Review – Specialized Pitch Comp 650b

I‘m an occasional mountain biker, my main interest being road biking.  Ninety-nine percent of my biking is on the road (or what passes for it sometimes) with just the occasional foray into the wilderness on the MTB.  I’ve been mountain biking for many years, and certain riding on trails before mountain biking was really a thing but mostly nowadays I ride on the road.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the hell out of mountain biking, I like it all; hard trails, easy trails, rail-to-trail paths, etc.  It’s just that having to attach my bike to my car and drive it somewhere to ride isn’t my cup of tea.  But when I do want to use my MTB I want it to be a good machine, heavy-duty without being too heavy and it has to be lots of fun to ride and use.

So here you will find a review by someone who’s an experienced bicyclist, but not as an experienced mountain biker.  

On to the bike…

The only bike shop local to us – Black River Adventurers Shop – sells Specialized bikes exclusively; road, hybrid, and mountain bikes.  Hence I see a lot of Specialized bikes around the area 

When I got the chance to pick up a Specialized Pitch Comp 650b for a vastly discounted price I took the deal (I didn’t get it from Black River Adventurer’s Shop).  My idea was that A) my old MTB bike was crap and even a mildly priced new one would be better and B) I could sell the Pitch for more than I paid for it if I didn’t like it C) there’s a local bike shop that will support this bike.

My first impression was ‘wow’ – it looks like a much, much more expensive bike at first glance.  It’s built like all of Specialized’s bikes, no matter the price range, with quality being a high priority.  This one is black and white – but 

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unlike the quasi-matt black finish of my Kona this bike is shiny black, a very striking highly visible but straight-forward color/design.  

At first glance the bike just looks ready to shred any trail.  Between the beefiness, the heavy-duty look, the wide handlebars, and the big lettering on the tires with “Flak Jacket” printed prominently – it gets noticed.

You just want to jump on it, find a patch of dirt, and ride it to see what it does.  And really, when it comes to MTB’s – isn’t that what you want?

The Pitch is a hardtail (front shocks, no suspension on the rear), aluminum framed with Specialized’s frame geometry apparent at first glance – the frame is fairly unmistakable in many ways, yet similar to other brands in others.  Wheel size is 27.5 (650b) which makes for good pedaling but not so large of a tire that it’s not very maneuverable.  It’s a good size, I’m not making any judgements about other wheel sizes but the 27.5 seems very stable and a good choice to me, a good compromise between the two other standard MTB tire sizes with some advantages of both.  It’s “in between” the older standard of 26 inches and the newer 29 inches.

Overall the bike weighs in at around thirty pounds.  The frame is”A1 aluminum with ORE downtube” – the ‘A1’ just Specialized’s lingo meaning the tube is made with a proprietary method of manufacture (pretty much like most major companies do) and the ‘ORE downtube” stands for “Optimum Radius Engineering” – again, just their company’s specific engineering of the downtube for making light strong frames.  Other lingo like “Sport Trail 650b Geometry” is pretty self-explanatory company-speak. In other words their version of 6061/6060 aluminium manufacture and frame geometries.

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The tires are Specialized Fast Trak Sport, 40TPI, with a wire bead and their Flak Jacket protected – in big letters so you know it.  650b x 2.0 inch, which is nice.  Big knobbies, but this is a place where some reviewers say they want to replace the tires right away.  For me, as long as the air is nicely low for climbing big-rocked and rutted hills, I have no problem with them.  With a lot of rain or water on the rocks and some very muddy patches they did seem to start to lose some traction more than I liked.  Again, I’m not a real frequent mountain biker so this is very subjective.  I think they are just fine for my purposes.  On my first rides I had WAY too much air in them, I found it was much better to run low – which made them much more grippy and quite good.

The Roval 650b disc brake-specific rims are tubeless-ready and double-walled, with a 25mm inner width.  Hubs are Specialized Hi Lo disc, alloy double-sealed, and are quick release front and back.

The disc mounts are reinforced and the derailleur hanger is replaceable of course.  The brakes are mechanical cable-actuated Tektro Aires series disc brakes with organic pads, which work quite nicely indeed.  Yet there is always a little noise from them, no matter how much they are adjusted, especially the front.  Despite a little occasional noise they work real well and I can’t complain.

The handlebars are very, very wide – 720 mm with an 80 mm stem with a 7-degree rise, both made by Specialized.  Specialized calls them call “low-rise” (15mm rise, 9-degree backsweep, 5-degree upsweep), made of standard 6061 double butted aluminum and just as standard 31.8mm diameter.  The width makes for lots of maneuverability but the handlebars could easily be cut down, if needed.  I considered it, possibly still am, but the wideness sure is nice to have, though occasionally not so much when traveling through narrow and wild/grown-up/badly maintained singletracks.  

specializedpitch (3)cThe 31.8 millimeter handlebar works well for GoPro and other camera mounts, either above or below the handlebar.  It also makes for standard mounting of bike computers.  Lots of room on the handlebars for both or either, though it narrows quickly out toward the edges.  The stem is short, making it appropriate only for smaller bike computer if you plan on attaching it there.

A little hair dryer action and some elbow grease moves the grips inward for my trusty bar ends.  Bar ends that I’ve had through three mountain bikes now, possibly four; I forget.  The grips themselves are fine, supposedly gel (they just feel like plastic) with a bolt to lock them on, and they have a pattern and little ridge on them that is supposed to help you keep your hand in place.  The ridge and pattern can become a little rough without gloves.  Hand grips are easy to change if needed, but I wear gloves so I don’t notice any problem with them outside of the few times I’ve ridden a distance on rough ground without gloves.  Still not bad though, but not great.

The fork is a SR Suntour XCT 650b.  Here’s the tech info for it – alloy lower, coil/MCU spring, Hi-Ten 28mm stanchions/1-1/8 inch steerer, preload adj., disc mount, size-specific 80/100mm travel.  The forks are adjustable of course, and easily done.  It doesn’t take long to learn what’s best for various conditions and what’s best for general use.  They seem fine to me, but some reviews want to replace them with RockShox right away.  Hmmm, don’t know about that, maybe when they wear out.  They took the stones and ruts and roots great for me, absorbing them without complaint and relatively quickly with a correspondingly fast recovery.

20170810_120531There are three rings on the front, with the front derailleur being a Shimano ST-EF51, with integrated brake lever.  The rear is the Shimano Altus, cassette is an 11-34 Sunrace, 8-speed.  Shifting is in between speed-wise, neither fast nor slow for me, but they can quickly shift past gears well.  If you are used to fast shifting you may notice it is a bit slower here for sure, but with standard anticipation of shift changes it really isn’t a problem unless something really unexpected pops up.  If you are racing or doing some really dicey trails maybe you’d start to become aware of this aspect but for a lot of us it isn’t going to be an issue, especially for the moderate price of the bike.  Shifting was dependable for this gearset (though I had to initially tweak the derailleurs a few times – as expected).

Cranks are regular aluminum alloy, with a plastic chainguard, unobtrusive looks-wise and use-wise.  Pedals are what you’d expect – how many of us leave the stock ones on anyway?  They are plastic/vinyl composite with reflectors, though kind of nice in a way – wide with plastic studs.  I liked them real well at first, they gripped my sneaks nicely but after a time some of the plastic studs started to get broken, squashed to the side, or flattened.  Some reviewers hate the pedals, but I thought they were fine for starting out. Better than the cheapos they put on these bikes at some bike shops, and better than sharp toothed metal ones that aren’t good for flat-pedal mountain biking.

The saddle is pretty nice, well designed and moderately comfortable, it looks and feels fine but I like the ergonomic relief seats (review here) so I replaced the stock seat with my own.  So I can’t comment further than the fact that I tried the original saddle a few times and it was fine.  The stock one is made by Specialized and has steel rails, moderate padding, narrow for some at 143 mm – good for men but no so much for women possibly.

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Some reviews say the seat will not drop enough for really, really steep descents because the bosses are in the way, preventing it from dropping more.  Wow, there’s quite a drop for me personally, much more than I would ever need for any descent.  Though to be fair I am not likely to go on such steep descents that I would need it very very low.  The size for mine is 17.5 BTW.

The seat post supposedly is micro-adjustable – it is okay, with a 12.5 mm offset.  Seat binder/clamp is quick release.

There is room for a kickstand if that’s what you want, with a bolt hole, and rack mounts eyelets in the usual places.  A note on the rack mount though – I found that the left bottom mount is so close to the disc brake that the only way to mount my particular bike rack or my wife’s (Topeak bike rack and bag review here) was to use a spacer and long bolt.  This worked fine once it was in place but likely decreases the weight that could be carried with a bike rack, just guessing here and I could be wrong.  Unfortunately with bike racks attaching a standard way and disc brakes being fairly new you may find a lot of these problems when attaching bike racks, depending on the bike rack.

Chain is standard KMC 8-speed, with Missing Link.  Reflectors front and back, as well as spoke reflectors.  Mine came with, get this – zip-tied cables.  Someone had zip-tied the cable to the little hanger mounts, which was amazingly ugly and unprofessional-looking.  At least the zip-ties were black! I quickly remedied this offense with matching shiny black C-Clips from Amazon.  Sheesh.

Riding the bike – the machine always feels pleasantly heavy enough for holding to the technical trails but not too heavy, and even the few times I had to make an excursion across pavement or light gravel I could get up to speed in no time.  

Actually some surprisingly speed.  I’m not real fast on the trails but I did see my speed increase slightly over all – likely due to just plain having a much nicer MTB than I have had before.  

With a low air pressure climbing was fast and nimble, downhill fast and secure, and flat-landing was comfortable and fast enough for me.  Lots of mud and muddy rocks seems to show the tire quality, though for me it was just fine.  I even did some icy and snowy riding and it worked as expected for the circumstances.

I felt the shifting was dependable, as well as the brakes especially – stop on a dime anyone?  And the wide handlebars make for quick maneuvering, though they can be a bit wide for heavy foliage and badly maintained trails or raw forest riding.

A fun, over-all nice bike to ride.

 

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I originally started writing this review with the idea that I would do a fairly extensive personal opinion review with various analyzations for various trail conditions.

But I realized that I could break it down into one sentence – this bike is a barrel of fun to ride no matter where you take it, a quality but fairly inexpensive bike with moderate components that work together for a good design.  

What else can I say?  For someone like me – the occasionally MTB’er it is a great little bike.  If you’re looking for an opinion from more professional riders there’s a lot of reviews on it. If you don’t want to spend a ton of coin but want a nice bike, the Specialized Pitch Comp 650b may just be the one to get.

The Pitch comes in a multitude of sizes and a couple different versions, with a few limited color choices.

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The tech info in review:
Frame Specialized A1 Premium Aluminum, Sport Trail 650b Geometry, butted tubesets, externally relieved headtube, forged dropouts w/ reinforced disc mount, replaceable alloy derailleur hanger
Fork SR Suntour XCT 650b, alloy lower, coil/MCU spring, Hi-Ten 28mm stanchions/1-1/8 inch steerer, preload adj., disc mount, size-specific 80/100mm travel
Front Derailleur Shimano ST-EF51, w/ integrated brake lever
Rear Derailleur Shimano Altus, 8-speed
Brakes Tektro Aries, mechanical disc, organic pads
Cranks Forged alloy, square taper spindle, w/ chainguard
Cassette Sunrace, 8-speed, 11-34
Bottom Bracket Square taper, cartridge bearings
Chain KMC X8, 8-speed, reusable Missing Link
Hubs Specialized Hi Lo disc, alloy double-sealed, ground race, QR, 32h / Specialized Hi Lo disc, alloy, double-sealed, loose ball bearings, QR, 32h
Spokes Stainless, 14g, w/ brass nipple
Rims Stout, 650b disc, alloy double-wall, pin joint, 25mm inner width, 32h
Tires Specialized Fast Trak Sport, 40TPI, wire bead, Flak Jacket protection, 650bx2.0 inch
Pedals Composite platform, w/ reflectors, 9/16 inch
Headset 1-1/8 inch upper/lower, Zerostack 44, steel cups, loose ball bearings
Stem Specialized 3D forged alloy, 4-bolt, 7-degree rise, anti-corrosion hardware
Handlebars Specialized, low rise, double butted 6061 alloy, 9-degree backsweep, 5-degree upsweep, 15mm rise, 31.8mm
Grips Specialized Body Geometry XCT, Kraton w/ gel, lock-on, closed end, 132mm
Saddle Body Geometry mountain, thick padding, steel rails, 143mm
Seat Post Alloy, 2-bolt, micro-adjust, 12.5mm offset, 30.9mm, anti-corrosion hardware
Seat Binder Alloy, nylon/glass fiber washer, QR, 34.9mm
 

 

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