Some seven years ago, as I sat picking shale bits out of my shoulder on Dead Dog on Mount 7 in Golden, BC, I realized I had a decision to make. The broken bike next to me had lasted a decade’s cross-country riding, and was relegated to a heap of twisted bits in a matter of insanely steep seconds. I craved a faster, bolder two-wheel experience and, as need dictates, so opened the wallet – double crown forks, fat tires and baggy shorts here I come.
I found myself living in Kamloops, BC, several years after that fateful day, where riding is all about fast flow and amplitude. It was here I quickly learned that the smoothest line is the one where your tires are on the ground as little as possible, and style, rather than sheer speed, was the method.
With dirt-jump inspired lines appearing everywhere, it was clear that a tighter geometry frame and single crown forks (fighting off nightmares of the impaled fork-snapping mayhem of the early years) may just be the way back to the future.
The first step away from years of DH bike dedication was last summer when, mid-week through an epic trip to Whistler, I managed to destroy my uber-light, mega-performing double-crown forks. I had that panicked I’ll-spend-whatever-it-costs-to-get-back-on-the-mountain craze in my eyes, which was easily discernable by the perceptive young lad at the bike shop. I found myself rolling out a brand new Marzocchi 66rc on my otherwise stealth race rep steed.
Simply put, the freedom and feel of the new burly single-crown forks available today, with their downhill-inspired build and strength and yet quick steering and turndown whip-ability, brought instant howls on the endless biking bliss that is Whistler. Top to bottom, the fork ruled and my dedication to big forkin’ downhill bikes had changed.
It was not long after that trusty Tyler “Obi Wan” Maine from Pinkbike approached me about testing the Specialized
SX Trail 2 frame and instantly visions of Bearcloth’s 360 road gap at Crankworks were dancing through my head. A seasoned Specialized devotee, with my most recent DH steeds being a Big Hit and a Demo 8, I was keen to try this homologation of FSR wizardry and lithe yet obviously brawny build.
The bike arrived in the winter with a foot of snow on the ground, one month earlier than anticipated. I built her up with the same enthusiasm as if it were a dry sunny day, and promptly stared at her in the garage weeks on end. Strapped with the 66 and most of the componentry from my Demo 8, the anodized black and silver finish, fine specialized welds and laid-back geometry (she’s in the slack 66 degree head angle setting) was precisely the ride I was looking for.
To be perfectly honest, my intent is not to pedal this bike much, or at least climb uphill on it. With the early onset of spring, I have now managed to ride a couple of days and I admit that, other than some dirt jumping, most of the uphill has been casually resting on the tailgate of a 4x4 truck. And as for the downhill…
Initial impressions certainly matter, and hands-down this steed is a head-turner. More importantly, the way a bike makes you feel is essential, and I instantly had confidence at speed and especially in the air, thanks to its immaculate balance and low centre of gravity.
I feel inspired on this bike from the get-go, and its spry handling, thanks in large part to the short chainstays, leaps out of corners and manuals at the thought of it. It’s still remarkably stable at speed as I have found myself on the tail of more than one DH race rig with the SX Trail begging for more. And yet it really comes into it’s own as you whip it off the big hips, drops and tables.
Like any bike, the Specialized
SX Trail needs to stand the test of time, and I am already planning a few modifications and setting adjustments to get it just right. So could this be the ride of the future? If I were a betting man, I’d say it is. The chips are down, let’s see how the cards play out…