Bike Review: Specialized Ruze (Good 1st Mountain Bike?)

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Let’s address one thing at the onset: $1,000 is a lot of money for someone’s first mountain bike. When customers enter my shop seeking their first mountain bike, I generally guide them to a bike that doesn’t exceed $600. That’s not to say they wouldn’t appreciate a higher end bike once on the trail, but it may give them the impression that cycling is an out-of-budget hobby.
My wife Monica has been hinting that she wants a mountain bike for the past couple of months. She has minimal experience on a bicycle. I had refurbished a 1970’s Peugeot Mixte, mainly because she loves the urban style of the bike, but the overall handling and geometry of the bike has left her wondering if there is more to cycling.
When deciding on which bike to purchase for her, there were some key factors that I needed to consider. My main focus was picking a bike that gave her confidence. Knowing that old school 27″ tires felt wobbly and unstable to her, I knew that a plus size tire would be a great foundation. My second point of focus was safety. I knew I wanted her bicycle to be equipped with hydraulic disc brakes as they harness sufficient stopping power without demanding as much hand power from the rider. Oh yeah, there was one other thing that was imperative on this bike: it had to have pink in as many places as possible.
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I had my shopping list. I started eliminating options and the choice became clear pretty quick. The Specialized Ruze comes stock with plus size tires (27.5×2.8 rear, 27.5×3.0 front),
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hydraulic disc brakes from Tektro,
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and, most importantly, the graphite color option has pink highlights on the frame.
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I was able to get all of the important factors covered under one bike. However, there are some features on this bike that fall in line with other beginner mountain bikes. The wheels aren’t tubeless compatible. The SR Suntour XCM fork is a coil fork that lacks range of adjustment and pays a weight penalty when compared to an air fork. That said, this bike is plenty capable for XC and Trail riding.
One feature that I overlooked was a 1×10 drivetrain.
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Without a front derailleur, Monica has less shifting options to consider when riding and will be able to focus on the trail ahead.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time breaking down the components on this bike as my main argument is based on the Specialized Ruze being a good option as a beginner’s mountain bike. Yes, the price is high. But so is the performance. And, even though there are cheaper options out there, I feel confident that she will feel confident. That in itself if priceless.
I can say for certain that this is a great mountain for a beginner. It has plenty of features that make for a fun and stable cycling experience.

E-Bikes: Progress Meets Hostility.

*For the purpose of this article, “E-Bike” refers to a non-throttle, pedal-assist bicycle.

E-Bikes may be the most controversial topic in cycling since Lance was first accused of doping. That may seem like somewhat of a false equivalency, but to many cyclists, both topics have one thing in common: CHEATING. The rapid increase of E-Bikes has sparked a lot of heated discussion in the industry. Many riders feel that E-Bikes offer an unfair advantage to other riders and shouldn’t be allowed to share the same trails. Other people view E-Bikes as motorcycles in disguise, and since they are just motorcycles, shouldn’t be allowed to share the same trails. Where is this bicycle segregation coming from?
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Even at my bike shop, located in an area where E-Bikes haven’t really hit the riding scene, we are having daily discussions about them with customers. There are shops now, often in urban settings, that exclusively sell E-Bikes. The demand for this technology is clearly there. So why are so many cyclists passionately opposed to the idea of E-Bikes? To some extent, the answer is in the question. The most negative opinions about E-Bikes come from longtime cyclists. People I talk to that are new to the sport of mountain biking have a much more open mind about the idea. That’s not to say that longtime cyclists are wrong. They have spent decades in the saddle and have developed their own justified ideas of what mountain biking should be.
A regular customer at my shop told me a story yesterday that blew my mind. He owns a hardtail fat bike. Since purchasing his fat bike, he has outfitted it with a large frame pack. He was recently riding a popular trail in our area when he was stopped by another rider. The rider looked at his frame pack and began lecturing him that E-Bikes didn’t belong on the trail. The customer made light-hearted efforts to explain that it was a frame pack full of food and clothing but the cyclist who had stopped him refused to listen. This particular situation is rare. However, it was very unsettling. After hearing that story, I knew it was time to get on here and try to open a discussion with you guys and see where everyone stands on the topic of E-Bikes. Let’s first go over the two most common arguments I hear around my shop.
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E-Bikes are just a new way to cheat.
It’s a common complaint I hear about E-Bikes. I think it has some truth depending on the scenario. If someone is sneaking an E-Bike, whether road or mountain, into a race, then yes we can all agree that it’s cheating. But if someone is taking an E-Bike out for some recreational fun, I don’t see an issue. One could make the argument that the rider is cheating his/her personal fitness, but that’s a conscious decision that person has the right to make. I took a Specialized Levo FSR Expert out for a ride this morning. In certain areas where I would normally be gassed, I felt strong. In what would normally take me a couple of hours to complete, I did in just over an hour. I had fun the entire time and never felt as if I was cheating myself or anyone else around me. If I was on my personal bike and someone passed me on an E-Bike, I would greet them and wish them a happy ride. That’s the type of attitude I would like to see cyclists carry towards E-Bikes, even if they’re purists. If you have moral objections to E-Bikes, use the proper outlets to express them rather than confronting riders on the trail (e.g. writing a letter to the National Parks Service or Bureau of Land Management voicing your concern).

E-Bikes are just motorcycles in disguise.
Let’s refer back to my opening statement: “E-Bike” refers to a non-throttle, pedal-assist bicycle. There is a vast variety of E-Bikes on the market. Some even have throttles and high-wattage motors capable of speeds over 50mph. Those bikes aren’t the focus of this article. Instead, I am referring to bikes similar to the Specialized Levo. This type of E-Bike has a pedal assist motor that only engages when the rider is pedaling. The more physical effort put into the system, the more output the motor will produce. The pedal assist won’t engage until the rider is moving just under 2mph. The pedal assist automatically turns off once the rider hits a speed of 15-20mph depending on location of purchase (USA/Canada). So is an E-Bike just a clever way of selling motorcycles? A quick search for the definition of a motorcycle produced this result:
mo·tor·cy·cle
ˈmōdərˌsīk(ə)l/

noun
noun: motorcycle; plural noun: motorcycles
1. a two-wheeled vehicle that is powered by a motor and has no pedals.
The obvious discrepancy in this comparison comes down to the pedals. By this definition, E-Bikes are not motorcycles. They also lack any characteristics one would look for in a motorcycle. I believe cyclists are running into a mental block at the mere mention of a motor. I think it is unfair to conflate non-throttle, pedal-assist bicycles with those stocked with throttles and motors capable of reaching 50mph without pedaling.

To wrap my opinions up, I will mention a couple examples as to why I support E-Bikes on the trail. I recently spoke to a couple that love to mountain bike but have reached an age where traditional cycling is taking a toll on their bodies. They love the sport and E-Bikes may extend their ability to ride for many more years. The couple isn’t looking for an over-powering motor, just the opportunity to continue their passion. I’ve also heard of several riders who have physical ailments that have left them with very low lung capacity. E-Bikes have allowed these riders to stay on the trail and continue riding. I find it very difficult to protest E-Bikes when some people benefit so much from them. The rhetoric surrounding E-Bikes is becoming increasingly hostile. I hope this article provides some insight to why E-Bikes aren’t as evil as they’re being portrayed.

Please share your opinions below. Did I nail anything in this article? Is there anything I should reconsider my position on? Let me know, I’m interested to see what you guys think.

As always, thanks so much for taking the time to check out my content. I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any comments/questions that you don’t want to post publicly, email me at justinchiazza@gmail.com

Bike Review: 2016 Specialized Fuse Pro 6Fattie

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Some of you may remember my buddy Ben from my Surly Straggler post found here. Well he is back! This time with his 2016 Specialized Fuse Pro 6Fattie.
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6Fattie, 27.5+, Mid-Fat, whatever you choose to call them, 650×3.0 tires have made their mark on on the industry in 2016.
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The most common question asked by riders who are inquiring about +size tires is “why?” There is no doubt that the cycling industry releases its share of gimmicks. However, +size tires are not one of them. Whether you are a seasoned veteran, or a beginner to mountain biking, you can definitely benefit from +size tires.
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The most obvious advantage is contact point. On average, +size tires adds a 69% larger contact point than tires in the 2.1 range. The larger contact point equals greater traction, greater stability, and increased rider confidence.
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Ben has quickly become an advocate for his Fuse Pro. Understandably so. And, having now ridden a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 6fattie myself, I must say I agree. At the beginning of my first descent, I was weary of the tire’s riding characteristics. I approached my first corner very conservatively. The next corner a little less conservatively. Finally, I was bombing into each corner as hard as I could. At no point did I lose control with the 6fattie tires. I noticed my confidence quickly growing with the +size tires.
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To the seasoned veteran, try them. You will find yourself pushing your previously gained skills into unchartered levels.
To the beginner rider, try them. You will feel more confident with a +size tire than you will on a traditional 2.1-2.3 tire.
*Keep in mind that +size bikes are currently priced high. The Fuse series begins with the Fuse Comp at $1,600 and climbs up to the Fuse Pro at $3,100. There really isn’t a whole lot of down size to running +size tires. So I predict that within a couple of years the price of Specialized 6fatties will be in the $600-$1,000 range.
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The Fuse Pro itself is spec’d very well. All bikes in the Fuse series comes with Specialized’s M4 Premium Aluminum Frame and a 1x drivetrain. The Fuse Pro, unlike the Fuse Expert and Fuse Comp, is stocked with a 1×11 drivetrain opposed to a 1×10 drivetrain. With the 11 speed cassette, you get a 42 tooth climbing gear and a 10 tooth high gear. In comparison, the 1×10 offers a 40 tooth climbing gear and an 11 tooth high gear.
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The Fuse Pro is also the only model in the series that is stocked with a carbon crankset.
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Unless you’re riding a small frame, which comes with 100mm of travel in the fork, the Fuse Pro is stocked with 120mm. Combined with the pneumatic suspension in the tires as a result from their large profile, you should have no issue at all riding this hardtail. The fork itself is the Rock Shox Reba RC3, a lightweight and fully adjustable fork that handles the trail with precise riding characteristics.
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Only Fuse Pro is stocked with the Specialized Command Post, a cable-actuated dropper post with ten internal positions. Specialized claims that this new dropper post eliminates saddle wiggle, unfortunately that claim has not been met in my eyes 😦
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Another nice feature that is exclusive to the Pro level, and an easy after purchase add-on to any other model, is the SWAT (Storage Water Air Tool) bottle cage and stem cap chain tool. Specialized seems committed to keeping weight off your back and creatively dispersing throughout their bikes. I would look for other companies to fall in line with this idea as it is proving to be highly effective and favorable by those who are using the system.
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If you’re skeptical about whether or not you will like +size tires, I suggest finding a shop that will let you demo a bike off-road. It may be difficult to get the full effect of a +size tire on pavement. Or take my word for it. I’m confident in saying that the vast majority of mountain bikers out there will love the benefits of +size tires.
*Take your research further by checking out Bike Radar’s video comparing 6Fattie tires against 29″ tires by clicking here.