Switching to a new rocker link-driven chassis brings the FSR XC in line with Specialized’s other cross-country/trail frames, adding shock placement and seat adjustment advantages in one hit. It’s the smart component mix and overall performance that makes this bike such a vibrant, high value ride though.
Ride & handling: Light, stable and trouble-free
Testing the Pro was a trouble-free and enjoyable experience – if that’s not too lame a description for some really good pushing-the-pace, sliding-the-tyres, sprinting-the-hills rides.
There’s a bit of bob and squat on smooth roads and trails with the ProPedal setting on the rear shock switched off, but traction and consistent connection up technical climbs are excellent. Flick the Triad shock lever across and you light the fire under an already impressively light and responsive ride.
The whole bike feels at least as tight as last year’s Specialized Stumpjumper. While it’s not a super sharp carver, it’s accurate enough to put you where you want to be and keep you there.
And as long as you remember to flick the ProPedal off as soon as it gets rough (otherwise it chatters and dances around all over the place), weight and suspension action are really well balanced.
If you push really hard, the back end squats slightly and slips out very predictably, but it collects itself as soon as you nudge the bars. It feels fun and it’s as though you’re involved without demanding constant corrections.
The extension to 120mm (4.7in) travel lets you maintain more speed and style when the steps and rock sections begin.
The XC Pro isn't as sure-footed and burly feeling as more freeride/'all-mountain'-orientated bikes in the same price range, but it’s a lot faster up climbs and out of corners. The slightly low bottom bracket only got in the way a couple of times in the crags, and served to underline stability the rest of the time.
Frame: New suspension layout pays dividends
The FSR XC range sits below the Stumpjumper FSR but the major differences between them are fairly limited. There’s a folded metal U brace – rather than a hydroformed tube – between the seat tube and sloped top tube and the frame uses Specialized’s M4 rather than M5 blend alloy. But the bike’s impressively low overall weight proves the change in material isn’t a big deal.
There’s reasonable mudroom, the Kevlar-effect cable runs are completely sealed from shifter to mech, and the forward facing seat slot helps keep the frame dry inside. The new rocker layout keeps the shock clean and now there’s enough seat drop for steep descents.
Equipment: Top kit for the money – but watch that seatpost
Specialized never let price influence their creativity and attention to detail when equipping their bikes, and the Pro underlines its position at the top of the FSR XC range with great parts.
The new RockShox Reba SL 120mm fork is light and tight tracking enough to be pushed hard and has plenty of control. The opposed dual air springs let you totally tune spring feel and, while they take a while to soften up and bed in, reliability is superb. And apart from a floppy lockout position, the Fox Triad rear shock is a great way to manage the soft feeling rear suspension.
24mm DT rims add a bit more stability and girth to the already large-for-their size 2.0 Specialized Captain Control tyres. These are reasonably fast rolling but predictably controlled. The external bottom bracket Shimano Deore chainset feels firm underfoot and the Deore, SLX, XT mix works with typically slick precision.
The Avid Juicy 4 brakes are powerful, with larger bikes getting a 203mm rotor up front for even more stoppage. We snapped one of the dumb-looking ‘Specialized exclusive’ reach adjusters off the first time we rode it though, and the alloy backed pads are more gimmicky than gram saving.
The size-specific stem, with its cunning eccentric shim for two different angles, sets up a light cockpit with decent leverage via the 25.5in bars. The saddle was universally liked but the thin Lock-on grips are a love/hate thing, and the single bolt seatpost needs serious tightening up.