Specialized's Amira range of bikes is aimed at women who want to race. This means that the geometry is tight and compact, and in this case features Specialized signature FACT carbon (Functional Advanced Composite Technology) in the full-carbon frame.
The Amira Elite is the middle-of-the-range model offering a light, stiff, carbon frame with an average groupset, but at a sensible price that will suit a ﬁrst-time racer.
Ride & handling
This bike’s spec, on paper, is pretty average. For £2,000 the setup includes Shimano 105 groupset with a Tiagra chain; we’ve seen bikes at a similar price with the higher-end Ultegra groupset. The Amira also lacks integrated cable routing, which does leave it looking a year or so behind the times.
But that really is where the griping has to stop. On the road this bike performs like a machine in a wholly different price bracket. The slightly relaxed riding position may deter the most hardened of crit racers, but over long distances it makes the ride very comfortable.
Sprinting on this steed is a pleasure. Thanks to the stiff rear end you get the feeling that every ounce of your expended energy is being used to propel you forwards. A quick upgrade to the Mavic Cosmic Elite wheelset from the Scott Contessa Foil on our test made getting up to speed even easier.
The steering is precise, very precise. In fact, it’s so quick to respond so that a true beginner might be caught unawares by how quickly this bike can move.
In the hills the Amira Elite maintains its form, making light work of even a 15% incline. And when the going gets rough, the FACT carbon frame takes potholes in its stride.
The gearing is perhaps a bit conservative for very high-level racing but it will suit most weekend racers. And when you’re riding on the drops holding onto the lovely, fat, Specialized Women’s Comp bars, you feel like you’re ﬂying.
One sore point though is the saddle. Despite being sculpted to ﬁt a female posterior, we found it extremely uncomfortable.
Performance bikes rely on the frame and forks to produce the fast ride that’s required in a race. The women-specific Specialized Amira shares much of the same technology as the road world championship-winning Specialized Tarmac.
The differences are a shorter reach and shorter standover frame design. Upgraded in 2012, the Amira’s USP is a ﬂared top tube dubbed the Cobra, which serves to prevent deﬂection (movement under load).
The Amira Elite has elements of a true race machine, such as the short head tube, which enables you to get down low and to aspire to the ideal racing position. It comes equipped with an integrated headset giving sleek looks and a weight saving of around 10g, which is not to be sniffed at for a race-orientated bike.
A tapered FACT full-carbon monocoque fork adds a negligible few grams to the weight of the bike (when compared with a straight steerer tube), but this is offset by a noticeable increase in front-end responsiveness and stiffness. Large rectangular section chainstays and a huge bottom bracket area aim to maximise power transfer from the cranks.
As mentioned above, cable routing goes against the vogue for integrated cables, and could be a considered an aerodynamic and aesthetic own goal, despite being neatly done. The seat angle is relatively relaxed for its class, but the narrow, light, carbon ﬁbre tubing nudges this bike back into the racing bracket.
For a bike that’s marketed at women racers, confusion starts to set in when it comes to the kit. Fulcrum Racing 6 wheels are made for Specialized as a unique product to them, and they are broadly aligned with Fulcrum 5s.
These wheels are perfectly serviceable but are nothing to write home about and would probably retail for less than 10 per cent of the high-street price of the entire bike. The Specialized Turbo Elite tyres are more racy though.
Shimano’s mid-range 105 groupset features as standard, although there’s a Shimano Tiagra chain, which is disappointing. The Amira Elite comes with a 50/34-tooth compact chainset (in comparison, the Amira Pro SL4, aimed at professional riders, has a 52/36-tooth combination).
Combined with a 10-speed, 11-28 cassette this means the the gearing is aligned with long distance riding as well as racing, although it's well suited to riders with less road experience.
The alloy, shallow-drop, compact bars, with Specialized synthetic leather S-Wrap tape, are chunky and non slip, and offer a solid grip. The 105 brakes feature Slim Shim brake lever spacers, which bring the brakes slightly in, and are perfect for cyclists with small hands.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine, available on Zinio.