Slotted somewhere between an XC-trail bike and fatbike, Specialized created quite the stir at Sea Otter this year with the introduction of the Fuse. Equipped with three-inch tires and a geometry that allows for a lower, more aggressive position that's atypical of a hardtail, it's hard to know which side of the fence this bike falls on.Luckily, we got our hands on the mid-level Fuse Expert to see what all the fuss was about. Here's how it handled out on the trail.
Review: Specialized Fuse Expert
The Specs1 of 7
Frame: Specialized M4 Aluminum
Fork: Manitou Magnum Comp 650+
Components: SRAM GX
Wheels: WTB Scraper with Specialized Stout hubs
Tires: Specialized 6Fattie Ground Control
The Frame2 of 7
To allow clearance for the new three-inch 6Fattie tires, the Fuse's frame features the Specialized-patented Diamond Stay—a massively wide chain stay design. The frame also features a slacker geometry and 120 degrees of front-fork travel to allow for a lower, more aggressive riding style than you'd see on traditional hardtails or fatbikes. The aluminum frame is tough and can take a beating. The smooth welds and internal cable routing were also a pleasant surprise that you don't normally see on aluminum frames.
The Components3 of 7
The 60mm stem and 740mm wide bars on the Fuse make it easy to control on fast descents. And the SRAM GX rear derailleur and X9 shifters handle the large jump between gears of the 30-tooth chainring and 11-40 cassette admirably. The entire component build is solid, but it isn't quite up to par for anyone interested in serious racing.
The Components (cont'd)4 of 7
The real stars of the show are the Scrapper wheels and the 6Fattie tires. The 27.5-inch rims paired with the three-inch-wide tires make line choices easier and more forgiving if you make a mistake. The increased air volume makes the ride much more comfortable than a standard hardtail, and the grip and control inspire confidence to fly over almost any terrain.
The Ride5 of 7
Once you ride the Fuse and the 6Fattie tires, you'll understand why this bike with an obvious identity crisis started such a commotion. The setup and tires are a new and definite twist on the mountain bike. While it's not the fastest going uphill and isn't suitable for racing, semi-fat tire mountain bikes are well suited for a healthy group of consumers. At just over $2,000, it's a reasonably priced option for anyone who doesn't want to deal with the complications of a full-suspension mountain bike but still wants more comfort than a hardtail.
The Ride (cont'd)6 of 7
The grip of the tires and low geometry allow you to attack corners fast. The bike cuts through loose rock like no other, and because of the way it glides over rough singletrack, you're able to maintain your momentum much better than you would on smaller tires. These features make the Fuse much faster than expected, especially on downhill sections. While fatbikes can be a lot of fun, they are much slower on the trail when compared to standard mountain bikes. The Fuse helps to bridge this gap in terms of speed while maintaining the comfort and thrill that riding oversized tires can provide.
Who it's for: Anyone who is looking for a bike that's different from the rest and who values having fun over serious racing.