What's Cool In Road Cycling

Specialized S Works E-5 : A Big Stiffy!

The Zebra Train’s team frame, Specialized S Works E-5 in Flow Red, gets the once, twice and three times over…

The Specialized E-5 Team Bike is the latest ripper to get a thorough “Pez-amination”. It was set up to scream with Shimano’s latest (soon to be late) Dura-Ace Group, Easton Bars, Stem and Post, American Classics wheels, clad with the Cipo Model Tires, Speedplay Ti and the standard Selle Italia Prolink saddle with Testicle Trench.

Long and short of the gruppo and parts is this:

A Shimano Dura-Ace Group, once dialed in, is just like a Seiko watch, drop it, bang it, abuse it (within reason) and it just keeps doing its job very well. I can’t wait to get my hands on the new 10 speed kit. A little smaller grips and that extra set of teeth were all Shimano needed and although the new chainset looks a little odd (to put it kindly), Shimano have paid attention to performance by concentrating on chain ring stiffness as well as crank performance. It should be a steamroller!

As for rollers, American Classics 420’s have become a test standard. Because wheels make the biggest performance difference of any part on a bike and we feel like we should be testing bikes more than parts, using the same wheels lets us give you better feedback on the bikes ride qualities. (It helps that Am Classic have a conversion cassette that allows you to switch back and fourth between Shimano and Campy with the same wheels!).

The only weak spot in the kit was the new team edition tires. They are designed to be a little v shaped at the tread so that there is less rolling resistance when you are upright, and a larger contact patch when you corner (as the road comes in contact with the side of the v). While they do roll well, they made me feel unstable while leaning in to the corners, as the road doesn’t meet the side of the v right away meaning you have less tire on the road than with normal tires until you get leaned over enough. They are durable, look great, are light, hold high pressure and are relatively affordable. They may be a great Crit tire if you have to corner deep and fast every time, but to me they just felt less stable, and I enjoyed the bike much more on a set of Conti 3000’s.

Pedals were Speedplay Zero Ti. Easiest in and out, and float that really floats…

The Bars, Stem and post are Easton and they just plain do the trick. Easton spent some time redesigning parts that were already good, for the better and it shows. We have a full review on this Easton set-up here .

Speaking of design, this bike has more than meets the eye (although it’s tough to notice what the bike looks like when it’s zipping past a finish line camera at 70kph in Zebra camouflage). At first glance it is a plain Jane looking rig with a sloping top tube. At closer inspection Jane (or John…) has a lot going on under a skin-tight red dress (in the case of John, I would guess he has issues…).

The Down Tube on this bike (even in midget size) changes shape more times than the X-Men and is absolutely HUGE at the bottom bracket, being almost as wide as the bottom bracket will allow. The top tube is also substantial and shaped. The head tube is beefy as are the Seat stays, and the Chain stays look solid enough to double as Fork lift blades (tapering down from massive to only very-big in a very short distance).

All this together screams “SPRINT ME, CRIT ME, CLIMB ON ME, POUND ME LIKE A…”. Uuuh, err OK, so maybe I have some issues myself (sorry John), but this bike is a great platform if your top priority is performance.

The material is called E 5 from the top-notch tubing guys at Columbus (Aluminum with smaller amounts of other materials) and according to Specialized, is used in “Aerotech” form. I always chuckle when some marketing bumblehead takes the cycling world for granted and calls something Aero-blah-blah, when it doesn’t have the necessary 4-1 ratio (4 times deeper than it is wide) to have a true Aerodynamic benefit. The Seat tube area might get pretty close (with the tire and wheel tucked in), but the tube set is not Aero enough to be called “Aero –anything”. Marketing B.S. aside, it doesn’t have to be Aero. This isn’t a Time Trial rig and is truly in its element when sprinting, big attacks and change of pace are the way things go. The most important feature of its metal make up will be whether or not it takes the pounding it begs for over the long haul, and it should.

Tossing a leg over and getting on the Road was a lot of fun.

With a bike this stout, it is just as much fun turning corners as it is stepping on the gas in a straight line, and as the bike is compact and solid, the handling is great. The beefy Carbon Fork is also very stable in turns. It is solid and stays that way from crown all the way down to the drop outs, and has a little taper shape a couple of inches above the hub, making it a nice looking piece of gear.

With a solid aluminum frame built with very straight tubes (including the seat stays) like this, you would expect a little bit of a rough ride. The Carbon Seat post, Bars and fork help a lot (especially the seat post). You do feel road chatter and vibration through the Cranks while out of the saddle, but not as much as you feel the acceleration. This bike is performance first and comfort second, with performance ranked as screaming and comfort being in the good range. The ride is far better than what you got a few years ago on anyone’s aluminum. I would LOVE to see this front triangle with Reynolds Carbon Seat Stays!

Weight is never a top priority for a test. Instead we look at performance first and, if something does very well and also happens to be light, then we mention it. That said, this bike falls squarely in the lightweight category. Dan Barns at Bicycle Showcase in Phoenix and Scottsdale Arizona built up his S-works to come in under 15 Lbs complete. Our Test bike lacks his Reynolds Carbon Tubular wheels and there’s no way in hell I would subject my manhood to an all carbon saddle for the sake of a few grams, but the rest of his kit was very close to what I have on the test bike. I would guess the test bike (in 52 with a practical top tube length of 53.5) weighs 16 (including bottle cages, pedals and computer), and there is not a single questionable (race only) part on it comfort or durability wise (I am also not implying that the Reynolds wheels on Dan’s super light version are flimsy, as they perform very well in lots of conditions!)

Overall ride quality is a combination of comfort and performance, and when taken as a total package, this bike is a heck of a nice machine. As stated above, it goes like hell when you step on the gas. It is stiff, but the Long Carbon post and Easton bars do a great job of taking up the chatter, and it’s a true light-weight (which usually takes away the performance of some bikes, but not the E-5). The only weak spot was the new Team Edition tires.

The retail price for what is essentially an all aluminum frame is not in the bargain category ($1600+ for Frame, Fork and headset) but it doesn’t accelerate in the bargain category either, and if the tube set is as durable (hopefully more “dura-tech” than “Aero-tech”) as Specialized indicate, you’ll get what you are paying for. If this were an Italian import, it would be more expensive than it is. But if you need Euro Motivation, that’s there too, with the Worlds fastest Sprinter and his mates using it.

Warranties are also a consideration with all bikes, and while some high zoot import frames are only warranteed for a year or two, Specialized has a limited lifetime warranty. And instead of that meaning that you will be ignored for a lifetime instead of only being ignored for a year or two, Specialized actually responds pretty well (at least in the US).

Get yours at Bicycle Showcase in Phoenix Arizona (save on the tax if you are outside AZ!). They are at 602-971-0730 (Ask for Kevin). Tell em you saw this at PezCycling News and he might make you a deal!


Frame: Specialized Team E-5, 52 (53.5 practical top tube)
Fork: Specialized Carbon, Carbon steer tube
Groupo: Dura Ace throughout
Bars: Easton EC-90 Carbon
Stem: Easton EC-70 Alu
Seat Post: Easton EC-70 Carbon
Saddle: Selle Italia Prolink TA
Wheels: American Classics Custom 420’s
Pedals: Speedplay Zero TI
Bottle cages: Tacx Tao
Tires: Specialized Team Edition.

Get more info at the Specialized Website: www.specialized.com .

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