Riding an S-Works McLaren Tarmac, photo: Bokanev
As I lean into the turn, a slight mist from the Pacific Ocean beads up on the chrome-accented top tube. The sun burns through the haze hanging over the sleepy, deserted coastal road just outside Santa Cruz, while this $20,000 Specialized S-Works McLaren Tarmac bicycle and I get to know each other. The process repeats over and over: lean into a turn, tap the brakes to burn off speed, jump on the pedals, and accelerate coming out of a corner.
Hugging the fog line, I roll up and down every inch of road I can find within a few square miles. Through the taut frame, I swear I feel every rock and the viscosity of the tar that binds them together. As cars pass me, it’s funny to think how many of them cost less than my ride.
“I’ve ridden plenty of bikes from Specialized,” the I wrote article continues, and this one is quite different. What Specialized learned from McLaren is the template for their next generation of bikes. Importantly, what drove this Mclaren-izing of their to-market process is certain staleness in the bike industry. With a lack of innovation following aero road bikes a few seasons ago, Specialized felt they’re reached the limit of their understanding and delivering significant milestones with new product. For 20 years prior to this development, carbon bike makers did it all hand, by gut, their wits, and determination. Before the McLaren version, I rode the new Tarmac when it launched, and shared how that bike was iterated in our magazine
That’s what designers, engineers, and marketers at bike companies are chasing now. Like the perfect wave for surfers, it’s all about the ride. The Tarmac delivers that and Specialized engineered not only a new platform, but a handling benchmark.
That new Tarmac platform was developed with help from McLaren and read the rest of the Wired story for what that means. Also, how that ride was designed with intent and experience in mind.
ISO view of the S-Works McLaren, a screenshot from their toolkit
As magazine contributor Nathan Wright noted, with the impressive engineering done, Specialized now must educate customers about the Tarmac platform. Because, unless people ride the bikes and feel the difference, the numbers appear arbitrary; however proven and backed up they are with McLaren’s expertise.