Specialized’s P.Series bikes have been much loved by hardcore/jump hybrid contenders for years and this 2014 nugget is no exception. If you’re after a really well priced and well sorted complete bike package for jump, street and even better-groomed trail centre action then the P.Street is outstanding. Its rock solid responsiveness and short-stroke fork make it seriously unforgiving on rougher trails though.
Frame and equipment: maximum street toughness
The P.Street 2 might relatively cheap, but you wouldn’t know it from the frame. It gets a full set of hydroformed tubes that work to resist the various stresses the bike is under when you let rip down the local woods.
The slightly bulged head-tube is one part of the bike that really takes a pounding on rougher landings or when the short-travel fork runs out of ability to suck up impacts. To help it stand the battering, it’s backed up by a triangular profile down-tube with a curved top end that’s designed to align it with transmitted landing loads.
The triangular top-tube slopes steeply for plenty of foot clearance on step-through moves and the thick, tapered seatstays curve around the front of the seat tube to further brace the whole area. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a curved tube welded across the back of the junction to lock it solid.
The rear brake uses a post mount attachment for easy adjustment and there’s a reinforcing strut below it to stop braking torque over-stressing the frame. Both gear cables and the rear brake hose are kept out of the way under the top-tube with ziptie clips. A neat dose of practicality is provided by rack mounts built into the rear dropouts and the inside edge of the seatstay tops. Here they’re out of the way of crashes but still usable if you want a more fun way to ride to work than on a typical commuting hybrid. You even get bottle cage bosses.
The kit choice makes the P.Street’s hardcore intent fairly clear. The super-short stem and P.Series bar are all about strength, not supple feel, which helps hide flex from the skinny 30mm upper legs of the Suntour XCM fork. While the front shifter still has three gear options in its window, there are only two chainrings fitted, with a thick bashguard in place of the outer ring. The broad-armed Suntour cranks sit on a chunky eight-ribbed Octalink bottom bracket and the rear cassette gets more sophisticated ramps than the cheapest cog sets here to help the chain climb between gears easily. The Decipher disc brakes are disappointing though, with an extremely wooden and uncommunicative feel.
The broad, rounded rims carry unashamedly ‘street’ tyres with a very low wraparound tread designed for groomed trails and urban riding, not grotty, soggy natural trails. But even if you have to buy chunkier-treaded tyres for off-piste action it’s still really well equipped for the money.
Ride and handling: agile and whip-smart
The biggest surprise of the test was probably how much we actually got away with on the Specialized tyres. We definitely had to give any exposed and polished roots a wide berth and wet grass was an ice rink, but on man-made trail surfaces they railed and drifted well. Their easy-rolling speed boosts the acceleration of the already relatively light and explosive feeling P.Street, producing a bike that properly bursts out of corners and never failed to dig enough launch speed out of the shortest ramp run-ins.
Even with the skinny fork, the steep head angle means handling sharp, so it slingshots through berms and whips round corners with urgency. It pops and hops with easy agility and crisp accuracy, making it a standout jump and stunt machine.
The super-wide 28mm rims and 36-spoke build mean that the wheels feel rock solid, no matter how high you drop from. The big-tubed frame is brutally rigid too, and while the fork has a bit of bounce off the top it pretty much sets solid about 40mm into its travel. There’s no top-out clunk or untamed rebound, but the forged alloy stem and chunky handlebar pass any punishment straight into your palms and arms.
Combined with the fast handling and jackhammer feedback through the pedals, this makes rocky trails a properly bruising experience and you’ll know all about it if you hang up on a landing or plough into a boulder you’re trying to pump over. The horrifically uncommunicative brakes make technical (rather than flowing) descents really sketchy too.