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The Pitch Comp 650b retails for R9,410, putting it firmly in the wallet-friendly category of mountain bikes. The 650b wheels mean it is ideal for smaller riders, and beginners who don’t have the confidence to maneuver larger 29er wheels around corners and over obstacles.

The aluminium frame features XC orientated geometry and matching component specification. This is a bike for getting out and about, and which should allow you to climb and descend comfortably and reliably (Specialized refer to it as “sturdy and dependable”).

Components


The suspension is seen to by an SR Suntour XCR 32 650b, coil spring fork. Stopping power is provided by Shimano BR-M315 hydraulic disc brakes, and the drivetrain is made up of a mixture of parts. The crankset is Specialized’s in-house Stout design with 44/32/22T chainrings, the cassette a Sunrace 9-speed, and the rear derailleur is an ever-reliable Shimano Deore. Front shifting is provided by a Shimano Altus derailleur, paired with Shimano Altus shifters for the front and rear.

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The wheels are built from Specialized's in-house Stout 650b alloy rims, laced to Shimano center lock hubs and wrapped in Specialized Ground Control Sport tyres. Cockpit components are all Specialized parts: a 720 mm Stout bar and 70 mm stem, a Body Geometry mountain saddle and Specialized MTB grips rounding off the contact points.

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Specifications


  • FrameSpecialized A1 Premium Aluminum, Sport Trail 650b Geometry, butted tube sets, externally relieved head tube, forged dropouts, reinforced disc mount, replaceable alloy derailleur hanger
  • ForkSR Suntour XCR 32 650b, coil spring, custom Multi-Circuit Damping, 80/100mm of travel (size specific)
  • StemStout 3D-forged alloy, 31.8mm, 6-degree rise
  • HandlebarStout bar, 15mm rise, 9-degree backsweep, 5-degree upsweep, 720mm width, 31.8mm
  • GripsSpecialized MTB Grip, lock-on
  • SaddleBody Geometry mountain, steel rails, 143mm
  • SeatpostAlloy, 12mm offset, 2-bolt clamp, 30.9mm
  • BrakesShimano BR-M315, hydraulic disc, resin pads, 160mm rotor
  • ShiftersShimano Altus, 9-speed
  • Front DerailleurShimano Altus, 34.9mm clamp, down-swing
  • Rear DerailleurShimano Deore, Shadow design, SGS cage
  • CassetteSunrace, 9-speed, 11-34t
  • ChainKMC X9, 9-speed w/reusable MissingLink
  • CranksetStout, forged alloy construction
  • RimsStout 650b, alloy, disc only, double-wall, 25mm inner width, 32h
  • Front HubShimano Center Lock, disc, 9x100mm QR, 32h
  • Rear HubShimano Center Lock, disc, 10x135mm QR, 32h
  • Front TyreGround Control Sport, 650bx2.1", 60TPI, wire bead, Flak Jacket protection
  • Rear TyreGround Control Sport, 650bx2.1", 60TPI, wire bead, Flak Jacket protection
  • Bottom BracketSquare taper, 73mm, internal bearings
  • PedalsSpecialized Dirt

On the trails


Hopping on the bike, the first things I noticed were the tyres and the contact points. The Ground Control Sport tyres offer far more grip than I am used to seeing on an entry level bike, and this touch improves first impressions and ride quality immeasurably. Similarly, the grips and saddle lack that brittle plasticky feel that often comes in hand with a low price tag.

ccs-58780-0-81377100-1499157037.jpgThe saddle proved to be comfortable

A whizz round the car park revealed a comfortable setup: the coil spring fork was plush and predictable, and the 650b wheels give the Pitch a playful, agile feel. The most noticeable sign that this wasn’t quite my usual type of ride were the brakes, which just aren’t as responsive as I am used to, and the 3x drivetrain. 3x is standard for a bike in this price range, but still makes me want to tear my hair out when I have to use it.

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The Pitch proved to perform as advertised: a competent, composed all-rounder. I tested it mostly on the Constantia greenbelts: this being the type of riding I imagine it would be most used for. I was genuinely surprised by the way in which it handled the rock gardens scattered amongst the cork trees along Rhodes Drive. Aside from a dropped chain, and some poor gear choices while coming to terms with the triple chainrings, the Pitch handled the roots, rocks, and little kickers with aplomb.

The 650b wheels give it a nippy feel, and make it enjoyable to thread through rocky sections, rather than smashing over everything with brute force and a bigger wheel. Where I did struggle was on short, sharp ascents where the weight of the bike meant I really had to push hard to carry speed through. I also kept knocking the dinner plate sized plastic chainring protector on the rocks as I worked my way through.

In the cockpit, the 720 millimetre bars, paired with a 70 millimetre stem worked well together on the medium size frame I tested. Steering was comfortable and predictable. As mentioned previously, the grips and saddle were comfortable and gave the impression of a more high-end ride.

The coil spring fork was hassle free to set up with the preload adjust button on the left, and my personal preference meant I was relieved to see that there was no remote lockout, with the associated extra cabling and clutter on the handlebars.

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Adjusting the coil spring fork is a case of set and forget

The big downer for me, as with all bikes in this price range is the 3x drivetrain. To subject a beginner to this clunky system seems counterintuitive. It adds complexity, weight, and is just downright unpleasant to use. I do understand that for many beginners buying a bike, a wide gear range is a drawcard and selling point, but I can only imagine that the uptake rate from beginner to intermediate level riders will increase when 2x and 1x technology eventually find their way into this price range.

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It is worth noting that for taller riders, and those like me that prefer 29er 'wagon wheels', the Rockhopper Sport 29 is a 29er bike in the Specialized range with a similar spec and price as the Pitch Comp 650b.

The Verdict


At the end of the day, the Pitch allowed me to do almost everything that a much more expensive mountain bike enables me to do on my usual weekday ride: just not as quickly or as gracefully. I was able enjoy being outside, and challenge myself on a variety of terrain. Most importantly I had a smile on my face after every outing, which for me is the heart and soul of riding a bike.

For anyone looking to get into mountain biking, but not willing to drop shedloads of cash, or for someone who doesn't want to get too technical, but wants a dependable, capable bike for riding off-road, the Pitch Comp 650b is worth a look.