Specialized always make tidy looking bikes and the FSR XC comes from a long lived and competent suspension stable. Shock and fork problems mean this one’s no thoroughbred, though, overshadowing its otherwise competent – if not exactly exciting – handling.
Ride & handling: Handles okay on smooth stuff but poor suspension lets it down
It’s never a good sign with a new bike when you stop several times on the ﬁrst ride to make sure there’s not a brake or wheel bearing dragging. Unfortunately, that’s what every tester did at some point with the FSR XC, because it eats far more rider effort than it should.
Some of this lack of pace and excess of puff comes from the relatively slow-rolling tyres, but the FSR XC Comp also seems to soak up a lot of power somewhere between the pedals and the trail.
This is particularly noticeable when you’re putting down the power, with several ghost shifts caused by twist in the frame at maximum torque. There’s more twist from the RockShox Tora fork up front too, and it tripped up unexpectedly over roots and rocks we hadn’t even registered as issues.
Balancing the wheezing damping was more a case of ﬁnding a workable compromise rather than reliable control. Meanwhile, the coil-sprung internals clank and grind audibly once you start working the front end hard, which hardly helps composure, and the metal inside adds to the bike’s overall weight.
As if this wasn’t sounding bad enough, it’s the X-Fusion rear shock that really lets this bike down. While the stroke is relatively plush and movement over small bumps is easy, damping control is basic at best.
On our bike, the long-handled rebound lever refused to stay put regardless how much we tightened it, meaning we rapidly lost any sort of rebound damping as soon as the trail got rough. You can bodge it to prevent it moving so much, however it’s still not ideal and shouldn’t be happening to begin with.
Frame & equipment: Soft frame and slow tyres eat up effort; Avid Juicys are good for the price
The FSR XC Comp has the same layout and patented FSR four-bar linkage as the more expensive Specialized Stumpjumper, but less travel and a cheaper M4 alloy tubeset. Still, the hydroformed tubes and short, white linkages give it a clean look and the basic suspension architecture is amiably neutral.
The Shimano SLX/Deore transmission mix is adequate for the money. Avid’s old Juicy brakes have more feel and spares availability than most cheap options, while the 200mm front rotor on L and XL bikes increases power.
Specialized provide most of the ﬁnishing kit, including a cunning shimmed stem for angle adjustment. Check the sizing because Specialized bikes typically come out on the small side.