Specialized Ariel review£425.00

A great all-rounder designed for the daily commute and leisure

Specialized creates bike frames with a geometry designed for the female figure that’s based on reams of bike-fit data and, in the case of the Specialized Ariel, has opted for an upright position with short reach. While the size medium tested didn’t leave me feeling perched up high like some women’s bikes, it did feel a little short.

Specialized Ariel spec overview

  • Frame: Specialized A1 Premium aluminum
  • Fork: Custom Suntour NEX
  • Front derailleur: Shimano FD-M191
  • Rear derailleur: Shimano Altus 8-speed
  • Handlebars: Specialized, 6061 alloy
  • Brakes: Alloy V-brakes
  • Cassette: Shimano, 8-speed, 12-32t
  • Tyres: Specialized Trigger Sport, 60TPI, BlackBelt protection, 700x38mm
  • Saddle: Body Geometry Women's Riva Sport Plus

At 5ft 8in, I may have better suited a large, which is something to bear in mind if you’re near the top of the height range for any of the sizes. For reference, I tested the step-through frame version of the Ariel, though you can also choose a regular commuter type with a higher top tube.

Specialized Ariel ride impression

The Specialized Ariel
The Specialized Ariel

So how did it ride? Well, the 60mm of travel on the Suntour fork is plenty for smoothing out rough surfaces, though I reckon longer distances or a faster pace on potholed or gravelled paths would become uncomfortable. I liked the fact that you can lock out travel on the fork on smoother roads, meaning less energy’s sucked up by the suspension and more channeled into moving forward.

Saddle choice is highly individual — and this individual found the women’s-specific Riva Sport Plus saddle very comfortable indeed. That feeling of comfort’s heightened by the handlebar grips, which feature a section that provides extra support for your hands and spreads the weight over a wider area.

The comfortable Riva Sport Plus saddle
The comfortable Riva Sport Plus saddle

Comfort’s complemented by stowage thanks to the pannier-rack holes, while you also have the option to attach mudguards. The 3 x 8 gear set-up offers the versatility to power along flats or proficiently tackle steeper hills. It’s great in theory; in practise the shifting between gears is a little clunky, but is reliable. Alloy brake levers and v-brakes on the rims generate reasonable stopping power.

It may not have the classic looks of a Dutch-style bike, but the upright position and step-through frame are practical and comfortable

The wide 38mm tyres are chunky enough to provide good traction, as well as absorbing impact on uneven urban surfaces, but retain the ability to roll fast. And with winter on the horizon, the reflective sidewalls are a neat touch, providing side-on visibility for commuting in the darker months.

Overall, if you’re looking for just one bicycle that’ll be suited to riding through the park at weekends as well as commuting to your place of work, the Ariel has a lot of ticks in the plus column. It may not have the classic looks of a Dutch-style bike, but the upright position and step-through frame are practical and comfortable.

Specialized Ariel early verdict

Practical all-round bike that’s great for mixing commuting and leisure rides, though a touch short.

Aoife Glass

Women's Cycling Editor
A mountain biker at heart, also drawn to the open road. Likes big long adventures in the mountains. Usually to be found in the Mendip Hills or the Somerset Levels in the UK. Passionate about women's cycling at all levels.
  • Age: 35
  • Height: 173cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 74kg / 163lb
  • Waist: 82cm / 32in
  • Chest: 86cm / 34in (below bust measurement)
  • Discipline: Mountain, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Rocky, rough and a long way from anywhere.
  • Current Bikes: Liv Avail Advanced Pro 2015, Juliana Furtado 2013, Canyon Roadlite AL
  • Dream Bike: Juliana Roubion, Liv Avail Advanced SL
  • Beer of Choice: Red wine for the win!
  • Location: Weston Super Mare, Somerset, UK

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