Bike: 2011 Specialized SX trail, size small, with 350-pound spring
- Fork: 2011 RockShox Totem solo air, tapered steerer
- Wheels: Mavic 823 rims on Hadley Hubs
- Cranks: Some old OCT Truvativ Holzfellers
- Stem: Some old Azonic 45mm thing
- Bars: Sunline risers, 750 width
- Tires: Kenda 2.35 BBG DH casing, run tubeless
- Brakes: 2012 Shimano XT
- Chainguide: Gamut P30
- Seatpost: Woodman blue GT thing that’s really light and inexpensive
Pilot: 5’9” 160 lbs., former DH and XC racer, hates slow, loves fast
Specialized has had quite a few bikes over the years that fit somewhere in the range between burly trail bike and DH rig—from the original SX Trails, which were more trailbike/slopestyle bikes than anything, to the way overbuilt Demo 7s a few years ago that were every bit a DH race rig as the bigger Demo 8 at the time. I’ve owned two of those three (a Demo 8 and Demo 7) in the past, so I’ve seen the evolution of this genre just within Specialized.
I’ve owned a 7-inch-travel bike in some incarnation for the last eight years or so, and it’s a bike demographic I’ll always have a soft spot for. They’re light DH bikes, super tough trail bikes, the best choice for most local shuttle rides, and as more and more mountains spin the lifts in the summer time, they’re really good bike park machines.
The last comparable frame I had to the SX Trail was an old Turner Highline that I bought well after production had ceased on those things. It was heavy, but the sizing was good, plus it fit a front derailleur, and I could beat the crap out of it on pretty much any trail. Once the suspension got a little tweaked with some custom tuning, it also was a lot of fun on jump trails.
The SX Trail has a been a seven-ish inch travel bike for a few years. In 2011 it got a 140mm rear end, about 10mm more travel (to bring it to a clean 180mm) and a longer shock to drop the leverage ratio. Geometry and the overall ride were similar to the 2010 and earlier bikes, but it was just a little more refined (and annoying to track down rear hub parts).
I got to build this thing up pretty much from scratch, with something old, new, borrowed, and lots of things blue, so I was able to avoid some of the annoying things that Specialized does with its completes.
Specialized is pretty famous for putting crappy wheels on their bikes. Even if good rims are involved, they’ll put pinner spokes in there to save weight, and it’s kind of a shame. I wanted none of it. Wheels matter.
The rest of the build is pretty much what is called for with a bike like this. Despite what I’m sure some people will do with it, this is not a frame to strive for 30-pound builds with. If you do, you’re shortchanging the frame big time and you should look for a lighter frame and quit sitting down so much on descents. My SXT is a mini DH bike, and that’s exactly the way it should be. It’s faster than my DH bike in a lot of places, and I’m comfortable doing things on it that I would not be on my trail bike.
Specialized went nuts with their sizing a few years ago and stretched out all their mountain bikes pretty significantly. Having owned several Specialized frames over the last 12 years, where I used to fit mediums comfortably, I’m now firmly a Specialized small. At 5’9” or so, I’ve had mediums and been happy with all other manufacturers, but pay attention to those wheelbases: Specialized runs long. Keep that in mind when shopping, and, seriously, look at those wheelbase and reach measurements compared to other bikes.