2016 Specialized Rhyme Comp 650b

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2016 Specialized Rhyme FSR Comp 650b - Satin Black/Bright Pink
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2016 Test Sessions: Specialized Rhyme FSR Comp 650b

Rating: Vital Review

Reviewed by Courtney Steen and Amanda Richter // Photos by Lear Miller

At the 2016 Vital MTB Test Sessions, we ladies got the chance to sample a few of the latest trail/all-mountain bikes to see how they perform for women. With a smorgasbord of bikes ranging from 120 to 160mm travel, women-specific to unisex, and a price range from about $3,000 to over $9,000, how is one to choose?! This year we tested three bikes in the 150 to 160mm travel range that may be options to consider. We put them (and ourselves) to the test on South Mountain's trails in Phoenix, Arizona - a moonscape of rowdy rock sections, decomposed granite, and sharp cactus around every bend. One of the three is Specialized's recently redesigned 2016 Rhyme FSR Comp 650b.

Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 27.5 (650b) wheels
  • 150mm

Reviewed by Courtney Steen and Amanda Richter // Photos by Lear Miller

At the 2016 Vital MTB Test Sessions, we ladies got the chance to sample a few of the latest trail/all-mountain bikes to see how they perform for women. With a smorgasbord of bikes ranging from 120 to 160mm travel, women-specific to unisex, and a price range from about $3,000 to over $9,000, how is one to choose?! This year we tested three bikes in the 150 to 160mm travel range that may be options to consider. We put them (and ourselves) to the test on South Mountain's trails in Phoenix, Arizona - a moonscape of rowdy rock sections, decomposed granite, and sharp cactus around every bend. One of the three is Specialized's recently redesigned 2016 Rhyme FSR Comp 650b.

Highlights

  • Aluminum frame
  • 27.5 (650b) wheels
  • 150mm (5.9-inches) of front and rear wheel travel
  • FSR suspension
  • Sealed cartridge bearing pivots
  • Rx women's shock tune
  • Tapered headtube
  • Internal cable routing
  • Women's specific contact points
  • 2X compatible with the Taco Blade
  • PF30 bottom bracket with ISCG mounts
  • 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Measured weight (size medium, no pedals): 29.7-pounds (13.5kg)
  • MSRP $2,900 USD

What does a woman need in a trail bike? That's the question Specialized set out to answer with the all-new Rhyme by considering geometry, key touch points, and suspension with the input from thousands of women.

The Rhyme is a first for Specialized in that it shares the same geometry with a men’s model, the Stumpjumper FSR 650b. Turns out that when asked what they want, women aren’t that different from men in terms of geometry. We too want good handling, good suspension, and innovations to support the ride. Oh, and we want it to be pretty and we want it to shred. The shared geometry features slacker 66.5-degree (XS) and 67-degree (S-M) headtube angles for the new year, a super snappy rear end with 420mm (16.5-inch) chainstays, and a very low 335mm (13.2-inch) bottom bracket height. Add in Specialized’s low standover heights and short seat tubes and you've got bikes that work well for the ladies also. The Rhyme accommodates riders from 4'10" to 5'10" (1.5 to 1.8m) tall in sizes extra-small through medium.

While the geometry may be shared, some key important component differences, custom suspension, and consideration for our body types make the Rhyme work better for women. Specialized includes a slimmer 720mm (28.3-inch) bar, size specific cranks, and a slightly shorter 100 or 75mm dropper post to ensure you can achieve the right saddle height.

The shock on the Rhyme is specially tuned for lighter riders. For our height, we weigh on average less than men of the same height. We also tend to have a lower center of gravity since most of our muscle mass is in our legs, whereas men tend to have more in their upper bodies (no complaints there!). In their research, Specialized discovered that women weren’t commonly using all of their suspension, so they developed the Rx (Recommended Experience) Women's shock tune that gives us lighter riders a more responsive feel and the ability to use more of the suspension stroke. The compression ratios are tailored to complement us smaller-yet-just-as-mighty riders, giving a plush, efficient ride quality that utilizes every millimeter of luxurious travel. When we opened the shock to peek inside, we found no volume spacers, which is different to the shock on the Stumpjumper.

Some additional details that stood out are the ability to mount a water bottle inside the front triangle, internal cable routing (which rattles just a tiny bit), great mud clearance for gross weather days, and a rubber chainstay guard to help keep it somewhat quiet. There's also a funky rubber block under the downtube that prevents the fork from spinning too far and causing damage to the lower than normal frame.

We tested a size medium Rhyme FSR Comp 650b bike based on our reach measurement preferences. It's the only alloy model offered and costs $2,900, making it the most affordable model in the 17 bike Test Sessions lineup. The Rhyme is also available in the $5,900 Expert Carbon and $3,800 Comp Carbon models which feature some pretty nifty integrated SWAT storage technology not found in the aluminum version.

Geometry

On The Trail

Setting up the bike was pretty easy, thanks in part to the AutoSag feature on the FOX Float Evolution rear shock. We just had to pump up the pressure really high, sit on it, and have a buddy press the air release for us. It took a couple times of releasing air, cycling the shock a bit, and then releasing some more until it had no more air to release to reach the appropriate sag. This worked out to about 13-15mm of sag. Setting the fork was also a snap. We just used the guide on the fork leg to get a good starting point for the air pressure. In the cockpit, we did choose to swap out the 720mm bars and 70mm stem based on our personal preferences for 750mm bars and a 50mm stem. Then after setting the brake lever and shifter positions, airing up the tires, setting saddle height and angle, and checking the suspension rebound speeds, we were ready to hit the trails.

South Mountain's rugged trails are challenging, even for the best bike handlers. We climbed up a combination of the Javelina Canyon, Mormon, and National trails. After four lung-busting grunts and hundreds of opportunities to challenge our technical climbing skills over about six miles, we rose over a thousand feet above the sprawling Phoenix metro area.

The Rhyme did very well pointed uphill. Its geometry was comfortable for pedaling in and out of the saddle. Thanks to a steep seat angle we didn’t feel like we were way off the back, and it wasn’t hard to keep the front down on steep grunts. When getting out of the saddle, maintaining traction wasn’t a challenge either. We did struggle a bit with striking pedals and cranks due to the lower bottom bracket height, however. The rider of this pony had better know how to flawlessly time their strokes with such little wiggle room.

We are happy to report that the bike climbed well with the shock in both the wide open and medium compression modes. At 29.7-pounds, it's a respectable weight and gets along very well with good pedaling efficiency and no notable sluggishness or pedal bob.

Thanks to the fabulously low standover, we never high centered when we had to bail during a technical climb attempts. When we had to make a move to get up and over a tricky obstacle, the rear end felt supportive, not like it was sucking all the energy out of the move. The short seat tube on our size medium also had some room to spare with the 100mm travel dropper post, which means a rider about an inch shorter than us (5'6" and 5'7") could likely hop on the size medium without issue. Alternatively, taller ladies could get away with a longer dropper for more clearance.

At the top of the mountain we had a number of options available to us for our descents. Our favorite was to add an extra little loop on Holbert at the top of the hill. Holbert had a fast descent that was mostly smooth with some big rock water bars that required hopping, plus a handful of loose corners with cacti kindly waiting to catch us if we slipped. Here we found that rider position felt plenty balanced and the bike was responsive to rider input. The suspension felt plush and never bucky over any of the smaller bumps or jumps. Geometry wise it felt comfortable, and that lower bottom bracket height played well through corners, as did the short chainstays. The bike also made it around the tighter switchbacks we faced without issue.

After a lap or two for funsies, we climbed back up to the top of Geronimo trail. This downhill bike worthy trail down to the valley floor is nonstop rock smashing fun if you're brave enough for it, and it was here that we found the bike's limits. We didn’t feel like the suspension was all that great when faced with bigger bumps or drops. On these types of impacts, and especially quick successive ones, it felt like the bike was overwhelmed and we'd often need a moment to slow down and reset. While the RockShox Revelation RC3 fork performs very well on your average twisty, jumpy, pumpy trail, it seemed like it was holding the bike back from excelling in rough, technical descents as it got balled up on slower big hits. Combined with rear suspension that was perhaps a tad too linear, after any sort of drop it felt like a challenge to recover for the next feature. We were indeed using all the travel, and it wasn’t harsh when it bottomed out, however. We only descended with the suspension compression setting wide open.

Watch the Rhyme's 150mm of FSR suspension in action.

Build Kit

At $2,900, the Comp model provides a great value when you look at the components. It's impressive to see things like a reliable dropper post, wide rims, and good tires at this price point.

When we needed to stop or slow down, the Shimano Deore brakes with a 160mm rear and 180mm front rotor did the trick. There were no blown corners or persons run over in the testing of this bike. The levers were nice and short with an ergonomic shape and plenty of adjustment range.

Also useful for keeping it rubber side down were nice tires. The front 2.3-inch Specialized Butcher Control and rear Purgatory Control tires held fast on the decomposed granite and rock as we made our way up and down the mountain. There wasn’t much rolling resistance to fight. They also did well holding up to the abuse of many square rocks, though in a place where there were plenty of opportunities to flat, and others did, we experienced one burp and one sliced sidewall.

Specialized specs Roval Traverse rims with a wide 29mm inner width that really helps add some support to the tires when smashing into turns or running lower pressures. They were still true at the end of our test.

While the climbs were easier thanks to the secondary 22-tooth front chainring, at the end of the day we are big 1x drivetrain fans. It cleans up the cockpit, simplifies the ride, reduces technical difficulties, and is much quieter. This SRAM X9/X7 2x10 drivetrain didn’t change our mind. It seemed like when it came time for a quick shift we couldn’t get it into the right gear, nor was it a smooth feeling shift. We also repeatedly dropped chains. Add in chainslap noise that was deafeningly awful even over slightly bumpy climbs in the small ring and yeah, not fans. Unfortunately 1x drivetrains tend to be more expensive, but we're hoping for more affordable options in the future.

Specialized's women's Myth Comp saddle is one we both thought was comfortable. Perhaps a little on the firm side for one of us, but it fit the sit bones well. It's rare to find a stock saddle that actually works for us gals.

After being spoiled with them, we don’t think we could ride a bike without a dropper ever again, so the inclusion of the Command Post IRcc dropper on such an affordable bike is a good score. The updated post does still pop up with zeal, but it’s certainly less terrifying than the previous version. Added stops throughout its travel are also nice for finding the right seat height on the fly. There are many times, especially on technical climbs, that a slightly lowered saddle height is very helpful and necessary. We found the remote easy to reach and press. Specialized sends the size XS and small Rhymes with 75mm travel posts.

Finally, as mentioned before, we found it necessary to swap the 720mm alloy handlebar and 70mm XC stem for something a bit more capable on the descents. This really comes down to personal preference.

Long Term Durability

Save a sliced tire, we experienced no major issues during our test, and looking the bike over it seems like it will last for a while. There is a protective sticker on the inside of the seatstay that the chain did quite a bit of work on, so consider upgrading to something thicker for both the sake of your ears and the frame. Further down the road when the pivots need service, the torque specs are clearly labeled, everything is easy to access, and the process looks fairly painless.

Specialized offers a generous lifetime limited frame warranty with five years on suspension equipment coverage, plus a two year limited complete bike warranty.

What's The Bottom Line?

The Specialized Rhyme FSR Comp 650b comes at a good value, is a great climber, and can be a very fun ride on relatively smooth trails. 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.

Based on our previous experience on the higher end Expert Carbon model, we feel the Comp has potential to be a better bike on very rough trails with a few component swaps. From the bike shop, this model is beginner to intermediate friendly, but hard charging gals will likely find its limits.

Visit www.specialized.com for more details.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Descending: 3 stars - Good
  • Fun Factor: 3.5 stars - Very Good
  • Value: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Overall Impression: 3.5 stars - Very Good

Bonus Gallery: 17 photos of the 2016 Specialized Rhyme FSR Comp 650b up close and in action


About The Reviewers

Courtney Steen - Age: 28 // Years Riding MTB: 8 // Height: 5'7" (1.70m) // Weight: 25-30% sag ;-)

"Going downhill puts a smile on my face and I climb for ice cream." Courtney routinely shocks the boys with her speed and has experience in various disciplines. Today she travels the country in a RV in search of the next best trail and writes women's reviews for Vital MTB. Her technical background helps her think critically about products and how they can be improved.

Amanda Wentz - Age: 34 // Years Riding MTB: 10+ // Height: 5'6" (1.68m) // Weight: 135-pounds (61.2kg)

"I like riding rocky technical uphill as smoothly as I can, but my rims would say all that goes out the window when the bike is pointed down." Over the last decade Amanda has soaked up all aspects of mountain biking and continues to push herself to progress. She's a personal trainer and mountain bike coach, and loves knowing what her gear is doing and why.

Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

About Test Sessions

Four years ago Vital MTB set out to bring you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. That tradition continues today as we ride 2016's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes in Phoenix, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Rage Cycles. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Royal Racing, Smith, Fox Racing, Race Face, Easton, and Source.

Specifications

Product Specialized Rhyme Comp 650b
Model Year 2016
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
XS, S, M View Geometry
Size XS S M
Top Tube Length 532mm 553mm 585mm
Head Tube Angle 66.5° 67° 67°
Head Tube Length 95mm 95mm 105mm
Seat Tube Angle 74.5° 74° 74°
Seat Tube Length 386mm 396mm 430mm
Bottom Bracket Height 335mm 335mm 335mm
Chainstay Length 420mm 420mm 420mm
Wheelbase 1082mm 1096mm 1126mm
Standover 719mm 737mm 743mm
Reach 369mm 388mm 414mm
Stack 587mm 590mm 599mm
Wheel Size 27.5" (650b)
Frame Material Aluminum
Frame Material Details M5 Alloy with Internal Cable Routing
Rear Travel 150mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT Evolution CTD, AUTOSAG, Women's Rx Trail Tune, 197x47.6mm
Fork RockShox Revelation RC3 650b, Solo Air Spring, 3-Position Compression Adjust, Rebound Adjust, Tapered Steerer, 42mm Offset, 15mm Maxle Lite Thru-Axle
Fork Travel 150mm
Head Tube Diameter Tapered
Headset Hella Flush, 1-1/8" and 1-1/2" Threadless, Campy Style Upper with 1-1/2" Lower, Cartridge Bearings
Handlebar Specialized, Butted 6000 Alloy, 8° Backsweep, 6° Upsweep, 10mm Rise, 720mm, 31.8mm
Stem Specialized XC, 3D Forged Alloy, 4-Bolt, 6° Rise
Grips Specialized Sip Grip, Lock-On, Half-Waffle, Regular Thickness
Brakes Shimano Deore, Hydraulic Disc, Ice-Tech Resin Pads with Fins
Brake Levers Shimano Deore BL-M615, I-Spec Compatible
Drivetrain 2x
Shifters SRAM X7, 10-Speed, with Matchmaker Clamp
Front Derailleur SRAM X7, Mid Direct Mount, with Taco Blade
Rear Derailleur SRAM X9 Type 2, 10-Speed, Mid Cage
ISCG Tabs Yes
Chainguide N/A
Cranks Custom SRAM S-1250, 7050 Alloy Arms, 10-Speed Double, PF30, 104/64mm BCD Spider
Chainrings 34/22 Tooth
Bottom Bracket SRAM, PF30, OS Press-In Bearings, Sealed Cartridge
Pedals Nylon, CEN Standard, with Toe Clips
Chain SRAM PC-1031, 10-Speed, with PowerLink, Nickel Finish
Cassette SRAM PG-1030, 10-Speed, 11-36 Tooth
Rims Roval 650b, Alloy, 29mm Inner Width, 24/28 Hole
Hubs Front: Specialized, Hi Lo Disc, Sealed Cartridge Bearings, 15mm Thru-Axle, 24 Hole
Rear: Specialized, Hi Lo Disc, 4x Sealed Cartridge Bearings, 12mm Thru-Axle, 28 Hole
Spokes DT Swiss Industry, Stainless
Tires Front: Specialized Butcher Control, 60TPI, 2Bliss Ready, Folding Bead, 27.5"x2.3"
Rear: Specialized Purgatory Control, 60TPI, 2Bliss Ready, Folding Bead, 27.5"x2.3"
Saddle Body Geometry Women's Myth Comp, Hollow Cr-Mo Rails, 155mm
Seatpost Command Post IRcc, Cruiser Control Technology, Micro-Adjust Height Adjustable, Alien Head Design, Bottom Mount Cable Routing, Remote Adjust Standard Lever, XS/S: 75mm Travel, M: 100mm Travel
Seatpost Diameter 30.9mm
Seatpost Clamp Specialized, 7050 Alloy, Single Bolt, 34.9mm
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 142mm x 12mm
Max. Tire Size
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Satin Black/Bright Pink or Satin Cool Grey/Deep Indigo/Hyper Green
Warranty Lifetime for Frames and Forks
Five Years for Suspension Attachment Points and Related Equipment (Pivot Points, Bushings, Chain Stays, Seat Stays, Shock Links, Fasteners)
One Year for Paint/Finish and Components Attached to the Bicycle/Frameset (i.e. Saddle, Wheels, Drive Train, Brakes, Seat Post, Crankset, Handlebar, Stem, Baskets, Racks, Etc.)
Weight 29 lb 11 oz (13,466 g)
Miscellaneous
Price $2,900
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