All of the geometry compromises on the original SX Trail were ironed out in 2006 when Specialized slackened the head angle options to 66.5deg and 67.5deg. Not only was the geometry change more in keeping with the intended use and build of the bike, but it also helped to distinguish the SX Trail from the all-mountain Enduro. We’ve tested a small and medium SX Trail and found that for riders of 5ft 11in and under, the small is a better fit. Finish quality on the frame is excellent and the bearing assembly that replaces the traditional shock bushings has proved very reliable. Just make sure that you have a spare pivot pin to hand if you ever need to remove the shock to change the spring, as it’s a nightmare putting it all back together.
While the 300lb spring on the shock of the small SX Trail is perfect for an 80kg rider, the soft spring in the fork bottomed out on bigger drops. Swapping to a medium spring on the Fox 36 Vans instantly cured the problem. Steering precision on the 36 fork is amazing and the coil-sprung Vans are so much plusher than the air-sprung Talas units.
Meanwhile, on the rear the DHX 5 has a fixed Boost Valve pressure, as there isn’t enough space between the frame and the shock to attach a shock pump. Some riders will probably view this as one less adjustment, but the reality is that it’s just one less thing to worry about — so we approve of that. We ran maximum bottom-out resistance and the ProPedal damping fully off.
If you ignore the wheels, tyres and rotors the SX Trail is only 1/4lb heavier than the Ransom. Basically the Chunder tyres weigh a ton and while the sticky rubber compound and reinforced sidewalls have obvious advantages for bikepark riding, they act like drag brakes when the gradient isn’t steep enough. Having a second set of tyres is a must, or with the £300 saving over the Commençal you could always have a spare set of wheels in the back of the van.
The Avid Juicy 5 brakes worked flawlessly, and then all of a sudden the front brake lever pulled straight to the bar as the bolt securing the banjo had worked loose, allowing some fluid to escape. This was easy enough to fix but it’s worth keeping an eye on the system if you are pulling the bikes in and out of a van for shuttle runs.
In the slackest geometry setting the SX Trail feels like a mini DH rig. Its long 45.25in wheelbase and 66.5deg head angle allow you to rip every descent and the coil shock gives the rear suspension a planted feeling that no air shock can give. Rear wheel traction is amazing and flat pedal riders won’t need to worry about getting bounced off the pedals on the SX. The tight back end makes it easy to loft the front wheel and the shorter, but by no means short, front end of the small SX makes it a lot easier to weight the front wheel in corners than on the medium.
Upping the head angle gives you a tighter turning circle for techie trails and increased ground clearance. It also shifts your weight forward slightly and stops you hanging off the back as much if the terrain isn’t steep. Even in the steep setting the SX isn’t a good climber and doesn’t pedal that well. Cranking up the ProPedal dial helps on fire road climbs but it compromises suspension.
If you’ve ever raced downhill or if you are planning on transferring your BMX skills to a slopestyle environment then you’ll absolutely love the Specialized SX Trail II. It is solid, reliable, predictable, and it has all the bases covered right down to the aluminium bar-end plugs so that you can just concentrate on the riding. Some faster-rolling tyres would be better for UK conditions, but just don’t be tempted to buy an SX Trail as a do-it-all bike as it was never designed to go uphill.
MBR RATING: 9/10