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a shiny thing Specialized S-Works FSR 120 Frameset
Aluminium bike porn

If youíre under the age of 18, donít read this. Iíve lusted after an FSR since I became hooked on mountain bikes. When the new style models were released (2003 I think) I really got interested, but I waited until now because I had a perfectly shiny Gaint NRS to play with. It was only recently that I had the required cash (£1000) and access to a shop with stock (Mike Vaughan). Having ridden around on a built up bike and also Gaintís Reign I had a look at the S-Works frameset and that was enough for me.

By the way, never buy a bike without riding it first. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, sizing and the feel of the bike (bars, stem, saddle, suspension, handling) is different for everyone. You canít tell how well a bike rides from a review! (Iím only writing this because the FSR is a Shiny Thing.) Secondly, if the shop wonít give you a test ride, thereís a reason. They donít have any confidence in either the bike, how it was built up, or you. Would you buy a car without a test drive?

Anyway, thatís enough ranting. The frame is made from M5 aluminium, whatever that is. My limited metallurgy knowledge would suggest thatís itís a harder alloy than the M4 used on most FSRs. This would let you draw thinner and thus lighter tubes. These tubes are formed into quite intricate shapes using differing methods. The top tube is the really sexy one with itís robotic welds joining 2 pressed halves together. This could easily be a cheap and nasty way of fabricating components, but somehow it is pure shininess.

The Fox Septune rear shock unit passes through a hollow forging. Very neat and tidy. The fit of the parts on this frame appears very good; certainly better than most bikes Iíve seen. It looks like thought and effort went into itís manufacture.

The finish is a heavy gunmetal anodising. A little bit lighter than paint and quite rare on off-road frames. The frame has to be well fettled and clean to look nice after anodising. This just adds to the intricate, precise look.

Gear cables are run under the bottom bracket shell (which was already faced for external bearings). This might seem like a bad move. Well Iíve ridden in fields of sheep and cow excrement without a hitch

Iím going to tell you how it feels, despite the fact that if you ride one, it wonít feel exactly the same. Basically is does what Specialized say it does. There is some movement of the suspension, but in practice you have to be watching the link to notice it. Set up within about 5PSI of perfect and itís fine. Unlike the NRS the traction is fantastic. It absorbs bumps fantastically, which is what itís for after all.

All together itís a very shiny package. It looks good and it works. £1000 is a lot for a frame. Not the most you can pay, but Iíve built a 5-inch travel cross-country bike with no really fancy bits that weighs in at 26lb. With UST wheels that would be a good pound lighter. Bear in mind that you do get a Thompson Elite seat post for your money. This is a shiny thing in its own right and retails for £70. You also get a chainstay guard fitted and a bumper for the rear derailleur. The main thing you do need to buy is the little mudguard that goes over the upper stay bridge. This is just there to limit the amount of poo that hits the shock.

Specialized have anounced a composite version for 2006. I would be upset, but I canít see it performing that much better. I also expect it will cost a lot more.

Copyright © 2005 Skippy Kitten