Posts Tagged ‘mtb’

Interbike: A First Look at Specialized Women’s Bikes

September 29, 2010

The Specialized Women’s 2011 bicycle line is very impressive indeed.

Specialized has rethought bike design for women in a three dimensional way; this makes their mountain bikes particularly easy to handle in all types of terrain.  The Specialized MTB bikes I tested are light enough to Manipulate and maneuver,  but  have a weight distribution that made it easy to keep  “tires to the ground”.

For Women’s road bikes, the Amira will be the bike to look out for. This is their premium bike for women. There are a lot of details that make the Amira stand out (it has all the earmarks of a really fast bike). One look at the geometry and you can see how nothing compares. It’s also sexy as anything.

If you are a fan of Specialized already, you need to try one of their 2011 bikes.  But if you’ve had questionable results with their Women’s geometry bikes from previous years (hey, I wasn’t always a big fan), then you really need to try the 2011 series. Specialized really went back, did their homework, and found what really works for Women’s geometry; and in this 2011 line up, it  shows.

In the coming weeks I will have separate reviews of 2011 Women’s Specialized bikes, including:

Myka – A 29er Women’s Hardtail Mountain Bike, with entry level pricing (warning, this bike could make mountain biking addictive).

Safire – Women’s All Mountain Bike (a dream to ride in 2010, with some interesting changes for 2011)

Era – Women’s Cross Country Performance Mountain Bike (2011 line adds a budget conscious carbon fiber level).

Amira – Women’s Premium Road Bike, redesigned again ( the delight is in the details).

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Mountain Bike Review: Specialized Safire Comp Women’s Full Suspension MTB

August 30, 2010

I tested the 2010 Susan Komen Limited Edition Version from Bear Valley Bikes

I tested the Susan Komen Limited Edition Version from Bear Valley Bikes

Small Safire from Bear Valley Bikes

The Demo Bike

TESTED: Specialized Safire Comp, Susan Komen Edition from Bear Valley Bikes

Price: $2400 for the Comp (tested),  to $7400 for the Carbon Fiber Top o’ the Line Pro Version

Bike Size: Small, with an Effective Top Tube of 540mm,  Weight: 27lbs

Rider Size: 5’4″  Back Length: 545mm (find out why that’s important HERE). Weight: 120lbs (135lbs with gear).

Terrain: Big Bear, California

(The Exact Specs can be found on Product Wiki HERE, or BikPedia HERE


Spec Highlights:

  • FRAME: Safire FSR M5 manipulated alloy frame w/ women’s ORE TT/DT, sealed cartridge bearing pivots, DMD front, replaceable derailleur hanger, disc only, 120mm travel
  • REAR SHOCK: Fox Triad, custom on-the-fly 3-position switch 1) lock out 2) Open 3) ProPedal pedal assisting damping, rebound adj., 7.25×1.75″
  • FORK: Fox F130 RL, 130mm travel, compression and rebound adj. w/ LO, alloy steerer
  • FRONT BRAKE: Custom Avid Elixir SL, alloy backed semi-met organic pads, 160mm rotor
  • REAR BRAKE: Custom Avid Elixir SL, alloy backed semi-met organic pads,S/M: 140mm, L: 160mm rotor
  • BRAKE LEVERS: Custom Avid Elixir SL Hydraulic, tool-less adj. reach
  • FRONT DERAILLEUR: Shimano M660 SLX, DMD, top swing, dual pull
  • REAR DERAILLEUR: SRAM X-9, 9-speed, mid cage
  • SHIFT LEVERS: SRAM X-7, aluminum trigger

SPECIALIZED OFF-ROAD: A REAL WOMAN’S BIKE

Specialized really does want us girls to ride mountain; why else would they make, not just one, but a series of REAL women’s mountain bikes? These bikes are not candy; they are hardcore mountain bikes that a woman can tailor for the way she rides. And on budget . From the sizing, weight and geometry, to budget and componentry, Specialized seems to be one of the “Big Boy” Companies to actual listen to what we women mountain bikers have asked for; then they stepped it up a notched and gave us some dream bikes, like the Safire, which is available in Carbon. (Oh, how I would love to test that bike!) But what I tested while I was in Big Bear CA, was the more budget conscious “Comp” level of the Safire. It seems that Specialized Comp level is a perfect Beginner/Intermediate bike, due to the “bang for your buck” quality of the components.

But what draws me in to this bike, is the unbelievably correct geometry. It is absolutely spot on. Somehow they managed to figure out how to make the head tube angle slack enough to handle any downhill (at 68.5°), yet not sluggish on tight corners and uphill.

Descending

At first I was a little unsure of it, so I picked my way down some trails. Well, that’s not what this bike wants to do. It wants to go fast, and it told me so. Steep downhill with roots and rocks means nothing to this bike, and given a chance, and some well guided direction, the Safire will glide down the trail pretty effortlessly, without “tugging me down the trail” the way some bikes do when they’re longer in the cockpit. Cornering was so easy, even at speed off-camber. The tight geometry made even tight corners smooth and fun. After a few trail runs, this baby felt as secure as a sofa, on the downhill.

Climbing

But how does it perform, going uphill? I really thought that the slack head tube angle combined with the 130mm fork meant a lousy ride uphill. SO wrong, was I. Specialized figured out how to make the head tube just a little shorter, which allows a woman to move her weight further forward for the climb, without losing traction in the rear.

Out of the saddle on climbs, I was able to get over the front end without leaning on it, and the front end never felt like it was was trying to force me to sit down (which also happens when a head tube is too tall). The kicker for me? When I stood up and tried to give it pedal bob, it responded by smoothing out the ride. I felt none of that “walking in molasses” feeling that you can get with a lesser suspension system.

Of course for longer climbs it’s very easy to lock out the suspension which completely eliminates all bob. Sorry Bob.

I would heartily recommend the Specialized Safire for women who would like a light all-mountain to cross country bike. This is a fun bike to ride.

In the last few years, I’ve demo’ed MANY mountain bikes directed towards women, but this is the first one that’s good enough for a “Girl Meets Bike” recommendation.  No, I don’t work for Specialized or anything like that; I’m just a girl who really appreciates good design.  I’m looking forward to testing other frames before I decide on which full -suspension bike is “The One” for me, but this is DEFINITELY in the running.  I’m hope to try the Myka FSR, which is Specialized’s first Women’s Full Suspension 29er.

Proper suspension set up is vital to truly experience what a bike has to offer. Without it, even the most amazing bike can feel like a dud.  Many thanks to Clay and Derek of Bear Valley Bikes for setting up the suspension beautifully for me. A review of their Bike Shop is coming very soon…

Girl Meets Safire, the Bike:


For those of you that want the quick and dirty version, here are some thoughts from the day.

  • Women’s geometry, 130 mil suspension, fairly light. Has my dream come true?
  • Why does the chairlift have to be so friggin’ cold!
  • Take your hand off the brakes..the brakes.
  • OH SH* , oh, no, I’m OK.
  • Trust the steep…Wow, do I love this bike.
  • the bike wants to go fast.
  • OH SH* no, I’m… Actually, that was fun. Should do that again!
  • Wheeeee!!!!
  • Stomping it! It can handle uphills!
  • Love these trails.
  • Love this bike!
  • Comes in carbon, there’s a 29er, comes in carbon, there’s a 29er.

Sullivan Canyon – Ghostly Memories of a Singletrack That Once Was

December 23, 2009

Here’s a video going up Sullivan Canyon, since the bulldozers have trimmed it down to a gravel superhighway. My husband was kind enough to speed up trail in the featureless sections, so that I could show what they’ve done to the formerly fun riding features. I know that it will make sense to people that have ridden up Sullivan Canyon, but I hope it’s entertaining enough for the general populace.

Music:  Clocks by Coldplay/ Buena Vista Social Club, remix on Rhythms del Mundo: Cuba

I have fond memories of Sullivan Canyon. It was the first trail I ever lived through hell on,  and laughed all through it. I remember passing my bike down a ten foot cliff, because the rains of 2005 washed everything away. There was still water up to your hubs. I point to it at 4:07 in the video.

I remember when this became my favorite trail. The constant changes in the trail from both rain and “first rider” ingenuity, made it fun and challenging (if not a bit risky). Though I am saddened by Sully’s lack of immediate challenge, I look forward to the new obstacles that water and earth will surely form in this beautiful place.

Just A Girl On a Single Speed

This is in Big Sycamore Canyon, on Guadalasca and Two Foxes trail. It had been a while since I’d been on my single speed mountain bike, so I had a few difficulties.

Just A Guad

Music: Just A Girl by No Doubt

How to size up a Mountain Bike – girl’s quick and dirty version

December 16, 2009

Who would ever think that you would hear those words put together: Women’s Geometry Mountain Bike. It is sweet music to the ears of women who have been riding their ill-fitting mountain bikes for years, and enjoying mountain biking in spite of problems like endo-ing off a bike that’s too big. But it seems as if all of a sudden, for 2010 many manufacturers have created real, “made for a woman’s  three dimensional body” proportioned bikes. There are many to speak of, but how do you figure out your size?

First, you should ask yourself

What are you using this bike for?

What kind of terrain is in your area?

Here are a few things to think about:

If you live in an area with a lot of quick up and downs, consider rapid rise shifters.

If your live in an area with roots, and rocks, and flowy singletrack, full suspension can be a godsend.

If you plan to shuttle, and/or live in a very steep area, consider a bike with a bit more travel (4-5 inches of suspension), and a more slack geometry.

If you have sustained sometimes never ending hill climbs, mostly smooth trail or fire road, or if budget is a big concern, then consider a hardtail.

Weight Matters

Tips for Light Riders (150-120 lbs) and Very Light Riders (under 120 lbs)

Don’t let anyone tell you that the weight of the bike is not the most important thing to you;  you on average, weigh two thirds to one half of the guy standing next to you. For controlling the front end, you only have (again, on average), about one third of his upper body strength. That front end has to be lighter for you, otherwise your shoulders will ache unreasonably, (and in a group you’ll probably be the first to tire). Steer clear of bikes that are over 30 lbs., unless it is a downhill bike.

If you are 120 lbs. or less,

Be sure to research which forks and rear-end suspension systems allow fine adjustments for your weight. This is VERY important, as there are still many that do not cater to the 120-90 lb. range.

Unless you have unbelievable strong shoulders, try to stay under the 25 lb mark. Yes, do ask for it to be weighed in front of you. Or better yet, bring your own scale. (Yes it’s true; bike shops guys love me.)

Size Matters (or not)

The labels are at best confusing, and at worst, deceiving. For instance, most men who are 5’10” have no problem finding a bike: since they are average height for a guy, they pick out a medium. OK, that makes sense.

But if you are a woman of average height (5’4″), EVEN IF IT IS A WOMAN’S bike, you will most probably fit a small or XS. But it’s possible that even the women’s small will be far too large for you. I can think of at least two women’s mtb bikes that cannot sell to 53% of the women’s market because they don’t make their women’s bikes small enough to fit women average height or shorter.

So how can I tell if it’s my  size? The best and easiest way that I have found, is with a secret weapon: with my imaginary friend, the Effective Top Tube (or EFF).

Effective Top Tube is the horizontal distance between the center of the head tube, and the center of the seat tube. Much like fitting a backpack, If you measure your torso from C7 down to the Sacrum (which is a few inches longer than the backpack measurement), you’ll have a wonderful guide to which bike will likely fit you well.

So this Woman’s Specialized Era fits a woman of average height in a Small; in fact, this size would statistically fit the majority of women. Do the buyers in local bike shops take note of this when ordering? One would hope so.

Have a friend measure your back with a cloth measuring tape, so that the measurement hugs the contours of your back. They can locate your C7 vertebra, because it is the big lump at the base of you neck, when you tilt your head forward. Then have them contour straight down to the bottom of the spine (there should be a little protuberance at the bottom, that’s the Sacrum). Cut a piece of non-stretchable string exactly this length. and take it with you when going to the bike shop. If you see a bike that you think will fit you, use the string to make sure it is the same size as the effective top tube. The Effective Top Tube measurement of each bike is also available under the “geometry” section of the bike information, and most brands list them online, usually in centimeters. Using this as a simple measuring tool can keep you clear of bikes that are not your size.

A Few Choice Words About Standover Height

Unless you ride your bike with both feet on the ground, it’s really not that important, and much less important than spine measurement.  Just make sure you can stand over your bike.

Geometry Matters

This is the easy part. Your geometry depends upon where you live, or the terrain where you will ride. Not sure? Check out what bikes other women ride in your area. Or go to http://forums.mtbr.com, and look up your state or country. If you search around, you’re bound to find out some information about what bikes (i.e., light cross country, single speed, downhill bikes, etc.) people are riding in your area.

Three-Peat World mtb Champion Rebecca Rusch talks with “girl meets bike”

October 2, 2009

You should know Rebecca

Rebecca Rusch is an incredible mountain biker. Yes, she is a crazy adventure racer, but she’s also dominated Women’s Endurance Mountain Biking for a while. Recently, she won the 24 Hour Solo World Mountain Bike Championship (for the 3rd year in a row) then just three weeks later, won the Leadville 100.  This is the signature of a true champion: the ability to extend their peak season and win. And her wins over the past eight years have been staggeringly good. So my number one question isn’t for Rebecca Rusch. It is for sports news and cycling news outlets. My core question is:

Why isn’t Rebecca Rusch more well known? Why isn’t the media making a HUGE fuss about her? Isn’t this a great role model for your girls?

Girl Meets Bike Meets Rebecca

I have to wonder if my questions showed Rebecca how much I’m NOT a “reporter”. Each one seem to take her slightly off guard, and at first I wondered if she understood why I was asking such “different” questions. But after a few, she got it.  It’s because, when talking to women riders who aren’t necessarily racers, they have VERY different questions from those being asked of her, in Pro journalism. As we sat down outside of Interbike’s Specialized booth she welcomed the more fancy free questions of a “girl meets bike” interview. What I found in Rebecca was a warm and approachable woman, with a passion for sharing the biking experience with other women. Truly, she is a valuable role model for getting girls on bikes.IMG_0485

Girl Meets Bike: How many bikes do you have? Do they have names?

Rebecca Rusch: “Ha, just like shoes, you can never have too many.” Counting for a sec, then “Eight. I think…some have names, others haven’t earned one yet.”

GMB: Which is your favorite?

Rebecca Rusch: I’m favoring the 29er at the moment, that’s the one I rode in the Leadville 100.

GMB: Oh (that’s a rather tall person’s bike, so I asked) How tall are you?

Rebecca Rusch: 5’7″

GMB: Ah, so you can fit a 29er without much problem.

Rebecca Rusch: Yeah, it fits me fine.

GMB: How does it ride?

Rebecca Rusch: Smoother, faster on doubletrack; good for a course like the Leadville 100. But I also love my Era, Specialized’s Women specific model.

GMB: I noticed that your bike has a Bike Pure Spacer on it. Why did you join Bike Pure?

Rebecca Rusch: They approached me, and I liked what they represent. That is, that they concentrate on praising the clean riders of the sport. It’s a very positive message.

GMB: Is doping a particular problem for women’s mountain biking given that upper body strength plays an important role in mtbing?

Rebecca Rusch: I haven’t really seen that, but the prize money is so low for women, that it just wouldn’t be a consideration.

GMB: Is doping likely to become an issue as Women’s Mountain Biking becomes popular?

Rebecca Rusch: I hope not, but I don’t think it’s likely.

GMB: Why Not?

Rebecca Rusch: Because [both monetarily and health-wise], it’s expensive, and it’s not worth the payout.

GMB: What would you say to a U23, or teen that is considering using EPO, CERA, or other kinds of drugs to enhance their performance?

Rebecca Rusch: NOTHING, absolutely nothing, is worth your health.

GMB: What about the issues of Pay Equity? Many of us have heard the argument that women’s racing doesn’t attract enough women, and so the purses should be comparatively lower than the men…

Rebecca Rusch: I do understand the dilemma that promoters are in, but  lower payouts for women is not the answer. An example (of pay inequity) is The 24 Hours of Moab race. The first place woman came in well before the second place man. But second place man got $2600 while the first place woman got only $600. The fact is, it is just as expensive for women to train for a race as men, and the fees to enter aren’t lower. The solution is, have the same payout for first second and third place women, and less payout or no payout beyond that. Women don’t need payouts for tenth place.

GMB: That makes a lot of sense.

GMB: Now, moving on to things more personal:

what’s your favorite saddle, chamois, chamois cream combination?

(She laughs, at first. I realize how I’ve just asked a question completely out of left field, and something a normal journalist would NEVER ask.)

Rebecca Rusch: Well, the saddle has got to be the Toupe, which is a Specialized men’s saddle. Chamois is the BG chamois in the higher quality Specialized women’s shorts. And for Chamois Cream, I use Beljum Budder with a little Noxema (yes, like in Grandma’s medicine cabinet) mixed together.

spec chamtoupebeljum budder

GMB: What’s your favorite outfit off the bike?

Rebecca Rusch: Flip flops, definitely ; with Bermuda shorts.

GMB: What’s your favorite outfit, on the bike?

Rebecca Rusch: My Team kit (her specialized uniform). I’m proud to wear that.

GMB: So Specialized has been good to you, as a sponsor…

Rebecca Rusch: Yes, they’re very supportive of their women riders. They’ve done a lot for women’s fit with BG (Body Geometry) , in both bikes and clothing. I’m very picky about who I choose to sponsor me. I have to believe in the products I use.  Specialized has been a good match for me.

GMB: Do you think women ride differently than men, given that our size, proportions and strengths are different?

Rebecca Rusch: I certainly see a difference in the attitudes of riding between men and women. Men have a more gung-ho ride-it attitude. For me there are some things that are easier and faster to walk, particularly in a race.

But yeah, women ride differently than men. Women ride with more grace and finesse…

GMB: As opposed to “brute forcing” through it?

Rebecca Rusch: Yes.

GMB: Do you think it’s helpful and important for women to ride mountain together, so that they can get visual cues of how to ride certain obstacles and trails?

Rebecca Rusch: Yes, If I’m out riding with other women, we like to stop and figure out how to ride the obstacle.  Sometimes just seeing another woman do an obstacle makes you think, maybe I can do that too. How did she do that? Then you figure it out together.

GMB: So you really appreciate your rides with other women.

Rebecca Rusch: It’s different. It can be more fun. Guys can be competitive, like trying to get me to “race” on a casual ride. But when I’m out riding with the girls, it’s about fun and connecting with my friends. Some of my best rides have been on my Cruiser with friends.

GMB: What’s your favorite trail and what do you do to maintain it?

Rebecca Rusch: I would say the Perimeter trail on Mt. Baldy (Sun Valley ski resort mountain) is my favorite, because I can do the ride from my house, climb 3300 ft of single track to the top on one side of the mountain, then ride down 3300 ft on sweet, rolling single track down.  Takes less than 3 hours and is a killer climbing workout and great descending skills.

I help maintain my local trails through the Wood River Bicycle Coalition. Wood River Bicycle Coalition is our local cycling organization that works on everything from safe routes to school to mtb trail development.  I recently helped put on two short track races that raised money for them to build two pump parks in the valley.  Local sponsors and companies such as Smith Sport Optics as well as a ton of local athletes are involved.

Many thanks to Rebecca Rusch for this interview.

More About Rebecca Rusch

Recently, Rebecca signed with KT Tape, that excellent Kinesiology Tape I reviewed a while back. KT Tape is sponsoring a promotional ride in Central Park, so if you live in New York City, YOU have the chance to ride with Rebecca Rusch!!! Lucky dog! Details about this event are on blog at http://rebeccarusch.wordpress.com/. Her blog is a good read, and maintains the same approachable experience that I had with her.

More about Rebecca Rusch’s career, articles with “REAL” cycling questions, video and other stuff here:

Rebbeca Rusch at I am Specialized

Best At-A-Glance stats: BikePure.org

She talks to VeloNews about Cape Epic HERE

Cool Specialized Video about Cape Epic, an amazing opportunity, in the form of a race, HERE

Two great video interviews of Rebecca Rusch:

CyclingDirt.org

BikeRumor.com


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