The new-for-08 Pitch is Specialized's aluminium version of the ground-breaking Enduro SL. It delivers the same performance bang for a lot fewer bucks.
A couple of years ago Specialized redesigned their popular Enduro all-mountain machine from the ground up. The result - the Enduro SL - redefined the 150mm travel bike in terms of stiffness, weight and all-round useability. Trouble was, it was out of reach of most riders, hence the Pitch - a simpler, stripped-out, bare bones machine based on the same proven geometry. Is this really the poor man's Enduro SL?
Ride: climbs like a short-travel bike, descends like a demon
Specialized has spent well over a decade building variations on its FSR four-bar suspension design. From race winning cross-country speed machines to gravity-fuelled, boulder munching freeride sleds, they've had plenty of experience of getting the most out of the four-bar linkage and Horst chainstay pivot. The Pitch has a lot to live up to.
Making a whole 150mm (5.9in) of rear wheel travel behave itself on a bike that's designed to be ridden all day isn't as easy as it looks, but the combination of Fox's ProPedal damping platform and Specialized's long experience has paid off.
Despite the lack of its Enduro cousin's cunning compression damping system, the Pitch pedals up hills more like a 100mm (3.9in) bike with a bit of excess weight around the middle than a 150mm (5.9in) descending demon.
There's never any sense of excess sag or wallow. The rear wheel patters over everything from small roots to large, square-edged rocks, leaving the rider to concentrate on keeping the power down. It's an impressive feat.
But it's when you point this bike downhill, of course, that it really comes into its own.
Accurate, stable steering and seemingly limitless quantities of progressive rear wheel travel help keep the wheels planted on terra firma regardless of the provocation. Pick the rough line and ride it faster than the smooth line, because at the end of the day that's the point of this bike.
It may lack the ultimate poise, low weight and smooth lines of its Enduro cousin, but it's a 150mm bargain.
Chassis: the Enduro SL on an aluminium budget
Much of the Enduro SL's impressive weight and stiffness gains came from careful use of carbon fibre for its main frame. The bad news is there's no room in the budget to give the Pitch Pro a sexy Formula One chassis.
The good news is that it doesn't matter too much unless you're a wealthy weight weenie. Although it won't win any slimmer-of-the-year awards, the Specialized's all-up heft is right on the money for a mid-travel machine at this price.
The frame design mimics much of the Enduro SL's swoopy curviness in aluminium form, with a backbone made from a curved-at-each-end down tube and a radically dropped top tube with a braced seatmast. There's only room for one bottle mount, but that's one more than on some full suspension bikes.
At the rear it's business as usual with Specialized's proven FSR suspension set-up. Asymmetric chainstays pivot roughly in line with the middle chainring - just behind the bottom bracket. The neat direct mount front mech pivots as the chainstays move, removing the need for a seat tube mount and eliminating swingarm/derailleur clearance issues.
Prominent pivots at the classic Horst location connect the chainstays to the seatstays, while the Fox Float RP2 shock is driven via a tidy forged linkage. It's well finished and, surprisingly for a bike at the long end of the mid-travel class, manages to look quite elegant.
Steering and frontline rock-swallowing duties are handled by 140mm (5.5in) of RockShox Pike travel. All the adjustable niceties are here, from compression and rebound damping to a lockout switch, so knob twiddlers and the bob-obsessed are well catered for, although the coil spring isn't as easily to tune for rider weight as an air spring would be.
The U-turn travel adjust feature is also a welcome feature on a bike with this much travel, but the stiff feel and hard edges of the dial mean that only the determined rider is likely to use it regularly.
Components: SRAM with one great swap
It seems that SRAM's ubiquitous X-9 transmission set rules the roost at this price, and the Pitch Pro doesn't buck the trend. Specialized has seen fit to substitute a pukka Shimano Deore chainset though, which translates into the best front shifting this side of, well, XTR.
Avid's Juicy Three SL brakes with big rotors haul the whole lot reliably to a halt, chunky tyres with wide-spaced knobs offer great gobs of grip with plenty of cushioning, and Specialized's own brand finishing kit is all good-looking and well finished - no complaints.