With one model, five frame sizes, mixed wheels, two geometry settings and 160mm travel, the mysterious Specialized Status ticks all the right boxes
Punch Specialized Status into your browser and the first official listing winds the clock back to 2012. Click on the link and you’re presented with the Status: a 20mm-travel bike park/DH shredder with 26in wheels that was designed as a direct replacement for Specialized’s original budget baller, the Big Hit. And it’s somewhat ironic that the Big Hit was one of the original mullets, albeit with a 26in wheel up front and 24in out back.
Specialized Status 160 review
Fast forward to today and the Status name is in circulation once again as one of the best mountain bikes of modern times, even if there’s no sign of the new bike on Specialized’s website. A cryptic, underground Instagram marketing campaign with cool cats slashing turns? Possibly, but this too-cool-for-school approach makes it tricky to track down specifics on the new bike.
In a nutshell the 2021 Status is a solid, affordable 160mm-travel shredder that uses mixed wheelsizes to achieve an ultra-short 425mm chainstay length that should allow you to party like it’s 1999. And while the rear end is short, the front is anything but, so there’s nothing dated about the sizing on the new Status. Adopting Specialized’s S sizing, also used on the Demo, Enduro and Stumpy Evo platforms, the alloy Status frame runs from S1 to S5, our S4 test bike sporting a generous 484mm reach with a relatively short seat tube. The idea being that S sizing gives riders more freedom to choose their preferred size based on handling rather than it being purely about fit.
A flip-chip in the shock yoke offers two geometry settings. In the low position the head angle on the Status is a super-slack 62.6° and combined with the ultra-low 327mm BB height, the Status is about as progressive as it gets from a mainstream brand.
One look at the old Specialized Enduro and it’s easy to see where the inspiration for the rear suspension on the Status came from. The reinforced ManFu link does away with the need for a seatstay bridge, which in turn helps get the 27.5in rear wheel tucked tightly behind the BB to achieve those incredibly short stays. Boasting 160mm of rear-wheel travel, the Performance-level Fox DPX2 shock doesn’t sport the low-speed compression adjuster found on the higher-spec units, but you still get the three-position compression lever with Open, Trail and Climb modes, handy for extra support when grinding up steep climbs. Also, the rebound damping offers a very usable range of adjustment, which makes it easy to run the suspension super-fast for increased traction or slow it down for more control when hitting jumps.
Matching travel front and rear is the 160mm-travel Fox 36 Rhythm fork. It has the same level of adjustment as the rear shock and finding a balanced response from the suspension was child’s play. Yes, the basic 36 Rhythm lacks the low-speed support found on the GRIP 2-equipped Fox 36 forks, but it’s silky smooth and the extended geometry of the Status gives you all the front-end stability you need. Would the Status be even better with a high-end fork? Of course it would be, but we need to keep some perspective here as this bike costs £2,399.
Functional rather than fancy is probably the best way to describe the build kit on the Specialized Status 160. That’s not to imply that you’re left wanting, though. From the powerful SRAM Code R brakes to the 170mm-travel X-Fusion Manic dropper everything on the Status makes it easy to ride fast. The cockpit is set up with a Specialized alloy 800mm bar and 40mm stem, which puts the rider in commanding position and leaves room in the budget for a set of comfy Deity Knuckleduster grips.
For a relatively heavy bike, the Status doesn’t drag its heels when you stomp on the pedals. In fact, if you spin along at a steady click there’s a lightness to the pedalling action that belies its 16.05kg weight. Could it be that the ultra-short stays provide a more direct connection between the SRAM NX chainset and the 12 speed cassette? Possibly. It is why most road bikes have short stays after all.
The suspension also plays a big part here. The Status has good support at sag and seems to have a very predictable and proportional response to impacts. As such, it’s not the plushest 160mm bike we’ve tested but as speeds increase the effectiveness of the rear suspension keeps perfect time. Upping the tempo also increases chain slap, but it’s nothing a small strip of 3M rubber tape on the inside of the seat stay wouldn’t silence. Given the price it’s hard to fault the Status. And even with the ultra short stays we had now issue keeping the front end loaded. That said, if you’re between size the Status is one bike we recommend downsizing on as the slack head angle and generous reach really put that 29in front wheel way out in front of you.
What’s old is new again, as Specialized resurrects the Status name while simultaneously invoking the spirit of the original mullet bike, the Big Hit. For a brand where the super-expensive S-Works bikes hog the headlines, it’s great to see Specialized producing an affordable bike that can be ridden on the limit without needing an unlimited budget. The Status competes with the very best direct-sales brands, but it remains to be seen if Specialized can keep the keen pricing, moving forward.