I’ve been lucky enough to ride a lot of bikes over the years. I’ve owned some nice ones too. But some things you can’t unlearn and the feel of riding a good full suspension bike for the first time is one of them. So before I even swung a leg over the Pitch I gave it to an old friend to pop his full bounce cherry. I wanted to live vicariously through his ear to ear grin and moments of pure fun. Truth be told he’s not really a screamer so I had to coax some of his feelings out, but rest assured, they were there. This entry level Pitch will be providing moments of joy for mountain bikers around the world. Not just because it’s good, but because it’s so damn accessible––you won’t have to sell your first born to feel like Matt Hunter. Finally you can stage right that hardtail and understand what the rest of us have known for years: mountain biking is simply more fun when fully suspended. From wheels to forks to shock to brakes, there is nothing ground breaking here. But how they come together is where the magic happens; with 150 mm travel front and rear, nice geometry, reasonable weight and an inspiring ride, the product is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Looking at the numbers it’s not hard to see why it appeals: a 67° head angle, and a very long and therefore very stable wheelbase of 1200 mm (for a large sized frame). This is done by keeping the chainstays a reasonable length and the rear end snappy and stiff. I like the way Specialized designs its frames with the bottom bracket an inch or two behind the seat tube. This increases the reach (the distance from pedals to bars) and allows for a longer wheelbase, ultimately increasing stability and confidence. The highlights were the RockShox Sektor coil fork—a fantastic performing fork for the price point—and the frame, which had a great supple suspension feel through the famous (if not infamous) Specialized Horst link rear end, dampened by the RockShox Ario airsprung shock. The suspension action was suitably active and plush through all disciplines including braking but I did look for the lockout when climbing. Contact points—710 mm wide bars, Specialized grips, Body Geometry saddle and Truvativ GXP2 cranks—all performed their tasks commendably. It’s not all roses though. The plastic X5 shifters, X7 derailleur and cheap Shimano HG30 cassette reminded me of gear changes from a Vauxhall Viva I once had. The custom Avid Elixir 3 SL brakes, although good, were simply not in the same league as their siblings. The power was satisfactory but suffered from a degree of brake pump on longer technical descents. The Specialized Eskar Sport tyres were so good in the dry I was thinking they could be my new tyre, until the heavens opened and suggested otherwise; very slippery when wet. Lastly, the rear chainstays protrude enough to rub the inside of my legs when cornering, resulting in a little discomfort. For my gushing, you could be forgiven for thinking this is one of the best bikes I’ve ridden. It’s not. Although very capable it doesn’t exhibit some of the more refined aspects that you get on some higher priced machines, even in Specialized’s own lineup. What does excite me though is that it’s this good at this price. It’s good enough to mix it with the best of them, even with this build. It’s a bike that’ll give confidence but won’t bite, and will reward you when you do want to add some upgrades. Next time I’m asked what’s a good bike for a moderate budget I’ll be sending them in the direction of their Specialized dealer. I’m confident they won’t be disappointed. MARK DANGERFIELD
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