First Look: 2016 Specialized Women's Rhyme FSR 650B

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What does a woman need in a trail bike? That's the question Specialized set out to answer with the all-new Rhyme FSR 650b. By considering geometry, suspension, and all of the key touch points with the input from thousands of women, they've created an excellent new ride that's ready for just about anything. Hit play to learn all about it.

2016 Rhyme FSR 650B Highlights


- Carbon and alloy models
- 150mm travel
- FSR suspension with sealed cartridge bearings
- Rx Women's shock tune
- Women's specific contact points
- Integrated SWAT technology (carbon models only)
- Removable downtube protection
- 12x142mm rear end, 142+ wheels
- Internal cable routing through molded carbon tubes
- 2X compatible with the Taco Blade
- New Command Post IRcc and wide Roval Traverse Fattie rims on all models

Geometry


Initial Impressions


Excuse me while a swoon, but the 2016 Specialized Rhyme FSR 650b women's bike is hot! While it shares geometry with the new men's Stumpjumper - a first for a women's bike from Specialized - all the details work well for the modern female trail rider. There's enough standover for those with shorter legs, a short enough seat tube for a decent sized height adjust post, a stable head tube angle for descending, roomy top tube, and playful short chainstays. Though it may share a lot in common with the new Stumpjumper, Specialized wanted to make this a true women's bike system, not just a men's bike with a different paint job.

In their research, Specialized found that commonly women weren't using all their suspension. The Rx (Recommended Experience) Women's shock tune gives us lighter riders a more responsive tune and the ability to use the full suspension stroke. They also paid attention to the contact points for women: bar width, saddle, and crank length. The cockpit has shorter stem and decently wide bars in combination for great handling. The Specialized Women's Myth saddle is one of the few that I will ride comfortably other than my own. Lastly, the crank arm lengths are size specific to match women's pedaling styles.

Being a smidgen over 5'7", I rode the size medium Expert Carbon Rhyme. Setup was incredibly easy thanks to features like the Autosag on the rear shock. When we hit the trail, I had an immediate sense of comfort and could focus on the trail ahead. I am a fan of the set-it-and-forget-it bike, and the Rhyme excels in that area. There was no notable sluggishness or pedal bob while pedaling in the saddle nor was there any when I would get out of the saddle for some more aggressive pedaling. This was with the shock wide open too.

When the time came to bomb back down through New Zealand's silver ferns, on some incredible swoopy, jumpy, rooted and rutted trails, I couldn't help but relish in how well the Rhyme just worked for me. The components, handling, and suspension were very confidence inspiring. Even in the rain I was rallying over roots that I would probably have been picking my way through or around any other time. It was also super fun chasing pro riders Anneke Beerten and Hannah Barnes and following their lines. The suspension was plush and never bucky over any of the bumps or jumps. Combined with the RockShox Pike fork, it felt like my hands took a vacation. My only sadness experienced was down a jumpy and pumpy trail, when I felt like I was working a bit hard to pump the bike. Perhaps it's just a downside of a long travel bike. You can't win them all without wizardry or at least without turning some knobs on the suspension.

Specialized Pro rider Hannah Barnes on the new Rhyme, a bike that loves to fly.

The neato integrated SWAT compartment in the downtube can accommodate a pump or air cartridges, a tube, snacks, and whatever else you might like that would fit (I've heard even a thin windbreaker can be crammed in there). Just remember to take out that sandwich so you don't have a nasty surprise on your next ride! I also appreciated the EMT Multi-Tool mounted under the top tube and chain tool in the top cap. Just more handy storage spots so that you aren't out on the trail, 15 miles from the car, up a creek without a tool.

The rest of the components on the Expert Carbon Rhyme all worked well. The new Command Post IRcc pops up less aggressively than the previous versions. This was nice and my hiney wasn't scared for its life at the sound of it snapping up into position. The new version of the Command Post also has some extra stops at 5mm intervals, which is nice for when you want an in between saddle position. Where rubber meets dirt, the Rhyme uses wider Roval Traverse Fattie rims paired with a Butcher Control tire in the front and a Purgatory Control tire in the rear. After my first two corners on the Rhyme, I was blown away by how great it felt. The bike had terrific traction. With the slightly heavier casing and wide rims there was great support for hitting corners hard. The tread dug in and kept me rubber side down. Shimano's XT brakes also kept me from careening out of control off the edge of the trail or running into others' rear tires when rounding a corner into a group rendezvous. Even on a muddy day they did their job well. The ease of use on SRAM's 1X drivetrain also deserves two big thumbs up.

So, what is the bottom line? Specialized said they wanted to make "the best bike out of the box for women," and I think they succeeded. Of all the bikes I've ridden yet, this one was the most dialed after just the initial setup, and that initial setup was really easy. The Rhyme was truly fun to ride. Having the confidence to get through things on the trail that you might have been questioning is so, so gratifying. The bike flat out works well for women. The geometry has plenty of clearance in all the important areas, the components work together to make it comfortable, and the details are all well thought out. I highly recommend the Rhyme to the everyday rider who likes to ride rougher trails and push her limits. -- Courtney Steen, Vital MTB Test Rider

Rhyme Models and US Pricing


The Rhyme is available in two carbon models and one in aluminum. The Expert Carbon goes for $5,900, Comp Carbon at $3,800, and Comp at just $2,900.

The Rhyme is shipping now. Visit www.specialized.com for more details. There's also a 6Fattie (27.5+) version available.

Photos by Paris Gore and Specialized

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