Having sold my old mountain bike in the move from Tucson to Chandler, I found that there was something missing in my life. Having caught the mountain biking bug in the late 1980’s, and having thrashed the local trails here in the south bay mercilessly, giving it up left a hole.
To fill that void, I splurged on a Specialized Crave Expert. It is a hardtail 29’er, with pretty decent components. Having ridden it a few times, with some good miles in the saddle, it is time for my first review of this steed.
The bike is longer than I am used to. Mostly due to the larger hoops on the wheels, the wheelbase is a bit long. Thus the turning is a bit weird at first, but you quickly get used to it. And once you roll over some rocks and other trail topography, you no longer wonder what people are talking about the 29in wheels.
The longer wheelbase means that you really want to sit when you are climbing. Standing on the pedals like I do on my road bike unloads the rear wheel enough that you can easily spin the tire. Definitely takes some getting used to.
Remembering my last ride, a Stumpjumper Comp being a quick steerer, this is just a little but more relaxed. Good thing to, as my reflexes and instincts are not quite up to snuff yet.
This is the first bike with disc brakes. They are good (not great) Shimano hydraulic discs. It of course has the cheaper pads, but they deliver excellent whoa power with great control. 1 finger on the fronts and 2 on the rear is more than enough to keep the speed under control downhill. When the pads wear out, I will splurge for the better fibre pads.
The handlebars are pretty wide. Apparently this is the new standard, but I swear I have ridden motocross motorcycles with narrower bars. Definitely will take some getting used to.
Being a mid range Specialized, and Specialized being such a large company, the components are decent. A mix of SRAM and Shimano, not top of the line anywhere, but solid. I see no need to replace anything in the near term. Sort of like my old Specialized Stumpjumper Comp. I think I replaced the rims (taco’d the front, wanted a better rim for the rear) and the bottom bracket (about 5 years in it developed a “click” in the BB, replaced the low grade Shimano with a Raceface and was done with it).
One weakness is the tires. They are OK for stock, but they are a bit wider than I like, and what is good for the trails near here. Something narrower with a bit less rolling resistance will be what I replace them with when they get shagged.
The fork is nice. Again, not a top flight set of silverware, but decent. A 100mm travel RockShox Reba. Air on the left leg, oil on the right. It has a lockout that is actuated on the handlebar. For climbing or riding on the road to and from the trails, the lockout is AWESOME.
The bike has the now almost standard 2×10 gearing. Two chainrings on the front, coupled with a jumbo 10 gear cassette on the rear. Granny gear is really low, and the highest gear is probably barely passable for brief blasts on the road to get to the trail. In one way it is nice to not be able to completely blow a shift. Under strain, with fatigue gripping your brain, it was all too easy on a 3×7 to shift the wrong way in the front and destroy your momentum, killing your climb. But I am still getting used to this, so it is still a bit puzzling to find the right gear.
Odds and Ends:
- There isn’t much room for the bottle cages. I can only fit shorty bottles. I guess I will be going back to a Camelback.
- The grips have those palm rests. When I first saw them I thought “Lame” and that I would replace them. However after a few rides, I kind of like them. They do seem to relieve the stress and fatigue on my wrists, something that I pay a lot of attention to as I get to be an old fart.
- The colors are a bit meh. I am not a fashion conscious rider by any mean, but the finish on the frame is matte black with bright yellow lettering. I neither hate it nor love it, it is just there.
- Cable routing is smart. Specialized designed it with lugs to accommodate tie wraps to old cables in place. Neat.
- Frame build quality. Very high quality welds and construction. You can tell that someone took good care building this. Better than I expected at this price point to be honest. Like my old Stumpy, it looks like it will take a LOT of abuse in stride.
While I am easing into the mountain biking regime slowly (getting my condition back is a bitch at my age), I did indeed pick a good ride to work with. Yep, I would have loved to go carbon, or something wickedly cool, but dollar for dollar, I have stumbled onto a pretty good bike.
As my stamina improves, and my conditioning returns, I am confident that I will be rewarded with a faithful companion on the trails.