Specialized FSR XC Comp review

Stumpjumper pedigree but without the price

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £999.99 RRP | USD $1,410.00

Our review

There’s no doubting the FSR XC Comp’s pedigree, but it really needs a better fork
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Specialized’s FSR suspension design has been around, in one form or another, for about 15 years. It’s a sign of the times that the company’s mid-range, trail-orientated FSR XC bikes now get 120mm of rear wheel travel. The entry-level Comp boasts a full complement of Specialized kit, a Shimano transmission, and X-Fusion shock and RockShox fork pairing.


Bikes like the FSR XC Comp are the mainstay of Specialized’s business, so it’s no surprise to discover that the 2009 version is as competent an all-rounder as ever. If it weren’t for the limitations of its fork then it would definitely be in with a shout for top honours. As it is though, it’s a brilliantly executed do-anything machine that represents excellent value.

Ride & handling:  Do-it-all performance, but frame needs a better fork to do it justice

It’s hard not to like the XC Comp from the first turn of the pedals. Relaxed angles – particularly at the front – hint at handling that’s biased towards higher speeds, but this isn’t the case. The Specialized feels equally at home plodding up a steep, rooty climb at walking pace or carving turns on a high-speed singletrack descent, with weight distribution that feels perfectly ‘planted’ and pleasantly benign steering that does what you ask of it, when you want it to.

With no compression damping – adjustable or otherwise – on the basic rear shock, it pays to take a little time to fine-tune setup. Specialized’s FSR rear end is naturally active, so a shock with too much sag and a choppy pedalling style can easily provoke a fair degree of rear end bounce and wallow. 

Pump it up firmly enough, keep the power smooth and the rear end does what it was designed to do, remaining impressively active and supple over everything from the tiniest trail ripple to the biggest wheel-eater. Flicking the rebound adjust lever to lockout removes any trace of bob and bounce on smooth surfaces, too.

The fork matches the shock bump-for-bump, right up to the point where the hits are bigger, squarer-edged and faster, at which point it blots its copybook with a hint of bushing rattle that acts as a confidence-inhibitor. There’s no doubt that the frame would definitely warrant a long-term fork upgrade, and that this would unleash its true downhill potential.

The fsr comp xc is arguably one of the more elegant 120mm bikes out there: the fsr comp xc is arguably one of the more elegant 120mm bikes out there
Seb Rogers

Frame: Time-proven FSR design in a good looking package

Specialized take the aesthetics of their bikes extremely seriously, with an entire department devoted to everything from decal design and paint finishes to finessing tube curvature. Perhaps that’s why the FSR XC Comp is one of the more elegant 120mm travel bikes out there, with clean lines that flow uninterrupted from the head tube to the rear dropouts. The detail is also impressive, from the bolt-on cable guides under the down tube to the custom rubber chainstay protector.

It’s more than just a pretty face, though. For 2009, Specialized have managed to reduce standover height, giving a bit more space over the top tube for those unscheduled bail-outs. A longer seat tube also gives more scope for dropping the saddle out of the way on steep descents, and the impressively minimalist shock rocker linkage is also new. The patented Horst link (the key to the FSR suspension design) is still there on the chainstay, of course.

Specialized’s fsr rear end is naturally active: specialized’s fsr rear end is naturally active
Seb Rogers

Equipment: Sound speccing decisions, with emphasis on quality own-brand kit

Spring duties are carried out by a custom-tuned X-Fusion air shock at the rear and a RockShox Tora SL coil fork up front. The shock is easy to set up and features a lever for adjusting rebound damping on the fly and, if necessary, locking the shock out completely. It’s a neat solution, and far easier to use than the usual dial (though also easier to knock out of position, too). 

Our test bike’s Tora fork behaved better than other samples we’ve ridden, with good low-to-medium speed performance and just a trace of bushing looseness on square-edged hits to betray its budget build

There’s barely a component on the XC Comp that hasn’t been tweaked by Specialized’s designers, from the wheelset to the excellent seatpost and saddle.


It all works well, though experience suggests the funky-looking red aluminium spoke nipples may not survive that many clumsy wheel-truing attempts.

Alu spoke nipples save minimum weight and could cause potential durability issues: alu spoke nipples save minimum weight and could cause potential durability issues
Seb Rogers

Product Specifications


Name FSR XC Comp (09)
Brand Specialized Bicycles

Description This bike features the following chainset: Shimano FC-M442-8, Octalink Spline, replaceable rings w/ alloy outer, S: 170mm, others: 175mm, 44x32x22
Stem Adjustable rise, four bolt 31.8mm clamp, 3D forged, S:75mm, M:90mm, L/XL:105mm
Rear Tyre Size 26x2.0
Rear Wheel Weight 2700
Saddle MTB, 7mm steel rails, 143mm
Seat Angle 71
Seatpost 6061 alloy, black, 30.9x350/400mm, setback head, 2-bolt micro adjust
Shifters SL-M531 Deore, trigger
Weight (kg) 14
Rear Shock 02RLA, Custom tuned for Specialized, rebound adj. w/lock-out, 7.5x1.75", 2 bearing upper shock mount
Year 2009
Weight (lb) 30.9
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 13.25
Chainstays (in) 16.9
Seat Tube (in) 17.25
Top Tube (in) 22.75
Rear Tyre The Captain
Rear Hub Specialized Stout SL
Available Sizes L M S XL
Front Hub Specialized Stout SL
Brakes Juicy 3SL full hydraulic, alloy backed brake pads, cleansweep S/M: 185mm, L/XL: 203mm rotor (Front) S/M:160mm rotor, L/XL:185mm rotor (Rear)
Cassette Shimano HG-50, 9-speed, 11-34t
Chain X9, 9-speed w/ reusable Missing Link
Fork Rock Shox Tora 302 SL, 120mm, alloy steer, external rebound and preload adj. w/ LO, S/M" "Standard", L/XL "Stiff" Coil spring.
Frame Material FSR XC M4 Manipulated Alloy ubing w/ new rocker design, bolt on cable guides, 120mm travel, sealed cartridge pivot bearings, disc only, replaceable rear derailleur hanger
Front Derailleur Deore, 34.9mm clamp, top swing, bottom pull
Front Tyre The Captain
Rear Derailleur RD-M672 SLX Shadow, 9 speed, long cage
Front Tyre Size 26x2.0
Front Wheel Weight 2500
Handlebar XC low rise, butted alloy, 640mm wide, 8 degree up, 8 degree backsweep
Head Angle 66
Headset Type 1-1/8" Threadless, loose ball bearings w/ seals, black steel cups
Pedals 1pc., alloy body and cage, 9/16"
Wheelbase (in) 44.6