Specialized debuted a streamlined range of Mountain bikes in the beautiful Dolomite region of the Italian Alps to an international cast of editors. The star players were the S-Works hardtail and FSR-XC. Both had Mavic CrossMax UST Tubeless wheels and both were feather- weights in comparison to previous models.
2BLISS TIRES Tubeless tires? Specialized has five models to choose from: The Roll Model, a low-pressure design to compete with the popular Hutchinson Python Gold; The Rockster S-Works Race, the tubeless version of last years semi-slick; The Mt Baldy S-Works, a redesigned Dirt Baldy tread; and the Team Control and Team Master S-Works low-profile knobbies that MBA like to run.
Specialized’s spin on the Tubeless concept is the name, 2Bliss, and the Cross-Platform concept which means that, like any UST tire, you can use it with a tube, or pop it onto a standard rim if you choose. Although Specialized’s new tires incorporate existing tread patterns, the tubeless versions are heavier than their standard cousins in the line. How heavy? Specialized was reluctant to say. Even if we snuck into the hotels kitchen and weighed the prototypes, the true production versions will probably differ. So far, so good. The tires we rode in Italy were fast rolling and sticky.
A WEDGE UP ON THE COMPETITION? Andy Pruitt, the head of USA Cyclings sports medicine program found that a wedge inserted laterally in a cycling shoe would correct the natural tendency for the knee to follow an oblong path as the cyclist pedals around the crank circle. Specialized incorporates this technology in its 001 lineof shoes. The Varus wedge, as its called, is incorporated into the padded insert. The insert also has a bulged section behind the ball of your foot to spread pedaling pressure evenly throughout the bones inside your foot.
WOMEN-SPECIFIC PRODUCTS Specialized went all out this year to capture the attention of the female mountain bike customer. The extensive line includes shoes built on womens lasts, Helmets with subdued graphics and tiny sizes; Upper-end hardtails and FSR dual-suspension bikes with shorter stems and revised geometry; Saddles with special cut-outs to relieve pressure on sensitive areas; and gloves with thinner widths and scaled-down finger boxes. The entire female-specific line is coordinated in subtle colors, primarily with a blue-gray color theme.
LIGHTING UP THE NIGHT Dubbed the Fireball System Specialized’s entry into the high-buck lighting market is futuristic looking to say the least. Its googly-eyed lamp fixtures have a ball-and-socket adjustment to focus the high and low beams individually. The high beam on the $500 Team system is a killer-bright, 20-watt metal halide arc lamp (like the Cateye Stadium system)and the low beam is a 12-watt halogen bulb. The water bottle mount, nickel-metal-hydride battery pack has a fuel gauge and a micro-chip that switches the system into a low-output fuel-saver mode when you run the system to the extremes. Three models will be available to suit your budget, but only the Team uses the arc lamp.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE BIKES? We would have great pictures for you of the new monocoque FSR S-Works Team, but the language barrier and some exuberant behavior on the part of the Euro contingent led to the destruction of the plastic mock-up swing-links on both prototypes. The big news, was a hydroformed sheet metal top tube that looks great and saves weight. The sexy new FSR’s have longer top tubes, and shorter rear suspension travel.RockShox designed a lockout dial for the FSR’s SID Race fork and a lockout lever is included in the short, six-inch Fox Air Float RC shock. Did we mention that the FSR S-Works has Mavic Tubeless wheels and tires? The S-Works hardtail has a 3.1-pound frame–one third of a pound lighter than previous models. Better butting in its 6000-series heat reated tubes is the main reason. Disc Brake Mounts are standard fare. Of course, the team versions will all carry the world championship stripes. Enduro Pro Models–their longer-travel, fender-equipped trailbike will have a 4-inch stroke RockShox Psylo fork, complete with lockout dial. We rode one in the Alps, where we took full advantage of the front and rear lockout feature on the long fireroad ascents–and found the fenders very handy during the daily afternoon rains. A higher bottom bracket and longer cockpit make the coming Enduro models far more enjoyable in technical sections. P3 Bush is the designation for Specializeds jumping, freeriding hardtails. The aluminum hardtail frame is beefed up everywhere, but its huge, formed aluminum top tube is the real eye catcher. The monocoque section reinforces the head tube junction. Two chainrings and a chainring protector make log-strikes a non-issue. The rear wheel is a 24-inch and the front is a 26-inch size to keep the tail short without sacrificing mud clearance.
BALL BEARINGS AT LAST! Except for the 23-pounds FSR S-Works model, all Specialized FSR suspension bikes have sealed ball bearing pivots throughout the rear end. This should put an end to the sloppy feel that the earlier FSR’s would develop as the plastic bushings wore thin.
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