We’re big fans of Specialized’s Roval Control and Control SL wheels race wheels here at Bike Perfect and we reckon their range of XC / Downcountry tires are the best performance-to-price bargain out there too.
Now Specialized has plugged the obvious gap in their race arsenal with an all-in-one carbon cockpit and rigid seat post to match the imminent launch of their new Epic lightweight full-suspension race bike.
Roval Control cockpit
One-piece carbon cockpits are nothing new on the XC circuit with Nino Schurter winning countless Olympic, World Cup, and World Championship races on Scott’s Syncros Hixon and Fraser pieces over the years. Canyon has fitted their latest Exceed race hardtails with a stiff all-in-one carbon cockpit too.
Specialized follows a similar gull wing profile to those bars but brings width out to a full 780mm – although cut marks are printed on if you don’t want to get caught in other racers off the start line. An 8-degree back sweep and 1-degree rise should give it a classic XC flat bar feel and it’s available in 60, 70, 80, and 90mm equivalent stem lengths too, but currently only with a super aggressive minus 12-degree stem drop. At a claimed 250g including titanium stem bolts, it’s 30g heavier than the lightest 740mm width Syncros Fraser IC SL cockpit, but 75g lighter than the 780mm Syncros Hixon. We’re still waiting on ride samples but the ultra-wide, flared stem, and inner bar section certainly don’t look like they’re going to flop around if you’re going hard out of the saddle.
There’s a bolting point for GPS computer/light mounts which neatly sidesteps one of the main issues of running weirdly shaped bars. The £300 price tag is comparable with lightweight separate best MTB handlebar and stem combos and 25 percent cheaper than the Syncros Fraser IC SL XC.
Roval Control SL Seatpost
Specialized also has good news for the surprisingly large number of riders who are still happy blitzing race courses and trails with their saddles right up their butts. The Roval Control SL seatpost uses a single-piece carbon fiber shaft with fore and aft titanium bolts securing upper and lower clamp sections.
The classic two-bolt design first popularized by the Suntour XC Pro posts back in the '90s means ultra-fine angle adjustment and excellent security. With 46mm of rail support and no high-stress T-bar design, it should be kinder on saddle rails and it’s cleared for use with metal and carbon rails in round or oval format.
At a claimed 180g for the full 415mm length, it’s very light too but it only comes in a 30.9mm diameter and 1mm rearward offset – it's not cheap at £205 either.
Roval Control Alloy 350 6B wheels
Roval already has two excellent carbon MTB wheel options in the Control and the Control SL, but it sounds like they’ve invested a serious amount of effort into a new alloy rim based wheel. That includes “developing an all-new alloy” (it’s 6013 for aluminum arithmetic fans) for the asymmetric, 27mm internal, 31mm external Zero Bead Hook rims. The rims are also treated to a refined shot peening process to blast construction stresses away and then joined with “individually customized sleeves” to stop creaking and reduce weight.
The “wildly over-engineered” rims are then handbuilt onto the same workhorse DT Swiss 350 straight pull hubs as the Roval Control carbon wheels but with Sapim D-Lite rather than DT Competition spokes. RockShox compatible Torque Cap and standard end caps are included, together with tubeless valves to match the pre-taped rims.
Again, we’re still waiting on test samples but extensive experience with the Control Carbon wheel and the shallow 19mm depth of the Control Alloy hoops suggest they’ll be a well-balanced rather than brutally stiff wheel. At a claimed 1,648g, (front 768g, rear 880g – excluding tubeless rim tape, and tubeless valves) they’re very light for alloy at this width and comparable to many carbon sets.
£710 is competitive for most premium metal wheels, and while you don’t get the lifetime warranty of the Control Carbon wheels, many riders trust alloy rims more when it comes to finishing a race dented but not catastrophically cracked.
What about that new XC bike then?
While these components are definitely going to excite the XC crowd and I’m eager to start testing samples, what most shaven-legged, skin-suit-sporting speed fiends are eager to hear about is the new Specialized Epic bike.
The Californian company certainly hasn’t been shy about showing it off under racers or as the host bike for some of the launch videos of SRAM’s T-Type transmission. We know it's a FACT carbon frameset and as the current Epic Evo is one of the lightest suspension frames available we’d be very surprised if it was heavier than that.
Especially as the custom RockShox shock is recessed within the top tube (like Trek’s Supercaliber Isostrut bikes) means travel is likely to be sub 100mm. We can’t see any signs of Specialized carrying over their 20-year-old but still super popular ‘BRAIN’ auto shock sensing tech though unless it’s switched to ‘Flight Attendant’ electronic rather hydraulic actuation.