Review | 2020 Specialized Fuse Comp 29

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Wil reviews the brand new 2020 Specialized Fuse Comp hardtail

Not everyone wants to ride a full suspension mountain bike, and not everyone wants to be on an angry XC race hardtail.

For all of those folks, Specialized has this bike – the Fuse.

2020 specialized fuse comp hardtail
The Fuse is back for 2020, and it’s all new from the tyres up.

First introduced back in 2015, the Fuse (and women’s specific version, the Ruze) slotted into the Specialized lineup as a fun-loving trail bike based around a bigger fork, chubbier tyres and more relaxed geometry than a typical XC hardtail. This made it ideal for ripping around fast and technical singletrack, while presenting a simpler, lighter and cheaper alternative to a full suspension bike. And, counter to the name, no this isn’t an e-bike.

After four years of faithful service though, the it was about due for a refresh. And so for the 2020 model year, Specialized has launched the brand new Fuse.

The 2020 Specialized Fuse

Aiming to up its capabilities for hard-charging trail riders, the 2020 Fuse picks up where the old model left off. It’s still a trail hardtail with big volume rubber, but pretty much everything else has changed.

specialized fuse recon fork
Fork travel increases to 130mm.

You’ll find a brand new alloy frame with adjustable dropouts, a slacker head angle, and a low-slung top tube that improves standover clearance and compatibility with long-stroke dropper posts. Fork travel bumps up to 130mm, though you can run up to 140mm if you wanted a bit more squish again. Fork offset has also been reduced to help improve the bike’s high-speed stability.

There is no longer a women’s specific version, though frame geometry has been modified heavily across all five sizes from XS through to XL.

The three-model range kicks off at a modest £950 for the Fuse 27.5, and tops out at £1,600 for the Fuse Expert. Sitting pretty in the middle is this very stealthy all-black Fuse Comp, which sells for £1,250.

In Australia, Specialized will only be stocking the Fuse 27.5 ($1,800 AUD) and the Fuse Comp ($2,300 AUD). However, you’ll also have the option of buying the M4 frame on its own for $1,000 AUD.

2020 specialized fuse comp hardtail
Inspired by the latest Stumpjumper, the new Fuse aims to be a flat-out, trail-ripping hardtail.

The Bike

While the Fuse 27.5 gets a more basic A1 alloy frame, the 29er Expert and Comp models are built around a lighter and sleeker M4 alloy frame.

With its slim and curvy hydroformed tubes and those smooth, low-profile welds, it has the appearance of being far more expensive than it is. Indeed the integrated tapered head tube, internal cable routing and clean bolt-up axles front and rear keep it all very clean and classy.

internal cable routing
The M4 frame features smooth welds, a low-profile head tube, and clean internal routing.

Gone is the PF30 bottom bracket (hurrah!) and the distinctive ‘Diamond Stay’ split chainstay yoke of the old model, and in its place you’ll find an ever-so-slightly elevated drive-side chainstay along with a good ol’ threaded BB shell.

Despite losing the funky split chainstay yoke, the new Fuse is still capable of swallowing big rubber – you can fit up to a 27.5×2.8in or 29×2.6in tyre in the back end. In the case of the Expert and Comp models, you get 29in hoops as stock, whereas the entry level Fuse 27.5 comes with – wait for it – 27.5in wheels. All models are wheelsize ambidextrous.

specialized fuse sram sx eagle 1x12
The back end gets shorter, while still being able to fit plus-sized rubber.

Even more impressive though is the fact that the new Fuse’s back end is even shorter than its predecessor. Chainstay length shrinks down from 430mm to 420mm, which is darn stubby for a big wheel mountain bike.

Look a bit closer though, and you’ll see that the M4 alloy frame now features adjustable dropouts. There’s up to 15mm of horizontal adjustment via two bolt-up chips and integrated tensioners, which means you can set the chainstay length anywhere between 420-435mm. This can be used for altering geometry, and it can also be used to setup the Fuse as a singlespeed.

2020 specialized fuse comp sram level dropout singlespeed
The horizontal dropouts are very tidy, and offer up to 15mm of rear centre adjustment.

One of the other big changes over the previous Fuse is the reduction in standover height, which has been achieved by way of a low-slung top tube and a shortened seat tube. According to Specialized, there’s up to 52mm more standover clearance over the old model, with each frame able to accommodate longer travel dropper posts.

Of note here is the move to a fatter 34.9mm diameter seat tube, which sees the Fuse following in the footsteps of the most recent Enduro and Stumpjumper models. This does limit aftermarket dropper post options, though brands including BikeYoke, RockShox and Specialized itself, are offering posts in this bigger 34.9mm size. All Fuse models come stock with an internally-routed TranzX dropper post.

tranzx dropper post specialized fuse
Each Fuse comes with an internally-routed dropper post as stock.

As for the rest of the Fuse Comp’s outfit, Specialized has put together a smart parts package that takes advantage of plenty of decent in-house product, including the wheelset, tyres and cockpit.

There’s also an air-sprung RockShox Recon RL fork, along with SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes and the new SX Eagle 1×12 drivetrain. This includes a 3-piece crankset and the cheaper SX mech and shifter, though you still get the NX Eagle cassette and the chain-hugging X-Sync 2 chainring.

sram sx eagle crank bottom bracket threaded
Specialized has moved the Fuse to a standard threaded bottom bracket.

Setting Up

When I first got the Fuse Comp into the workshop to get it setup for its maiden voyage, the first thing I noticed was just how long it is. Reach for the medium size has grown by 20mm to 440mm, and along with the 45mm stem and 780mm wide riser bars, the cockpit is plenty spacious.

At 175cm tall, I certainly wouldn’t want it any longer. However, disciples from the Church Of Uber-Long™ will be happy to know that the short seat tubes mean you can easily up-size if you really want.

2020 rockshox recon fork
The RockShox Recon RL fork features an adjustable air spring.

Following the guidelines on the back of the fork, I settled on 85psi in the air spring to support my 70kg riding weight. It’s worth noting that the Recon RL doesn’t allow for the use of Bottomless Tokens like you get on pricier RockShox forks, but it does come with adjustable compression and rebound damping. There are only five clicks of rebound adjustment though, and I ran the little plastic adjuster tab at one click slower than halfway.

The aptly-labelled Stout Trail wheelset is built around sealed bearing hubs, with 28 standard J-bend spokes laced to each of the 6061-T6 hookless alloy rims. At 2202g on our workshop scales, it is by no means a lightweight wheelset. That’s compounded by the heavy 616g NX Eagle cassette and the inclusion of 250g inner tubes.

This means you can drop close to a half a kilo by going tubeless though, since the rims come pre-taped and the tyres are of the 2Bliss variety. All you’d need is sealant and valves to ditch the tubes.

specialized butcher 29x2.6in grid trail tyre tire 2bliss
The Butcher’s new GRID Trail casing is heavier, but comes with the promise of greater pinch-flat resistance.

The wheels come shod with new-school 2.6in wide rubber, with a Butcher on the front and the new Purgatory on the rear. I was surprised to see these measuring up very close to the claimed width, which makes for a nice change from previous Specialized tyres that almost always end up undersized. I set these up with 18psi in the front tyre and 20psi in the rear.

Of note is that the Butcher has an updated tread pattern with more robust cornering blocks, and it also features the new burlier GRID Trail casing that sees it tipping the scales at a substantial 1071g. Meanwhile the Purgatory comes in at 980g, and gets a completely revamped tread pattern that’s also supposed to offer better cornering and braking performance. According to Specialized, these tyres will be available aftermarket, but not until September.

Given the weighty wheelset and tyres, the Fuse Comp isn’t the most lithe bike. Our Medium test bike came in at a substantial 14.21kg (31.26 lbs) without pedals.

2020 specialized fuse comp wil hurstwood
For spinning along twisty forest trails, the Fuse is a bucketload of fun to ride.

The Ride

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2020 Specialized Fuse Comp Specifications

  • Frame // M4 Hydroformed Aluminum Alloy, Adjustable Dropouts
  • Fork // RockShox Recon RL, Solo Air, 46mm Offset, 130mm Travel
  • Hubs // Specialized Stout Trail Boost 110/148
  • Rims // Specialized Stout Trail, 28h, 29mm Internal Rim Width, 2Bliss Ready
  • Tyres // Specialized Butcher GRID Trail 29×2.6in Front & Purgatory GRID 29×2.6in Rear
  • Crankset // SRAM SX Eagle, 170mm Arms, 30t X-Sync 2 Chainring
  • Rear Mech // SRAM SX Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Shifter // SRAM SX Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Cassette // SRAM NX Eagle PG-1230, 11-50t, 12-Speed
  • Brakes // SRAM Level, 180mm Front & 160mm Rear Rotors
  • Bar // Specialized Stout Pro Alloy, 31.8mm Diameter, 780mm Wide
  • Stem // Specialized Stout Alloy, 31.8mm Diameter, 45mm Long
  • Grips // Specialized Single Lock-On
  • Seatpost // TranzX, 34.9mm, 125mm Travel (150mm on L/XL sizes)
  • Saddle // Specialized Bridge, Cromoly Rails
  • Size Tested // Medium
  • Sizes Available // Extra Small, Small, Medium, Large & Extra Large
  • Weight // 14.21kg / 31.26 lbs
  • RRP // £1,250 / $2,300 AUD

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Review Info

Product:Fuse Comp 29
Price:£1,250 / $2,300 AUD
Tested:by Wil Barrett for 2 weeks

Comments (3)

    Looks like a Chameleon……

    I just picked up my Expert 29 two days ago, and have since put about 20 singletrack miles on it. I’m very impressed, coming from an old full-suspension, this is so much more fun to ride, and handles everything I throw at it well.

    This or the base model stumpjumper st for a couple extra $100?

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