My, What Big Wheels You Have
by Jen See
The Fate is new for 2012 from Specialized Women. It’s the first carbon 29er designed specifically for women riders from Specialized.
I’ve been riding the Fate since November on the trails around Santa Barbara, California. The bike handles best on smooth, fast trails, and I had the most fun with the Fate on the rolling terrain of our local coastal bluffs.
Behind downtown Santa Barbara, the mountains rise up to 4000 feet in not much more than 15 miles. These are young mountains and the trails are loose with shale and sandstone. It’s no country for hardtails, really. But I took the Fate into the hills anyway, and it stood up to the abuse surprisingly well.
Test Bike Details
My 19” test bike came with the Rock Shox Reba Team, SRAM XO 2x10 shifting, 175mm cranks, Roval Control 29 wheelset, Avid disc brakes, and Specialized Body Geometry Jett Comp saddle. With this build, the bike weighed in right at 24 pounds.
I rode the Fate with a 10 cm Specialized stem, which I flipped for a lower stack height. The 29er front wheel makes for a higher front end, and flipping the stem gave me the lower bar position I prefer.
For tires, I rode the 29x2.0 Captain on the front, and the 29x1.95 Renegade on the back, both from Specialized.
My, What Big Wheels You Have
The Fate is my first 29er, and after years of riding 26ers, I worried that this big-wheeled thing might turn out to be an ungainly beast. The handling feels different than your old 26er. The bigger wheels do roll faster and I found myself drawing out longer, smoother lines through the corners.
One of the tricks to designing a 29er is to make a bike that doesn’t handle like a tractor-trailer. The bigger wheels mean a longer wheelbase unless the designers get creative. In the case of the Fate, Specialized put a curve in the seat tube just above the bottom bracket, so the rear wheel tucks in under the saddle.
The Fate bends surprisingly well around the tight switchbacks, and at times, the bigger front wheel gave the bike a welcome stable feel. I found myself weighting the front wheel more confidently through descending corners than I might have on my 26er.
The Wheels Make the Bike
With the bigger 29er wheel size, light wheels are especially key to making the bike ride well. Specialized made a smart call with the Fate and gave the bike their lightweight Roval Control 29 wheelset.
I rode the Fate with a heavier wheelset than the stock wheels, and it slowed down the handling significantly. Buying a 29er? Get the lightest wheels you can afford.
The Rovals give the Fate a light, responsive feel. The bike flies - uphill, downhill, into the sky. Try, if you can, to keep it on the ground.
The Standover Situation
Taller 29er wheels mean a taller bike overall. For women riders, the additional height can sometimes cause problems. After all, nobody wants to get intimate with the top tube.
Specialized gave the 2012 Fate a sloping top tube to keep the bike and your “disneyland zone” far, far apart. For me, the bike had plenty of clearance.
What The Fate Likes
You probably have a full suspension bike that you take out to play in the rock gardens. I’m not as smart as you. I took the Fate out and slammed it through the rocks and it was pretty fun in a twisted kind of way.
The higher center of gravity took some getting used to, but the bigger wheels held momentum well over the bumpy stuff. You know the rule, the faster you go, the easier it gets.
The Fate is most at home in the smooth, swoopy trails. It likes tacky dirt and fast descents. It likes climbing, the steeper the better. Light and stiff, the Fate is a pure-bred cross-country machine.
But the Fate will also play rough, if that’s the way you like it.
Off to the Races
The Fate sits in my living room, because who doesn’t store their bikes in their living room? And, she looks at me all soulfully and she wants to know when we’re going to the races.
The Fate, she wants to race so badly. I keep telling her I don’t do that kind of thing anymore, that it’s just way too much suffering, what with the intervals, the riding uphill fast, and whathaveyou. But she just keeps bugging me.
If you race cross-country or endurance races, the Fate is an ideal choice for a race bike.
If you are like me and you’re determined to have nothing to do with starting lines and number plates, you’ll still find much to like with the Fate. The Fate will get you up the hill faster on your usual ride. Because who doesn’t want to get to the downhill sooner? And she’ll send you back down the hill all zippy fast.
As a reviewer, I feel like I should say something at least mildly critical about this bike. But really, I couldn’t find anything not to like about the Fate.
The Fate does exactly what you expect it to do. It’s light. It’s fast. It climbs like a rocket and it handles smoothly and predictably on the descents. It surprised me with its nimbleness in the corners and its quick handling.
It won’t replace your full suspension, of course. And, if you’re a one-bike kind of girl, the Fate might not be the ideal choice as your one and only.
If you’re looking for a stiff, lightweight hardtail? Take a close look at the Fate.
Images by Carson Blume