By: Kristin Butcher
Specialized Safire FSR Pro
$4,500 / specialized.com
After years of being taunted with promises of womens'-specific designs, only to find a bike with lesser parts and a pastel paint-job, I approached the Specialized Safire FSR Pro with curious trepidation. However, after a week of riding the bike in British Columbia's rugged Chilcotin Mountains, I came away impressed: The women's-specific Safire gives the "shrink it and pink it" trend a solid kick in the balls. This bike delivers.
The Safire is fully redesigned for 2011. Specialized took off the leash for this project, allowing the folks behind their women's line to work in tandem with engineering staff for a no-holds-barred rebirth, from tubes to tuning, of the all-mountain Safire.
The most noticeable change is the new three-piece top tube that allows for a ridiculously low stand-over height, so those of us with short legs don't ride in fear of racking our girl-junk. The dropped center of gravity and revamped inline suspension make the Safire feel glued to the ground around corners, and lends the bike a stable, sure-footed feeling while you're descending burly rock gardens.
For all the differences between women, we have one major similarity: We tend to be lighter, and less hairy, than the average male. The Safire's suspension was designed and tuned around a 150-pound rider instead of the classically used 190-pound-rider benchmark. The result is 120 millimeters of rear travel that feels like a lot more than 120 millimeters.
Rear suspension duties are handled by a Brain rear shock. When it comes to canceling out suspension bob, the inertia-valved Brain shocks are more of a set-it-and-ride-it affair than, say, a rear shock with a lock-out lever. You can, however, vary the firmness of the suspension platform by fiddling with the shock's Brain Fade adjuster.
Up front, the top-level Safire is spearheaded by Specialized's own Future Shock S140TA fork, which features a carbon crown and tapered carbon steerer, 140-115 millimeters of adjustable travel, and Brain Fade damping.
Given the price tag, you'd expect the Safire to be equipped with high-end components, and there are no disappointments here. Highlights include a Roval Control Trail EL XC wheelset, Avid Elixir R CR SL disc brakes and a SRAM 10-speed drivetrain composed of X9 shifters, X0 rear derailleur and a swank, carbon dual-ring crankset (36/24) with bashguard (also from SRAM).
At under 26 pounds, this bike is respectably light for a trail bike, but it isn't the billy goat on the climbs that its racy little sister, the Era, is. The Safire is more like the animal that stalks the billy goat up the hill before savagely devouring it on the way down.
Though the womens'-specific design of the Safire is about more than femme-friendly accessories, it has those too--shorter crank lengths, thinner grips and a ladies' saddle are all par for the course on this solid bike.
Final Take: No dainty princess--Specialized delivers an uncompromising all-mountain bike for the fairer sex.