SPECIALIZED RHYME FSR
More than a girlie paint job
The all-new Rhyme from Specialized is designed for the woman who likes to ride the trails hard and needs a serious bike to do it on. The bike takes many of the technologies from the iconic Stumpjumper FSR and tailors them to match the specific needs of female riders. From the suspension tunes to the ergonomics of the handlebar and saddle to the confidence-inspiring geometry, this is a bike that’s designed to be a seriously capable trail machine.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Rhyme is a lightweight bike that packs enough suspension travel to handle aggressive all-mountain trails. As a result, this bike is impressively versatile. With over 5 inches of travel front and rear, coupled with a slack and stable geometry, this bike means business. Much like the Stumpjumper FSR that sports the same versatile nature, the Rhyme is built to satisfy the needs of a rider who wants a single bike to do it all—from cross-country rides to backcountry excursions to enduro racing; there simply aren’t many rides that this bike can’t handle.
Long but small: The ergonomics of the Rhyme seem to stay true to Specialized’s design style, with a relatively long top tube, short chainstays and a shortish stem. However, our testers noted that the sizing overall tends to be on the small side. A test ride would be highly recommended for anyone who might be in between sizes.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Rhyme uses a carbon fiber front triangle mated to an aluminum rear triangle, all held together by Specialized’s FSR suspension design. The bike is then custom-tailored with what Specialized calls its “Women’s Trail Geometry.” Although this geometry adheres to Specialized’s typical style (with short chainstays, a roomy top tube and relatively short stem), it’s built with a woman’s needs in mind. Specialized builds the Rhyme with a low standover height to allow riders to put a foot down in corners whenever needed. The suspension is also custom-tuned with Specialized’s women’s RX tune, which is designed to allow women to better use every millimeter of suspension travel. The compression ratios are adjusted to allow lighter riders to more easily tune a plush yet efficient ride. The Rhyme then completes the package with all the modern trail amenities, including 142-millimeter dropouts, a PressFit bottom bracket and tapered head tube.
FSR tried and true: Specialized employs their FSR suspension design to deliver almost 6 inches of travel.
Big range: The Rhyme comes with a single-ring drivetrain, which seems right in line with the intended use of the bike. The 11-speed transmission worked flawlessly throughout our test, although riders may need to adjust the ring size to fit their local trails.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Specialized includes its SWAT system for carrying spares and water on the trail. It includes a compartment in the downtube, an integrated chain breaker in the headset top cap and a stealthily located multi-tool cradled in the top tube. This allows riders to carry enough water as well as tools and spares for nearly any ride without the need for a hydration pack. Nice.
SWAT: As an added bonus, Specialized includes their SWAT system with this bike, which makes it easier to carry water and tools without a hydration pack. The system includes a storage door under the bottle cage for carrying a spare tube, a custom-made multi-tool under the shock mount, and a chain breaker hidden in the headset top cap.
Secret stash: The SWAT door is easy to use and allows plenty of storage in the downtube. We were easily able to fit a tube and tool kit here, although you could probably also put a sandwich in there if you’re out for a lunch ride.
The component package is well thought out, although not inexpensive. The RockShox Pike fork delivers flawless performance, while the Fox Autosag shock matches perfectly. The SRAM single-ring drivetrain keeps shifting simple, durable and razor sharp. And, the Command dropper post makes it easy to flip the Rhyme into “Rally Mode” at any moment.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Setting sag: Thanks to the patented Autosag technology, which is only available on certain Fox-equipped Specialized models, set- ting up the suspension is as easy as pushing a button—literally. Simply pump the shock to the maximum pressure, then sit on the bike and hit the release valve. The shock will let out the ideal amount of air, then you’re ready to hit the trails. We matched the Pike fork to 25-percent sag and hit the trails.
Moving out: The impressive standover height and well-thought- out cockpit configuration are the first things you’ll notice. The Rhyme felt dialed for the most expert riders—ones with professional gravity racing experience. It also felt forgiving enough for some of our novice test riders, thanks to these easy-to-use design features.
Up your game: Time and time again our test riders praised the Rhyme for delivering confidence on the trail. The bike can take a novice rider and make her feel like an experienced veteran. It can also take an expert and make her feel like a pro. This bike is like a skills upgrade right out of the box.
Climbing: The lightweight nature of the Rhyme combines with the efficient-feeling suspension tune to produce a bike that not only climbs well but feels snappy all around. The Rhyme is no cross-country rocket, but thanks to the geometry, it holds its own when the trail points uphill. The relatively steep seat angle puts the rider in a strong and efficient position that transfers energy to the wheels quite well and makes the bike feel even lighter than the scale says it is. The impressively short chainstays also improve the snappy feel when charging up technical ascents.
Pointed up: It’s clear that the Rhyme was not designed as a cross-country rocket or climbing specialist. That said, though, the bike won’t shy away from climbing thanks to a smart and light build kit and well-thought-out suspension design.
Handling: This is an aggressive bike, and as such, the Rhyme has stability on fast and loose corners that other bikes in this category can’t match. The geometry handles aggressive cornering efforts perfectly well and rewards the rider with a level of confidence that had even our most skilled test riders feeling like there might be something more in the tank. The Rhyme doesn’t feel quite as nimble as a dedicated cross-country race bike, but it is a well-rounded trailbike when it comes to handling.
It’s in the handling: The Rhyme sets the bar high when it comes to high-speed stability, but thanks to the short chainstays and stem, it doesn’t give up much when it comes to nimbleness. The Rhyme is a versatile bike, plain and simple.
Descending: Pointed downhill, this bike exudes confidence. The plush suspension and relaxed geometry can take a complete beginner and immediately turn her into a confident trail rider. That same geometry can also take an experienced rider and make her feel like an expert on the descents. With this much suspension, setup is the key to extracting the most from the Rhyme. Thankfully, with the Autosag shock and Pike fork, this thing almost handles setup for you.
Power stoppers: Shimano’s XT brakes provide plenty of stopping power, especially considering most Rhyme riders will weigh a little less than their Stumpjumper counterparts. Nevertheless, this spec choice is ready for the steep and gnarly terrain this bike is built to handle.
Active suspension feel: The FSR suspension design works independently of pedaling or braking forces, which means the bike works no matter what the rider is doing. The plush suspension will make up for most of your mistakes, even if you’re white-knuckled on the brakes. That’s a good feeling when you’re riding this bike as fast as it’s designed to go.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
While this version of the Rhyme has a high-end package that’s not meant for the entry-level rider, it’s also available in an aluminum version with a more basic component package for thousands of dollars less. The Butcher and Purgatory tire selection provides ample traction and tons of confidence on rocky and technical trails. For lighter riders, this would be the most sensible place to shed weight to make the bike feel faster. A good choice might be to run the Purgatory on the front and opt for something lighter and smoother, like a Ground Control, in the rear.
Think of the Rhyme as a Stumpjumper that’s custom-tuned to meet the needs of a lighter rider. It’s a serious trailbike that’s ready to take on a seriously diverse array of trails. It’s no cross-country rocket, nor is it a downhill sled. Instead, it is a perfectly executed and well-tuned machine that’s ready to take a beginner’s skills to the next level, an intermediate rider’s skills to an even higher level, or deliver the performance to allow an expert to compete with the pros—right out of the box.
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