Mountain Biking UK - - WRECKED & RATED -

£1,700 Spesh’s new alloy race bike puts the whip into whip­pet

Spe­cial­ized take their XC racing very se­ri­ously, and while their new Epic full-sus­pen­sion bike has grabbed the head­lines, the Chisel is a crazy-quick ad­di­tion to the quiver. In­ter­est­ingly, that speed comes from us­ing cut­ting-edge con­struc­tion tech­niques to pro­duce a re­ally old-school, whip-fast ride.

The frame

It’s striking just how skinny and min­i­mal the frame is. The top tube ta­pers back and goes from square to rounded in a shal­low curve, while the round down tube heads straight down to the threaded BB (which should last longer than a press-fit unit) from a braced and hooked top end. Un­braced chain­stays curve out from the base of the seat tube, then kink to reach the Boost dropouts. The seat­stays take a broad path up past the tyre be­fore curv­ing into the seat tube with­out a brace. Tiny bul­let hole ports on the down tube swal­low the gear cable and brake hose (with two more left open). Bolted axles se­cure the wheels for min­i­mal weight.

The kit

As it’s the most ex­pen­sive bike here, Spesh can af­ford to out­fit the Chisel Ex­pert with 1x11 SRAM GX. Weight watch­ers will likely want to swap the PG-1130 cas­sette for a lighter Shi­mano or SunRace one, but the bike is oth­er­wise stripped out. The 2018 Reba fork gets a leg-top lock­out rather than a heav­ier re­mote, the Race Face crankset uses a di­rect­mount chain­ring and there are only 24 spokes in the front wheel.

We’re glad Spesh haven’t saved weight by fit­ting nar­row rims, be­cause the healthy 25mm in­ter­nal width of the own-brand hoops gives no­tice­able tyre float. The ex­tra money also buys you SRAM Level TL brakes, which are in a dif­fer­ent class to the other an­chors here, in terms of mod­u­la­tion and con­trol, and light too. There’s an old-school feel to the flat bar, 100mm stem and long, skinny 27.2mm seat­post. With Spesh’s new ‘GRIPTON’ rub­ber com­pound and a su­per-sup­ple car­cass, the Fast Trak tyres are much grip­pier than you might ex­pect from a look at their low-pro­file tread.

The ride

Sup­ple is a word that char­ac­terises the whole Chisel char­ac­ter too. Not in a soft and duc­tile way, but with the kind of whip-spring feel we’d nor­mally as­so­ciate with old-school su­per-slim steel and ti­ta­nium. That means you can feel the whole bike dis­tort un­der­neath you as soon as you push the power down through the ped­als. And not just through the BB and rear end – the whole front end twists around like a kid us­ing

chop­sticks if you re­ally get your shoul­ders in­volved.

At this point, many power-me­ter­ob­sessed rac­ers will be won­der­ing why on earth you’d want a race bike to be so flexy you can see it twist out of shape when fol­low­ing from be­hind. Let alone feel it turn al­most liq­uid through the bar and no­tice the equally flexy wheels take dif­fer­ent lines as you dump your sprint through it. With the light­est weight on test, though, the Chisel ac­cel­er­ates with shock­ing speed as each power phase coils it up and then re­leases what­ever en­ergy you feed into it. The com­pli­ance of the chas­sis, tyres and wheels also means fan­tas­tic lev­els of trac­tion as the bike keys into tiny sur­face ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in a way stiffer ma­chines just can’t repli­cate.

That ap­plies through cor­ners too, and, in a sim­i­lar way to the KTM, the frame and wheel flex and long stem/ nar­row bar cock­pit mean you’re less likely to over­load the tyres. If you’re into the whole whip vibe, then the fact you can start the next cor­ner on flat-out fast sin­gle­track be­fore you’ve even fin­ished the last one adds a whole new level of thrill and in­volve­ment.

The way the Chisel soaks up ground shock, from tiny rat­tles to se­ri­ous rock swipes, means it flows across rough ter­rain with an al­most e-bike/plus-tyred level of speed sus­tain. That makes it bliss­fully com­fort­able on longer rides too, so the longer we rode it, the more we fell in love with it.

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