Sunday, January 1, 2006 12.00am
By Guy Kesteven
You can't fault Specialized for always making its bikes look a million dollars even when they cost just less than a thousand. The stealth brown anodised finish of the S-Works Stumpy is not only tough but picks out all the crisp machining and forging work that crops up all over the frame. The curved and flared hydroform down tube blends with a seam welded monocoque top tube behind the externally butted head tube. The 'glory hole' for the shock, bottom bracket/main pivot section, organic looking dropouts, 3D chainstay pivot terminals and chainstay bridge are all forged pieces too.
The result is a very competitive weight of 6.3lb for a 5in travel bike, without compromising tyre room or standover height. Disc brake only and under gear routing keeps the frame looking neat and it's also available in an even lighter but more expensive carbon version. Either way you get our favourite seat post - a Thomson - thrown in too.
Compared to standard Stumpy 120s, the main 'bonus' feature with the alloy S-Works is the Brain Fade chamber linked to the conventional Fox Float R shock. This is the latest version of Fox's 'only moves over a bump' auto lockout system and it can be dialled to a more sensitive level than previous versions and stays 'open' and working for longer after each impact. The auto lockout is great for hill sprints and road work, but others will find the on/off feel and occasional late reaction to impacts distracting even at this low level. It really is a love or hate shock and all we can say is try it yourself and see what you think.
Basic handling is extremely well balanced with a very easy, confident feel. Despite a low bottom bracket keeping it planted, there is a feel of slight vagueness and flex when you're really pushing the bike through corners, especially if you don't trigger the shock by deliberately slapping or bouncing a rock beforehand.
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