Specialized has a line of accessories that well underprice the competition and appear to be developed based partly on Specialized's product testing laboratory. Prices are right, design factor is high, and they involve the kind of engineering flair that is fun to dream about but hard for somebody lacking a fab shop to achieve.
Example 1: The Reserve Rack. Behind-seat-mount WB cage with pump strap and a second strap for CO2 or sealant. It looks good and Specialized underprices competitors like XLAB by $40-$50. Ultimately Specialized raises the question: what good is a carbon bottle cage when you can get the same weight and durability for 1/3 the price using plastic?
Example 2: Cleverly hidden mini-tools. I have the "Rib Cage with Tool" and "Top Cap Chain Tool" built into the Focus. The latter includes a place for a quick link. No more digging through a bin to find the mini-tool or quick link before a ride. It is all built into the bike; all I need is a tube or three.
Example 3: Well-priced and designed mini-pumps. At $30, Specialized underprices the comparable offerings by Lezyne by $15 (although at Amazon you can get the Lezyne for $30). To be clear, it is not certain the Specialized is as good as the Lezyne, which offers the hose option facilitating higher pressure inflation. But the price and convenience are high. I went with the pump/CO2 inflator option, in black for $40.
Example 4: Big-a** tires. Specialized is offering a smooth 45mm road tire in 700c -- the "Fatboy" -- for $35. Puts my 35mm Schwalbe Kojaks to shame and makes me want to get a bike just to accommodate it!
Maybe if I hung out in bike shops more I would have known about these -- but I don't and I didn't. Color me impressed by the Specialized Diverge, available in several builds but by far most attractive in the Comp Smartweld configuration. Ultegra build, hydraulic discs, 32mm tires, Specialized's much-loved shock absorbing CGR seatpost, "compatible with the Specialized plug & play fender set." For $2700. Hail the return of aluminum!
And the AWOL X-Poler, a beautiful steel ride with huge tire clearance, triple WB bosses, with disc brakes (mechanical), and built with front panniers, for $2000. They have them cheaper, but at this price point I'd buy the fully kitted rig. Maybe an excuse to grab those Fatboys mentioned above.
Merlin CyclesMerlin has stopped shipping larger items to the US! Seeking to take advantage of the Eurozone's problems, producing a historically strong dollar, I checked out Merlin last weekend. The Shimano R501 wheelset -- a basic, well built, durable, good-looking, and medium weight (1750g) wheelset, is going for $83. This is a builder spec. wheel, but it is every bit as good of a training wheel as a $300 Ksyrium Equipe. For $83. Astounding.
|R501, pic. from Merlin Cycles.|
I put it in the shopping cart, of course. And I received this note:
Makes me want to cry. Because even if I didn't need another low-dollar wheelset, I did need these:
But don't be dismayed. The strong dollar does mean 11-spd. Ultegra groupsets for ~$625, 10-spd. cassettes from $25 for 105 to $120 for Dura-Ace, and cranksets below $100 for 105 and not much more for Ultegra. And Merlin is shipping those.