While we are still early on in putting this bike through its paces, I have found myself reaching for it on the majority of my rides. I have spent most of the time in the High flip chip position and the middle setting on the headset adjustment. I look at this bike as an overpowered trail bike that I want to ride tight and twisty trails on Saturday and then hit the local jump zone on Sunday. During our shuttle rides I have put the chip into the long setting and the headset cup into the slack position as the trails were much faster and steeper than most rides I was doing. These adjustments did have a noticeable change in the on-trail feel without sacrificing the playful nature this bike exudes.
Being just under 6’1” the size S3 is definitely on the shorter end of what I like to ride but this has opened up a more playful type of riding experience I don’t get on longer bikes. There have been only a few times were that lack of length held me back, this is typically when encountering a very steep and sharp corner. With the shorter reach of the S3 my weight was more front biased than what I am accustomed to. I do not really see this as a negative because everything else felt great, so good in fact that the Specialized Stumpjumper inspired me to try my first 360 on a 29’r! And it worked.
One of my weak spots when it comes to riding is technical climbs, I have never been the guy that can master punchy, root-filled climbs. In my time on this bike I have been able to clean two challenging climbs nine out of 10 times, whereas on longer more enduro focused bikes it would be three out of ten times on a good day. I think the slightly shorter wheelbase combined with the support of the frame’s anti-squat is just what I needed. With the shorter reach, on long sustained climbs I found myself sitting with better posture, causing less mid back pain from the forward lean longer bikes are putting us in.
One of the only negatives I have found so far with this new bike is the lack of useable seat tube length. With my long legs I have been running the 180mm dropper pretty dang far out of the collar. During bike set up in Bellingham the stock 150mm dropper was not cutting it, thankfully a quick stop at Fanatik solved that problem. Although I may be an outlier, this is something to consider if you plan to size down. If I am going to Duthie Hill, a local bike park that is heavily focused on jumps, I will slam the dropper down to yield more room to play, other than that the extra length sticking out of the collar on normal rides, it really did not hold me back at all.
While this would not be my first choice of bikes to spend a week at Whistler Bike Park, that certainly doesn’t mean it couldn’t handle a trip to the bike park. In reality though, I’d much rather have an Enduro or Demo for the bike park. What this bike may lose at the park it really gives back on your more common rides. There isn’t much sacrifice on your after work rides as long as you’ve got plenty of steep and technical terrain on your local riding menu. There is enough travel to keep you moving through the rough stuff while also providing precision when the going gets tight and twisty.