Specialized Safire Expert – $3700
The first time I rode the Safire I absolutely hated this bike. I couldn’t understand all of the great reviews it got. Yes it was a good downhill ride but the up was so uncomfortable that it didn’t matter how good the down was. I was confused, how did everyone else seem to love this bike so much. So I rode it a couple more times and then took it back unsatisfied. Thankfully I was going on a more technical downhill ride so I decided to give the Safire another go, because this is where it is suppose to shine, well I’m glad I did. I realized my mistake. I had originally picked up a small not a medium. Girl bikes I definitely need at least a medium. This ride went much better.
The Safire Expert comes equipped with Shimano Deore LX front derailleur, Sram X0 rear derailleur and Sram X9 shifters. The brakes are Avid Juicy Ultimate 7 and it comes with Krank Brothers Smarties. Topped off with a Fox F120 fork and Specialized AFR Shock with Brian Fade. Ah the brain, there is so much to say about this awesome piece of equipment. When the bike shop guys talk about it they all dislike it. I thought it sounded brilliant so I looked forward to trying it anyway. Wow, I had no idea how nice suspension could be. I’m still new to the full suspension bikes, the bike that I actually own is a hardtail but I’ve now ridden quiet a few full suspension. But because it is always only for a week I never quiet get the suspension right. The awesome thing about the Brain is that it takes care of it for you. If you are riding on flat terrain the brain stiffens up your suspension immediately, but the moment you move into anything technical you get all of your suspension back. I took this down Ridge trail where there are a couple of technical down hills and turns. The brain was right there with me, when ever I would think man this is going to be uncomfortable it wasn’t because the brain gave me the suspension I needed. So why do the shop guys not like it? Well it adds weight and it makes for a less smooth ride, in their minds at least, they like to ride with the shock always on. I prefer to ride stiffer, which might be because I’m use to a hardtail and then have the shock kick in when I need it. Using the brain you don’t have to switch back and forth as you climb and descend. The weight thing I can see, but I have it on good authority that the 2009 Brain weighs less then ever.
The Safire disk brake rotors are 160mm, much smaller verses the mens version of this bike, the Stumpjumper which comes in with a wooping 185mm rotor. The 160 is perfect on the Safire, it weighs less, and as a women, so do we. So the 160 size is enough to stop us even on the steepest down hill descent.
And how well it did on the downhill, the Safire takes the mountain head on with 5″ of travel on the front and rear. You can feel how pleased the bike is to be used, as you hit roots and rocks it jumps over them with glee. Because it is designed for woman the top tube is just over 22″, a full inch shorter then the male equivalent. This extra inch makes it easy to get behind the bike on the downhill, giving you more control to throw your bike around under you making you better/feel more comfortable on technical spots.
Still there is one big thing that bothers me about the Safire, I do not love the posture. Because of the build you have to put the seat up really high so you get a full pedal but this means you can’t actually touch the ground without leaning to the side or getting off the seat. I’m use to this on a road bike, but it makes me uncomfortable on the mountain. (I think it is more habit then anything, honestly how often do you get off the bike unless you are falling?) Once you get the seat up high enough to climb a hill comfortably it is almost to high to get behind the seat comfortably for a descent. This was my biggest problem with the bike the posturing, it was all wrong for me.
Still for the componentery and build of this bike is good for the money as long as you are comfortable with the posture. Try it out on a good uphill and downhill before you make the final call.