Review: Specialized Pizza Rack and Bag

By Adam Newman

Specialized Pizza Rack – $90

The Pizza Rack derives its name not from the payload size of its top platform, which is a size small pepperoni only, but rather from its packaging. The top platform is a separate piece from the two sides, which ship disassembled in a pizza-shaped box. It goes together with a handful of screws and is adjustable to mate with a wide variety of bikes, as long as they have mid-fork eyelets. I used it with the Tumbleweed Prospector reviewed in this issue. One nice feature of this design is that it doesn’t require eyelets near the dropouts, which these days are often cast aside in favor of more complex axles and dropouts. Even some carbon fiber forks have mid-fork eyelets these days, including the one found on Specialized’s own Sequoia.


Built from aluminum with 13 mm tubes, I can tell you from first glance this rack isn’t something you’re going to want to use to drag the entirety of your belongings on an around-the-world expedition. It is, however, just fine for light duty and it’s rated to 33 pounds, which is enough to make you rethink piling that much stuff on the front end of your bike.

The side panels have rails for attaching small panniers, but the emphasis is on “small.” These won’t be mistaken for proper low-riders. It works great with the Pizza Bag, but I would have liked to see Specialized add those small nubs on the underside of the rack to prevent bungee hooks from sliding off. If you want to secure a cardboard box, for example, you have to be crafty with your hook placement.

The Pizza Rack is a simple and less-expensive option for folks looking to get their toe into the flat-rack lifestyle. I wouldn’t recommend it for expedition use, but for around- town grocery-gettin’, it goes just fine.


Specialized Pizza Bag – $100

Designed specifically to pair with the Pizza Rack, this boxy bag is held on by big Velcro straps that keep it stable and secure. It retains its shape thanks to some internal padding, and its slick, urethane-coated exterior kept my contents dry when I used it in extended rains. I wouldn’t call it waterproof, but it’s certainly “weatherproof.”

The roll-top design helps here, since there is no zipper to leak. Just close the opening with a single snap then secure it with the large Velcro strap across the top. I wish this strap were a bit longer to facilitate overstuffing the bag, but I could see how you could easily get carried away. It was long enough to shove a jacket under it when the bag was closed, which is handy. It also held an axe I found on the side of the road, but I don’t really think it was designed for that.

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The features here are pretty spartan, with a mesh inner pocket and two exterior pockets. The vertical webbing on the front is reflective, but I would have rather it been horizontal like a traditional MOLLE webbing so you could strap things to it or hang a blinky light on it. I’d also love to see a shoulder strap so you could detach it and bring it with you.

In fact, this has been one of the big hangups for me in terms of “philosophy of use.” For touring or adventuring, it’s a nice way to keep items handy or carry bulky items like stoves, food or tools, as long as you don’t overload it and make your steering a nightmare. For around town, it’s far too much of a theft magnet, and with no way to remove it and bring it with you easily, I would much prefer a basket.



Specialized launches new Adventure Gear line

Specialized is going full steam into the adventure realm with a full line of accessories for bikepacking or bike touring or commuting or whatever it is you want to do with them. Under the umbrella of Specialized Adventure Gear, the lineup includes bikes like the Sequoia, AWOL, Diverge and Fatboy, along with a ton of accessories and apparel.

Read about the new Specialized Sequoia that was unveiled along with this bag line.


Here we’re going to focus on the Burra Burra bag collection. Like many other Specialized products, the Burra Burra line is named for a location in Henry Coe State Park just outside of the brand’s offices in Morgan Hill, California.


The name is a bit clunky, but the Handlebar Stabilizer Harness ($90) should keep your gear stowed tight with an aluminum support that bolts to the handlebars and a simple, wrap around shape that can hold a dry bag or other gear.

It can hold your own dry bag, or Specialized will sell separately two sizes of their own, a 13 liter ($40) and a 23 liter ($45), both of which have double-sided entry and full waterproof 100D Cordura construction.

The Framepacks ($90-$110) are one of the most useful trends in recent years, as a great way to keep snacks and more close at hand. The coated nylon body is super water repellent, so anything short of throwing it into a lake should result in dry cargo. They even have water-resistant YKK zippers. A combination of thick, urethane straps and camlocks or traditional Velcro keep them secured in place. Specialized will offer three sizes to fit nearly any bike, though it’s worth pointing out that they often interfere with water bottles. The bottle cages are still usable, but a side-entry cage will make getting the bottles in and out a lot easier.


Fans of the awesome Specialized Pizza Rack will be pleased to see a new Pizza Bag ($100) designed specifically for that big front rack. It has a padded, roll-top body that is sure to keep the contents dry, or can be filled with ice and used as a rolling cooler. Trust us, we tested it. There are a few exterior pockets that keep essential items handy while you’re rolling and it measures 33 x 24 x 13 cm.

At first glance, the Stabilizing Seatpack looks like a lot of other roll-closed seat bags on the market, but Specialized has added a small, aluminum stabilizer bar that bolts to the seatpost to prevent it from swaying or drooping. Unlike some other designs on the market that use a support rail, this version only extends halfway along the bag’s length. The bag itself is made from the same watertight material so it will keep your gear dry, and is available in a 10 liter size ($130) and a 20 liter size ($140).


Bottle cages eyelets have been popping up in all sorts of new places in the last few years, and the Sequoia has a pair on each side of its carbon fork, so Specialized created these Burra Burra Stuffcages ($30). Made from aluminum, they are smaller than the ones you see from others, and only bolt to two eyelets instead of three. The aluminum body comes with two straps for water bottles, fuel canisters or whatever else you want to bring. Specialized also introduced a Stuffpack ($40) that is sold separately that holds one liter of cargo in its roll-top body. It also has its own Velcro straps attached that can keep it secure in the cage.

Finally, the handiest of all, the Top Tube Pack ($50) is perfect for your phone, keys or other essentials that you want to keep close at hand. It can be mounted at the stem or the seatpost and uses a single front-to-back zipper to access the 0.75 liter cargo area. The external pockets are good for a multi-tool or snack wrappers. It’s made of the same weather-resistant material as all the bags.




Specialized revives Sequoia name for adventure road bike

The first Sequoia bikes were designed by Tim Neenan as a road bike with an adventure attitude. The second generation, designed by Jim Merz, evolved into a full-blown touring rig to take you around the world. The name appeared on a series of, let’s say, “less-than-exciting” hybrids and city bikes through the years, but has made a grand return with this new 2017 touring model, hitting dealers in mid-August.

Specialized flew a collection of media slime like myself out to beautiful Western North Carolina to sample the bikes and get the story from both the Adventure Team that inspired them and the engineers that created them.


The new Sequoia is Specialized’s take on a modern adventure touring bike. That can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but there’s no denying the proliferation of rackless bags has brought a new generation into the fold of bicycle travelers. And while racks and panniers can take you across the country, many riders are just looking for a way to get the essentials out for a weekend.


While the existing Specialized AWOL model (steel touring bike) dips its toes into the off-road realm, the Sequoia is more road-oriented and slots squarely between the AWOL and the Diverge in the Specialized lineup. You could keep it lean and jump into a paceline or load it up with racks, fenders and cargo and hit the trail.

The new 700x42c Sawtooth tires roll exceptionally well on the road and their stout, tubeless casing held up on singletrack. Specialized says the Sequoia it will fit up to a 700×45 tire (that’s officially but you can probably squeeze more in there), and it will fit the 650×47 version of the wheels and tires that are coming soon. More on that in a moment.


The frame is a selection of custom-drawn chromoly steel tubes, and each one is specifically shaped and butted for each frame size to ensure a consistent ride quality across the five sizes. No two sizes share any frame tubes. The geometry is comfortable, with a low bottom bracket and more upright fit, but not so relaxed that you can’t put the hammer down when you want to. Details on the frame include a threaded bottom bracket, 142×12 thru axle, flat mount brake caliper mounts and a third bottle cage mount under the downtube.

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To go with the new frame is an all-new carbon fiber fork. Not just a repurposed cyclocross fork, the new unit was designed specifically for this bike with a 12 mm thru axle and bottle cage eyelets on the legs that can hold 5 pounds each. It too has the new flat-mount caliper mounts, and even a hole to run a dynamo hub wire inside the right right leg. Specialized offers an AWOL model with a dynamo hub, so don’t be surprised to see a special edition version of the Sequoia with one down the road.


Not content to grab parts off the Specialized shelves, the design team also went about designing a new wheelset. The Cruzero wheels are tubeless compatible and offer a stout 25 mm rim width. The hubs were designed specifically for this application as well and roll on sealed bearings for the Cruzero wheels and standard bearings for the less expensive Hayfield variation. The wheelsets will be available on their own in the near future, Specialized says, in both 700c and 650b.

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To wrap around those wheels Specialized has released an all-new tire in the Sawtooth. With versions in 700×42 and 650bx47, with either black or tan sidewalls, it was the standout performer of our time on the bikes. Designed from the ground-up, it uses Specialized’s latest rubber compounds and tubeless technology, with an all-purpose tread design that held its own on the rocks and roots of Pisgah singletrack. They roll well enough to paceline at 25 mph and cornered well on the gravel and dirt. Our group of about 20 riders put nearly 2,000 miles of abuse into these tires over three days and we suffered only one flat. The Sawtooth tires will come stock on the Sequoia and will be available separately for $40.


While many riders appreciate a more upright riding position, the downside is that often your steerer has a giant stack of spacers or you have a goofy upright stem. Specialized is trying to distribute that stack height with its new riser drop bars, the Hover. It has a small amount of rise built in along the center, allowing you to keep that stem flipped down or just offering a little more height. They also have a bit of flare to the drops too. The downside is that you have less room to mount accessories on the center portion of the bars, and the aesthetics are … unique. Riser drop bars. What will they think of next?


To go with the bars is a new line of canvas and leather handlebar tape and saddles that look great with the understated graphics on the Sequoia. The CG-R seatpost is probably a love-it-or-hate-it component, though.

Sequoia models


Sequoia Expert

  • $3,500
  • SRAM Rival 1×11
  • Cruzero wheels


Sequoia Elite

  • $2,000
  • Shimano 105 2×11
  • Hayfield wheels



  • $1,300
  • Shimano Sora 2×9
  • Hayfield wheels
  • Steel fork

Sequoia Expert frameset (not pictured)

  • $1,200
  • The frameset version of the Sequoia will be unique, with a stainless steel downtube and chainstays, plus a white to black vertical fade paint job.


A few folks have asked me how this model fits into the current Specialized lineup and what kind of rider it is for. The new Sequoia might not be revolutionary, but it’s a great option for folks looking for a steel version of the current crop of big-tire road bikes. While it’s obviously not as sporty as the carbon or aluminum Diverge, it’s still more go-fast bike than an AWOL or even bikes like the Kona Sutra or Niner RLT steel. I don’t have an official weight number but I’d guess it’s around 20 to 21 pounds. The bike that it reminds me of the most is the Specialized Tricross, but obviously reimagined for a more discerning performance-oriented customer.

More photos

Photos by Beth Welliver – Specialized

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Coming up next

You might see quite a few new accessories in these photos. More on those in the next post…



Video: Specialized Adventure Dispatch x Sarah and Tom Swallow


Courtesy of Specialized

In this episode of The Adventure Dispatch, we head out on an overnight ride with Sarah Swallow through the Humboldt Redwood State Park. Sarah is an expert when it comes to creative route planning, which is why we’re happy that she decided to share her methodology for sub-24-hour overnight riding (S24O). So take notes or just enjoy the scenery and get motivated, because you’re about to learn what happens when you saddle-up, slow down, and take notice of the world around you.

Read more about the Swallow’s pioneering ride along the Trans American Trail.


Video: Specialized Adventure Dispatch x Ty Hathaway


Remember cycling as a kid? Before we were all caught up in getting to work on time, tracking our mileage or worrying about nutrition? Or really anything at all?

It’s great to see the culture of cycling shifting back towards the unstructured fun of unknown destinations and free expression. Specialized is getting on board with its Adventure Dispatch series that blurs the line between cycling and non-cycling. It’s all a part of your life, so why worry about categorizing it?

The promise of adventure is all around us. Whether you live in Los Angeles or the Himalayas, opportunities to get outside present themselves to anyone with the right pair of eyes. For Ty Hathaway, this opportunity takes the form of the Angeles National Forest. Follow along as he shows you the City of Angeles that you won’t find in any guidebook.



Button Up & Bike: Velocio women’s cycling apparel

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Velocio launched in February of 2014 with a women’s performance cycling line. The apparel is the creative venture of Kristy Scrymgeour, owner of Team Specialized-lululemon, and designer Brad Sheehan and the result isn’t your average women’s bike clothing. Bold colors, clean lines and minimal patterns were the focus of the 2014 and 2015 line. They’ve since moved into making men’s clothing, inspired by the women’s collection. While Velocio is no longer a women’s exclusive brand they continue to—admirably—place women at the forefront of their identity, a rarity in the cycling world.

We watched and worked and created what we felt was missing: a women’s-centric collection developed from the ground up for women, a brand that is in no way an adaptation of a men’s line.

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Light Long Sleeve Jersey – $179

The Velocio Light Long Sleeve Jersey is perfect for spring or fall. Italian made, this full-zip jersey doesn’t feel like my other cycling jerseys. It’s super soft against skin, beautifully constructed and easy to move in. Velocio’s clothing is designed to be form-fitting and I was happy with the comfortably snug fit of the small. It’s made in the traditional 3-pocket style with an additional water-resistant zipper pocket on the rear center. Bright color blocks on the cuffs and collar and tasteful reflective detailing make this item fashionable performance wear.

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Since the jersey is polyester, regular washing is a must. Fortunately, the fabric doesn’t seem to hang on to smells. Although Velocio recommends drying flat, I have inadvertently dried the jersey and vest, multiple times on low, without any issue.

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Wind Vest – $179

I feel a wind vest is essential for maximizing comfort on tweener days—a jacket’s too warm but you need something to keep the wind off your chest—and I’ve been very pleased with Velocio’s offering. It’s lightweight and packs small, making the vest a great item to throw in your jersey pocket or hydration pack for windy days and cool temps. The windproof front and side panels reflect the elements while the mesh back provides ventilation. It mimics the jersey, featuring three back pockets, color block accents and reflective details.

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The vest is also designed with a tailored fit and fits great over the jersey. However, I was hoping to wear it over layers and looser fitting garments, but the armholes and figure-hugging design aren’t very forgiving in this regard. Velocio recognized this and scaled up their vests for 2015 to account for layers.

On a windy day, in the low to mid-50s, I wore both the jersey and wind vest. I’ve found the combo to be well-suited to evening mountain bike rides, as well. As my body temp started to rise I packed away the vest. Without the vest, the mesh side panels from the jersey’s armpits to waist allow the fabric to breathe.

The shoulder seasons can be difficult to dress for, but the Velocio Light Long Sleeve/Wind Vest combo make a great pair for these days of swinging temps. I’ll be wearing this versatile duo for many spring and fall rides to come.

Velocio has a 30-day guarantee. During that period you can ride in the product as much as you like to see if it’s right for you.


Recommendo: Flat pedals for touring and bikepacking


Like many gear-oriented guys I know, when I first got into cycling I went all in. I bought the spandex shorts, the fingerless gloves, and of course, those wacky clip-in pedals. But now that I’m a little older and wiser, or at least a lot more pragmatic, I’ve taken a shine to flat pedals for touring and bikepacking adventures.

I think about it this way: when I’m out and about exploring, ultimate power transfer to the pedals isn’t my top priority. I would gladly trade a few watts for the ability to get off my bike and explore a waterfall, drop into a cafe or set up camp without having to walk in clipless shoes or carry an extra pair.

So flat pedals it is, but I’m certainly not going to ride on the freebie plastic things that are probably going to snap in half in the middle of nowhere. Luckily high quality options abound, thanks to mountain bike riders and their durability requirements. These three pedals are designed largely for aggressive mountain bike riding, but I’ve borrowed them for a bit from our sister magazine, Dirt Rag, for use on road and off-road adventures.


Spank Spike – $130

These are the pedals that kindled my love for high-end flats. They have a huge platform and look great. The three-quarter axle is hollow tapered steel with a bushing on the outboard side and a sealed bearing on the inboard side. While the big inboard bearing keeps things spinning nicely, it isn’t big enough to cause any annoying run on the instep of your foot. I measured the spread of the pins—where you’re feet actually make contact— with my Feedback Sports calipers and it is approximately 100 mm front to back and 102 mm side to side.


The lack of a pedal wrench spot on the axle also means the Q-factor is kept narrow. The aluminum body is available in six colors and the 20 pins thread in from the opposite side for easy replacement or adjustment. The body is essentially flat and measured just more than 12 mm thick. The Spikes weigh in at 439 grams per pair, and like each of the pedals in this group they are completely serviceable and rebuildable.



Specialized Boomslang – $180

Years in the making, the Boomslang pedals are typical of Specialized products in that they are high tech and sleek. The aluminum body is all swoops and curves and has a slightly concave shape I measured at more than 13 mm at the edges and 11 mm at the inside. Rather than use an outboard bushing it uses a unique design in that the outer needle bearing is accessed through a little trap door held in place by the pins. The inner bearing is a standard, sealed radial unit.


Each pedals has 22 pins with an hourglass shape that allows them to snap off in a controlled manner. If they do, there are four extras threaded into each pedal on the side. I measured their spread at 90 mm front to back and 105 mm side to side. The Boomslang pedals are a bit smaller and feel a bit thicker than the others in this group, perhaps because of the height of the pins. Some drawbacks are that they require a special spanner tool to access the inner bearing and the middle pins cannot be removed because they hold the door to the outer bearing in place. Like Henry Ford’s finest, they’re only available only in black.



VP Harrier – $120

I thought the Spike and Boomslang pedals were big until I saw the Harriers. These things are HUGE. They use a chromoly axle and an outboard bushing, but the inner bearing is an Igus polymer bearing which is much smaller and thinner than a sealed radial bearing. This means there barely bulge at all where the axle meets the crank arm.


Each pedal has six pins per side that thread in from the opposite side, plus four pointy pins that use a standard box wrench. I measured the pins at 91 mm front to rear and 107 mm side to side. The squared off shape of the body maximizes real estate, something I appreciate when riding in boots. In addition to this deep red they’re also available in black or silver.


All of these pedals are high-end offerings designed to be battered on trails and ridden hard, so I have no doubt they are all plenty durable enough for touring. The VP Harriers get my vote because of their huge platform, lower weight and simplified bearing design. Plus they’re the least expensive in this group.

What kind of pedals do you use for touring?



Bicycle Times Issue #33 is here – Take a peek inside


Photo: Justin Steiner. Rider: Karl Rosengarth. Bike: Breezer Greenway Elite

Bicycle Times Issue #33 has mailed to subscribers and will be available on newsstands soon. In this issue we feature $1,000 Bikes for Work + Play, interviews with Ben Harper guitarist Michael Ward and Santa Cruz custom guitar maker Jeff Traugott, plus our regular awesome product reviews.

All this and more, now available through paper and our digital editions. Print subscribers should start receiving their copies next week. You can always visit better book stores and bike shops to buy a copy, or order one online now.

What’s inside


Ignorance is Bliss: A suicidal urge to cycle a game reserve becomes a five-day odyssey into Africa’s Nyika National Park in Malawi. Words and photos by Logan Watts.


Couch Potater to Fifty Stater: How a retired university professor found cycling, love and friendship. By Murray Fishel.


Drinks With: An interview with Michael Ward, a guitarist for Ben Harper and Gogol Bordello who brings his Ritchey Breakaway bike on tour around the world.


Vintage Velo: A custom Gary Fisher mountain bike built for Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and our Staff Playlist, a group of tracks that inspire us to ride.


… And They Ride: We chat with Jeff Traugott, one of the most sought-after custom guitar builders in the world and and a cyclist in Santa Cruz, California.


Made in Taiwan: We tour the factories of some of the largest component makers in the industry, and meet the people that build your bikes and components. By Gary Boulanger



$1,000 Bikes for Work and Play: We ride a very diverse group of six bikes that hit right at the magic $1,000 price point. We were surprised at what we found. By the Bicycle Times staff.

Plus: reviews of the latest from Niner, Brompton, Bike Friday and more.


This Just In: Six $1,000 Bikes for Work and Play

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The new year draws near, and for the first issue of 2015, we’ve rounded up six bike in the $1,000 range as a representative sample at this popular price point. We’ve found it to be common dollar amount for a first “good” bike, or adding a second bike (or third or fourth, etcetera) to the stable. Here’s the rundown with some basic stats, expect more in depth First Impression posts to follow soon.


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Marin Lombard

Price: $999
Weight: 24.8 pounds
Frame/fork material: Aluminum
Drivetrain: Shimano Sora 3×9
Brakes: Promax Render R mechanical disc brakes, 160mm rotors
Tires: 700x35c Schwalbe Road Cruiser

The Lombard is a listed as a “cyclocross utility” bike on Marin’s website, and is a great way to categorize this bike. An aluminum frame and fork keeps the weight down, while reflective decals and rack and fender mounts should make this bike a willing companion on local commutes or long tours.


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Specialized Diverge A1

Price: $1,100
Weight: 24.2 pounds
Frame/fork material: Specialized A1 Premium Aluminum frame with Specialized FACT carbon fork w/ Zertz
Drivetrain: Shimano Claris 2400 STI, with SunRace 11-32 8-speed cassette, KMC chain, and Shimano Claris 50/34T, 175mm crankset
Brakes: Tektro Spyre mechanical disc
Tires: Specialized Espoir Sport 700x30c

The Diverge line is new for Specialized, and illustrates the diffuclting of finding the correct way to label modern drop bar bikes. Disc brake road bike? Utility cyclocross? light touring? Adventure bike? We are slotting this in the disc brake road bike category, with its compact road crank and 30mm tires.


Yuba boda boda

Yuba Boda-Boda

Price: $999
Weight: 39.4 pounds
Frame/fork material: Aluminum
Drivetrain: SRAM 1×8
Brakes: Mechanical disc brake front, V-brake rear
Tires: 26×2.0 WTB Freedom Cruz

As far as we know, this is the least expensive, complete, long-tail cargo bike on the market today. This is a pretty stripped down bike at this price, and will need accessories to really take advantage of the cargo capacity. Yes that is a lot of seat post. Our reviewer has a lot of leg, and Yuba offers the Boda Boda in only two sizes: one a step-through, and the step-over pictured here.


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Raleigh Clubman Disc

Price: $1,100
Weight: 27.4 pounds
Frame/fork material: 4130 butted chromoly
Drivetrain: Shimano Tiagra 10-speed, 50/34 crank,
Brakes: Shimano BR-R317
Tires: Kenda Karv 700×28

The Clubman is a long standing model for Raleigh, and we were glad to see it move to disc brakes for the 2015 model. The full Tiagra 10-speed drivetrain and Shimano discs are a great spec at this price point. And those painted to match metal fenders give the bike a whiff of NAHBS.


Breezer Greenway

Breezer Greenway Elite

Price: $1,049
Weight: 31.5 pounds
Frame/fork material: aluminum
Drivetrain: SRAM VIA Centro 2×10 speed
Brakes: Shimano M355 hydraulic disc
Tires: Vittoria Adventure 700×32

The Greenway Elite from Breezer comes stock with a solid year round commuting set up: fenders, rack, bell and even a kickstand. The best part? A set of front and rear Trelock lights running off the Shimano dynamo front hub.



Framed Minnesota 2.0

Price: $900
Weight: 34 pounds
Frame/fork material: aluminum
Drivetrain: SRAM X7/X5  2×9
Brakes: Avid BB5 mechanical disc
Tires: Framed 26×4

Framed is a newer bike company, and besides the a full range of fat bikes, bmx and urban bikes, it is also first to market with a women’s specific model, and sells a kid’s 24-inch fat bike as well. It seems fat bikes are becoming more and more popular as a second or third bike, and not just for snow and sand. The big tires seem to strike a chord with a wide range of riders, for a wide range of uses.


Coming up

The full feature review of all six bikes will appear is the first issue of 2015. Don’t miss this, and the rest of the great content, subscribe now!


Review: Specialized AWOL Comp Touring

Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #32 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.


The Specialized AWOL Comp ($1,950) is an adventure bike, and a darn good one at that. What’s most surprising about the AWOL is the name on the down tube. While Specialized launched the bike fully ready for duty, it doesn’t fit in any obvious way with the rest of the brand’s race-focused, performance bike lineup. But combine passion with good engineering, and the outcome shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The AWOL doesn’t really break new ground, as it travels the same path that bikes like the Salsa Vaya and Singular Peregrine charted years before. But what it does is introduce bikes like this to the mainstream through the huge Specialized dealer network, and brings the price down to attract more new buyers to enter the fold.

For me, a good adventure bike is comfortable and adept at handling a variety of terrain, while being capable of carrying the supplies needed for multiple days away from civilization.


Comfort comes in the form of an upright riding position, flared drop bars, 40mm wide tires and a Reynolds steel frame. The high drop bar position can take some getting used to, but after adapting to it most riders will find it provides a range of comfortable hand positions, which means more control in rough terrain. Those big tires can be run at pressures in the mid-50s to take the edge off, while still rolling well on hard surfaces.

On first glance I found the undersized steel frame homely and a bit spindly- looking for its intended purpose, but the more I rode it, the better it became. That tall head tube gets the bars up high without ugly high-rise stems, and the slim seatstays provide enough flex for a noticeably smoother ride. Although it doesn’t look it, the frame wasn’t overly flexy while putting the power down.

The rear dropouts pivot to provide chain tension for internally geared hub use, and can separate for use with a belt drive. There are plenty of braze-ons for gear: three bottle mounts, fenders, front and rear racks. The steel tubing is a blend of Reynolds 725 and 520, with a taper-blade fork that does its part to reduce chatter from rough roads.


Drivetrain is courtesy of SRAM’s Apex group, with an X9 rear derailleur and 11-36 10-speed cassette. Coupled with an FSA 48/34-tooth crankset for a full range of gearing and Avid BB7 disc brakes, and you’re armed and ready for anything.

I like this bike; a lot more than I expected, really. But I put it through hell on its first ride, and it was a willing companion. The Hilly Billy Roubaix is a dirt road race in wild and wonderful West Virginia, and other than a spin around the office, this was my first ride on the AWOL. After getting lost, a flat tire and two bad CO2 heads, I ended up spending six and a half hours riding through mud and climbing hills.

From the first pedal stroke the AWOL felt in its element. Whether it was big ringing it down the pavement, or grinding up another steep climb, I wasn’t disappointed.

I expected a flexy frame and the file tread Specialized Trigger tires seemed like a poor choice for mud. But I was wrong on both counts. The tires never let me down, and the frame was pleasantly comfortable, without feeling like I was fighting frame flex while I was fighting the terrain.


Geometry is very interesting, with a long top tube (600mm on my size large), short stem (75mm), lots of fork offset (50mm) and a neutral head angle (72 degrees). Combine all that with a 11.25 inch bottom bracket height, and long 17.9 inch chainstays and the resulting ride was stable but sporty. High-speed dirt roads are spectacular on this bike, even getting a bit drifty wasn’t out of the question. Picking my way through rougher terrain is certainly possible, but this isn’t in any way a mountain bike. The low BB and long rear end combined with the drop bars made me feel clumsy in singletrack.

But on everything short of off road terrain, this bike made me happy. I commuted to work, went on big mixed surface rides, and rode to the park with the kids. While the AWOL will get you way out into the sticks, it also is happy finding your adventures closer to home.

My complaints are few. I really like the bed of the bars, but I never found a brake lever position I was comfortable with. If the hoods are at the right angle, they are too close together, and the brake levers are hard to reach from the drops. I ended up with them a little lower than I really wanted, as reach to the brakes in rough terrain is important to me. With a full rear rack, the frame was flexy, not ideal for a long, heavily loaded tour, but this bike seems much more of a light and fast bikepacking touring bike rather than an old school everything and the kitchen sink pack mule. Including three bottle cages is a nice touch, but they didn’t hold bottles securely enough.

I’m impressed with this bike. Not only is it a solid performer, it’s also the most visually understated specialized model bike in recent memory. The matte frame with tiny gloss logos had everyone guessing what brand. For 2015, the AWOL line has four models, including a partnership with Poler that includes a front rack, Poler panniers, more aggressive tires and orange paint job. It is also available as a frame/fork for $700. The Comp Touring model I tested weighed in at 24.2 pounds.

This isn’t a racing bike, it is a riding bike and I salute Specialized for making it and expanding the line for next year. Riders looking for a willing companion for all kinds of adventures will be very happy on the AWOL. Quite a few personal bikes gathered dust while this bike was around, which has me thinking of ways to keep this bike in my stable.

Additional photos


Review: Specialized Tricross Elite Steel Disc Triple


It’s refreshing to see that large companies have not wholly abandoned the legacy of steel. Specialized’s Tricross Elite Steel Disc Triple stands out from the Tricross line as the lone steel-framed model for the entire brand. Of course steel is a fitting material for the line’s intended purpose, “Freeroad,” A.K.A. riding all over the place for a variety of reasons, a purpose we champion. It’s not a new category for Specialized—we’ve tested two previous models, the Sport in issue #12 and the Comp in our sister magazine, Dirt Rag, back in 2006.

The Tricross caters to us “freeroaders” by aiming for that sweet spot between road, cyclocross and touring. The chromoly frame has a longer top tube and a lengthened wheelbase (as compared to a standard road racing bike) for stability and comfort, though the wheelbase is not as long as a typical touring bike. The head tube is a middle-of-the-road 71.5 for predictable steering. It may be heavier than its aluminum cousins, but for rough-n-ready riding, I enjoyed the genteel comfort of steel, and didn’t feel like it held me back too much when it was time to sprint for the traffic lights. It’s a nice package that covers the bases well, weighing in at 27lbs.

Read our full review here.


Review: Specialized Crosstrail Sport Disc


The Crosstrail formula is simple: aluminum frame with generous tire clearance plus rack and fender mounts, 60mm-travel SR Suntour NEXi suspension fork, a 3×9 drivetrain, Tektro Draco hydraulic disc brakes, and wheels and tires on the heavy-duty end of the road spectrum. This package delivers a highly versatile bike that can be used for commuting, light touring, road rides, urban and rural exploration, and even some light-duty trail riding.

Click here to read the full review.


Trailer: ‘Melons, Trucks and Angry Dogs – Going AWOL’

Before Specialized launched its AWOL adventure bike, Recep Yesil of Turkey and Erik Nohlin of Sweden took prototype models across Europe in an unsupported, single-stage race known as the Transcontinental. There are no support teams, no predetermined route, and only two checkpoints along its 2,000-mile route. The rest is up to you.

Below is a trailer for an upcoming documentary about their journey. Episode 1 will premiere December 1.

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