Standout specification, great size range and thoroughly modern geometry
Introduced just last season, the Fuse range of Plus hardtails are state of the art. Every tube on the M4 aluminium frame has been painstakingly formed and sculpted, and it’s the only frame in this test to have the disc brake mounts forged into the rear dropout, rather than welded on as an afterthought. As such it’s clean, sleek and sexy.
With only a minimalist seatstay bridge, tucked neatly behind the seat tube, tyre clearance on the Fuse frame is nothing short of remarkable, even more impressive given the relatively short 427mm chainstays and genuine 3.0in tyres.
How did Specialized get the rear stays so short? The answer lies in its unique Diamond Stay design. By splitting the driveside chainstay in two where it attaches to the bottom bracket, Specialized can make the stay thinner, providing the necessary clearance for fatter tyres even when it’s tucked in tight to the 30t chainring.
It’s not just a clever packaging solution to tyre clearance that the Fuse brings to the table either; with modern, trail-focused geometry and a generous range of sizes — that runs all of the way from S up to XXL — Specialized has all of the bases covered.
We’ve never been big fans of lock-out remotes on trail hardtails, not least because locking out your fork negatively impacts the geometry of the bike when climbing. It’s great then, that Specialized bucks the trend, opting instead for a compression adjuster on the SR Suntour Raidon fork, rather than a basic on/off switch on the handlebar.
Just like the Raidon fork on the Cannondale, it has 120mm travel, it’s air sprung and has external rebound adjustment that should control how fast the fork rebounds after an impact. We say should, because the range of adjustment is much narrower than the fork on the Cannondale, and borderline too fast even with the rebound damping fully closed.
Even if we ignore the fact that the Fuse Comp 6Fattie is the only bike in this test to come with a dropper seatpost, it’s still hands down the best-dressed bike here.
With a four-piston TRP Slate brake caliper up front and a twin-piston unit on the rear, stopping power and speed modulation are both first rate. Shifting is slick and seamless as the SRAM X7 rear mech glides across the stealth black 11-40t SunRace cassette.
Sure, the Specialized Ground Control tyres aren’t as versatile as the Maxxis Rekons that come on the Scott, but other than this, Specialized isn’t giving anything away to its rivals on the components front.
When we first set eyes on the 2017 Specialized Fuse Comp we were blown away by how much bike you get for your money. Not only that, but the geometry and sizing looked and felt spot-on too. Then we rode it. The first thing that strikes you about the Fuse is how noisy it is. Even with the rubberised chainstay protection, chain slap is an issue, compounded no doubt by the small 30t chainring and the increased height of the Diamond Stay design.
There’s a harshness to the ride of the Specialized too. Maybe it’s the increased base of support of the Diamond Stay, or it could just be the fact they are short, either way the back end of the Fuse isn’t anything like as forgiving as the Scott.
The Suntour Raidon fork isn’t as smooth or as composed as the one on the Cannondale, either. Combined with the directness of the rear end, your hands and arms take a beating on the Fuse, even with the extra cushioning provided by the size XL Sip grips.
Yes, the Fuse Comp frame has the stiffness to make it feel very direct under power, but take your foot off the gas for a second and the increased lag time in freehub engagement makes trials-y technical climbs that bit more tricky, as you struggle to time your pedal strokes and keep the power down without clipping your pedals on the ground.
Given the standout specification, great size range and thoroughly modern geometry, the Specialized Fuse Comp 6Fattie should have easily won this test. It didn’t. That’s because the lacklustre performance of the Suntour fork and the inherent harshness of the M4 aluminium frame beat you down rather than spur you on — the ride quality undermining the remarkable build kit that makes it such an attractive proposition in the first place. Obviously we all want the best specification possible for our hard earned, so while the Fuse gets all of the latest must-have features, it falls short on the most important one of all… ride quality.