Specialized Women’s 2015 Range Highlights

Specialized have a history of taking women’s needs seriously. The company’s 2015 range of women’s bikes took up 30% of the floor space at the Australian and New Zealand launch, a firm statement about the variety of bikes on offer for different types of riders.

While some brands offer ladies a modified head tube length, reach and standover in comparison to their men’s line, Specialized bikes sit inbetween the men’s sizes.

That is to say that a medium women’s frame has tube measurements that place it in-between a men’s small and medium. A female rider of average height will sit closer to the middle of the recommended height range for a medium frame, rather than at the top end of a small. Imagine that!

Other features of the women’s range include carbon lay ups better suited to the weight range of their intended users offering a more compliant ride feel. You’ll also notice slightly easier gearing, narrower bars, appropriate stem lengths, a parts selection that’s comfortable at key contact points and aesthetics designed for ladies who want to look fast and get their bikes dirty.

With the exception of two entry-level bikes, the women’s mountain bike range is sticking with the 29” wheel size for 2015. The new women’s XC dual suspension weapon, the Era, was the talk of the show. Racy women will consider selling every expensive possession they own for the experiences this high end, and surprisingly versatile bike, offers on the trails. For us, the biggest highlight was the Rumor Evo trail bike because it’s simply so much fun to ride.

[divider]The Rumor[/divider]

We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the 110mm trail bike, the Rumor last year. This year, the range gets extended at the top end with an Evo model, which sees the travel bump up to 120mm and the angles slacken slightly as a result.

Specialized Rumor EVO 25

We’ve seen a few women reaching for a small sized Camber Carbon Expert Evo, ourselves included, for the longer travel and more serious spec than the 2014  Rumor range allowed. The Rumor Expert Evo sees similar spec to the Camber Expert Evo, but built around an alloy frame: SRAM X01 and a 120mm RockShox Pike fork being the two parts that draw most attention from prospective owners. It’s great to see Shimano XT brakes make their way onto this bike too. We love the smooth ride feel they offer and they’re well suited to smaller hands.

The low standover of the Rumor frame means riders don’t overstretch the tendons of the inner thigh when getting on and off the bike, something that becomes an issue for shorter statured folk when a bike is raised higher off the ground with 29” wheels.  In comparison to our time on the Camber, we were able to squash our weight down further when riding technical descents, making the bike feel much more responsive and in control. Our centre of gravity felt more balanced allowing us to really play on the bike without having to force our riding position.

The rest of the Rumor range remains at 110mm travel and has a refined spec for 2015. Shimano brakes adorn all but the $2299 base model. The range tops out with a new Elite model coming in at $4,399. This one will run a RockShox Revelation fork, a 2×10 drive train, Shimano SLX brakes, a Command dropper post and also comes in a stealthy black.

Specialized Rumor 11
The Rumor Comp comes in fluro yellow for 2015.

There is still no model available in carbon, which is either because engineers are still finding a way to make the frame shape remain strong with this magic material, or because Specialized feel the market isn’t quite there yet. While we’re hanging for the carbon model as much as the next girl, riding the Rumor and a Carbon Camber back-to-back, we’d choose the alloy frame for the performance offered by the more intuitive-feeling fit.

Specialized Rumor EVO 9
The Rumor line elicits an effortless, stable riding position.

[divider]The Era[/divider]

While the Rumor Evo is the bike that grabs our attention for trail riding, the new dual suspension 29er, the Era, is the showstopper. The Era for women is what the Epic is for men: a high performance race bike designed with speed and winning World Championships in mind. In fact, Annika Langvad rode a pre-production Era to her Marathon World Champs victory a month ago causing much internet speculation about this new women’s frame.

Everything about the top of the line S-Works Era takes racing as seriously as the women who will ride it. SRAM XX1 build, light Magura MT8 brakes, RockShox RS1 forks, Roval Control SL carbon wheelset. And with gloss black decals over a matt black finish, it looks the part too. The Era runs 100mm travel at the front (90mm on small models) and 95mm at the back.

Behold, the Black Stallion. Era S-Works.
Behold, the Black Stallion. Era S-Works.

Again, the sizing of the Era sits between the men’s sizes and offers lower standover. The carbon layup reflects a lower weight range of the intended users, which, paired with such a blinged out, carbon build, gives the bike a much softer and more compliant ride feel than we expected. In fact, the finished product is so tight and agile, we wouldn’t be surprised to see riders on the small size choose it over the burlier Rumor.

Specialized Era 1 (1)
A far more compliant and versatile ride than we expected.

Running the Specialized Brain front and rear and weighing in at a reported 10.1kg for the top of the line model, the Era has all the benefits of a racy hardtail buts lets you be less precise in line choice and take on rougher trails at a higher speed. This adds to the versatility of the bike. It’s one we’d love to do a tough stage race on for sure.

Pointing to the high-performance aims of the Era is a high flying price tag. The Black Beauty you see here will sell for $11,499. The Expert model is $7,199 and the base model is a $4,499, once again reflecting a race-ready build.

Specialized Era Expert 1
The Era FSR Expert Carbon.

[divider]The Fate[/divider]

The Fate hasn’t changed a whole lot since we tested the 2013 model. It has undergone some welcome refinements in spec, which point to ever evolving parts selection available for a light and nimble hardtail. The suspension remains at 80mm keeping the front end nice and low.

The S-Works Fate gets the SRAM XX1 treatment, a change from the 2×10 SRAM and Shimano drive train it ran last year. A price tag of $8999 points to the zero comprise parts list Specialized use when assembling their top of the line bikes and the cost of extreme dieting.

Specialized Fate 16
The Fate Expert Carbon 29.

While nine grand for a hardtail will make some riders open their eyes wider than the Great Australian Bite, you have to hand it to Specialized for continually bringing bikes into the women’s market that sit on a level playing field, in terms of spec, design and fit, with the men’s.

The Expert Carbon Fate is the model that attracted us the most. It’s a more modest build than the S-Works model, for a more modest spend ($4,499). That said, the build is everything most riders need: a carbon wheelset, RockShox SID forks (with the Specialized Brain), a 2×10 chainset, and a beautifully designed and fitting carbon frame. The Comp Carbon Fate will sell for $2,999.

[divider]The Jynx[/divider]

Another new model for 2015 is the Jynx. This bike is the only one in the Specialized women’s range built around 650B wheels. The idea here is that this mid-size wheel is less intimidating for riders who are new to the sport.

The robust looking Jynx is designed for people who want to get out and discover what mountain biking is about. It’s more than capable on singletrack and equally comfortable for explorations on fire roads.

Specialized Jinx 12
The Jynx Comp 650B.

Three models are available, ranging from $649 to $899 for the Jynx Comp 650B.

[divider]Shoes[/divider]

Two new sets of shoes hit Australian shores for 2015. The Cadette will appeal to girls who want something that looks like a running shoe, but offers some of the stability of a cycling shoe. It also gives riders the option of running clipless pedals.

Specialized Shoes 3
2FO: Foot Out, Flat Out.

The 2FO Flat Women’s shoe is a bright looking shoe for ladies who like to ride flat pedals. The sole has been carefully developed to offer the right balance of grip and durability. An SPD option isn’t available yet for the ladies, but we’re hoping that’s not the case for long.

Specialized Rumor EVO 7
With a plush build around an alloy frame, the Rumor Evo still felt nice and supple on the trails.
Did we just slip a picture of a road bike in this article? The $8,999 S-Works Amira to roadies is what the Fate is to mountain bikers. Once again, we were very impressed with the out of the box fit.
Did we just slip a picture of a road bike in this article? The $8,999 S-Works Amira to roadies is what the Fate is to mountain bikers. Once again, we were very impressed with the out of the box fit.

Keep an eye on Flow for highlights from the men’s range, including the new 650B Stumpjumper Expert Carbon and S-Works Enduro Carbon.

Tested: Specialized Rumor Comp

When Specialized’s new women’s 29er trail bike arrived at the Flow office, we were so excited we ate lunch sitting on the floor next to it. You can’t ride on an empty stomach and we didn’t want to waste any time getting to know this new machine.

IMG_0387
A Specialized Camber with just the right amount of a female twist – the Rumor.

As we rolled the mid-range Rumor Comp out the door we already had two questions begging to be answered: How would a women’s specific design, in both frame and component choices, add to our trail riding experiences? And in what ways does the design reflect the relationship between research into high level women’s racing equipment and bikes at the entry to mid-level of the market like this one?

Finding out was both a pleasure and a privilege. The size of a set of wheels is one thing, but it’s new technology and manufacturing practices that continually redefine the ride experiences they offer. Lucky our lunch was a big one.

The Design

Specialized found that a lot of their female consumers were gravitating toward their Camber model, so they set about making a women’s specific version of this popular 110mm travel trail bike.

The biggest difference is the standover height and a women’s specific part selection. The geometry and handling characteristics of the rear end are very similar. This what we found when we recently reviewed the S-Works Fate Carbon 29 – a female version of the Stumpjumper 29” hardtail.

Low enough standover height for a bike with 29" wheels is a tall challenge.
Low enough standover height for a bike with 29″ wheels is a tall challenge that Specialized has stepped up to.

The V-shaped top tube, which utilises a combination of aluminium forging techniques, is key in allowing shorter female riders to pilot a 29” dual suspension trail bike. This means the frame can do away with all the extra material we see around the same area of the Camber, saving a good amount of weight.  It also stops the top tube from collapsing like a beer can under your shoe at a party.

Subtle graphics with real style.
The standover is not only low, but low where it counts – where you will be positioned if you have one or both feet on the ground. In fact, the stand over is so low, it only grows a small 3.7mm between all frame sizes (from 707.3mm in the small frame to 711mm in the large).

The technology isn’t available yet to achieve this using carbon fibre, but you can bet people are working on it. In addition to the ride experiences this design affords shorter riders, it’s a powerful example of how women’s frame designs are not just adapting existing technology, but really driving it.

Another area where we can see small frames driving new technology is at the head tube, which is a short 90mm in the small sized frame. In order to fit front suspension with a tapered steerer to a bike with a shorter head tube, Specialized have asked RockShox and Fox to redevelop this part of their forks (it helps to have massive buying power). The end result for users is improved frame geometry, snappy steering and reduced need for stems so bent you can’t read your Garmin.

Aside from a low top tube, a short head tube is imperative for good standover height.
Aside from a low top tube, a short head tube is imperative for good standover height.

Because of the smart engineering discussed above, the bike as a whole fits 29” wheels and 110mm of front and rear suspension without looking compromised or squished. Long chain stays (449mm) and a low bottom bracket height add stability. The minimal looking FSR suspension design and internal cable routing provide a sleek, uncluttered finish.

The Gear

Another area where this bike is exciting in terms of innovation and usability is due to the addition of ‘Autosag’ to Specialized rear suspension for 2014. We talked a little bit about this in our recent review of the Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon. The Rumor also shares the use of a block mount, which integrates the shock to the frame with a simple elegance.

The biggest benefit of Autosag is that it takes the confusion out of suspension set up for riders who haven’t gone to tech school. You can set and forget, and get stuck into the trails. Some riders may want to tweak this based on personal preference, but it isn’t necessary for a great ride feel.

We found the Autosag valve on our RockShox Monarch RL air shock tended to rattle loose while riding, and would dump all the air from the rear shock if we bumped it. Keep an eye out for this on the first few rides and do it up nice and tight.

Specialized proprietary technology here, the Autosag. This make setting up the bike for your weight so very easy.
Autosag (grey coloured valve) is basically a very clever hole. Pump the rear shock up to 275psi (for the Rumor), sit on it in all your riding gear, and depress the Autosag valve. This sets the sag and air pressures for an optimal ride experience based on your weight. The shock simply depresses until it covers this hole. It’s delightfully simple.

The Rumor Comp boasts a incredibly well thought-out part selection for female riders; Women’s Enduro lock-on grips that suit smaller hands, custom tuned RockShox front and rear suspension, a Specialized Body Geometry Jett saddle, narrower bar width and appropriate length cranks and stem. Refer back to our review on the Fate for the impact this has on ride experiences and budget.

The custom-tuned RockShox Monarch RL rear shock was nicely paired with a RockShox Reba RL up front to provide a consistently smooth ride feel. We also appreciated being able to comfortably move through all the travel without having to send them off for post-purchase tweaking.
The custom-tuned RockShox Monarch RL rear shock was nicely paired with a RockShox Reba RL up front to provide a consistently smooth ride feel. We also appreciated being able to comfortably move through all the travel without having to send them off for post-purchase tweaking.

We are also impressed with the high performance of the moving parts given the sub $3000 price point of the Comp. A 2×10 drive chain is specced to provide ample gearing across all terrain types. A SRAM X9 Type 2 rear derailleur keeps the chain silent throughout the ride and provides smooth, snappy shifting. A X7 front derailleur was ample on the front. We never dropped a chain during the test period.

The Avid Elixir 5 SL brakes provide strong stopping power. The reach is easy to adjust to fit any hand shape on the fly allowing quick and simple set up. Paired up with 680mm bars and a stable, manoeuvrable frame geometry, we found the Rumor enabled exceptional error correction skills if we took a bad line or went into a corner a little too fast.

The very popular Jett saddle is standard.
The very popular Specialized Jett saddle is standard, winner!
IMG_0400
We can’t overstate how highly we rate a user-friendly spec for female riders of all types.

The Roval 29 wheelset matched to Specialized Hi Lo hubs is also well-specced for the intended use of our test rig. We found they tended to drift a little wide entering corners but we quickly got used to this after a couple of rides and it was no longer a problem.

This may discourage some women upon test riding the Comp, but our advice would be to stick with it for a few rides, then upgrade to a lighter wheelset if it still doesn’t feel how you want it to. It’s not a reflection of the bike, it’s just a weight thing, or a 29” wheel thing.

A winning combination of playfulness and confidence-inspiring stability allowed us to milk our favourite trail networks as the playgrounds they are.
A winning combination of playfulness and confidence-inspiring stability allowed us to milk our favourite trail networks as the playgrounds they are.

With the addition of a dropper post and a lighter, higher spec all ‘round, the $4199 Rumor Expert is worth the extra cash if these are upgrades you’re considering from the outset.

A small rubber stop under the down tube prevents the forks bumping the frame under load, or the bars twisting and scratching the top tube in a crash. And even the smallest size frame fits a full size drink bottle. Usability is important, and key to this bike’s appeal.
A small rubber stop under the down tube prevents the forks bumping the frame under load, or the bars twisting and scratching the top tube in a crash. And even the smallest size frame fits a full size drink bottle. Usability is important, and key to this bike’s appeal.

On the Trail

Web_Test_Specialized_Rumor-5

Hitting up some familiar trails, the Rumor felt comfortable and instinctual. The low standover and balanced design of the bike meant we assumed a natural riding position without even thinking about it. We didn’t have to force ourselves to keep our weight where it mattered for maximum traction or stability. It rolls so quickly over moderately rough stuff we were off the brakes a lot more often as well.

Web_Test_Specialized_Rumor-2

For us, the only drawback to the stable, confidence inspiring build was the Specialized Ground Control 2Bliss Tyres. They’re great on loamy trails and we like that the bike is specced with a fatter 2.3” tyre on the front and a 2.1” on the rear. We found them a little skatey on grainy over hardpack surfaces like Stromlo and Bruce Ridge in the ACT. They also didn’t offer much traction on uphill sandstone obstacles around Sydney.

While playful descents were a highlight of our rides on the Rumor, we were impressed with its climbing characteristics as well. Not only does this mean more confident descending, but you don’t get any sensations of lost energy while climbing.

Web_Test_Specialized_Rumor-1

At 12.9kgs (with pedals), the Comp is reasonably light for a bike of this spec, but it is always going to be slower up the hill than something more whippety. But it never ‘felt’ slow. The weight was only noticeable on more technical climbs making us more deliberate in the way we muscled the bike around.

As for smaller obstacles like logs and small rocky ‘ups’, the large wheel size of the Rumor rolled over these easily with a bit of leg strength alone. We constantly meet women in skills clinics whose main aim is to clear this type of obstacle on the trails. Not because they want to cameo in the next Danny MacAskill video, but because it’s preventing them from holding on to a group on social rides.

The great thing about the Rumor is it allows these women to enjoy a wider variety of trails with increased enjoyment from the outset. This would be our main reason for encouraging this type of rider to consider the Rumor over a bike with 26” wheels or the mid-size 27.5”.

Web_Test_Specialized_Rumor-6

Overall

The Rumor puts women on a level playing field with guys who are able to jump on a trail bike and confidently ride it from the shop door to exciting trails without having to tweak a thing.

The stability of this 29” trail bike, combined with the thoughtful, robust spec make it a great value option for new riders. It gives a real boost to the variety of trails these ladies can enjoy, providing a great platform for discovering how much fun mountain biking can be. A base model Rumor has just been realised for $1999 as well.

The other rider type that will enjoy the Rumor are women who just want to cut loose and play. The low standover means you can really throw the bike around and the long wheelbase, wide bars and powerful brakes help to keep you out of trouble if you botch a landing or mis-judge a corner. This bike begs you to have fun whatever ability level you bring to it and is guaranteed to help you lift your skills to the next level as a result.

It’s exciting to think that more girls will discover mountain biking through a rig that caters for them as well as this one does. The mind boggles at the ways future bike designs may also be impacted by this rapidly expanding section of the market as a result.

Web_Test_Specialized_Rumor-4

THE TEST:
Test rider: Kath Bicknell, our test rider for this review, is 56kg and 164cm tall.
Suspension: 20% rear sag and around 15% up front.
Tyre pressure: 22psi rear, 20psi front.
Test conducted: Locations included Stromlo Forest Park and Bruce Ridge, ACT, Manly Dam and a few secret trails in and around Sydney.
Other notes: Autosag doesn’t set rebound for you. Take your time to wind the rebound dial to each extreme, ride a rocky section of trail to learn what it does, then find a middle ground that suits the ride feel you enjoy.