Bike Review: 2018 Specialized Chisel (W/100 mile update)

*100-mile update is at the end of this article.
New for the 2018 Specialized lineup is the Chisel. The Chisel effectively replaces the Specialized Crave as their sub $2,000 hardtail 29er. The main difference between the Chisel and Crave is frame geometry. The Chisel geometry bridges the gap between traditional cross-country geometry and modern trail geometry by offering a head tube angle of 69.8°.
There are three options for the men’s Chisel:
Chisel Expert 1x ($1850)
Chisel Comp 2x ($1500)
Chisel Frameset ($750)
I chose to build up a frameset. Going the route of a frame gives you the option of two colors that are not available as complete builds. All Chisels are built with Specialized’s M5 aluminum.
The frame has internal cable routing, boost spacing, and a threaded bottom bracket shell.
My intentions were to build a lightweight cross-country bike that still felt fun/stable on the descents.
For the fork, I chose the 2018 Fox 32 Step Cast with Kashima Coat.
The fork is light (a hair under 3 lbs). I chose the Fit4 3 Position Damper without the remote lockout. The Fit4 damper offers more adjustment when the fork is in its open position.
The wheels are built around Hope Pro 4 hubs which are high-quality hubs at a relatively affordable price.
I chose Stan’s No Tubes Crest rims which are plenty light and far more affordable than an average carbon rim. The wheels are laced with DT Swiss Competition spokes and purple alloy nipples.
Finishing off the wheels are WTB tubeless valves, Orange Seal rim tape and sealant, and Maxxis 29×2.35 Ikon tires.
The drivetrain consists of a Shimano XT 11-speed 11-46 cassette, KMC X11SL chain,
Shimano XT shifter and derailleur,
Race Face Next SL G4 cranks and a Wolf Tooth 30t oval chainring.
The brakes are Shimano XT with 160mm rotors front and rear.
The cockpit contains a Race Face Next 35 20mm rise 760 width handlebar,
Race Face Turbine 35 stem,
ESI Fit XC grips, Origin8 VEX platform pedals,
Specialized Phenom Expert 143mm saddle, and a KS LEV Integra 27.2 internally routed 100mm travel dropper post.
Finding a 27.2 dropper with a decent amount of travel and internal routing proved to be difficult but this dropper seems up to the challenge thus far.
The Chisel is for a rider looking for a lightweight cross-country rig that is stable enough for fast and challenging descents without totally breaking the bank.
The price gap between the Chisel Comp 2x and Chisel Expert 1x is somewhat negligible. It really just depends on whether you prefer a 1x or 2x drivetrain. Each has its upside and downside. The 1x is clean and simple but lacks the high-end gears that a 2x provides. On the other hand, 2x drivetrains are a little heavier and less pleasing on an aesthetic level.
My particular build retails somewhere around $4,300 with every component at full price. However, If you choose to build up a frame, you should be able to get a shop to give you a break on at least some of your components.
Let me know what you think of the new Specialized Chisel. Also, how about my build? What would you have done differently?


To put it simply, this bike is a rocket.
I expected my climbs to improve in comparison to my Stumpjumper FSR. I expected an improvement because the Chisel weighs 4.5 fewer pounds than my Stumpy. I expected an improvement because the Chisel doesn’t have 150mm of rear suspension. I expected the steeper head tube angle, 29er wheels, and  XC geometry to all translate into a much better climber. It came as no surprise that all of my expectations were met.
The Chisel is a climbing machine. On climbs that I averaged speeds between 3-4mph on my Stumpy, I average close to 6mph on the Chisel. The frame is lightweight and stiff in all the right places. I feel that little to no energy is lost on the Chisel and all of my efforts result in the bike moving forward at a fast pace.
The climbing performance alone is enough to sell me on this bike. What I didn’t expect, however, is how much faster I am on the descents. There are a couple factors that should be addressed when considering why I descend faster on the Chisel in comparison to my Stumpy. First of all, I am running 29×2.35 tires on the Chisel and 27.5×2.6 tires on the Stumpy. There is a wider footprint (contact point) with the 2.6 tires which certainly adds rolling resistance. 29er tires also carry momentum better than any other tire size. This is a claim that has been tested and supported by many manufacturers and I can attest to it. Secondly, I feel that my downhill skills are slowly improving and that may be reflected in my times. Take for example the trail I rode most often: Ash Canyon in Carson City, NV. The trail is a great place to work on XC riding. There is a fun downhill section known as Jackrabbit Downhill. This is the section where I really focus on my downhill times as I know the trail very well.
In the picture below, I have highlighted my fasted Jackrabbit Downhill time for both bikes. My fastest time on the Chisel is highlighted in green and my fastest time on the Stumpy is highlighted in blue.
Again, I am becoming a better descender. But do I believe that my skills alone knocked 12 seconds off my best time in only one month? No.
I believe the 29″ tires account for some of the improvement. I also believe my sprinting efficiency on the Chisel is far superior and helped slash my time during brief moments and flat terrain. Whatever the case may be, and feel free to give me your opinion if I’m missing any possibilities, I am stoked with the results. I should mention that long descents on the Chisel aren’t nearly as fun or as comfortable as with the Stumpy. My back tightens up and begins to ache much faster on the chisel. But that’s not much of a concern because I bought the Chisel for one purpose: to go fast. I also had hopes that the Chisel would motivate me to get into shape and try some XC races. The bike has shown that it is fully capable of putting up some competitive XC runs. The only question I have yet to answer is whether or not I am as capable as the bike.

15 thoughts on “Bike Review: 2018 Specialized Chisel (W/100 mile update)

  1. Awesome build. I have been thinking specialized should do a higher spec bike like this for their line up. With this light frame that would be awesome. Can you tell me what your bike weighs? The reba fork is only .62 pounds heavier. What about the wheels and tires? How much weight did you save there? I have an XT 1x on my fuse and was thinking of moving it over to this bike but the GX 1x is not bad and I could upgrade easily to the 12 speed cassette and rear derailleur to get to the 10 x 50. Also the sram level brakes are pretty good but I do like the XT’s better. Really just buying the expert and adding a wider range cassette and lighter wheels and a dropper post would be a good budget improvement too.


    1. Thanks for commenting, Rich. This build weighed 23 pounds on the dot. I was torn between the XT 1×11 or the SRAM Eagle. I think either drivetrain is awesome but as far as brakes go, nothing beats Shimano in my opinion. The wheel set is plenty light and Hope hubs are my personal favorite. This bike is an absolute rocket. Keep me posted if you end up building one!


  2. This is great to see! I was also considering my options between the chisel expert or the frameset and I decided on the complete expert. I’ve been running some trail oriented components (dropper, shorter stem, platform pedals, etc) and it’s solid on the climbs and descents! Im trying to upgrade the tires to something more grippy/aggressive for descents and corners. When you were building up your bike did you ever find the max tire width you can fit on a chisel?


    1. Although I haven’t tested it yet, I think the new line of 29×2.6 Specialized tires would fit. One of my coworkers is running a 29×2.6 butcher/purgatory combo on his Stumpjumper FSR. I’ll try to put his wheels in my Chisel and let you know the results.


      1. Awesome please let me know! You should go for a few rides with the 2.6 wheels and include your thoughts in your 100 mile review. It would provide some great insight!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I was hoping for a review… No offense, but this isn’t a review. This is just a description of your build and there is nothing here that I couldn’t find on the Specialized site myself. Could you please elaborate on the ride characteristics of the frame? Do you like it? Does it ride harsh? Pluses and minuses?


    1. Thanks for the comment. I was planning on doing a 100 mile update once I reach the mileage. The Bike is fast, reaponsive, and feels stiff in the right areas. I expected to climb better on this bike in comparison to my full suspension for obvious reasons, which was the case. What really caught me by surprise, however, was how fast this bike is downhill. I crushed my personal Strava records on my local trails by nearly 10%. The geometry of the frame, in conjunction with the 760mm handlebars, feels very stable downhill.


      1. Interesting about the downhill performance. I started racing our local Wednesday Night Worlds last year and was looking for a more efficient bike/frame. I’ve been racing a Niner SIR9 SS and it is great, but I’m contemplating adding a snappy racer to the fleet.


      2. Awesome info. The descending aspect was the reason I came to this review. I had a provisional Chisel build on order, but the all black frameset is unavailable at this time. Bugga! I planned to go full XT, with King hubs, Thomson post, stem, and carbon bar, with Reba 100mm fork. Shop estimate was $4000. I was planning on 2.3 tires, but after reading your build, I would consider 2.5. I was seeking exactly what you describe: performance bike to race on that handles well downhill, but won’t bankrupt me.
        You’re build looks sweet. It almost tempted me to go with your frame color.


      3. Hey Teddy. Sounds like you will nail it with those components. I really love this bike. It impresses me with each ride I take it on. My coworker with the 2.6 tires gave me the go ahead to put them on my bike. I should have the results soon!


  4. Any news regarding the 2.6 tire clearence compatibily on the Chisel ?(mainly rear end).
    I love my SJ 6Fattie and I plan on bulid my own Chisel for random racing as well as bike packing yet I want to maintain the grippier tires (kind of “plus-less”) feel.

    So…have you already tried the 29×2.6 tires on the Chisel?


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