2005 Specialized SX Trail (or is it a Demo 6?)

Words and photos Cam McRae

It's becoming a rite of fall; Specialized Product Manager Brandon Sloan arrives on the North Shore with a brand new bike and by the time he's schooled us on our own trails and boarded the flight home we all want one.  This year it wasn't more travel that had us drooling - it was less - along with less weight.  The SX trail is an outgrowth of last year's small production run super cross frame - the SX - but injected with the performance enhancing drugs that have made the Demo 9 such a success.  Around here sneaky riders were upping the travel, mounting dual crown forks and converting the 4X bikes into all around trail mashers. This year you won't have to modify the SX to make it single-track ready because it will come in 3 different incarnations; the SX, SX trail and Enduro.  I've had a chance to peruse the last two and I think the folks from Morgan Hill are onto something.

Brandon Sloan on CBC.

Things do come full circle.  My first real freeride bike (although I didn't call it that then) was a Santa Cruz Bullit.  It had 6" of rear travel and a 5" Marzocchi Z1 up front.  At the time it was a big bike with gobs of travel and it was thought of as heavy.  I think it weighed just over 30 lbs.  Lately the backlash of 50 lb rigs with 40 tooth chainrings has lead more and more riders to return to their roots with smaller, more nimble machines.  While I love having a big bike for Whistler and for the nastiest trails I also yearn to ride from home, take on epic adventures and earn every vertical foot - while still squeezing every bit of marrow out of the descent.  Basically I want a bike that climbs like a Roland Green's Trek and descends like Darren Berrecloth's Demo 9.  Until technology allows that bike to exist we'll all have to compromise.  Fortunately that's no longer a dirty word now that companies are making tough, light bikes with up to six inches of travel front and rear.

Skinning some skinnies - Brandon Sloan riding the Gerbil Cage on a slimy August afternoon.

The SX trail appears to be that bike.  At first glance it looks like a scaled down version of the Demo 9 and many of the best characteristics of big brother have been handed down.  The main frame shares the intricately shaped A1 tubing and the ORE (Optimum Radius Engineering) top tube and downtube.  Basically this technology means the tubes make contact well back from the headtube giving welders a lot to work with and eliminating the need for a gussets. The headtube also looks familiar and it is similar to the CNC sculpted version found on the Demos - again allowing maximum contact area for stronger TIG welds. The low centre of gravity makes the SX Trail silhouette strikingly similar to the Demo and the shock placement also allows for a virtually uninterrupted seat tube; most riders won't have to use a telescoping seatpost or compromise with saddle height for climbing or descending.

Below you see the S-Works Enduro frame (which won't ship with a dual crown fork) that James Wilson from Dizzy Cycles has been trying out for Specialized. The Enduro and SX will come stock with custom 5th Element air shocks while the SX trail will ship with a custom, remote reservoir 5th element coil unit.  Otherwise the Enduro and SX trail frames are identical below graphics and anodized finishes. Diminutive riders will be happy to know that the enduro frame will be available in an extra small frame size that boasts the standover of a 14" hardtail.

The elegantly shaped tubing and the CNC'd headtube have trickled down from the Demo 9. The Enduro and SX Trail frames are identical with the exception of their shocks. Note - the frame pictured left was shipped frame only - the spec shown does not apply.

So to get this straight, the Enduro will be an all-mountain bike - but one that is meant to be ridden hard - harder than the old Enduro.  The SX trail, with the same travel as the Enduro, will be adorned with componentry ready for freeride nastiness - a Whistler Bike Park worthy bicycle.  The SX will be designed to be raced on the toughest 4X and dual courses on the orb.  This of course makes it ripe for dirt jumping and street applications as well.  While the Enduro and SX trail share the same geometry and frame, the SX has shorter chainstays, a lower centre of gravity and BB and only 4.2" of rear travel (designed to accept a four or five inch fork).

The SX offers 4.2 inches of rear travel.

I was fairly surprised to learn that the head angle of the Enduro and the Trail can be set at either 68.5 or 69.5 degrees. That makes sense for the all-mountain application but it seems to me that something slacker would be more appropriate for the Trail - perhaps as relaxed as 66.  I suppose those longing for a slacker stance could mount a seven inch fork.  The Trail will ship with a Marzocchi 66 in six inch trim but I could see the bike being just as happy with a Manitou Sherman Slider + dual crown or the seven inch version of the 66. It's also possible that I'm just greedy.

Another Specialized to lust over; the 2005 SX Trail

Thirty pounds seems to be a target number and both the Enduro and the SX are in that range.  The SX Trail will be closer to 35 but you could of course put it on a diet.  Opening your wallet could pretty easily save three or four pounds without much performance or durability compromise. 

The SX Trail (left) the SX and the Enduro (right)ship with custom Progressive 5th Element Shocks. The SX Trail sports a coil while the other two are air sprung.

I don't have any pricing information yet but these don't appear to be bargain rides.  The frame construction, machining, finish and attention to detail would impress the fussiest riders.  The two bikes I saw were anodized - the trail in Copper and black and the Enduro in green.  I have put long hours  on both an anodized Big Hit and a Demo and they are the most durable finishes I have ever encountered.  These bikes will look great for years to come.

Brandon stomping a big bike drop on the SX Trail.

Again I'm amazed that Specialized has managed to build a Taiwanese bike with quality and attention to detail that rivals (and often surpasses) high priced domestically produced exotics. Maybe they have a secret factory with a master race of welders, fabricators and CNC gnomes.  Perhaps we'll never know.

Keep your eyes peeled for the SX, the SX Trail and the S-Works Enduro in stores this winter.  For more on Specialized bikes (but not these ones yet) head to specialized.com.   Be sure to check out their new Freeride Section with profiles of their team of huckers. 

Keep your ears on - we'll be testing an SX Trail as soon as we can get our dirty mitts on one.

Cam McRae