- There is a lot more to
Specialized mountain bike range, than six-figure pricing.
- Aluminium bikes are marginally heavier than carbon ones but have similar geometry.
- Slick welding techniques can make their aluminium frames look like carbon.
Specialized market a broad portfolio of bikes. Many built around carbon-fibre frames and retailing for a significant price.
The Californian company even owns a wind tunnel, for perfecting product aerodynamics.
For some, the question is whether you can affordably buy into the Specialized brand and benefit from some trickle-down feature economics?
The answer to that, is one of the company’s product updates for this most disrupted year. Its new Chisel.
It might be an odd name for a mountain bike, but the Chisel is Specialized’s idea of what a value hardtail 29er should be.
The Chisel’s frame angles and overall geometry don’t differ much to Specialized’s Epic, a carbon-fibre bike of similar wheel size that is twice the price.
Carbon comfort versus metal value
As mountain bikes evolved from the 1980s to 1990s, aluminium displaced steel as the frame materials of choice. That development trajectory has now elevated carbon-fibre as most desirable.
Composite frames are lighter, stronger and can have better vibration damping, if correctly engineered. Designers are learning how to orientate the specific fibres in a composite tube structure, to reduce the vibration transmitted through a bike’s handlebars, pedals and seat.
Mountain bikes with a carbon-fibre structure can deliver superior comfort, efficiency and trail feedback. But it comes at a price, as they are a lot dearer than an equivalent aluminium frame.
With riders obsessing about grams, the core issue of geometry if often ignored. Regardless of what material a mountain bike is made of, if it has an awful set of tube angles, it will ride awkwardly.
Proven geometry – for less money
Some of the headline numbers that apply to the Chisel, show how similar it is to Specialized’s premium 29er hardtail race bike, the Epic.
Reach has become the measurement of great importance to analyse how centred a rider will be, balanced between the wheels, during a steep descent. A size large Chisel and Epic hardtail both have 455mm of reach.
The aluminium bike’s head angle is a half a degree slacker than a carbon-fibre Epic, at 68°. What does that 68 head angle mean? A slacker head angle prevents that excessive forward leaning sensation, when descending very steep terrain.
There is no argument that the Epic hardtail’s carbon-fibre rims and overall finishing kit will ride better in the hands of an experienced or very fit mountain biker. But the value of an aluminium frame Chisel, proves that Specialized design can be accessed at a reasonable price.
Beyond the difference in weight and its premium components, you can benefit from the race winning geometry of Specialized’s premium carbon hardtail, in a more affordable package, with the Chisel.
Specialized’s Epic hardtail prices from R50 000 to R150 000, depending on its component specification. The three aluminium Chisel derivates, are available in from R20 000 to R29 000.
Best of all is Specialized’s smooth weld technology. This allows the Chisel to have impeccably fished tube junctures, without the conventional metal welding creases.
The result is an aluminium Chisel, that looks every bit like a carbon-fibre frame, in appearance.