Specialized Chisel Comp X1 review£1,500.00

Can skinny and fluid be as fast as fat and stiff?

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Specialized debuted its Chisel frame last year, and the new Comp X1 model has a fresh fork, bar and single-ring transmission to create a really cost-effective race machine.

Specialized Chisel Comp X1 frame

The standout thing about the Chisel is just how skinny it looks. Most alloy bikes use oversized tubing, but the Chisel’s top tube, seat tube and rear stays have similar dimensions to those on steel bikes. That’s due to the DSW construction allowing really thin tube walls, to save weight and increase ride fluidity.

It’s a practical rather than fragile frame though, with reasonable mud clearance for fatter tyres. There’s internal routing for a dropper post, although the 27.2mm seat tube limits your options. 

A cable stop is provided for a front mech, matched with a clever mount that bolts onto the seat-tube bottle-cage bosses.

A bolted cable-cover on the down-tube exit-hole for the internal cable routing clamps the cables to stop them rattling. 

The bottom bracket is threaded rather than press-fit, and the rear through-axle screws into the gear hanger mount for easy replacement in case the receiver threads get damaged. While the head and seat angles are on the steeper side, the reach is more generous than on most race bikes.

Specialized Chisel Comp X1 kit

This latest Chisel has a spec based around RockShox’s new Judy fork in its lightest Gold version. The rebound adjuster is a basic twistable flag, but this fork has no bar-mounted remote lockout. The bolted thru-axle combines with a Torque-Cap-equipped front hub to lock down the wheel connection.

While the 24-spoke front wheel is flexy when worked hard, the 28-spoke rear is slightly stiffer, and they combine with super-light, minimally treaded Specialized Fast Trak tyres to create a fast and featherweight tubeless-ready set-up.

The transmission mixes a Specialized crankset with chunky direct-mount ring with a wide-range 11-46t SunRace 11-speed cassette, controlled via a Shimano SLX mech and shifter. Shimano’s MT500 brakes feel good in action. The bar has been upped to a 750mm version for more leverage.

Specialized Chisel Comp X1 ride

The way the Chisel flows along and conforms slightly to the trail – rather than smacking into obstacles — is brilliant for maintaining momentum
The way the Chisel flows along and conforms slightly to the trail – rather than smacking into obstacles — is brilliant for maintaining momentum

That wide (for cross-country) bar accentuates the fluidity of the skinny-tubed frame and front wheel. But while the Chisel favours lines of least resistance, if you hold the bar on target, the extra leverage keeps you pointing in the right direction while the bike finds its own way through. 

It’s easier to keep on-line through roots and ruts than some stiffer bikes. The bar width also helps you lean in hard and use wheel angle for grip. This means that, despite having a steep head angle, the front end still feels balanced enough.

The same ‘smoother is stickier’ logic applies to the rear wheel, with the Chisel pulling a remarkable amount of traction out of rough terrain where stiffer bikes will stall or spin. 

You’ll soon realise the way it flows along and conforms slightly to the trail – rather than smacking into obstacles – is brilliant for maintaining momentum. It also lets you keep a smooth pedalling action through everything from lumpy grass to rocky sections. 

Less jolting and jarring means a less fatiguing ride – its forgiving, still-fresh feel will be a blissful revelation for some. While max-effort sprints produce obvious warp and twist through the frame, this is a whip-spring feel, not an energy-sapping softness, and, along with the fast-rolling tyres and low weight, acceleration is electrifying.

As with any bike that takes an extreme tack, the ride feel won’t be for everyone. Riders who want a bike to bludgeon the course may be happier on another bike, just don’t blame us if you get overtaken by someone on a Chisel!

Most alloy bikes use oversized tubing, but the Chisel has similar dimensions to those on steel bikes
Most alloy bikes use oversized tubing, but the Chisel has similar dimensions to those on steel bikes

Specialized Chisel Comp X1 specifications

  • Sizes (*Tested): S, M, L*, XL
  • Weight: 11.93kg
  • Frame: ‘D’Aluisio Smartweld M5’ aluminium alloy
  • Fork: RockShox Judy Gold Solo Air, 100mm (3.9in) travel
  • Chainset: Specialized Stout Pro forged, 30t
  • Bottom bracket: Threaded
  • Cassette: SunRace, 11-46
  • Chain: KMC X11
  • Mech: Shimano SLX M7000
  • Shifters: Shimano SLX M7000 (1x11)
  • Hubs: Specialized
  • Axles: 15x110 Boost (f), 12x148mm Boost (r)
  • Rims: Specialized Stout XC
  • Spokes: 24 (f) / 28 (r) stainless
  • Tyres: Specialized Fast Trak GRIPTON 2Bliss Ready 29x2.3in (55mm measured)
  • Wheel weight: 1.96kg (f), 2.75kg (r), inc tyres
  • Stem: Specialized, 90mm
  • Bar: Specialized Minirise, 750mm
  • Grips: Specialized Sip
  • Headset: Specialized
  • Saddle: Specialized Body Geometry Phenom Comp
  • Seatpost: Specialized rigid
  • Brakes: Shimano MT501, 180/160mm rotors

Specialized Chisel Comp X1 geometry

  • Seat angle: 74°
  • Head angle: 70°
  • Chainstay: 43cm / 16.93"
  • Seat tube: 47cm / 18.5"
  • Top tube: 62cm / 24.41"
  • Head tube: 11cm / 4.33"
  • Fork offset: 5.1cm / 2.01"
  • Trail: 8.2cm / 3.23"
  • Bottom-bracket height: 31cm / 12.2"
  • Bottom-bracket drop: 5.75cm / 2.26"
  • Wheelbase: 112.8cm / 44.41"
  • Stack: 61.9cm / 24.37"
  • Reach: 44cm / 17.32"

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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