Tech feature: Specialized 2009 MTB introduction - Part II, July 11, 2008
You didn't think we were only going to talk about the new Epic, did you? Cyclingnews tech editor James Huang wraps things up from Camp Tamarancho, California with more highlights of Specialized's mountain bike and equipment lineup for 2009.
Last year's popular SX Trail gets an all-new M5 alloy frame and four-bar rear suspension linkage that offers increased standover, more seatpost height adjustment, better square-edged bump performance and more progression at the end of the stroke for improved bottom-out resistance. Rear wheel travel stays at a versatile 170mm and in contrast to last year's version, geometry is now fixed. A 100mm-travel version optimized for slalom and four-cross will be on hand as well.
Not to be outdone by its shorter travel cousins, the new SX also receives a tapered-and-oversized 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" front end and a clever shock mounting arrangement that eliminates wear at the rearmost DU shock bushing. Specialized fits the bottom bracket area with both a DMD front derailleur mount and standard ISCG tabs to accommodate a wide variety of setups and, as usual, tosses in a healthy dose of cold forgings throughout for durability.
Value-oriented riders also get a new BigHit for 2009 whose revised linkage arrangement provides similar improvements in standover clearance, seatpost adjustability and shock bushing wear as on the new SX. Travel on the four-bar rear end has been brought down a bit from 208mm (8.2") to 191mm (7.5") but the front end beefs up with a tapered-and-oversized head tube to accommodate the new crop of burly single-crown forks. As on the SX, the BigHit will also include DMD and ICSG mounts as well as fixed geometry.
Changes at the mid-range for FSRxc and Myka platforms
Trickle-down technology arrives at the FSRxc level for 2009 with an all-new M4 alloy frame that bumps up rear wheel travel to 120mm, thus moving it more into the trail bike category than last year's 100mm-travel model. The rocker link-style arrangement bears strong resemblance to the premium Stumpjumper frame and provides the same benefits: more standover clearance, greatly increased seatpost height adjustment range and a lower center of gravity for better handling. Riders living in muddier climes should also note that the rear shock is now shielded from debris kicked off of the rear wheel by a double-bent full-length seat tube.
The women's-specific Myka receives the same revised chassis and suspension layout but travel remains at 100mm to better suit the segment's typically shorter and lighter riders. As is the case with Specialized's other D4W (Designs for Women) bikes, the Myka gets smaller and lighter tubing, women's-specific geometry and segment-appropriate componentry.
Componentry offerings for 2009
The Enduro SL platform will carry over essentially unchanged for 2009 but a few upgrades in componentry should improve reliability and versatility over last year. Specialized's dual-crown E150 fork internals have been revised with fewer o-rings for easier (read: more reliable) assembly at the factory while a new telescoping Command Post will come as standard equipment on top models.
The three-position Command Post will provide 35mm or 110mm of drop via a convenient bar-mounted remote and the internal mechanism uses a clever collet system developed by in-house suspension guru Mike McAndrews. Just a single 30.9mm size will be offered for now and total weight is pegged at around 430g. Pricing is yet to be determined but Specialized says its Command Post will be competitive with other similar products from Crankbrothers and Gravity Dropper.
Gram-shaving is the name of the game for Specialized's 2009 Roval Contrôle SL wheelset which sheds 40g courtesy of a new carbon-tubed front hub. Bladed straight-pull DT Aerolite spokes replace the standard Contrôle XC's DT Revolution spokes, too. The Stan's NoTubes-like M5 alloy rim carries over for easy tubeless compatibility while the quick release skewers have been upgraded to all-metal construction. Claimed weight for the pair is 1385g without skewers.
Last year's versatile Traversée wheelset carries over but yet another set of interchangeable end caps will now allow for compatibility with 15mm thru-axle forks. Likewise, the standard Contrôle XC Disc wheelset continues on for another year but Specialized will add a stealthy black finish to the palette for 2009.
Most of the saddle lineup is mostly unchanged as well although the popular Alias will get a smoother stitch-free cover to reduce irritation. New to the lineup is the mountain bike-specific Format SL which uses a similar profile to last year's Rival but with a more rounded rear profile for easier movement off the back and a cutout shell in the nose to relieve more pressure. Hollow titanium rails and lightweight foam padding bring the weight down as low as 230g.
A few new treads
Specialized will expand its healthy range of tread designs by three for the coming season and add key sizes to fill in missing gaps. The new Purgatory is the wet-and-loamy analogue to the Eskar with a meaty 2.2" casing width and open tread blocks designed to shed mud and debris. Similarly, the new DH-specific Clutch is intended for wetter conditions with an aggressive open tread and soft 40a/42a dual compound rubber but will be available in even bigger 2.3" and 2.5" sizes. An optional SX casing will bring the weight of the Clutch down to a light (for DH) 1000g.
For the dirt jumping crowd, there's a new Rhythm Lite with a low-profile and fast-rolling tread design. There will be just a single 2.3" casing size but it's relatively light at 600g.
New sizes for existing treads include 2.2" casing widths in both 26" and 29" diameters for the versatile Captain, a burly 29x2.3" Eskar, a more usable 26x2.0" SauserWind and 29" versions of the FastTrak LK. Conveniently, all of the new tires for 2009 will be tubeless-ready.
Covered from head to toe
Off-road riders looking for a bit more protection can tap into a new Tactic helmet for 2009 which offers additional coverage around the base of the skull like last year's Instinct but with a far more flattering shape and neatly integrated aFIX removable visor. Specialized also includes a vertically adjustable ProFit 270 retention system and InnerMatrix internal reinforcement structure all for just US$60 retail.
The rest of the lineup is mostly carryover including the top-end S-Works helmet which still weighs in at a near-record setting 200g or so. US-spec models are subject to tighter safety standards, though, and were beefed up last year as a result, adding about 20g as compared to other markets.
On the optics front, the Roulette is essentially a women's version of the Arcterra with a similar one-piece NXT lens and hingeless stainless steel frame but in a more stylish shape. On the other hand, the Strafe is more of a lifestyle' piece with its more casual look and road-oriented rose tint. Both continue to use Specialized's NXT lens material (claimed to be stronger and more optically pure than polycarbonate) and are available in either in either Adaptalite photochromic or fixed tint versions.
Last year's popular Pro MTB shoe gets a complete overhaul with a full-length carbon plate and more aggressive outsole borrowed from the top-end S-Works model. The new Micromatrix synthetic upper gains an easier-to-use SL buckle as well as a synthetic heel cup liner for better hold, improved feel and reduced water retention. The men's version will be offered in narrow, standard and wide widths and female riders will receive their own specific version as well.
Winter is still a way off for most of the world but those planning on playing in the snow might want to take a look at Specialized's new Defroster MTB shoe. Specialized claims the ankle-high Defroster is completely waterproof (it's even sealed at the cleat inserts) and it's also insulated. The injection-molded plate is fitted with a softer tread for use in colder temperatures, too, and unlike some other high-end offerings, the Defroster will be available in both whole and half sizes.
Not to be overlooked is Specialized's apparel lineup for 2009. The new BG Pro RBX chamois is thicker and larger for longer-distance riders while the BG Pro SL pad is intentionally lower profile and thinner for those that prefer less of a diaper' feel. Both are offer in men's and women's versions and use multi-thickness and multi-density padding.
The corresponding RBX and SL shorts are also built with those rider types in mind; the RBX is constructed with heavier-weight fabrics while the SL uses lighter-weight materials, more mesh and lower-profile grippers at the leg openings.
Off-road riders of all types also get a variety of baggy shorts, tops and even knickers.