August 21/09 21:10 pm - Specialized Global Product Launch 2010 - Women's Mountain Bike
Posted by Editoress on 08/21/09
Specialized Bicycles invited Canadian Cyclist to the debut of their 2010 bicycles in Snowbird, Utah. Our Tech Editor Mike Badyk attended, and his report has been broken into three parts - Road, Mountain and Women's Series. This report covers the 2010 Specialized Mountain Women's Bike line.
The folks from Specialized began the launch with the media being the first guests, followed by presentations to their U.S. dealers (Specialized Canada did a similar launch in mid-August). With the journalists on site, the focus was the higher end product. There were presentations from engineers and designers and, of course, the opportunity to ride some of the bikes. Before arrival you had to decide if you were going to focus on mountain or road bikes. There was so much to see that it was virtually impossible to do both. My primary focus was the mountain, but I did have a chance to do one brief road ride and also had a glimpse at some of the new road bikes, as reported separately.
Snowbird is a very beautiful ski resort on the outskirts of Salt Lake City. SLC is flat, but head south from the city centre and turn east up a canyon and you quickly enter some serious mountains. After climbing a winding road we were presented with a gorgeous facility nestled in a narrow valley, with massive snow capped peaks towering above. You immediately notice the altitude. At over 8000 feet above sea level, it was a chore to even get the luggage out of the van. Acclimation was the order of the whole event. There wasn't a lot of flat ground here either. You were either going up or down, no matter which way you headed. The nice thing is that Snowbird, which is very, very busy in the winter, is much quieter in the summer. The roads are lightly traveled, there are lots of mountain bike trails, and there were lots of meeting rooms available for the presentations. The inside joke was that it was selected for its sheer absence of golfers. Specialized set up one tent up above the resort for the demo road bikes and another below for the mountain bikes. Check out the photos to get an idea of the beauty of the location. Talk about a kid in the candy store. Make a request for the bike you wanted to ride and the Specialized techies would set it up for you and away you went for a ride. Then go back and repeat as desired. Way fun.
There were a lot of different themes to this launch. Instead of a massive article we're going to split it up into a short series of articles, with this one focussing on Women's Mountain Bikes.
Specialized has become quite serious about the mountain bike offerings for women as they enter the 2010 model year. There are going to be 18 bikes for women, ranging from S-Works (racing) to hardtails. The one thing I was pleased about was that they resisted the urge to call the bikes something like “Stumpjumper Women's”. Each woman's specific bike has its own name. It's more work and more hassle to come up with these names, but it properly makes a distinction.
That distinction is also borne out in the design of the bikes. There are now women specific tube sets (smaller diameter + less stiffness), geometry (especially standover height), suspension tuning, bars, saddles, grips, tires and more that I'm probably missing. Leading much of the presentation was Rachael Lambert from Specialized head office. Lambert has had a great deal of input into the design of these bikes. Rachael explained that one of the key things that they set out to do was to get the bikes as light as possible, but not to assume the same criteria as it would be for men.
Case in point was the first bike presented to us, the S-Works Safire. Here we have a 10.71kg (23.6 pound) cross country trail bike with 120mm (5”) of travel rear and 115-140mm of adjustable travel in the front. This carbon beauty is a super serious trail bike that would easily be labeled as all-mountain. It was a good introduction to some of the key features in Specialized 2010.
Immediately noticeable was the head tube. There was a very defined taper from top to bottom, to the point where the head tube is best described as flared. This requires a bit of explanation. Specialized has upgraded many of their higher end forks to use an integrated carbon crown and steerer tube that uses 1.5” diameter races on the bottom and 1 1/8” on the top. Pretty trick stuff with the end result of lots of strength and carbon's absence of extra weight. On the Safire the fork is designated as the Future Shock S140TA. Tuning is woman specific. The AFR rear shock has thresholds that have been optimized for women riders. In Specialized-speak they call this approach TSI - “Total Suspension Integration”. Completing the picture are some slick looking Roval wheels with straight pull spokes. The end result is a very fast looking bike.
Then it got faster. Next up was the S-Works Era, which is a full suspension cross-country racing bike. Travel has decreased to 100mm but the weight has also dropped to 9.67kg (21.3 pounds). Like the Safire, the Era is using SRAM derailleurs, but this time it is the new XX mated to a Specialized S-Works FACT carbon triple crank. The other visual difference is that rather than a vertically mounted rear shock actuated by a rocker linkage, the Era gets a shock in line with the seat stays. According to suspension manager Mick McAndrews this provides the best smoothness possible for this amount of suspension travel. The end result is super race bike, already being used on the World Cup Circuit. [Note: post-Launch, Lene Byberg took the first ever World Cup victory for Specialized on a women's-specific model in Bromont, Quebec, with the Era.]
But S-Works is in the upper spectrum of things, particularly in terms of pricing. For the budget conscious time we are in, the majority of riders are not going to be looking at these elite bikes. However, the design of the super bikes has trickled down to other models. There are non-S-Works Safires and Eras, and other models as well. Much more affordable, but still benefiting from the woman specific approach, are the Myka FSR and Myka HT. They were described as “price point bikes”, with specific alloy tube sets and suspension tuning. The Myka FSR gets 100m of travel front and rear and the Myka HT gets 80mm of travel on 13 and 15 inch bikes and 100mm of travel of 17 and 19 inch bikes. It's a pretty serious approach to what is essentially a Deore level bike.
It's also a far cry from the old days of “pink it and shrink it”, where a men's bike was only modestly tweaked for the women's market. You can still get some women's specific pink stuff, but this time in a completely positive context. This time it's for a cause. Since 2007 Specialized has offered product and support to the tune of $600,000 to the Susan B. Komen for the Cure fight against breast cancer. For 2010 there are a number of products with pink highlights (Safire Comp bike, shoes, helmet, clothing), of which Specialized will donate 10% to the Komen Foundation. It was a really good news way to end the day's first presentation.