Posted by Editoress on 07/23/12
As always, Specialized has a huge number of updates every year, so we have broken it into categories: Road, Mountain, Women, Cyclo-cross and Body Geometry. This is our third and final installment of the 2013 Specialized Launch, covering Women, Cyclo-cross and Body Geometry product lines (Road and Mountain Bike have already been reported, and can be found in our Reviews section).
We are now into the time of year for the bike companies to start introducing to the press the latest and (hopefully) greatest new stuff they have for the cycling enthusiast. Some of this stuff has already been discussed online, based on sightings from the pro's bikes through the earlier part of the season. There has been much speculation, but now we get the official word and all those details that previously weren't up for discussion.
Specialized is one of the biggest innovators in the market - one of their slogans is actually 'Innovate or Die'. Usually, the S team brings together journalists from all over the world to some interesting location and sends us back to school for three days. However, it is a school any rider would enjoy.
This year, we were at Snowbird, a ski resort outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. While the 8000+ feet (2400+ metres) left us a little short of breath, the trails and roads were everything that could be desired for riding. We started each day with the school part - seminars with the product designers covering new products and updates from the previous year, while the afternoon was open to riding either road or mountain; plus, for this year, cyclo-cross.
This year, the Specialized women's line celebrates it's tenth anniversary. Specialized was one of the first major bike companies to introduce a separate women's product line, with its own designers and products, rather than slightly modified men's models.
Last year, the big women's bike introduction was the Fate - a race level hardtail 29er. U.S. pro Lea Davison from Team Specialized will likely be riding it at the Olympics in a few weeks. This year, the Fate comes in an S-Works version, which Davison has been racing on the World Cup circuit all season. It comes as small as a 15" frame size, bringing 29er pro quality to a broader range of women.
Also new for women in the mountain bike department is the Jett aluminum 29er (three models) and a three pound lighter version of the Ariel aluminum cross trail model.
The S-Works Ruby is the first S-Works level road bike
While the introduction of the S-Works Fate is a big upgrade, the biggest bike announcement was on the road side, with the new S-Works Ruby. Redesigned completely, this is, effectively, an S-Works Roubaix for women. The new geometry comes in five sizes, ranging from 44 cm to 57 cm. It comes with the full Shimano Dura Ace Di2 system and a one piece, full carbon 1.125" fork. Zertz inserts are built in back and front for shocking damping. The S-Works model comes with the COBL GOBL-R carbon leaf spring shock that appears also on the S-Works Roubaix SL4.
The Tarmac-equivalent road race model, the Amira SL4, has few changes from last year, when it underwent a complete revision. This is the bike ridden by the highly successful Specialized-lululemon squad. Unfortunately, Canada's Clara Hughes does not ride that bike; she rides an S-Works Tarmac SL4. The reason? Specialized continues to max out at a 56 cm frame size for the Amira (the new Ruby is the first to go as big as 57 cm). Specialized is at the forefront developing women-specific bicycle equipment, so why, after years of asking, they continue to give the same "it's coming" vague answer to a larger size to complete the line is both puzzling and disappointing.
The Hairport on the Aspire and Andora helmets is designed for ponytails
In non-bike product, Specialized is introducing two new women's helmets with the Hairport fit system for, you guessed it, the large number of women who ride with their hair tied back in a ponytail. The Aspire is for the road and Andora for mountain. Both come with the new TriFix strap adjustment system.
Specialized has also developed accessory and clothing collections for women who want to buy a complete matching kit. The SL Road collection contains clothing, the Aspire helmet and the S-Works road shoe, while the RBX collection is less race-oriented, with clothing, a helmet, shoes, bottle/cage, pump and cycle computer. In addition, there is a Works kit of essential accessories: seatpack, pump, tire levers, cage/bottle and cycle computer. All are colour coordinated.
Cyclo-cross continues to grow in the U.S. in leaps and bounds, and, with the Worlds coming to Louisville, Kentucky, next January, it was the appropriate time for Specialized to get serious about a 'Cross line. There are three models in the new Crux line - two carbon and one aluminum. Specialized pros Todd Wells and Ned Overend have been working closely with the engineers to design them.
Specialized has fully entered the cyclo-cross market with the new carbon Crux
All will be offered in both disc and cantilever versions - now that the UCI has legalized the use of discs for cyclo-cross racing. The design is 'Cross-specific, with shorter stays, recessed bottle bosses and a groove under the down tube (the Love Handle) for holding the bike when running. All come with internal cable routing. SRAM Red and Shimano Ultegra Di2 component groups are spec'd.
As far as I'm concerned, the Body Geometry program at Specialized is one of their most important and least publicized products. Body Geometry is comprised of two distinct areas - hard goods that have been designed to offer a proper fit for comfort and efficiency; and an in-store fitting program of the type that every rider should undergo to make better, and more enjoyable, use of their bike.
Specialized does more scientific testing of new products than most of the bike industry
Specialized is not the only bike company to develop products designed to make the riding experience more enjoyable - pretty much every company has recognized the need for research and development in this area. However, Specialized was one of the earliest - and is one of the more science-based - in this area, bringing in consulting specialists for everything from shoe and saddle design, to bike geometry, to bike fit. The catch phrase at the 2013 launch was 'Be One With Your Bike'.
The main takeaway from the BG seminar was that, more than ever, Body Geometry permeates every new product or upgrade at Specialized. It may not be as sexy as a new set of wheels, but it will have a greater impact on your riding than anything else you can do.
The new S-Works road shoe exemplifies Specialized's research into better fit for performance
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