Specialized was an early innovator in mountain bike full suspension. Over the years the range has evolved to encompass a huge variety of riding styles and rider preferences, from XC race to freeride. The FSRxc Comp, with 100mm (4in) of travel at both ends and a spec that emphasises reliable function and sensible weight, is aimed at all-day trail riders more interested in efficiency than big-hit ability.
The basic principle of the FSRxc Comp's suspension design - a linkage-activated shock and a rear wheel pivoting independently of the swingarm - hasn't changed since the very first FSR in the early 90s. The Horst Link helps separate the suspension from pedalling and braking forces. Specialized owns the Horst Link patent and, in the past, it gave their bikes a distinct advantage over much of the competition. Advances in shock design have levelled the playing field, but it's still a sound design.
The suspension concept may not have changed much, but Specialized have made full use of modern frame manufacturing technology in the FSRxc Comp. A combination of hydroformed tubes, neat forgings and careful shock and pivot placement make for a very tidy looking chassis that's unlikely to scare off even hardtail diehards.
The curved, complex profile down tube helps disperse stress away from the vulnerable head tube area and gives the bike a stiff backbone, while a cunning casting replaces a section of the seat tube and gives the shock room to work. Finishing standards are very high, and the only criticism we have is that mud clearance at the rear is on the tight side for UK riding.
A Specialized-tuned X-Fusion air shock holds up the rear end, offering adjustable rebound and compression damping and a lockout lever. Pointing everything in the right direction up front is a RockShox Recon coil fork, with all the usual adjustable bells and whistles and also 100mm (4in) of travel. Air and coil shocks don't always work well together, but this is a surprisingly fluid coil fork that feels perfectly at home mated with an air-sprung rear end.
Specialized have a long history of manufacturing their own components, so it's no surprise to see the FSRxc Comp sporting own-brand parts, from the front hub to the seatpost and saddle. Tyres are another Specialized speciality, and the big volume, dual-compound Resolutions offer loads of grip and buzz-absorbing comfort at the expense of mudclogging clearances around stays and fork braces. Avid Juicy Three discs combine plenty of power with a great feel at the lever, while a full Shimano transmission gives standard-setting gear shifts.
Comfortable, efficient, day-long riding is what the FSRxc Comp promises - and delivers, with very few caveats. The steeply sloping top tube disguises a surprisingly roomy ride set-up, despite a short stem. With plenty of bail-out room and a comfy stretch to the handlebars, it's easy to get settled quickly. The FSRxc Comp is one of those bikes that just feels right - a rare combination of spot-on geometry, contact points and components.
These initial positive impressions are reinforced out on the trail. Grippy tyres, reasonable weight and a wide range of gears make light work of most climbs, although the short stem and highish front end force a forward weight shift on steep sections. What's more noticeable is the surprisingly active feel of the rear end. Although it's a characteristic of the Horst Link system, it can come as a shock - no pun intended - to riders more used to recent platform valved set-ups. The upside is that the rear wheel tracks happily over everything in its path, but the downside is that enthusiastic pedal mashing will have many riders reaching for the lockout lever on the rear shock.
Throw the FSRxc Comp into a section of fast, tight singletrack with some enthusiasm, and that active rear end starts to pay dividends. While it may be a little travel-deprived and less overtly burly than some of the allmountain- styled competition, this is a bike that'll comfortably hold its own in most situations. The willing fork, a placeable front end - courtesy of that short stem - and nimble-feeling chassis mean you'll likely be pushing your own limits before you find the bike's.