Review: Specialized Comp 29’er

The Specialized Comp

The Specialized Comp

You may remember that my beloved Scalpel went into the shop for a new frame – since part of the frame broke.  Fortunately, the new Scalpel is ready for me to pick up – and I’m looking forward to having my beloved bike back on the trail.

Shortly after I dropped it off at one bike shop to have it fixed (need to use a shop that is different from my favorite shop because they’re an authorized Cannondale dealer), I stopped by my favorite shop to see if it’d be a good time to start bringing in my bikes for their Spring tune-up (if you’re wondering, it’s a good time).

I let my bike shop rep, Chris, know what was going on with the Scalpel and said I was looking forward to having my bike back (and, at the time, was hoping Cannondale would pull through with their lifetime warranty (they did)).  Chris suggested that if I get a new frame, I should consider selling the Scalpel and upgrading to a Specialized Comp 29’er – since the Scalpel will be in its best possible form and will be at its maximum value.  It didn’t take me long to tell him that I just couldn’t part with the Scalpel (probably about as long as it took him to make the crazy suggestion).

My Cannondale Scalpel

My Cannondale Scalpelh the Scalpel (probably before he was done making such a crazy suggestion).

Chris suggested that, at the very least, I should take the demo Comp out for a ride to see how I liked it.  He said everyone

who’s tried it, bought it.  (As a side note, I recognized that he is, in fact, in the business to sell bikes.)

Of course, who am I to argue.  It’s one of the reasons I love my bike shop – they don’t worry about loaning me a $3,000 bike.

So, I happily loaded up the Comp and planned to ride the next Sunday.  Of course, temperatures that Sunday were in the low 20’s with single-digit wind chills.  So, I held off until this past Sunday. It was still a bit chilly (30’s) – but I didn’t want to keep the bike any longer than I already had.

Now, a few notes that must be considered for this review:20130227-142248.jpg

  1. As I strapped my mountain biking shoes on, the strap on my right shoe broke.  I had to consider if I was going to continue with the ride (yes – it was cold, too – so maybe, just maybe, I was hoping to have a reason not to ride).  Fortunately, my friend Jason had some duct tape to help secure the shoe (and it was red, so I even matched).
  2. The weather conditions let the trails be a bit muddy – conditions that made going up dirt roads and trails more difficult than normal for all of us.  That mud just wanted to make us sink in and work hard!
  3. This is the first 29’er I’ve ever been on.  My other mountain bikes are 26’ers.


With those notes considered, here is my review:

The Specialized Comp 29’er is a big bike.  I have to admit that I felt a little bit like Edith Ann sitting in the big rocking chair.  If you don’t know who that is, you’re probably younger than me and this makes no sense.  If you click on the link, you’ll get the idea.

I raised the seat to what I considered the best height for my long legs – and I still felt like I wasn’t high enough on the bike.  Again, I’m comparing this to the race build of my Scalpel, so I recognize that this will be a different feel.  I can’t say I liked the feeling, but it was workable.

Our ride started up what we affectionately call The Hill of Death.  It’s a steep climb on a single track trail.  It was a tough climb.  The bike just felt a lot heavier than the carbon fiber Scalpel I’m used to riding.  Again, the mud didn’t make it any easier.  I did, however, make it the whole way up the Hill.  I was huffing and puffing pretty hard (harder than I usually am).  The whole ascent seemed slow to me, but a few of the other riders said it looked like I did ok climbing.

The next part of our ride was across the top of the mountain.  There are a number of downed trees along this singletrack trail.  A few of them would always stop me in my tracks on my Scalpel.  These are trees with (I’m guessing) 14″ – 18″ diameters.  The Comp did easily go over those trees.  Jason exclaimed that he didn’t even hear me go over them.

Throughout other parts of the ride (flat, rolling and downhill sections), the Comp chewed up a lot of the obstacles we go over with little problem.  I was happy to see how easily the bike conquered these trees, rock piles, etc.  Secretly, I wondered, though, if the 29’er was making mountain biking too easy….

The last part of our ride is just a climb on a dirt road that vehicles also use.  This seemed like the toughest part of the ride.  Again, it was the mud that really made this tough.  All of us on the ride were having a tough time with that mud.  By the top, I wasn’t able to keep up with Jason – whereas I can usually stay pretty even with his pace.  I was just too beat pedaling the tank of a bike up the hill.

I should say – at one point in the ride – I gave both Jason and my brother, Randy, a chance to ride the Comp for a quick review themselves.  Jason started first (and Randy wasn’t in the area).  Jason’s main comment: “It doesn’t turn on a dime.”  Randy came into the area and I encouraged him to take a quick ride.  His first comment: “It doesn’t turn too easily, does it?”  Both did agree that it went over obstacles pretty easily.

I think their comments pretty well sum up our first experience with a 29-inch model bike.  It feels heavier and clunkier than the 26-inch models we’re all accustomed to.  It does go over obstacles much more easily, though.  So, I suppose you should take into account the kind of riding you do.

If you do a lot of technical logs, etc. without much climbing, the Specialized Comp may be a good choice.  If your riding entails a lot of climbing or intricate, slow maneuvering on tight singletrack (between trees, etc.), this may not be your bike.

One other note I’d like to make.  I don’t like the setup for shifting.  I like seeing numbers on my shifters – so I know which cog I’m in when I’m riding.  This set-up didn’t have numbers – so I had to shift to the lowest rear cog only so I could shift back up to my regular riding gears.  I like to know at a quick glance, and this didn’t sit real well with me.

For me, I’ll return the demo Comp (after de-mudding it).  Then, I’ll go pick up my Cannondale Scalpel 26’er – with its brand new frame – and happily ride on for, hopefully, many more years.  And I might not make it over all of the obstacles like I did on the 29’er – but that’s A-OK with me!

Ride on!

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