Meet one of the Trail Warrior fleet.... this one is officially named Bravo (more on that in a minute). Thanks to Peyton's Bikes in Midland, TX. and all of our great sponsors, we have acquired 5 of these. 4 Medium frames and 1 Large frame. These are the bikes we'll keep on hand to loan out as needed for veterans attending our expedition rides.
They are 2019 Specialized Fuze 27.5 hardtails. 120mm travel on the front fork and 3" tires make this thing a traction monster. I loaded one up in preparation for the upcoming Big Bend Expedition ride and took it out on the trail to see how it did.
Load: I knew going into it that the front suspension fork and down tube had no mounting points so that would be a challenge. The only place to mount cages was inside the frame triangle but that space is null since the frame bag makes the bottle cages inaccessible there. I ended up using 1 of the cable guide brackets and some spacers with good old electrical tape to mount the 2 cages to the under side of the down tube. I also added a cage to each side of the front fork in a similar fashion. I will likely mess with that some more later on but for now... The tent fit snugly in the handlebar roll and is super secure in that Shimano bag. The frame bag is sufficient to hold a few days of food. Each of the feedbags can hold a 1 liter Nalgene bringing the total carry to 5 liters. I'll have to work on fitting 1 to 2 more liters somewhere later. The seat bag has a sleeping pad and can hold a few items of clothing. We will be getting tank bags for the top tube before the ride for personal items. That leaves the sleeping bag. Considering they are all down bags, they pack up small and are super lightweight so those will go in each riders' backpack to keep the load light and easy.
Handling: I had the tires slightly over where my personal preference usually is. These are all set up tubeless so goat heads and thorns aren't an issue. With the Nalgene bottles slightly limiting the turning radius between the handlebar and the top tube, I was a little skeptical of how it would handle the hairpins. Well - got to start somewhere so off I went. First of all - I was super impressed with the overall handling of this bike. (thanks Jason!) Everything about the handling was superb. It gripped the corners nicely and I felt confident even on the sandy and loose edges. The riding position is a touch aggressive but still plenty comfortable enough for long days on the trail.
Equipment: The dropper post is a nice addition that I was not familiar with personally but quickly gained an appreciation for it. The drive train is a 1x11 setup, 10 speed with an 11x42 cassette and a 28t front chainring. The ratio is nice - I worked through the range a little to assess and the large 42 will be great for hill climbing on sketchy terrain. With one chainring in the front it does top out early if you're going fast but thats typical with any 1x setup. When we are on these expeditions it's better to have the lower gears than the higher ones anyways. Speed isn't typically an issue with the terrain and 40 pounds of gear we're hauling. Gravity will lend a hand when you're going downhill, so I'd rather have the climbing capability. The shifting was very smooth and fast, not much to say there. Like, my personal ride, this has an aluminum frame. I had to check though because while riding it I actually thought it felt like a steel frame. The way it sounded and felt I thought for a minute... could it be?.... nah...... surely it's not.... steel? Nope - it's aluminum but kudos to Specialized for making such a solid ride feel.
So - we decided to keep our equipment straight and know what's what, we're naming the bikes. There's 5. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, and Echo. (see how there's room for future expansion in the stable?).. and... some of you may have noticed that's the military phonetic alphabet too... see what we did there? Anyways... Alpha seemed fitting for the Large framed bike. This is second in line and the first one to really be taken out and tested while fully loaded. And (insert corny line here) after riding it I did hop off and applaud slowly, hats off to the bike... bravo sir.... bravo! Not really but I thought about it.