Hi everybody! This Saturday was a good opportunity for Estonian cycling fans, to try out Specialized 2014 bikes. Specialized is one of the biggest bicycle companies in the world. Specialized story Specialized was founded in 1974 by Mike Sinyard, a cycling enthusiast who sold his Volkswagen Bus for $1,500 to fund a cycle tour to Europe, where he bought handlebars and stems made by Cinelli to take back to the US. Sinyard started out importing Italian bike components that were difficult to find in the United States, but the company began to produce its own bike parts by 1976, starting with the Specialized Touring Tire. In 1981, the company introduced its first two bikes, the Sequoia, a sport-touring design and the Allez, a road bike. Specialized also introduced the first major production mountain bike in the world, the Stumpjumper, in 1981. Like the Sequoia and Allez, the Stumpjumper was designed by Tim Neenan and based on an early Tom Ritchey design. Specialized continues to produce bikes under the Stumpjumper name, including both hardtail and full-suspension models. An original Stumpjumper is displayed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. In 1989, Specialized introduced the Epic, the world’s second mass-production carbon fibre mountain bike. TEST THE BEST Specialized Concept Store Tallinn VO2 was the first bicycle retail in Estonia to offer bicycle testing in real conditions. The point of  TEST THE BEST event, is to bring truck filled with bikes, to local trail centre and let people try different road and MTB bikes for free in real conditions, not just parking lots. I remember the first time in 2012, it was a very rainy day and my hands were a bit oily that time, because I worked there:

TEST THE BEST 2012 - Photo: Jaak Ennuste

TEST THE BEST 2012 – Photo: Jaak Ennuste

Last autumn I skipped the testing, but this spring I felt urge to see, what Specialized has for 2014. At first I wanted to find out, which bikes will they bring this time. My biggest interests were Epic and Camber. If public bike list came out, Camber wasn’t included. But they had Epic and SJ FSR, so I was happy :) Specialized knows, how to make a good design. Even their cars look really beautiful:

Photo: Specialized VO2

Photo: Specialized VO2

Weather was nice and sunny, despite the cold wind, which made temperature quite low 10ºC (50ºF). But I was there with my happy mood, ready to see, what Specialized offers to us this time.  Specialized always rocks with their customer service. Water, to fill up your bottle, coffee, candies, bananas, wiener pies – all that to make sure you have a lot of energy, to try the bikes.

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1/3 of MTB bikes @ TEST THE BEST

So I got to the testing ground, I wanted to try Epic first, but someone was already testing it, so I decided to take Stumpjumper FSR S-Works for a spin. STUMPY FSR:

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S-Works Stumpjumper FSR 2014

I am a big lad 190cm (6’3″), so my bikes are always XL or even bigger. That FSR was XL, but the handlebar was sitting a bit too high even for me. Drivetrain For 9000€ XX1 is your only choice on a trail bike.

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As you expect from 9000€ bike – XX1

Wheels Purgatory 2.3 tire in the front and Ground Control tire 2.3 in the back. That makes an awesome tire combo for more aggressive riding and harder terrain, but for trails, were this FSR was tested, those tires are a bit overkill. For those trails, 2.2 Fast Tracks would have been perfect. Carbon rims and light weight (1570g according to Specialized), makes Roval Control Trail SL wheelset  noticeably stiff. I am big fan of Specialized Hookless rims. They save weight and makes tubeless taping process easier. I’m looking forward to see other wheel manufacturers use hookless system too.

Roval Control Trail SL 29 - carbon of course

Roval Control Trail SL 29 – carbon of course

Brakes What can I say, I’ve never been a fan of Formula brakes. Their levelers look more like clothes racks. And feel like clothes racks also. I prefer straighter type of levelers like Shimano or Avid. T1’s had a lot of power, the bite was bit too strong for my taste, but I guess you adjust the pad contact, to make it more suitable for your taste.

Custom Formula T1 Racing

Custom Formula T1 Racing

Cockpit I like to have my bars wide. My Spark has 740mm, so I was missing a bit of wideness. Other than that, I like the shape of the Specialized mini risers. Cockpit choice is a very personal thing, so let’s move on.

Specialized XC Mini-Riser, carbon, 720mm wide, 10mm rise, 10-backsweep, 6-upsweep,

Specialized XC Mini-Riser, carbon, 720mm wide, 10mm rise, 10-backsweep, 6-upsweep,

For ass Specialized knows how to make saddles. Since I tried it for the first time, Henge is the most comfortable MTB saddle for my ass. I haven’t found a better one, and thou I am not using Henge on my Spark, ride with it, remembered me, that I want it back. Command post is also one fun thing. I only want Command Post for jumping, that is the only place were it is possible to crush your nuts with a high seat.

Specialized Henge and Command Post

Specialized  143mm Henge and Command Post

Fork On the front, there is 130mm FOX 34 CTD (Climb-Trail-Descent)Kashima, with factory tuning. I was crying for remote lock-out, because our climbs and descents are so short, that it is very uncomfortable to set it from Climb to Descent, 2 times in a minute. And if you set it on Trail, then it is still bit too soft, you could see and feel the fork below you moving and using your valuable energy. Other than that, the fork felt bottomless. I pushed it as hard as I could, without bottoming. That 34 is a very smooth fork, made me want to try 32 CTD on my Spark.

FOX 34 CTD Factory tuned

FOX 34 CTD looking good

Shock Specialized is known for their brain technology. Simplified, suspension knows when to lock, and when to move. To get the real idea, you should watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-pFW2JKvOk Setting up the rear shock is the easiest thing ever thanks to Specialized Auto Sag. You just pump the shock up, sit on the bike, and let out all the extra air, through the valve beneath the red cap on the picture shown:

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Specialized Brain

I could say, there are two types of people. There are one’s who love brain technology, and others who hate it. It depends very much of your riding style. I am a rider, who likes to play around on a bike a lot. This includes bunnyhops, pumping through holes, popping from one root to another and so on. Now with brain, if I want to pump, then I can’t do it, because brain stops me. Brain thinks “ahha now he started to pedal hard” and locks the system up. Of course you can open it up, 2014 brain has 4 clicks, but then you will lose the pedaling efficiency. So brain, is not my taste. But it can be yours. But even with opened brain, FSR is really pedaling friendly suspension system. SWAT For 2014 Specialized introduced convenient solution for carrying necessities while riding. SWAT (Storage, Water, Air, Tools) technology incorporates bikes, riders, and equipment by putting all necessities in a clean, sleek, and aerodynamic location that’s easy to access.  More info about SWAT on Specialized page.

Chain tool and chainlink - all inside top cap

Chain tool and chain link – all inside top cap

On the trail I tried to find the bike weight, but I could not. Bikerumor has deleted “Specialized 2014 actual weights” thread, and I could not find it from internet, so I derived it from last years weight and guess, that with pedals and tubes, SJ FSR S-Works weights around 12kg. I am bit surprised, because really, on the trail it didn’t feel so light. Bottomless suspension and a bit too tough tire pattern for Estonia, made it feel like 13-14kg bike. But that’s a trail bike and trail bike should go down the hill fast. That bike definitely was fast. When hitting a loose and steep section, this bike really home like home. In steep sections you understood, why the FSR is made. To conclude In my opinion SJ FSR is a downhill bike, which can climb well. It is capable of going big. It is definitely your “one-in-all” bike. For Estonian flat conditions, the bike wasn’t at home. With right setup you can adapt it for Estonia, but Camber or Epic would be reasonable here. SJ FSR is meant for people, who want to ride up a hill for 3 hours, then open up the suspension and go back down, as fast as you can. As I mentioned, I tried Epic also, so stay tuned for Epic review!!

TEST THE BEST – S-Works Stumpjumper FSR 29

Poor man’s XX1

It’s time to get this blog going. For the first post, I decided to write about how and why I decided to go for 1×10.

The why?

My bike, Scott Spark Expert 29er came with 3×10. I still don’t understand why they make 3×10(11), are Alps really that big, that you need 3×10 (or with 2015 XTR 3×11 gearing)? With Epic I was riding with 2×10 Sram drivetrain. Even when my chain ring was 36T and I used granny very rarely. To shave of a lot of weight for small amount of money and make a bike less complex, is every MTBers dream. Because I am always low budget, XX1 was not an option. So 1×10, the poor man’s XX1.

Ring choice

I decided to go for 34T, because I thought it is enough for high-speed trails and I can probably climb it to almost everywhere. And forget the chain guides, only narrow-wide was an option. So I made some research about quality, price, availability, and my choice was Raceface Narrow-Wide chain ring.

RaceFace Narrow-wide

RaceFace Narrow-Wide

New rear derailleur

Because my Spark came with usual long cage XT M781 rear derailleur (w/o shadow+), then I needed small or medium cage and a clutch. I am big Shimano fan, and in my experience they have the highest quality drivetrain. Sram may be innovative, but if you want quality, then Shimano is your brand.

So half of the choice was sure – my new rear derailleur had to be Shimano and Shadow+. Because I am a low-budget rider, conversion had to be cheap. I made a choice for ZEE FR. In my opinion, it looks like transformer, which is really cool. Only XTR looks better, but it was way out of my budget.

Shimano ZEE

Shimano ZEE

Place to buy
I decided to make order from Bike-Components, because they had the best prices in EU. 44,95€ ring + 44.95 derailleur + 9.90€ post, so 100€ all together. They answered  all my emails very quickly, awesome customer service, I suggest them! It took 7 days to ship the package to me and that’s how they looked, when they arrived:

New goodies :)

New goodies :)

Weights

Nowadays it’s all about weight. Especially in XC.

Zee FR

ZEE FR

 

RaceFace Narrow-Wide 34T

RaceFace Narrow-Wide 34T

Installation

Installation was quite easy and trouble-free.

Chain ring:
If you put the graphics inside, you will not need shorter bolts. If you want the graphics outside, then you will need shorter bolts or spacers. I didn’t like the graphics really, so I decided to leave the graphics faced inside and get away with original bolts, without any spacers.

RaceFace's Narrow Wide looks quite good on XT crankset.

Rear derailleur:
ZEE fitted in perfectly, because cable attached to excact the same spot as with the old derailleur. Cable and even outer casing length was perfect.

Transformer looking rear derailleur

Transformer looking ZEE rear derailleur

Chain:
I needed to make my chain a bit shorter thanks to smaller gear ratio, so I removed few links with a chain tool and installed a chain lock, which I had bought from LBS for 3€. I always use chain lock, because I don’t really trust opening chains up and locking them with a pin again. My experience shows, that those pins might fail.

After a bit of chain and derailleur adjustments, and everything was running smooth.

Weight loss

I weighted all the old parts, which I had removed, and they weighted all together 708g (SLX trigger, SLX front derailleur, front derailleur clamp, cabling and chain rings). I did some math and my weight loss was 410g + few chain links, which I forgot to weight.

Quiet

It was time to try out my new 1×10. Just put derailleur clutch on and go! First thing that I noticed was the loss of chain leap. If with 3×10 and usual derailleur, you could hear the chain touching chainstay, then with shadow+, all that was gone. I also noticed a bit more chain rub sound if riding on higher cogs. That noise is most likely caused by narrow wide system, which keeps the chain and chain ring  in bigger contact. But compared to chain leap sound, it’s nothing.

On the trail

I was a bit worried, is that really true, that the chain won’t drop? Yep, it is true. No skipped gears, no dropped chains, even in very rooty conditions. Climbing up a steep and technical trail, is not a problem for narrow wide. It works really perfect in all conditions. Shifting is smooth and good.

My new drivetrain

My new drivetrain

The only bad thing

The only bad thing so far is the 36T back cog. If you have ridden for few hours and there is bit exhaustion in your legs, and then do a long climb, you could feel, that some easier gears would help a bit. Of course you can add a 42Tcog, I like the e*13 ones, but you can’t use ZEE derailleur with any bigger cogs than 36T. Altough, it’s not a big issue, it’s worth mentioning.

To conclude

More than 400g of weight save for 100€, is not bad. I’m quite happy, but for others, who are not on budget so much, then I would suggest to use a medium cage XT or XTR instead of a ZEE with 42T or 40T cog on the back for better climbing abilities. 42T big cog gives you the jackpot!

Be ready for next review!

Ailar