Specialized was one of the pioneers of production mountain bikes – the and vast experience of the ‘Big S’ seems to have gone some way to enriching its basic Pitch.
It might be ridiculously cheap, but Specialized’s designers have done a decent job with what little cash they’ve had to splash on this ride. The all-black stealth ‘murdered out’ look of frame and fork, plus distinctive curved top tube, definitely give the Pitch a businesslike rather than budget appeal.
The pressed-steel chainrings are cheap – in every sense – bits of kit
There are rack and kickstand mounts too, although seat tube bottle bosses mean limited seat drop for coping with really steep descents. While they’re from the same SR Suntour XCT family as the forks on the Trek Marlin 6 we tested alongside the Pitch, the shorter legs needed to straddle a 27.5in rather than 29in wheel reduce the locking effect of braking and turning stress.
Specialized has also specified a relatively firm spring. That means a jolting ride, which we never got more than 70mm of the claimed 100mm of travel from. However rebound and topout are much less violent than on the bucking-bronco Trek, so it copes with bigger challenges in a more controlled and consistent way.
Cable-actuated disc brakes require regular readjustment
In a similar way, the flanged grips aren’t very comfy but at least they have a lock to stop them twisting and sliding.
The final piece of wise investment in control terms are the 720mm wide bar teamed with an 80mm stem. This means that even though the angles of the Pitch frame are relatively steep and twitchy by modern trail standards, there’s enough fast stem response and handlebar leverage to give you a fighting chance in challenging or rapidly changing trail situations. The Specialized saddle is also a quality piece.
Elsewhere though the parts and equipment offer clear signs of the lower budget the Pitch has been built with. The up-and-under triggers of the EZ-Fire shifters are usefully intuitive to use but the big block buttons and bent metal arms are very crude in construction and you’re only getting eight rather than nine gears on the rear block.
Shifting from the non-replaceable pressed steel chainrings and SunRace cassette is slow too, with significant pauses between some changes on the trail.
We found the Pitch a pretty punishing ride, but the Big S could certainly have done worse for the money
The cable-operated disc brakes need regular adjustment to compensate for pad wear rather than automatically self setting as hydraulic items too. The Specialized own-brand tyres are lower on grip and control than the reasonably knobbly tread would suggest.
More positively, the wheels are relatively light for the cost and the Pitch always felt keen and responsive when we gave it some gas.
Ultimately, gearing and braking compromises are pretty much unavoidable on mountain bikes costing this little. While the Pitch feels punishing on rough trails, Specialized deserves credit for building a reasonably responsive and controlled bike that could certainly be worse for the cash.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.