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.
More on this when I get the "Focus updates" post going. A few notes on the items listed in the post:
1. The bottle racks work very well, sort of like the Elite racks. Plastic, light, reasonably elegant.
2. The rack with tool attached is downright clever. It is in place and no more mini-tools in my seat-bag.
3. The chain tool in the steerer tube is in place. It fits well but has not yet been used. Hope I never need it, but I just love the concept.
4. The seat-mount bottle cage, pump, and inflator rack works but is hard to place well. I need to experiment some. For ordinary riding I expect a normal seat bag is a preferable setup.
5. The post does not discuss, but we have elsewhere, the Specialized shock-absorbing seatpost. I ordered one for $200 and it is on the bike. It looks a little funky and alien-like, but I'm eager to give it a try this coming Saturday.
Re: Merlin... To prove you wrong, I just ordered those wheels. Price had gone up by $2 though.
Try again? Maybe they just aren't shipping to DC?
Interestingly I get the same message you did with the R501 wheels though. I wonder if they just don't want to ship bulky low-price items.
Also no problems getting a Yeti SB-66 XT MTB build all the way through, though thankfully I thought better of clicking the "checkout" button on that one...
I'm curious to hear by the way, what you think of the cobble gobbler. The rest of the specialized lineup I'm not sold on, in part because I don't hablo CO2, but that seems to fit right in with the idea of decreasing unsprung weight.
You are right -- it worked here too. Must be a relative cost thing. I could not order fenders either. Most merchants deal with that by adding on oversize charges for low-dollar items. I'd gladly throw Merlin another $20 to get an $83 training wheelset if offered the chance!
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