Tech feature: Specialized 2008 equipment and accessories, July 19, 2007
Specialized is fairly unique in the cycling world as it not only offers a complete line of accomplished bicycles, but is also among the forefront in a number of equipment and accessory categories. Cyclingnews Tech Editor James Huang continues his look at Specialized's 2008 lineup.
Specialized is rightfully touted as a complete bicycle company, but it also puts up a hard fight in the equipment and accessory markets against well-established leaders such as Giro and Sidi. For example, Specialized provides bikes for just the Quickstep-Innergetic and Gerolsteiner teams in this year's Tour de France, but an assortment of its helmets, eyewear, and shoes can be found on four other teams and nearly sixty riders in total as they make their way to Paris. Notable standouts include Alexander Vinokourov and his Astana squad (helmets), Robbie McEwen and Predictor-Lotto (helmets, gloves, and optics), and Erik Zabel and the rest of the Milram team (helmets and optics).
For 2008, Specialized introduces its first S-Works level helmet that tops even its own Decibel. New dual-density co-molded foam construction (2D… get it?) drops the weight by 30% to just 184g (size small, of course), while inline vents, deep internal channeling, and a new larger Mega Mouthport promise to keep things cool. Additional weight saving measures include a new Pro Fit 360 retention system, hand-laid Kevlar InnerMatrix internal reinforcement structure, 4X DryLite webbing, and even lighter hardware.
Naturally, a sub-200g helmet may give some cyclist pause; can that really provide enough protection? Specialized insists that the new 2D passes all required safety standards, and one journalist apparently saw fit to prove it to himself during the launch by launching himself headfirst into a stone wall on the trails north of Madrid. Thankfully, he was fine, and we should note that the helmet performed its sacrificial duty admirably.
Specialized's optics category continues to grow with the addition of several new models. As was the case before, all of them incorporate the company's proprietary NXT lens construction and many are available in both photochromic Adaptalite or fixed-tint versions. Last year's 16g Arc has been replaced by the slightly heavier Arc II, which features a pared-down stainless steel non-folding frame (the original Arc was titanium) and a newly vented lens with a revised shape and integrated browpad.
Also on hand for the road side is the new Miura and larger-format Uracco models, both made with foldable Grilamid frames, aggressive styling and dual-density earpieces. The Miura is also compatible with prescription inserts. Mountain bikers receive a new small-format ArcTerra as well as specifically tinted Berm and Divide models which include heavily vented lenses to prevent fogging, molded Grilimid frames, and dual-density earpieces.
Specialized's Body Geometry line of footwear is easily among the company's biggest success stories with its trademark varus wedge, metatarsal button, and longitudinal arch support (one can almost imagine Dr. Andy Pruitt to Specialized's Mike Sinyard: "I told you so!"). The '08 S-Works road and mountain shoes include revised Boa closures that are smaller, lighter, and easier to use than previous versions, especially when wearing full-fingered gloves, and new optional Powerzone lacing allows wearers to customize the tightness between the forefoot and instep.
The S-Works road shoe is built with a full-length carbon sole (as was last year's version), and Micromatrix synthetic upper now also includes a fully vented tongue for improved ventilation. Specialized says the new S-Works road shoe is the "lightest cycling shoe with a mechanical closure" and at an actual weight of 568g for our pair of sz44 testers (with insoles, no less), that claim may not be far from the truth.
The S-Works MTB shoe isn't quite as light at an actual weight of 728g per pair (again, sz44), but the new thermoplastic outsole is notably more durable than previous iterations and the upper features nearly the same Micromatrix construction as the road version including the newly ventilated tongue.
Sit on it
The minimalist construction of the Toupe road saddle proved appealing to the triathlon and MTB crowds as well, and Specialized has responded with discipline-specific versions for 2008. The new triathlon and TT-specific Tritip model utilizes thick foam and gel padding in the nose to relieve pressure while in a typical aero position as well as a rear stabilizer to facilitate hanging bikes on transition racks. Unlike some other Body Geometry saddles, the Tritip will only come in one rear-section width; instead, Specialized will offer it in two nose widths depending on rider preference. Claimed weight is as low as 240g, depending on size and model.
Cross-country MTB riders get the new Phenom saddle which we first saw on Liam Killeen's bike at this year's Sea Otter Classic. Both feature nearly identical profiles as the road-going Toupe but with a dropped nose and more smoothly contoured rear section for better maneuverability and reduced risk of injury in rougher terrain (let's just say there's a reason why Killeen and teammate Christophe Sauser used to trim off the hard plastic bits from their Toupe saddles last year!). Claimed weight is as low as 190g, depending on size and model.
The wheels go 'round and 'round…
Roval's second coming is in its third year and Specialized expands the line even further for 2008, which now includes off-road wheels for the first time. New 'SL' road hubs are now made by DT Swiss and feature the company's trademark star ratchet internals, forged aluminum and carbon fiber hub shells, and lightweight alloy axles. Freehub bodies are interchangeable between Shimano/SRAM and Campagnolo spline patterns and all rear wheels (save for the Rapide Star Carbon) also receive the DoubleDrive lacing pattern which places twice as many spokes on the driveside flange to equalize spoke tension. As always, all Roval wheelsets utilize straight-pull spokes, and road versions also include hidden self-aligning nipples across the range.
The Roval Rapide SL Carbon wheelset features a Reynolds-made 33mm-deep carbon fiber clincher rim paired with DT Aerolite spokes to the new SL hubset, and the 1450g wheelset includes SwissStop-made carbon-specific pads and titanium skewers. The new Fusée SL wheelset uses nearly identical construction and boasts the same 1450g claimed weight, but uses a 24mm-deep aluminum clincher rim instead of carbon. Sitting at the extreme lightweight end of the spectrum lies the new Alpiniste SL Carbon, with new SL hubs laced with DT Aerolite spokes to low-profile 24mm-deep carbon tubular rims for an impressive 1060g figure.
Even with that inspiring showing at the scales, though, the new Roubaix 322X is arguably the most interesting new Roval road wheelset, and more for its distinctly different aim relative to most of today's wheel offerings than anything else. Specialized specifically targeted vertical compliance here with shallow box-section aluminum clincher rims and a combination of three-cross and two-cross lacing. Claimed weight is still a competitive 1550g for the pair, which almost certainly will find its way on to a number of 'cross bikes this season.
The visually striking star hub flange design soldiers on for 2008: the new Rapide Star Carbon gets a deeper 48mm tubular rim, while the Rapide Star Carbon Clincher carries on unchanged from last year.
The new Contrôle XC Race and Traversée wheelsets are the first off-road Roval wheelsets from Specialized and offer many of the same features as their road-going brethren, including straight-pull DT Swiss spokes, DoubleDrive lacing, and DT Swiss-built hubs. As the name suggests, the Contrôle XC Race is aimed squarely at the XC crowd with a disc-specific E5 alloy rim mated with DT Revolution spokes and QR-compatible hubs for a 1425g final weight. Rims are also tubeless-compatible using a tape-and-valve core system strikingly similar to the NoTubes ZTR Olympic design (meaning it will probably work quite well).
The Traversée is built to take on a little more abuse with a wider disc- and tubeless-compatible rim and thicker DT Supercomp spokes. The front hub also includes interchangeable end caps for use with standard 9mm QR, 20mm thru-axle, or 25mm thru-axle applications. Even with its added durability, claimed weight is still just 1579g a pair.
Tires for the 'real world'
Naturally, no Specialized product launch would be complete without a few new tires, and 2008 will see primarily off-road offerings, performance versions of which will all be tubeless-ready with standard casings and UST-compatible beads (sealant is required for the conversion).
The highlight of the line is mountain biking legend Ned Overend's signature tire, 'The Captain'. According to Overend himself, The Captain is intended to suit "a wider demographic of terrain" with versatile full-height knobs and a round profile for predictability. Center knobs are fairly closely spaced for faster rolling, but the transition and well-reinforced side knobs are noticeably more open to handle looser conditions. Both 26" and 29" versions will be offered, but both will only be available in 2.00" wide casings.
Specialized team rider Christophe Sauser also receives a signature tire dubbed the SauserWind. As one would guess, this is a XC race-specific tread with a fast-rolling low-height tread for use in 'intermediate conditions'. Given its sole 26x1.8" size offering, though, that 'intermediate condition' suggestion should likely be taken with a modest grain of salt…
At the other end of the range sits the new Eskar all-mountain tire with its blocky open tread and wider 26x2.3" casing.