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Tech feature: Specialized 2010 road preview

New Amira and Ruby premium road bikes for women

Last year's S-Works Ruby women's-specific all-carbon road bike will split into two more tightly focused bikes for 2010: a new Amira platform will concentrate more on road racing while the revamped Ruby will now be more of an endurance machine.

The new S-Works Amira follows the same design ideals and includes nearly all the same performance features as on the Tarmac SL2 but is re-engineered to better suit women's typical body proportions (longer legs, shorter torsos and arms, lower weights). Tube diameters are generally reduced across the board, top tubes are shortened, head tubes lengthened, and lay-up schedules are readjusted for a slightly softer ride more suited to women's typically lighter weights.

Like the Tarmac, the S-Works Amira uses a tapered front end that allows for a larger and stiffer down tube relative to a straight 1 1/8" front end but the maximum steerer tube diameter is 1 3/8", not 1 1/2". Specialized engineers determined that would actually yield too much rigidity and cut into ride quality. Likewise, there's the same integrated bottom bracket design and Enduro ZERØ ceramic bearings as on the Tarmac but here arm lengths on the FACT crankset go down as low as 167.5mm.

The Amira's more aggressive build yields the expected increases in rigidity as compared to the '09 Ruby, according to Specialized: 24.6 percent more torsional rigidity (supposedly better than the '08 Tarmac SL), 21.8 percent more bottom bracket stiffness, and a whopping 58.8 percent stouter rear end.

Moreover, the reduced tubing sizes also makes the Amira the lightest road frameset in Specialized's entire range.

Five sizes will be offered from 44-56cm – all with 700c wheels – and there will also be more economical Expert and Comp-level bikes as well.

The 2010 Ruby, on the other hand, now leans more towards the Roubaix side of things with a more relaxed geometry: head tubes grow 1.5cm across the board for more upright positioning and longer front centers and chain stays provide a more stable and forgiving wheelbase.

In keeping with the theme, the '10 S-Works Ruby seat stays will mimic the Roubaix SL's radical shaping and share its Zertz elastomeric dampers – which are also inserted up front in the fork legs – and the straight 1 1/8" steerer will offer a smoother ride than a tapered setup. Specialized claims a 9.1 percent improvement in comfort from the '09 Ruby.

Even so, the '10 Ruby is still apparently 14.6 percent stiffer in torsion and 13.1 percent more rigid at the bottom bracket than the current version. Part of the credit goes to the larger down tube, which now partially wraps around the head tube, and stouter upper seat stay sections that form a more structurally sound triangular shape up above the brake bridge (the '09 Ruby upper stays are parallel to each other). That down tube is also slightly shifted downward to make more room in the main triangle for bottle cages – a common problem with smaller frame sizes.

The new Ruby will be available in S-Works, Pro, Expert, Comp and Elite frame platforms, all with five sizes ranging from 44-57cm.

The Morgan Hill, California company will also continue its fundraising efforts to benefit the Susan G. Komen foundation in the fight against breast cancer. In addition to donating partial proceeds from specially finished bikes, equipment and apparel, Specialized will also sponsor events such as the "For the Cure" series in the US, Germany and Italy, Passionately Pink for the Cure, and 'FUNdraising' rides – the latter of which will include a 200km stint from the Specialized office in Munich, Germany to the Eurobike show in late August (volunteer now – Specialized will donate €1 per kilometer per rider).

Total donations since the inception of the program in 2007 now top US$600,000 and Specialized has ponied another US$200,000 commitment for 2010.

Updated S-Works road shoes drop weight for 2010

Specialized continues to forge ahead in the footwear department with an all-new S-Works road shoe that now tips the scales at just 470g per pair (actual weight, sz43.5) – claimed to be the lightest production shoe with a mechanical closure on the market.

That figure becomes even more impressive when you consider that each shoe now bears not one, but two Boa cable closures for a more tunable fit. One is positioned right up top while the other handles the middle and forward portions of the foot, and both use a new two-way ratchet mechanism that's easier to use and also now micro-adjustable in either direction. Quick-release lace guides also make for easier ingress/egress, too, and faster drying in the event of an inadvertent soaking as you can now open the shoe far more than before.

In addition, a new FACT 12.0 vented carbon sole trades in last year's solid construction for a lighter and stiffer hollow foam core configuration and stack height is still just 6-7.5mm, depending on the size. Heel treads are replaceable, too, but you'll have to wait until September to get a pair of your own.

Even better, Specialized will also add a women's-specific S-Works road shoe to the range for the first time with all the same features but with a narrow heel cup, lower volume forefoot, and lower collar to better fit the female foot.

More blood flow, less weight from new Body Geometry saddles

Dr. Roger Minkow has played a crucial role in the development of Specialized's Body Geometry saddle range and he rolls the culmination of that experience into his new Romin (as in, Roger Minkow), aimed specifically towards roadies who spend a lot of time in the drops.

Relative to the current Toupe, the Romin uses a slightly broader and flatter nose, a central channel that now runs the full length of the saddle, plus a subtly kicked-up tail that reportedly helps a rider rotate their pelvis forward a bit to recreate the natural lumbar curve of the lower spine.

Minkow says the new Romin produces the highest penile blood flow figures of any saddle he's produced to date, and two sizes (130mm, 143mm) will be offered starting later this year. Equipped with titanium rails, a preproduction 143mm-wide sample weighs just 221g.

A new Toupe SL model wraps up the Body Geometry collection of features into a new weight weenie wrapper to the tune of just 112g (actual weight). Carbon fiber is used for the slightly flexible shell and ovalized 7x9mm rails, and minimal padding is used up top. These are still in development and won't be available until November or so but both 130mm and 143mm widths will ultimately be available. Current Specialized seatpost owners will have to add another post to their want list though as the ovalized rails won't fit the company's one-bolt head – at least not yet.

Toupe is unchanged save for more durable trim bits but Specialized will add team-edition saddles to the range, complete with the same stiffer shells, grippier and softer-feeling covers, and solid titanium rails as it supplies to its sponsored riders.

Apparel, helmets, optics and tires

Specialized will continue to build on their cycling clothing range for the coming seasons with a particular emphasis on its new Solar Jet collection, all of which offer a claimed UPF 50 rating without any coatings to wear off. Spring 2010 will bring both men's and women's short-sleeved and long-sleeved options plus accessories such as arm covers and a variety of caps.

The popular BG Pro RBX and BG Pro SL bib shorts are essentially unchanged save for more durable double-row stitching (a problem with earlier versions), with the RBX version offering a more thickly padded stretch seamless chamois and stouter fabric while the more minimal SL does with a thinner pad and lighter fabrics. New for this season however is a women's BG Pro RBX bib with a specific cut and chamois plus more widely set bib straps.

On the optics side, a new Arc-X model mimics the look of the current Arc II but adds the convenience of folding temples. Like the Arc II, the Arc-X features a minimal stainless steel partial frame and an Adaptalite photochromic NXT lens.

Not much has changed with the S-Works helmet – just some more durable padding – but the second-tier Propero now gains the lighter and more comfortable Pro Fit 360 retention system of the flagship. Specialized also introduces a new Headset retention system on other select models that uses a ratcheting dial for quicker one-handed adjustments.

Time trial riders however will be happy to know that the sleek TT2 aero helmet has received Snell approval and is now finally available to the public.

The big news on the tire front is the introduction of a new S-Works Turbo clincher, complete with a 220tpi 'Supliant' casing and feathery 190g for a 700x23c size. Though still a vulcanized tire, Specialized claims a new manufacturing process pulls more rubber out of the plies to yield a ride quality more akin to an open tubular, plus the better roadholding ability generally associated with a more compliant casing.

A so-called 'BlackBelt' puncture protection belt is added beneath the tread, too, and a more toned-down dual radius tread profile still promises to put more rubber on the ground in corners as with the original shape but now with a smoother transition between straight-line and cornering angles for a more natural feel.

There's also a new Road Tubeless version of the Turbo in a 700x23c size, weighing in at 298g and currently shipping to dealers.

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