Friday, September 05, 2008

2009 Specialized Bike

have you noticed that some bike manufacturers have already produced 2009 line up? This info surprised me....... in the middle of 2008 they have anounced and event 
distibuted their2009 products. The products are awesome and offcourse with so many new technology. Let's see Specialized 2009 products: 

The new Epic is lighter and stiffer. No big surprise there, right? I mean, aside from having more travel, that's kind of always been the aim of mountain bike design. The real story, however, is how they got there in the first place. It wasn't just by bolting on lighter parts…

The company shaved about 570 grams (that's 1.3 pounds for us `Mericans) off their flagship S-Works model. That means a medium S-Works Epic (minus pedals) now tips the scale at a mere 21.27 pounds. For a bike with four honest-to-goodness inches of travel, that's freaky light. The bike is also quantifiably stiffer: about 14 percent stiffer at the headtube and 23 percent stiffer at the bottom bracket.

Here's how they did it.

For starters, the S-Works frame—main triangle, seatstays, chainstays… even one of the rear dropouts—is all carbon fiber. That, right there, is significant. Specialized is committed to the material—and not just for racing. You find carbon fiber used extensively on the five-inch travel Stumpjumper FSR platform and the six-inch travel Enduro platforms as well. Well, at least at the very high end of those two lines. Aluminum models still predominate in most model lines since the majority of us don't have several thousand to blow on our next bike, but the fact that Specialized deems carbon fiber fit for so many applications is impressive. The top two Epic models (the S-Works and Marathon) will feature carbon frames, though the Marathon version will use a more economical composite material in the main frame, paired to aluminum chainstays.

The other key to shedding weight on the Epic is systems integration. In a nutshell, systems integration is a fancy way of saying "bike parts that are specifically designed to work with one another". Cannondale forged this notion a decade ago (think HeadShok, Lefty forks, proprietary bottom brackets, etc.), but the big companies like Specialized and Trek are now truly taking the notion to heart.

Consider this: when Specialized upgraded the '09 Epic's conventional 1.125 headtube to a tapered (1.5 to 1.125-inch) headtube, they didn't do it just for the inherent stiffness and weight advantages of a tapered steerer. Nope, Specialized was also looking at adding a larger diameter downtube that would mate to a wider-than-normal bottom bracket, which, taken altogether not only boosts front-end stiffness but also axle-to-axle stiffness.

All this systems integration stuff also means there are a host of proprietary parts on the new, higher-end Specialized bikes. For starters, there's as an S-Works crankset that the company claims is 100 grams lighter than an external bearing XTR crankset and bottom bracket. The S-Works crankset mates to an extra-wide 84.5-millimeter bottom bracket shell. It's a press-in bearing system similar to the new BB-30 standard, but it's wider still.

If you must run Shimano cranks, you can still run them by pressing in Shimano adapter cups. Same holds true for the tapered head tube. The headtube is designed to work with Specailized's own tapered-steerer forks, but you can run a lower race that will enable you to plunk in any 1.125-steerer fork.

Specialized's "systems integration" push clearly extends to their suspension as well. The 2009 S-Work Epic now sports the company's Future Shock E100--a three-pound, four-inch travel fork that contains the company's Brain compression-damping technology. The fork is light and stiff--due, in part, to its one piece carbon fiber steerer and crown. While we can't attest to its reliability, I can say that the fork performed damn well during the press launch. We spent a couple days riding the singletrack around Camp Tamarancho. I've ridden there plenty and was honestly surprised to find that the Specialized suspension products performed so well. I can't make direct comparisons to either Fox or RockShox models (I'd have to swap out forks and conduct back-to-back rides on the same bike), but initial impressions are good.

After touring the Specialized compound, we eventually wound up at Camp Tamarancho, in the hills above Fairfax. For all of you who've never had a hiking staff thrown at your head (welcome to Marin County), Tamarancho is one of the very rare, mountain bike-legal singletracks within striking distance of San Francisco. This, of course, is because it is not publicly owned. The Boy Scouts of America owns the 480-acre spread and they lease it out to local mountain bikers. You pay for a day or yearly pass and you get to ride.

The whole pay-to-play thing would kind of suck (we really should have legal access on the public lands we pay taxes to preserve), but once you're actually riding Tamarancho, you quickly forget about Marin County's trail access ugliness. Solid singletrack, some of it rocky, almost all of it windy and damn good, winds through dense redwood forest, sun-dappled oak forests and grassy meadows.

Not that I was actually doing much sightseeing on the Epic. The bike is meant to be ridden fast. When your full-suspension rig weighs as little as a road bike and doesn't bob around like a drunk when you stand up and crank, well, it's hard to refrain from punching the gas here and there.

So yeah, the bike is quick and efficient. Rockets up climbs and all that jazz. I imagine you know all about the BRAIN technology, so I won't flog a dead horse on that score. What really impressed me, however, was how versatile the bike is. Sure, this is a race bike, but then again, you can dial back the firmness on the BRAIN shock (I found the suspension a little harsh in its firmest setting) and truly use this as an all-purpose, XC bike in a lot of corners of this country. Specialized slackened the head angle ever so slightly in 2009 and the bike is reasonably calm in the handling department for a race-day bike.

The Epic felt solid and noticeably flex free, even when pushing it through Tamarancho's many rock gardens and rubble-strewn corners. At four inches of travel, the Epic wouldn't cut it at a bike park, not by a long shot, but I could definitely see myself riding this model on a lot of all-day, cross country rides. I wouldn't have said that before I went on this press trip.

Specialized also debuted their newly made-over SX Trail. As someone muttered at some point during the trip, "If you don't know what this bike is for, it's probably not for you." Hmmm…. That's one way of putting it. Personally, I lump the SX Trail into the burgeoning Freeride-Lite category, which, in my book at least, means six-plus inches of travel on enough of a diet that it doesn't require a chairlift to ride the bike to the nearest 7-11.

Accordingly, the SX Trail gets a rash of new features such as a tapered headtube for extra strength and rigidity without the extra weight and limited cockpit choices that come with a full 1.5-inch steerer system. The SX Trail also sports a Direct Mount Derailleur, which unclutters the seat tube by mounting directly to the bike's chainstay. The derailleur is also supposed to do a better job of tracking with the chain as the suspension cycles. I've only briefly ridden an `08 model (the S-Works Stumpjumper FSR) with the DMS system, so I can't attest to the product's long-term performance, but my few laps at Tamarancho went without a hitch in the front shifting department.

Other niceties include a whole lot of forged frame components (including the aforementioned head tube, rear dropouts, bottom bracket shell and the chainstay yoke). The upside? Greater strength than CNC-machined components.

Perhaps the biggest change to the SX is that the bike features considerably more standover clearance, improved (that is, decreased) center of gravity for better maneuverability, and increased seat post adjustability. Note the swoopy top tube and the new rear shock set up.

Specialized began killing off the interrupted seat tube design in `08 with their revised Stumpjumper FSR and Enduro models. You're seeing the same thing here with the SX Trail and (shortly) with their updated FSR XC models. Tall folks and people who slam their seats on descents will be happy.

The SX Trail's new wishbone-style rear shock link is what made the uninterrupted seat tube a viable option this year. The link connects the seatstays to the rear shock and eschews maintenance-prone DU bushings for a small extension that pivots on the shock link—this should equal improved durability in muddy conditions.

The coolest thing about the new link, however, is that an eccentric spindle draws both sides of the shock linkage together into a single, (reportedly) flex-free frame component. No pinch bolts at all. While I never had a problem with pinch bolts per se, there's no denying the elegance of the system. Ooh, ahh, and so forth.

The SX Trail comes in two travel packages—a 4-inch-travel slopestyle bike with a custom Fox air shock and the aforementioned 170-millimeter (6.7 inch), do-it-all bike sporting a Fox coil-sprung rear shock. If you really dug the adjustable geometry feature of the `08 model, well, sorry this upcoming SX Trail comes with a 66-degree head tube and that's how it's going to stay. So be it. Specialized is looking to Fox and RockShox to supply the tapered-steerer forks.

Sadly, they didn't have any SX Trails for us to demo (the event primarily showcased the new Epic), so we're in the dark on its performance at the moment, but we're ordering up a test model, so look for a future test in the print mag.

You're probably wondering about the Enduro, Pitch and the StumpJumper FSR bikes. Well, aside from components, we don't expect there to be any radical changes to those three bike lines for 2009. That leaves us with the FSR XC. For 2009, the FSR XC gets a substantial makeover and becomes, in essence, a less-expensive version of the pricier StumpJumper FSR bike. Again, the interrupted seat tube is killed off in favor of the rocker link. More seatpost adjustability and better center of gravity. The bike also gets an extra inch of travel, for a total of five inches. Weight on the Pro model is said to be about 29 pounds, so clearly you're looking at considerably more heft than, say, the 23.25-pound carbon Stumpy (sized Medium). Then again, the FSR XC Pro model costs less than half of what that carbon Stumpy retails for…

Technology and progress have replaced the single spring Hite Rite with seatpost droppers. Since I haven't been able to bolt a Hite Rite on my bikes since somewhere around the time Thriller was released, I'll take the new crop of adjustable seatposts. Specialized has jumped on board this year and joins the ranks of Gravity Dropper and Crank Brothers with their new Command Post.

In a nutshell, the post features three positions and 100 millimeters of total stroke adjustment. You've got the "Power" fully-extended position for ultimate pedaling efficiency, a "Cruiser" position that's about 30 to 35 millimeters lower (good for constantly rolling terrain) and the slammed down "Descender"position for steep drops.

While the Command Post uses an air spring (about 25 psi) to return the seat post to its max height, this is a mechanical locking system, which Specialized claims offers superior durability over a hydraulic post. The post is triggered by a nifty, forged-aluminum handlebar mounted trigger that's available in both right and left-handed versions. Twist and slop in the system is kept to a minimum via two key ways on the shaft.

The Command Post weighs about 430 grams and will come stock on the 2009 S-Works Enduro and Enduro Pro. You can also buy the Command Post as an aftermarket item in the 30.9—millimeter size. Price is still being determined but should be competitive with Gravity Dropper.

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