Specialized use freeride legend Darren Berrecloth to help design their range of progressive hardtails. The P.2 is dirt jump focused but, with eight gears out back, we wanted to see if it could cut the mustard as an everyday play bike.
It definitely ruled the roost at the dirt jumps and at the pump track. Ultimately though, it's just too compact to be ridden anywhere, and the harshly sprung fork hinders downhill performance.
Ride & handling: More happy down the jumps than up in the hills
The wee P’ certainly isn’t cut out for a life in the hills. The compact frame coupled with just 110mm of seatpost height adjustment mean sitting down isn’t an option. This rules this bike out for anything hinting at cross-country, or even getting about on the bike comfortably. Out of the saddle climbing is just as hard, because the short 35mm stem forces your wrists into an awkward position and the tyres give up on grip at the first hint of mud.
This bike is way more focused on hooning around than being a form of transport. Take it for a play in the woods and your push up is instantly rewarded. The super-short stem and reasonable width of the bars (680mm) make for excellent steering control and feedback. Add to this a reasonably slack head angle of 68.5 degrees and a long top tube, and things are coming together nicely.
Then throw a super-tight back end into the mix and you have some fun handling. There’s great turn-in from the slack head angle, good body position between pedals and bars thanks to the long front end/short stem combo, and a manual-hungry short back end allows rapid acceleration.
The short-travel fork is sprung very hard and is unforgiving in anything rocky or rooty, and hammers your wrists off any drop. The bike encourages you to ride with your weight biased over the rear wheel, so that you’re controlling your turning movement with your feet as much as with your steering. Meanwhile, the unweighted, harshly sprung front end is free to jackhammer through without pummelling you.
In pump tracks and through dirt jumps the P.2 is instantly at home, offering fantastic control in the air. The fork doesn’t wallow between jumps on rhythm sections or when hammered round the pump track, and the short back end helps to build speed and get extra pop out of jumps. The only nod to the budget price is the extra weight it’s carrying due to the eight gears. Otherwise it feels like a thoroughbred jump bike.
As it stands though, the Specialized P.2 is a bit of an anomaly. It has gears, which should make it a useful everyday bike, but it’s just too small to ride any distance. It’s superb in the jumps, but do you really want to be lugging the extra weight of all those gears if you aren’t using them? If you’re a bandit of the air, then we'd recommend saving £100 and getting the singlespeed P.1 version. If you need something a little more versatile, look elsewhere.
Frame & equipment: Quality frameset with great dirt jump geometry & reasonable spec
Specialized have chosen frame tubing from mighty Birmingham-based bike pipe company Reynolds, whose 520 chromoly tubing is made under licence in Taiwan. Both the top and down tubes are double butted and joined to a slick head tube, housing an integrated headset. The dropouts are a horizontal, slotted type with neat, inboard mounted chain tensioners.
The rear mech is attached to a hanger, which fits on the rear wheel axle, keeping the rear mech in a perfect position. Unfortunately, it makes removing and refitting the rear wheel an absolute nightmare – you need the help of a Cytech-qualified octopus just to get the thing back together! A tidy brace tube on the disc brake side between the seatstay and chainstay eliminates any brake-squeal-inducing vibration, a common trait of steel frames.
The frame isn’t especially tall, but the long front end gives an effective top tube length of a whopping 23in. This is coupled with short chainstays, which are just 15.5in in the middle of their adjustment range. The wood effect paint and tattoo graphics were less than universally appreciated.
Up front, 80mm (3.1in) of travel through a Marzocchi DJ3 fork shows the P.2’s dirt jump focus, as do the Fuse chromoly two-piece cranks. Specialized’s own branded chainguide is very adjustable and is attached solidly to the frame’s ISCG mounts. SRAM X.4 shifters swap the chain through a range of 11-28 sprockets via the X.5 rear mech.
Avid’s BB5 cable actuated disc brakes are easy to set up and offer superb lever feel and power, which is something not always associated with cable disc brakes. The brake and gear cables have usefully been left long enough for a full barspin in either direction.