Specialized goes back to basics with a sharp handling down-country/XC ripper at a price that's impressively down to earth.

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 9

Specialized Chisel FS


  • Genuinely very fast, efficient and really well sorted performance bike at an affordable price


  • SX weight and suspension compromises make it worth levelling up to the Chisel Comp if you can


The Specialized Chisel FS is a cut-price Epic with the pace to go racing on a budget


Price as reviewed:


Specialized has taken its latest carbon Epic XC/DC range and translated it into aluminium to create the new Chisel FS. The result is an affordable, but still seriously rapid, impressively sorted and effortless enjoyable speed machine, that just misses out on our best budget full-suspension bike list with its £2k price tag. And we’d recommend opting for the more expensive model if you can. That said, it’s a brilliant budget full-suspension bike with a pace that belies its modest price. For a rundown of the new Specialized Chisel range, check out our news story.

Need to know

  • Lightweight, high speed optimised XC/DC mountain bike
  • Based on Specialized’s carbon framed Epic range
  • 29er wheels with superlight XC tyres
  • RockShox and X-Fusion suspension
  • SRAM SX based spec
  • Cheapest model of two, with frame-only option too
Specialized Chisel FS

The Specialized Chisel FS is a clean-looking, if slightly conservative XC/down-country bike.

Frame and geometry

The Chisel FS is the latest Specialized bike to use SmartWeld alloy tech. This was introduced on its road bikes over a decade ago, but transferred onto the dirt with the Chisel hardtail. Rather than normal open-ended tubes, it uses fully 3D formed tubes with semi closed ends (like a drinks can). This makes the tube and junction much stronger, so the varying wall thicknesses can be made much thinner, reducing weight and allowing finer ride-vibe tuning. The seat tube is also formed as a single piece, including rocker and main pivot mounts, and the bottom bracket section at the base. All told, it reduces the amount of welds and duplicated material significantly, and creates a stiff yet light keystone down the centre of the bike. So even with a UDH hanger, internal routing entry clamps, main pivot mud flap, proper chainstay protection, and two bottle cage mounts inside the main frame, the claimed weight for a medium frame is just 2,720g.

Specialized Chisel FS

Flex-stay back end saves weight and keeps the costs down.

If you look at the geo sheet, the only big difference between the latest Specialized Epic 8 is that the Chisel FS has a 10mm shorter reach. 66.5º-ish head tube (depending where you have the flip chip on the shock mount) and 75.5º seat angle are the same though, and BB drop and chainstay length are also essentially identical.

Specialized Chisel FS

Specialized doesn’t skimp on frame features, with a mud flap to keep dirt out of the cable exit, and a fully moulded rubber chainstay protector.


The Chisel will enter the UK with Shimano SLX (Chisel Comp) or Deore (Chisel) based spec, but will change to SRAM GX (Chisel Comp) or SX (Chisel) for the second production batch, and we got the SRAM spec on our test bike. That includes an NX rear mech upgrade, but the heavy 11-50T cassette, separate Powerspline BB and steel chainring chainset are all from SRAM’s base Eagle group. The cheaper bikes also get a steel-legged RockShox Reckon RL Silver fork and X-Fusion rear shock rather than RockShox SID Rush fork and Deluxe Select+ shock found on the Comp models.

Specialized Chisel FS

Atop the TranzX dropper post is a sumptuous Power saddle.

Specialized’s 760mm bar, 60mm stem and 27mm internal tubeless wheels are decent kit though, and you get oversized Torque Cap hub ends to sync with the fork for maximum stiffness. The lock-on grips and Power saddle are definite highlights, and the TranzX dropper lever is a neat direct-mount piece. Cranks (165-175mm) and dropper strokes (100-150mm) are carefully sized to the bikes. Properly lightweight (700g) Specialized Control carcass tyres drop weight and boost acceleration. T5 compound adds further speed to the all weather, all rounder Ground Control front and goes-as-it-sounds Fast Trak rear rubber. Incidentally, if you’d rather build your own Chisel, frame sets are £1,450 with a RockShox shock.

Specialized Chisel FS

Basic RockShox fork adds weight and chokes up on gnarlier tracks.

How it rides

While the 14.5kg overall weight is on par with most mid travel carbon trail bikes, the Chisel feels more prompt and performance-oriented from the first pedal stroke. The rapid spool-up and high speed roll of the tyres definitely underline that sensation, but the real velocity vibe comes from the frame. Anti squat figures are amped up slightly compared to the previous Epic Evo, but reduced slightly compared to the current Epic 8. That works really well to offset the more clattery feel of the simple rear shock when I fond myself battering through continual trauma sections. That means traction is impressively consistent under power, without the Chisel feeling like it’s wallowing and wasting watts. Even with the splined, rather than stiffer external BB chainset, the alloy frame is pert enough to reward as much power as you can put through it. It doesn’t stray off line either, and it’s easy to keep the steel legged front forks on target, but it always feels alive and lithe, not blunt and basic like a lot of alloy – and many budget carbon – frames.

Specialized Chisel FS

The Fast Trak tyres are rapid in a straight line, but don’t excel in the turns. Ditching the inner tubes will save weight and help the ride quality.

The ride position is excellent too, sitting me square in the bike for max confidence and quick reactions when the T5 tyres let go in slippery conditions. Cockpit dimensions work perfectly with the geometry, and the grips and saddle flatter the flowing feel of the suspension on longer rides.

Specialized Chisel FS

The X-Fusion shock does a decent job but has obvious limitations.

As you’d expect from a 110mm travel frame with a basic shock, I began to find the edges of its comfort zone relatively quickly on faster, rougher descents. There’s no savage spiking or blow back though, just a sense of increasing panic as the simple oil circuits struggle to keep damping under control. The rear end is very keen to use its travel too, so you’ll maybe want to add some volume spacers if you want a firmer, more progressive feel. Be careful tweaking the rebound on both shock and fork too, as one click goes a long way with the crude circuitry. Even if you (or the shop) whip out the fitted inner tubes and replace them with the supplied tubeless valves, you’ll still have to nurse the super light tyres on nastier trails too. Meatier rubber is recommended for spicier trails, then.


Specialized have a long history of making excellent, economically priced full-suspension bikes – think Big Hit, Status, Pitch, and Camber – and the Chisel takes that success and heritage into the XC/DC arena. Combining Epic race bike-based geometry and suspension with SmartWeld alloy creates a properly quick, responsive, and exciting bike. Even in this base spec it’s a great starter model for fast/far riding, and you could easily upgrade it into a competitive race bike by removing the steel bits and adding lighter wheels. If you can stretch the extra £500 though, the Comp build – particularly in introductory SLX spec – looks like the real winner in terms of performance for price.


Frame:Specialized D'Alusio Smartweld M5 Alloy
Shock:X-Fusion PRO-02, 190x40mm, Ride Dynamics Tuned 110mm travel 
Fork:Rockshox Recon Silver RL, 120mm travel
Wheels:Specialized 27mm internal tubeless rims, with plain gauge spokes laced into Specialized sealed cartridge hubs with Torque Cap front adaptor
Tyres:Specialized Ground Control T5 Control 29x2.35in front and Fast Trak T5 Control 29x2.35in rear 
Drivetrain:SRAM SX chainset with 175mm arms and Powerspline bottom bracket chainset, SRAM NX 12-speed derailleur and SX shifter, SRAM Eagle CS-1231 12-speed 11-50T cassette
Brakes:SRAM Level T two-piston, 180/160mm
Components:Specialized alloy 31.8 x 760mm riser bar, alloy 31.8 x 60mm stem, TranzX 150mm dropper with direct mount lever, Body Geometry Power Sport saddle
Sizes:XS, S, M, L, XL
Size tested:L
Rider height:5ft 11in
Head angle:66.5/67º
Effective seat angle:75.5/76º
BB height:336/342mm
Front centre:773mm
Down tube:732mm
Seat tube:450mm
Top tube:634mm