First Look | The 2021 Specialized Chisel shows just how good alloy can be

With warmer spring weather now finally upon us, Specialized has just announced that it’s rolling out a brand new Chisel hardtail for 2021. Based on the current Epic hardtail (you know, that stupidly lightweight carbon fibre one), the Chisel is essentially the alloy counterpart. Based around 29in wheels, a 100mm travel fork and a premium M5 alloy frame, the Chisel aims to pack in much of the same World Cup racing pedigree from the Epic HT, but into a more budget-friendly package. Not that you’d tell by looking at it though.

Specialized has redesigned the Chisel for 2021 with a brand new M5 chassis that is claimed to be one of the lightest alloy hardtail frames on the market.

Whoa – That Isn’t Carbon?

We know right? How smooth are those welds! At first glance, the Chisel does a damn good impersonation of a carbon fibre frame, but there’s no plastic here – this mountain bike is all-metal from tip to tail.

Specialized is boldly flexing its engineering prowess with the new Chisel frame, which is built from high-end M5 alloy that is hydroformed throughout the length of the tube to fine-tune the wall thicknesses to provide strength where it’s required, and reduce weight where it’s not needed.

Furthermore, the ends of the head tube, top tube and downtube are also hydroformed to create a curved edge, so that when they’re butted up together, there’s a more seamless join between each tube. This allows for that lovely smooth shape around each junction, but it also helps to remove excess material, resulting in a lighter frame. Specialized calls this ‘D’Alusio Smartweld Technology’, and it’s found on other high-end frames in its lineup, like the Allez road bike.

specialized smartweld

How Light Is It?

Showcasing just how far alloy technology has come, the Chisel is claimed to be one of the lightest alloy hardtail frames on the market, coming in at a thoroughly impressive 1,400g. Not only is it the lightest alloy mountain bike frame that Specialized has ever built, it’s also knocking on the door of carbon frames from other brands.

Yes, it’s still a ways off the 775g claimed weight for the Epic S-Works FACT 12m frame. But then we’re comparing a $3,900 AUD carbon frame to the Chisel, which costs just $2,700 AUD – for the whole bike.

2021 specialized chisel comp
The Chisel features an elegant tapered head tube, and internal routing through the downtube.

All-Metal Mod-Cons

Despite the modest price point and the fact that it isn’t made from carbon fibre, the Chisel still boasts plenty of fine features throughout.

You’ll find a tapered zero-stack head tube up front, internal cable routing through the downtube, and a tidy 148x12mm bolt-up axle at the rear dropouts. The rear brake calliper mounts directly to the frame with no adapters necessary with the 160mm disc rotor, while the chainstay is wrapped in soft rubber armour to help quieten down chain slap.

Oh and as per all new Specialized bikes of late, this frame gets a good ol’ fashioned threaded bottom bracket. Nice.

2021 specialized chisel comp
Epic styling courtesy of a tidy bolt-up thru-axle and post-mount brake calliper.

Epic Inspiration

Specialized used the current Epic HT as inspiration for the Chisel’s frame shape, and many of the same geometry figures carry over – albeit with a few key differences.

For a start, the Chisel is available in five frame sizes down to an XS (the Epic only comes in four sizes from S-XL). The Chisel is also a touch slacker with a 68° head angle, producing more trail and a slightly roomier front centre. The chainstays are also a smidge longer, giving it a broader overall wheelbase than the Epic. In theory, that should give it more stability, particularly at speed and on the descents. Here are the key geometry figures;

2021 specialized chisel comp
No press-fit cups here! Metal frame, metal threads, metal BB cups.

There’s Just One Model Coming To Oz Though

And that’s the Chisel Comp – a $2,700 AUD hardtail that comes with a RockShox Judy Gold fork, Shimano Deore brakes and an SLX 1×12 drivetrain. In the Specialized range, the Chisel Comp sits smack-bang in between the Rockhopper Expert ($1,750 AUD) and the Epic Comp ($4,000 AUD).

For someone who’s getting into mountain biking, or for riders who would simply prefer a metal frame and not carbon, it certainly appears to have a lot of the right ingredients. You get tubeless compatible wheels and tyres as standard, and the lovely M5 alloy frame is surely worthy of any upgrades you might throw at it over time.

Read on for a closer look at the specs, and if you’re feeling the hardtail vibes, check out our story on the budget Rockhopper range and the latest Epic hardtail.

2021 specialized chisel comp
The Chisel Comp will sell for $2,500 AUD and comes in five sizes and two colour options.

2021 Specialized Chisel Comp

2021 specialized chisel hardtail
It might not be made of carbon, but we’re kind of into that – it’s a good looking bike hey?

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