Some great new product emerging from the 2014 launch of Specialized Bikes at Copper Mountain in Colorado. At 9000ft test riding bikes has been a real challenge but loads of fun. We have so many great trails at our disposal to test out the new models. The Mtb tracks are very challenging , with the help of a chair lift to get us up amongst the clouds the descents here too are challenging. Out on the road there are so many people riding all types of bikes , from local touring riders to large group of school kids on Summer break to elite athletes getting in some altitude training. The ride from here to Vail on the road and bike path is outstanding , most of the road is closed to traffic and has recently been sealed with hot mix so super fast to ride on.
What I have ridden so far…..
Sworks Carbon Enduro 29er.
I first rode a 26” version of this bike at Lysterfield a few years ago and didn’t enjoy it , I found it to slow and heavy. To my surprise this new recantation of this bike to the “big” wheels blew me away. I got set up on my bike by the Specialized crew, and with the new “Auto sag” feature on the suspension I was ready to see what single tracks this mountain had to offer.
I missed the cut off to the chairlift by 5 minutes as it was late in the day, so I had to ride this 150mm travel bike up the single track climb, to my surprise this bike climbed amazingly well over the roughest terrain. I was struggling with altitude but every bit of effort I put in to get up rock steps or big tree roots and loose gravel this bike just powered on. I was enjoying the wider tyre as the alpine rocks are a recipe for disaster up here. I climbed for an hour over tree lined single track with deer and Screwals all around [ not to mentioned Bears as well] The decent on this bike was what I was looking forward to, I didn’t get the brakes swapped around so I was a little bit tentative to start with , but this bike gave me so much confidence to really push it fast into corners and launch over some fast down hill jumps. The dropper seat is a must on this terrain and again gave me confidence to push the limit on this bike. After a fun filled 15 min decent I was wanting more ride time on this bike and I really think I could ride this at some Enduro races that have a rough and challenging course [ Beechworth comes to mind] and not feel I was loosing anything to a crosscountry bike. Day three of our trip will see me get this bike up the chairlift and descend down from the dizzy heights of 12000feet.
Day two and on the Road bikes
Sworks SL 4 Roubaix with hydraulic brakes and the new Sram Red 11 speed groupset.
Well I have learn’t that he locals refer to these mountains as “Hills” and I found out the hard way that the ride over to Vail was down a long “hill” but man what a ride, Alpine riding is always refreshing , great views and clean air to inspire you to push the limits. The ride included some bike paths along a winding crystal clear river and some roads which were closed for traffic on a very fast surface. I was interested to see what the disk brakes were like and I really put them to the test on the long down hills. The braking is amazing and this is really the future for road bikes. The Sram Red groupset has really improved on its first offering a few years on now. The shifting on this groupset is as good as it gets and I really feel Sram have lifted this top end product to the top of the pile when it comes to shift quality. The compact gears were very welcomed on the return journey as there were some really steep hills to get over. The bike is equipped with Roval Carbon wheels and these made the ride so sweet and effortless, again we will see more carbon wheels coming down the line to more affordable price points in the future. Any issue with braking quality on carbon wheel is put to rest with a disk brake and the feel and modulation on these brakes is amazing.
Once back to the test bike area, I was keen to jump on the Sworks Tarmac SL4 with the new Hydro road brake from Sram, so I went from the relax Roubaix geometry to the race bread Tarmac with the same wheels and groupset [ Hydro rim brakes this time]
I love the feel of the Tarmac, I just want to get out of the seat and sprint . Straight away the agility and power transfer of the Tarmac was evident. I headed out the other side of Copper Mountain towards Frisco, yes its down hill again. The braking was the first thing that I really noticed on this bike . The carbon rims and the Hydro brake didn’t pull me up nearly as quick as the disk brake. I weigh in at 85kgs and love to slam the brakes on at the last minute on cornering so this was a little unnerving at first until I got the feel for how much the brakes took to pull me up. Braking surfaces on carbon wheels has made some massive improvements the last few years but I think the disk brake has leaped-frog this technology in one jump. I guess the lightness of this bike is what consumers want from this bike and the rim brakes will still be in demand here . For me to0 the look of a sleek road bike with out the bulky disks are more aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
More bikes on offer the next few days are the cyclocross sensation the Crux Carbon and the Cavendish weapon The Venge stay tuned…
One of the big change for 2014 is the groupset companies going to 11 speed cassettes [Shimano had DA last year now also Ultegra offering this.] and the Hydro road brakes. My standout is that Specialized are now offering the SL4 Tarmac on all their models this year , so consumers can ride the same frame platform as Contador/Rodgers with out the big price tag.
New Parts on the way
The product getting the most attention was the new Evade helmet. Being worn by all the top sponsored pro riders, this new aero helmet looks fast and is way more comfortable than any TT helmet. Coming in 3 sizes and a range of colours , this is due in November.Here are some other stand outs….
Sworks Mtb shoes, taking the same platform from the Specialized Road Sworks shoes this is the lightest MTB shoe I have seen. Great new styling and colours, this shoe is light , super stiff and looks hot!
The Keg , Specialized now have there own storage can for tubes and multi tools, great screw lid and also comes with a multi tool cover so it wontrattle around while placed sercurly in your bidon cage. Pic to come…
Top Cap Chain Tool; The guys at Specialized have been busy designing tools and storage systems to fit neatly on your bike,this tool replaces your head tube cap[ the part that holds your fork and headset bearings all together] has a great little space to hold a chain link and is designed to use with Specialized new multi tools.
Fuel cell; this storage holder is designed to be used on the Shiv bike. It has a removable tophalf to fit you gels, energy bars, then underneath it is designed to house all your repair needs. It fits securely between the seat and down tube.
Specialized Evade Helmet , As seen in the Tour this year, More Aero than the TT helmet. 3 sizes and a range of colours to match your bike or kit.
Specialized S-Works Epic Carbon 29 SRAM – Long Term Review
Someone once said “Good things come to those who wait”. Well it could be argued that I waited a long, long time before committing to getting a Specialized S-Works Epic. This bike is an incredible machine. Six months after first taking delivery of this bike, and having now ridden it on varied terrain, in various weather conditions and in multiple events, a long term test review is due.
Bike – Specialized S-Works Epic Carbon 29 SRAM
Size – Medium
For – XC Racing, eating singletrack, going fast and smiling one big cheesy grin
Against – Nothing I can think of other than the thought of not having it
Thanks to the team at Top Gear Cycles and Specialized Australia, I was generously provided the opportunity to get my hands on a Specialized Epic 29er XC bike. I had for a number of years been on a 26 inch FSR XC, had fiddled with it, lightened the wheelset, changed the rear shock, swapped the bars and stem and basically tried to make it as much of an Epic as I could. I did still love it, performed well in races that I entered, had fun on it and could ride most things I wanted to just fine. I did wonder if this whole 29 inch revolution was worth getting caught up in or if it was just spin. Well, after more than a few test rides at Specialized “Test The Best” days and endless discussions with Pete regarding the pros and cons, sizes, would I snap the lightweight racing machine with my less than perfect technique and the all important colour scheme, the day came whereby I had to bite the bullet and make a decision. Should I stay with old faithful … or move to the new world of big wheels and carbon fiber everything.
29 inch bikes are promoted as rolling more easily over obstacles due to the bigger wheels, being faster rolling once up to speed and providing more traction in climbing and cornering. Some also say however that the bigger wheels result in slower handling and slower acceleration. These points can probably be argued for ever and a day, but I would think that there is some merit in the fact that Specialized no longer sell a 26 inch Epic in Australia. Their firm belief is that the 29 inch format is the way forward and have spent a lot of time and money getting their designs and geometry right to ensure the bikes provide all of the benefits and none of the supposed drawbacks. An article I recently read about bikes that have changed the way we ride essentially said that the 29 inch Specialized Epic essentially has killed its previous competition. You wouldn’t get that declaration without some basis behind it. I think the doubters have been silenced since the 29 inch Epic took out the XC World Cup overall AND the Olympic Gold Medal. Proofs in the pudding as it were.
By all reports and reviews and anything else I could get my hands on, for the type of riding I enjoyed and the types of events I wanted to enter, the Specialized Epic 29er was the bike of choice. “If I could afford to …. would I be silly not to get the S-Works?” Answer : “Yep”. Right then … Bring on the S-Works!!
Specialized make no qualms of saying that this bike is their ultimate race machine, along with the S-Works Stumpjumper (of which you can read a review by fellow Top Gear rider Bryce Young here: http://www.topgearcycles.com/stumpjumper-carbon-hardtail-review-bryce-young/ ), but with my age not being what it used to be and more importantly my back being what it is, the two chances of being able to ride a hard tail for longer distances and actually enjoying the experience are zero and none. The equipment and technology coming with this bike is the best of the best and it is a hallmark of the S-Works models.
Briefly, the bike features the following leading edge technology, for those of you that love the technical side of things … but with my take on them:
– Specialized/FOX remote Mini-Brain inertia-valve rear shock – this is the thing that stops my back hurting and basically makes the bike a hardtail when it’s smooth and lets it be a full suspension bike when it’s rough.
– FACT IS 11m full carbon frame – Essentially the top level carbon frame. The higher the number (This one goes all the way to 11!!) the newer the carbon type and lay-up. The M as in Mountain (You’ll see R as in road on the … well … road bikes)
– Roval Control SL 29 142+ wheels with carbon rims – Yep … more carbon. Seriously light and seriously stiff wheels. 29 as in 29 inches and 142 for the wider hub and axle width designed exclusively by Specialized to make their wheels even stiffer
– Specialized FACT carbon crankset with a custom SRAM spider and ring – Essentially the boffins at Specialized have fused their proprietary crank arm to the spider of the SRAM XX1 front chain ring. Think Frankenstein in creation, but much better looking and actually functional
– Custom RockShox SID World Cup 29 fork with Specialized Brain inertia-valve damping (100mm of air-sprung travel and a carbon steerer tube) – Two Brains really are better than one. This one again locks out the suspension when it’s smooth and makes it squishy when it’s rough. No thinking needed, no switches to flick or buttons to push. The machines haven’t quite taken over, but it surely can’t be far away
– SRAM XX One 11-speed rear derailleur, shifter and cassette – One Grip Shift shifter only … new to me. And 11 speeds on a single front ring and an 11-42 rear cassette … otherwise known as the dinner plate. Until late last year … new to everyone except some guy called Jaroslav Kulhavy who apparently can ride a bike somewhat well.
In pulling the bike out of the box …. Well … OK … lets be honest …. When I walked into the shop and saw the bike fully assembled, sparkling and ready for me to pedal off into the distance … I was very impressed. The matt black carbon and the red and white accents really were arranged well. Sure, you could say the bike lacked some colour, but in my experience, you can never go wrong with a black, red and white colour scheme. Then I put the bike on the scale ….. Wow
The quality of the frame and the various components was obvious immediately. Plus the lack of a front derailleur and having a single grip shifter on the right grip of the handlebar really did set the style of the bike apart. Removing two items really did simplify and free-up the overall look of the bike. Sure, looks aren’t everything in a bike, but I’ll go with a good-looking bike over an ugly one any day. One of the most interesting things is the amount of extra clearance between the rear tyre and the seat tube given the lack of the front derailleur. As XX1 is relatively new, and because wheelbase length is a pretty important factor in the handling of 29’er bikes, it will be interesting to see if future designs will squeeze the rear wheel a little closer to the bottom bracket.
The rest of the frame is quite sculptural with flowing curves, thick frame tube dimensions, suspension and tapered head tube all coming together in a beautiful way. Out on the trail this results in a very balanced, compliant yet stiff ride.
First impressions – Taking it for a quick spin out of the shop while no-one was looking and up a nearby paved road, I actually had to check to see if I was on a mountainbike. Ever heard the expression “Ride like you stole it”? Well this bike climbed like nothing I had felt before from a mountainbike. The lightness and acceleration truly was astounding. No wonder that Jaro bloke rides so bloody fast!! This thing is a weapon!! Cancellara wouldn’t need a motor in his bottom bracket if he had one of these … he should be riding this at Roubaix!!!
I’m still impressed six months on. The bike has been ridden on all the local trails and has in most cases felt like I was cheating. The ability to climb, the traction and the speed of this bike really is remarkable. Trips have been made to Forrest (on numerous occasions), Buller, Wombat, Anglesea, Portland, Foster, You Yangs, Red Hill and the Yarra Flats over the last six months. In all honesty, it probably is not the most appropriate bike for Buller if you are going there to hit all the airs and make the most of the fantastic terrain, but if you treat the bike as it is intended … as an XC machine, then there is nothing this bike cannot handle. Even at Buller it didn’t really hesitate. It was most definitely rider error and not bike that sent me into the dirt and rocks, wrote off my helmet, dislocated my thumb and caused me to shed a tear over the scratches I had put in my baby. But in all other riding locations, the riding has become easier, faster, has resulted in Strava PB’s (Yes Strava … I know, I know), better race results and just overall better riding experiences. And I can tell you that I am not fitter this year than I was last year. Probably the opposite.
We set this bike up with Stans and have run it tubeless since first ride. S-Works Fast Track Controls come standard which are great, but I switched to Renegades in summer for a little more rolling speed for a couple of the Marathon and Stage races that I competed in. Otherwise, the bike has run stock. Brake pads have been replaced once and other than a couple of issues caused by rider error it has had one service only and has run faultlessly. I keep my bikes clean, but by no means am I the best home mechanic. For the bike to just keep on running without much input from me or Zeke over the last 6 months, given the amount of riding it has done, it does say a lot.
With the aim of keeping this review somewhat brief and saving something for future reviews (More in detail review of XX1, Magura Brakes, Roval wheels plus some other tasty products such as the S-Works Prevail helmet and S-Works MTB Shoes) and GoPro video footage taken in the warmer months, I will conclude by saying … and I often do … that every time I ride this bike, besides putting a massive smile on my face, the thing that I marvel at is how much better it is as a bike than I am as a rider. Now some of you may laugh and say .. well Gus you’re actually not a very good rider, but …. this really is a great bike.
If you have the opportunity to try an Epic 29er … you will not be disappointed.
Until next time … and hopefully sooner rather than later.
During the month of June, refresh your riding gear by trading in your helmet, shoes or tyres of any brand, for selected Specialized product at a reduced price. Visit http://bit.ly/18EgpzX for full details and T&Cs.
I have spent the past few months engaging the big wheel revolution after moving from the dual suspension 26″ Specialized Epic onto the Specialized Stumpjumper Hardtail 29. It’s kind of just like riding a bike; a bike with bigger wheels, and a bike without the rear suspension that I have been accustomed to over the last few years.
Out of the box it was obvious that the handle bars were too wide for me so 20mm came off each end. To gain the best starting position on the bike Pete dug into his BG Fit files to draw from the recent setup of my road bike using this to replicate some base settings. We set the saddle position, skinned the tyres of the tubes in favour of a tubeless setup and ventured out onto the trails.
Devonport ITU Oceanic Sprint Triathlon Championships
There was some decent swell out the front of the Devonport Surf lifesaving club as I waiting for my name to be called onto the beach. It felt pretty amazing hearing some of the top ranked women in the sport names be called out before mine.
It was a beach start which suited me. I had a great start and got through the surf break just behind Maddison Allen. Allen ended up exiting the swim a full minute in front of the rest of the field over a 750m swim – amazing. A group of girls swam through and I settled into the middle of the pack. Past the surf break the ocean was very lumpy, and you could only sight the swim buoys when both you and them were on the peaks of the waves. The wind chop meant to water was also quiet rough and I struggled a bit for a few waves and before I knew it I was 10m off the pack. Annoyed at myself I put my head down and tried to minimise my losses and get to the shore. After missing the first wave I caught the next to the first sand break. I looked up and saw that the group I fell behind was broken up and only just ahead. I worked hard through the shore break milking every little runner and got out of the water and into T1 first.
After the fastest T1 of the day I got out onto the bike and couldn’t see the girls I caught up the beach on the road yet so I put my head down and started to chase down those ahead. I was joined by Hewinson (GBR) and then caught Turner (AUS). The group behind were starting to catch and so I thought I would sit up and wait. Then Hewinson, who had done no work on the first lap, took off I had nothing to go with her so I waited for the chase group. It was a nice novelty to be able to sit on the back of a pack and recover for a lap; Salthouse did great work on the front.
After a good T2 I headed out onto the run first. It wasn’t long before McShane, Musgrove, Tuner and Van Coevorde went past. I paced off Salhouse for the first lap before slipping off her pace on the second. I could see the ground I put into Bevan in the first lap decreasing so I dug deep and increased the pace to hold her off and finish 11th. It was an all international podium so that makes me 8th in the Oceanic Championships!
2013 Australian National Championships, Mt Stromlo, ACT
Sitting in the fourth row of the start line as the two minute call was made my heart rate began to lift. It was Race-face City and deathly quiet as every pair of hands repeatedly had the position on its bars adjusted. After the 15 second call the crack of the pistol began the rapid chain reaction of the clicking-in of cleats and clunking of gear changes. The bunch swarmed forward toward the first turn, and onward along the fireroad. The heart rate was well-and-truly on the run now, everybody surging as hard as they dared, vying for the best position at the end of the introductory, fireroad climb. As the gentle rise continued a few were starting to feel the pinch and I was able to claim a few positions. Feeling good, pushing hard along the open track, I was able to sneak through a couple more places before hitting the single track that set us at the base of the climb known as Cardiac Arrest, and gain another couple of places as the track steepened.
If you are racing Ironman Melbourne and haven’t had the full once over on your race bike now is the time. Don’t waste months of hard training not to have this important task ticked of the to do list. Call shop NOW 98574060
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