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.
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 ArielJonny Ashelford
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 saddleJonny Ashelford
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.