With full-suspension bikes becoming so efficient on the ups and the downs, the humble hardtail is increasingly overlooked, but the new Specialized Fuse is definietly worth a double take.
Specialized Fuse highlights
- 27.5+ or 29er wheels and tyres
- Sliding rear dropout
- Longer, lower, slacker, but also steeper geometry
- 130mm travel
Initially launched when 27.5+ was still a new concept, Specialized has revamped the Fuse in the way the bike industry often does by making it longer, lower, and slacker — but also steeper.
By this we mean the head angle has been pushed out to 66 degrees for the 27.5+ and 67 degrees for the 29er, the seat angle has been steepened to 74 degrees and the reach has increased by 20mm, now measuring 440mm in a size medium.
Specialized also says it has reduced standover height by as much as 52mm in some sizes.
In reality, this should translate into a frame that puts your centre of gravity between the wheels and, in tandem with a reduced offset fork, the slack head angle creates manageable handling characteristics when the trail, littered with roots and rocks, points straight down.
When it’s time to go back up, the steep seat angle should help you maintain an efficient climbing position.
All three versions of the Fuse get RockShox suspension, wide bars and a short stem Specialized
At the front, the travel has increased to 130mm of squish, and all three models are specced with RockShox forks. The cockpit sees 780mm bars mated to a stumpy 45mm stem, and every model gets a 1x drivetrain.
To prevent the saddle from giving you an uppercut when the trail gets steep, every build has a dropper, with the large and XL sizes getting a 150mm travel post. Specialized says the new frames have been optimised to allow for maximum seatpost insertion.
The new Fuse can take both 29er and 27.5+ wheels, with room for a 2.6in tyre in the larger wheel size and 2.8in rubber with smaller hoops.
Where the previous model came exclusively with 27.5+ wheels and tyres, two of the three models come out of the box as 29ers and all three get Boost rear hub spacing.
The top two versions of the Fuse are made with Specialized’s M4 alloy Specialized
Specialized has also opted to only offer the Fuse with an aluminium frame, with the Expert and Comp trims using the brand’s M4 aluminium, and the base model sees a slightly heavier A1 alloy.
While the Fuse is a hardtail, the Expert and Comp models do get a bit of ‘travel’ at the back with a sliding dropout.
There’s 15mm of adjustability, which gives you the option to ditch the rear derailleur, or slightly alter the overall wheelbase to customise handling characteristics. Also gone is the ‘Diamond chainstay’, which was used to allow for extra tyre clearance.
The top two models get a sliding rear dropout Specialized
Set to hit shops this month, the Fuse Comp will retail for £1,600 / AU$2,300, the Fuse 27.5 for £1,250 / AU$1,800 and the Fuse M4 29 for £950 / AU$1,000.
Popular Specialized tyres redesigned
Speaking of tyres, you may have noticed that the Fuse is rolling on a Butcher at the front and Purgatory at the rear — Specialized has redesigned both for 2020.
The new Butcher will come on the Fuse, but won’t be available in shops for a few months Specialized
The new Butcher now sees staggered centre blocks for smoother transitions to the shoulder blocks, which have been widened and the biting edge moved in. Specialized says this improves cornering support, allowing the tread to hook up better and make for more predictable handling in all trail conditions.
As a fast rolling tyre, the new Purgatory on the rear of the new Fuse has been revamped with flexible centre sipes, which fold out under braking force for increased ground contact and grip. Specialized says the updated tyre also improves cornering traction thanks to more robust shoulder blocks.
Both tyres will be specced OEM on the Fuse, but won’t be available for aftermarket purchase until September. Pricing is TBC.
The tread pattern on the Purgatory has been revamped for better braking traction Specialized
With these updated tyres also comes two new casings: Grid Trail and Control.
Grid Trail falls in as the second toughest casing in Specialized’s tyre lineup and is claimed to offer 29 percent more pinch-flat protection and 30 percent more puncture resistance than the standard Grid version.
The casing itself sees more sidewall support, said to improve handling at lower pressure, and the knobbies are made with a stickier Gription T7 compound for increased traction. The Grid Trail casing will be available on the Butcher, Eliminator, Hillbilly and Slaughter.
On the other side of the spectrum is the Control casing, which sits just below the lightweight S-Works XC Race. This casing is for cross-country riders who are finding themselves in increasingly rowdy terrain using lower tyre pressure and wide rims.
According to Specialized, the Control casing offers a 29 percent increase in flat protection and uses a fast rolling Gription T5 tread compound for the centre and shoulder blocks. The Renegade, Fast Trak, Ground Control, Purgatory and Butcher will all come in a Control casing option.