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November 26/12 17:52 pm - 2013 Specialized Carve Expert 29

Posted by Editoress on 11/26/12

It was mid-October and I got home to find a Purolator sticker on the door. I wasn’t expecting anything so it was a bit of a head scratcher. I travelled to the north end of town to collect whatever was being sent to me. I was really curious. Out comes a bike box from the warehouse. It’s from Specialized. Huh? I wasn’t expecting a bike from them. Then I check the end of the box and it is a 2013 Specialized Carve Expert 29. This was very odd.

You see I had done a review of the 2012 Specialized Carve Expert 29 back in the June . It was a good bike but not without some issues, particularly the weight. It really functioned well, but at 12.4 kg (27 pounds 7 ounces) without pedals it was a bit of a load to get around.




I would suspect that Specialized took this criticism to heart because in early July Rob had been at the Specialized Mountain Bike 2013 Product Launch in Utah and emailed me that the Carve he saw had dropped a lot of weight. In July his report on the Product Launch mentioned a drop of 3.5 pounds. I guess the intent of this surprise shipment to me was to show what they had done.

To back track a bit:  the Carve series was three models of 29er hardtail new for Specialized in 2012. The three models were the Carve Comp 29, the Carve Expert 29 and the Carve Pro 29, all of which can be had for prices below $2500. The same frame is used in all three, with the differences coming in the component spec. The component differences were in such areas as the fork, derailleurs and shifters. Items such as the wheels and cockpit and saddle were in common.

Getting the bike out of the box yielded one big surprise. This bike was all black. Everything. You can barely see the Specialized logo. The paint scheme (if you can call it that) is a combo of gloss and flat paint. I thought it looked cool at first but, as time went by, it seemed kind of dull. I’d argue that the black and white paint scheme from the 2012 was more attractive.

However, you don’t judge a machine just by its paint. Even unassembled the 2013 Carve Expert felt lighter. Enough with the suspense - the 2013 weighs 11.5 kg (25 pounds 8 ounces) without pedals or the bar mounted fork lockout. A fairly substantial drop for a bike that is going to retail for the same price (suggested $2000 CDN). So the question is “Is the 2013 a better bike?”

From what I can tell the frame remains unchanged from last year - a very nice hydroformed, multi-shaped aluminum that Specialized calls M4SL. The spec says that the frame hasn’t changed but the top tube at the seat tube visually looks tiny. Our test bike was again a 53 cm (21”).

The next big change was the fork. The suspension travel has gone up to 100mm from last year’s 80mm. This was one of my complaints with the 2012 Carve Expert. It had a lot of weight without that much suspension. For 2013 you get a RockShox Reba RL complete with the Push-Loc bar mounted lockout. It has again an alloy steerer and is tapered from 1 1/2” to 1 1/8”. The geometry of the frame has changed to accommodate the longer travel.




The drivetrain has been tweaked from the 2012 model. Most noticeable is that the crank has gone from Shimano Deore triple to a SRAM double with 36/22 rings. This likely saved a bunch of weight. The rear derailleur is still a Shimano XT Shadow but the front is changed to SRAM X7. The cassette is now a SRAM  11-36, 10-speed.








The brakes are completely different from last year’s model. They are Avid Elixir 3R’s. As per last year, the front rotor is 180mm, while the rear is the standard 160mm. The rest of the components are largely unchanged and from Specialized’s in-house product line. The ergonomic grips are now lock on and the seat clamp on the post is touch different. I still find the grips not the most comfortable and the stock bars are still too wide.

The component area I haven’t mentioned are the wheels. In the 2012 they were the source of much of the bike’s weight. The review of the 2012 produced “The front comes in at 2.1 kg (4 pounds 10 ounces) and the rear at 2.8 kg (6 pounds 3 ounces). Combined, that is over 1/3 of the weight of the complete bike.”

The hubs are now Specialized MTB Hi Lo flange, the rims are Carve SL Disc, and 32 black anodized spokes finishes them off. Tires are again the Specialized Ground Control 29x2.1 kevlar bead and they are tubeless ready. Here is where the weight has been dropped. The front is now 1.98 kg (4 pounds 6 ounces) and the rear 2.57 kg (5 pounds 11 ounces).




That is really the story with the 2013 Carve Expert. Where acceleration on the 2012 was somewhat sedate, the 2013 has more snap. If there is one area where you can make a difference on the bike it is with the rotating weight of the wheels. With a 29er the wheel is heavier to begin with so if you can shave a good percentage off, as was done with the 2013, then the benefits will be felt immediately. It was easier to get the 2013 up to speed and certainly the lower overall weight made climbing that much easier.

Changing the fork to 100mm travel paid off in a couple of ways. Not only did the bike have a smoother ride over rough terrain, but the weight distribution/geometry made the front end easier to loft over obstacles than with the 2012. Having a remote lockout on the fork was also a bonus. There was a lockout on last year’s bike, but you had to reach down to the fork crown to move the lever. The Push-Loc functions well. Combine it with the lower weight of the bike and standing climbs were handled well.

I think Specialized has been successful in updating the Carve Expert for 2013. It is a more lively ride and the changes in brake manufacturer and going to a 2x10 didn’t seem to hinder the bike in any way.

Maybe the final decision is the price. The suggested retail price is $1799 CDN. I have to think as that we aren’t even in to 2013 yet you’ll be able to find it for a bit less before too long. It was a pretty good deal last year. It’s an even better deal this year.

Now all you need to do is be happy with basic black.

Check out the extensive lineup of Specialized bikes at


Review by Mike Badyk


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