Specialized Safire FSR Expert review£1,999.99

Stumpjumper's sister delivers plenty of giggles per gram

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The Stumpjumper’s sister is a big fun all-day flier with even the frame tubes specifically tweaked for female riders.

The Safire used to be the  D4W (Designed for Women) variant of the Stumpjumper but for 2008, Specialized’s women’s bikes have their own identities and names. The Safire gets all that’s great about the Stumpie in a trimmed-down and customized female incarnation.

Ride: downhill belter than needs coaxing up climbs

The Safire Expert comes to life when you point it downwards. It encourages giggly amounts of big ring action down wide-open rock descents. The relaxed seat angle required some serious weight movement to make the most of the gorgeously supple fork but inspires confidence at high speed.

At a shade under 29lb (13.15kg), the Safire is no heavyweight but it responded sluggishly to racer thuggery on climbs. We improved the wayward front end by dropping the stem to its lowest rise but it still preferred gentle spinning to pedal-mashing ascents.

It took a couple of tarmac spins to figure out the Brain, but we were soon bored and left it wide open on the trail to make the most of the extra grip.

Once we’d tuned the front end in, the Safire made us wonder whether it’s worth pursuing the elusive women’s long travel bike when there are fun, light big day bikes like this on offer.

Frame: trimmed down for lighter riders

With both top and down tubes that are narrower and lighter than the equivalent Stumpjumper, the Safire’s M5 tubing has been designed specifically with smaller female riders in mind.

The new frame gives improved stand-over clearance and with a large effectively equating to a medium and a half Stumpjumper- sizing is spot on.

The rear shock features 120mm (4.72in) of Specialized’s Epic-derived Brain technology.

The inertia valve is tucked away behind the seatstay and adjusts how the shock behaves on smoother terrain yet leaves it alone during pedal input.

The result is not hardtail-stiff but allows you to run the back end virtually locked out on tarmac or fire-roads before coming to life again on rougher trails. Up front a Fox F120 RLC offers full control over air spring weight and compression/rebound damping plus lockout.

Equipment: balanced mix of SRAM, DT Swiss & Specialized

SRAM X9 shifters can feel a bit heavy to initiate, but Shimano Deore LX front and and SRAM X.0 rear mechs help to balance things out a bit.

Custom DT Swiss X420 rims are laced to a 28-hole Specialized front hub to trim some weight, while the rear retains a sensible 32-hole DT Swiss 370. DT Swiss’s RWS skewers and chunky Specialized S-Works The Captain 2.0 treads round off a well thought out wheel set.

Finishing kit is all Specialized’s own, with a rise-adjustable stem and a full width bar giving proper leverage. Stopping duties go to Avid Ultimate 7s. Despite their perfect feel and reach-adjustable levers, 160mm rotors might see heavier riders out-stretching the bike on tougher terrain.

Contact points are personal things, but we couldn’t help wishing that we could transfer some of the padding from the squishy Ariel saddle into the skinny grips to reduce arm pump.

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