-Works version retains the same FACT 12r carbon, while the Specialized Pro and Expert versions use the FACT 10r carbon. The difference between the S-Works and Specialized versions lies in the carbon fiber grade, choice of groupset, wheels, and components. The S-Works versions come with the newly launched Roval Rapide Cockpit, a one-pice carbon handlebar.
A size 56 bike weighs 6.62 kg (14.6 lbs) with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, and 6.85 kg (15.1 lbs) with a SRAM Red AXS.
There are six models in the Specialized Tarmac SL8 lineup based on its groupset setup. All models are electronic shifting only. It’s also available in frameset only for S-Works and for Specialized versions.
|Model||Frame material||Groupset||Wheelset||Max. tire size||Retail price (USD)|
|S-Works Tarmac SL8||FACT 12r carbon||Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 (R9200)||Roval Rapid CLX II |
(51mm front, 60mm rear)
|S-Works Tarmac SL8||FACT 12r carbon||SRAM Red eTap AXS||Roval Rapid CLX II |
(51mm front, 51mm rear)
|Specialized Tarmac SL8 Pro||FACT 10r carbon||Shimano Ultegra Di2 (R8100)||Roval Rapid CL II |
(51mm front, 60mm rear)
|Specialized Tarmac SL8 Pro||FACT 10r carbon||SRAM Force eTap AXS||Roval Rapid CL II |
(51mm front, 60mm rear)
|Specialized Tarmac SL8 Expert||FACT 10r carbon||SRAM Rival eTap AXS||Roval C38 (38mm)||32mm||$6,500|
More reading : Specialized Tarmac SL8 vs SL7 - What's Changed?
The Cervélo R5 is an all-rounder road race bike. The Cervélo R5 sits at the top with the best components and is ridden by Jonas Vingegaard to win the 2022 and 2023 Tour de France.
Cervélo R5 and R-Series (discontinued in 2022) share the same carbon fiber material. Cervélo calls the carbon tubing design, the Squoval Max, a reference to the combination of Square and Oval tube shapes to achieve a balance between weight, stiffness, and aerodynamic benefits according to their CFD analysis.
The Cervélo R5 is disc-only with an integrated cockpit. It’s also available in a frameset only.
|Model||Frame material||Groupset||Wheelset||Retail price (USD)|
|Cervelo R5||Carbon||Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 (R9200)||Reserve 34/37||$13,000|
|Cervelo R5||Carbon||SRAM Red eTap AXS||Reserve 34/37||$13,000|
|Cervelo R5||Carbon||Shimano Ultegra Di2 (R8100)||Reserve 34/37||$9,000|
|Cervelo R5||Carbon||SRAM Force eTap AXS||Reserve 34/37||$9,000|
Specialized vs Cervelo carbon fiber
Specialized FACT Carbon
Specialized FACT (Functional Advanced Composite Technology) is an advanced carbon fiber technology used in high-performance Specialized bicycles. It offers a lightweight yet strong frame construction with precise carbon layup, resulting in optimal strength-to-weight ratio and improved ride quality.
FACT carbon frames are engineered to efficiently transfer power, absorb road vibrations, and provide a comfortable riding experience. With continuous innovation and refinement, FACT Carbon demonstrates Specialized’s commitment to delivering top-notch performance and enhancing the overall cycling experience.
The carbon is available in three grades. The choice between FACT 12r, 11r, or 10r carbon depends on the bike model, your preferences, riding style, and budget.
- Specialized FACT 12r Carbon is the highest-grade carbon used by Specialized. Bikes (S-Works models) with frames made from FACT 12r carbon are the lightest and stiffest in the Specialized line-up. These frames are manufactured using the most advanced techniques and materials.
- Specialized FACT 11r Carbon used to be the highest-grade carbon until the S-Works Tarmac (SL5). Today, it’s the highest-grade carbon for the S-Works Roubaix.
- Specialized FACT 10r Carbon is two steps below 12r in the Specialized carbon hierarchy. While it doesn’t provide quite the same level of weight savings and stiffness as 12r, 10r frames are still very light and stiff, providing a high level of performance. FACT 10r carbon is used in all non S-Works models and is ideal for riders who want a balance of performance and value.
Cervelo doesn’t publicly release information about the types of carbon fiber used on their road bikes.
From my observation of the current Cervelo bikes lineups, there are at least two carbon fiber grades used.
- Highest grade. Cervelo R5 and S5 could be using the highest carbon fiber grade of all the models. These are pure race bikes used by the pros and would likely have the best carbon fiber available at Cervelo.
- Mid-grade. Cervelo Caledonia and Soloist could be using a mid-level carbon and heavier fiber grade of all the models. These are endurance bikes that prioritize comfort over stiffness. So it’s not a surprise to see a lower-grade carbon fiber being used here.
Frameset technologies and innovations
Specialized Tarmac SL8 and Cervelo R5 framesets incorporate advanced technologies to enhance their bikes’ performance and ride characteristics.
Here’s an overview of the technologies used in each bike model.
Specialized Tarmac SL8
|FACT carbon||Functional Advanced Composite Technology (FACT). A carbon fiber construction method that balances lightweight, stiffness, and compliance in Specialized bike frames. |
Available in two carbon grades; FACT 12r and 10r. A higher number indicates a higher grade of carbon.
S-Works models use the FACT 12r carbon and Specialized Pro and Expert models use the FACT 10r carbon.
|Rider-First Engineered™||Rider-First Engineered™ is a design philosophy used by Specialized that ensures every frame size delivers the same predictable and responsive ride characteristics. This concept was first introduced with the 2015 Tarmac, and the idea has been incorporated into all models since.|
Instead of simply scaling frame sizes, Specialized takes into account that riders of different sizes have different weights, which are distributed differently. This means that each frame size experiences different forces. Therefore, each frame size is engineered independently with different carbon layups and tube dimensions, ensuring the optimal balance of rigidity, weight, and responsiveness for each size.
In short, no matter what the frame size is, the ride quality and performance remain consistently excellent.
|Win Tunnel||Specialized utilizes advanced tools and technologies to pursue aerodynamic excellence, such as the Win Tunnel, FreeFoil Shape Library, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), and Data Acquisition (DAQ) system.|
The goal is to optimize aerodynamic performance by conducting wind tunnel tests, developing new airfoil shapes, simulating fluid flow, and collecting real-world data to improve rider position and enhance overall performance.
Unlike other road bike brands, there is minimal information about the technologies used in the Cervélo R5 frameset. The most obvious, and talked-about feature is the Squoval tube shapes.
Squoval stands for square-oval tube shapes. They are a unique design feature that combines the benefits of both square and oval tubes to produce frames that are stiff, light, and aero.
According to Cervélo, the seat tube doesn’t undergo much stress compared to the down and top tubes. Hence, the Cervélo engineers designed a smaller, thinner, and lighter seat tube. On the other hand, the down and top tubes are beefed up to be stiff, and strong while using as little material as possible. This led to the square-oval design seen on the R5.
Where to buy
- Specialized online shops. Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States
- Specialized retailers. Use this tool to find your nearest Specialized retailers.
- Cervelo retailers. Use this tool to find your nearest Cervelo retailers.
Alex Lee is the founder and editor-at-large of Mr. Mamil. Coming from a professional engineering background, he breaks down technical cycling nuances into an easy-to-understand and digestible format here.
He has been riding road bikes actively for the past 12 years and started racing competitively in the senior category during the summer recently.