Contrary to popular belief, the Specialized Rhyme Comp Carbon 6Fattie isn't actually a bike. It's salt-and-vinegar potato chips. The first bite is curious and perplexing, maybe even slightly offensive. So you grab another. And another. Until you wonder where the whole bag went.
With the Rhyme, Specialized moved away from designs built around debated ideas of women's proportions, choosing to re-appropriate the long-heralded Stumpjumper FSR frame spec'd with components geared toward smaller riders–namely a narrower 720-mil handlebar and a Fox Float DPS shock tuned for lighter riders. The frame also comes in an extra-small option. The result is a solid design accessible to riders in the fun-size category. Boost 148 spacing in the rear helps the 6Fattie run girthtastic 27.5 x 3 tires that beg to be taken deep into corners while gobbling up chunder on climbs and descents with equal prowess.
The 6Fattie's carbon front triangle keeps the weight manageable and incorporates a downtube storage compartment big enough to carry tools, food, kittens or whatever your heart desires. We weighed ours at just over 30 pounds, making it the heaviest women's bike we tested, but it was the only 27+ bike in our women's fleet. Short 17.2-inch chainstays kept this bike lively, while the SRAM GX drivetrain equipped with a 28-tooth ring made pedaling surprisingly easy considering the doubled-up flotation of 3-inch tires and 135 millimeters of rear travel.
Between the endless traction, smooth FSR suspension platform and the precise IRcc dropper post, the 6Fattie was crafted to inspire confidence. If there's a complaint independent of the 27+ genre as a whole, it's that the low, 13.1- inch bottom-bracket height that helps keep this bike planted occasionally results in unexpected pedal bashing. For those not into 27+, the Rhyme FSR is also available in a standard 650b. But it's nice to know that fellow short-statured riders who value the fun of choosing stupid lines have a choice in the Rhyme 6Fattie, because some of us like putting salt-and-vinegar chips on a sandwich served with fried pickles and Tabasco Ranch.
Q&A with Amy Nelson and Denise Silva
Before this year's test bikes rolled into our barn, we had questions about them–some of the same questions that you might be asking yourself when you start poking around at a new bike. Here's what Amy Nelson and Denise Silva, Specialized's Women's MTB Product managers, had to say in return. –Vernon Felton, Bible of Bike Tests Moderator
Vernon Felton: In the past, Specialized had women's-specific geometry on their women's bikes. Not for 2016. Why the change?
Amy Nelson/Denise Silva: We look to rider insights and the ride experience we are targeting with each product and make the decision accordingly. We offer women’s specific geometries where it is necessary. With the Rhyme, based on feedback from female trail riders, we found out that these female riders are looking for a true trail geometry (slack head tube angle, low bottom bracket) and the priority is the handling of the bike. We were able to achieve this geometry and handling with our existing trail chassis and integrate the women’s tuned suspension and touch points (cranks, grips, bars, saddle), so the product is optimized for female trail riders. The Rhyme 6Fattie is available is sizes XS-M.
VF: There are a growing number of plus-size bikes out there. What sets this model apart from some similar bikes?
AN/DS: We are the only brand to offers multiple 6Fattie options for women. Our line includes the Ruze, our women's 6Fattie hardtail family and the Rhyme, our full-suspension carbon and alloy trail bikes. Each model is a complete system and comes with our unique women's suspension tune (RX Women's tune) and women's-specific components (bar, saddle, cranks)–and, where necessary, with a unique women's-specific geometry.
VF: Who is the ideal rider for this bike?
AN/DS: When designing the Rhyme 6Fattie, we wanted to provide all trail riders with the ultimate bike that will serve their riding needs. The 6Fattie specific technology provides trail riders with added control and traction while out on the trail.
VF: Are there conditions in which you feel this bike really excels and, if so, what specific design attributes of the bike make that so?
AN/DS: The Rhyme 6Fattie is a true trail bike, meaning it has to be able to do everything: climb, descend, corner, jump, etc. With 6Fattie the bike really excels with control and traction. The Rhyme features our trail geometry with a slack headtube angle, low bottom bracket, and short chain stays to deliver a super responsive and playful handling bike.
VF: Are there any aspects of the frame design that you are particularly proud of? If so, what are they and why?
AN/DS: The SWAT door featured on this and all carbon Rhyme models, which provides the rider with storage in their down tube, the unique Rx Women's Suspension Tune and nice little details, such as the internally routed cables, are, for sure, features we are proud of.
VF: Are there any details/features on this bike that you think are particularly critical to its performance that might be easily overlooked at first glance?
AN/DS: The SWAT door can be overlooked because it's where the water bottle is mounted, but is a super innovative and unique feature offered on the Rhyme Comp Carbon 6Fattie. The internal cable routing and finished carbon in the inside of the down tube are two additional features that show the level of attentiveness to details the team maintains while developing these products. To ensure the bike is optimized for female riders, our suspension team developed the Women’s RX Tuned Suspension and spec’d the bikes with women-specific components.
VF: If someone is considering the 6Fattie Rhyme, they are probably also looking at the 650b version that comes with "normal" 2.3-inch tires.
AN/DS: In regards to 650b vs 6Fattie, 650b is lighter and more nimble while 6Fattie provides more control and traction. Which is better? We leave this decision up to the rider!