Specialized Fuse 27.5+ Bike Review

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Specialized Fuse 27.5+ Bike Review

Shown above is my 2019 Specialized Fuse Comp 27.5+. All the fun of a hardtail with the benefits of plus-size tires.

The Specialized Fuse is a versatile hardtail mountain bike that offers a remarkably capable build at an attainable starting price of $1,250. The Fuse is built out with a high-performing drivetrain, dropper post, and a lightweight, burly aluminum frame.

For someone interested in mountain biking for the first time or in adding a hardtail bike to their quiver without spending an excessive amount of money, the Specialized Fuse is a great option.

The Fuse punches above its weight in performance, providing a versatile package that feels like a high-performing machine, without the price tag to match. With its modern trail geometry, component build, and ability to accept plus-size tires, the Fuse is, in a word, fun.

Frame

The quality finish of the Fuse, like all Specialized bikes, is beautiful. Vibrant paint. Clean welds. All-around a premium aesthetic.

The frame is constructed from Specialized’s M4 Premium Aluminum and is representative of the finish quality Specialized is known for. The welds are smooth, and the paintwork is rich and flawless, amounting to a sleek frame finish that makes the Fuse look much more expensive than it is.

The frame is lightweight and durable, as one would expect from its aluminum construction, but keeps the price of the bike down when compared to carbon frames. The frame features internal cable routing for the rear derailleur, which is a great perk considering how dirty mountain bikes typically get during a day on the trails, and further adds to the premium appearance of the bike.

The Fuse frame runs a 148mm thru-axle, with new models featuring a sliding dropout that makes it single-speed compatible. The tapered head tube on the frame is typical of almost all modern bikes, providing additional stability to the steering.

Fork

The Recon RL air sprung fork with thru-axle wheels is robust and responsive.

The fork on the Fuse is the RockShox Recon RL air spring fork, offering 130mm of travel on newer models (only 120mm of travel on the older models). The fork includes a lockout that can easily be adjusted while riding to quickly lockout the suspension.

The front suspension lockout is easy to reach and operate mid-ride.

I often hear some gripes concerning the performance of the fork on this bike, since it is a lower end offering from RockShox. However, it has performed well for me when the air pressure is dialed in appropriately.

The air spring on the front suspension is adjustable according to your body weight, so you will need to pick up an air pump for suspensions if you don’t already have one. The pressure in the front fork has a large impact on ride performance, so do your best to dial it in.

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Too much pressure leads to more harshness on small bumps and roots, but too little pressure could cause the fork to bottom out on big hits. Follow the pressure chart provided on the fork and play around with pressures until you find what works best for you.

Use the air pressure chart on the left side of the fork to find the appropriate range for your body weight. Then, try out a few different pressures within that range to dial in your preference.

Geometry

The geometry of the Fuse is modern hardtail geometry, longer and slacker, and can be felt instantly when riding this bike on the trails. The slack head tube angle, long wheelbase, and low bottom bracket provide stability and control.


The geometry mimics trends seen on full-suspension bikes in recent years, bringing those same trail benefits to the efficiency of a hardtail platform. Out on the trails, the Fuse inspires confidence when cornering at speed, due to its excellent traction and stable ride quality. As a result, descending and cornering on the Fuse is simply fun.
The Fuse also performs well on climbs. While the larger tires may feel a bit more sluggish, the hardtail’s efficiency really shines when pushing up steep ascents. The larger tires also provide traction to dig in on steeper climbs and prevent excessive slippage when grinding up the steepest climbs.

Wheels & Tires

Specialized mountain bike tires are reputed as high-performance tires, and the Purgatory lives up to the hype.

The wheels come tubeless-ready for the Specialized Fuse, whether you are purchasing the 27.5” or 29” version of the bike. The wheels on the 27.5” Fuse and 29” Fuse have an internal width of 38mm and 29mm, respectively.

Specialized is known to offer some of the best mountain bike tires on the market, so it’s no surprise that the Fuse is kitted out with some high-quality rubber. The older models were offered with a Purgatory 27.5 x 3.0” on the front and rear, but these have since been replaced with a Butcher 29 x 2.6” on the front and a Purgatory 29 x 2.6” on the rear.

All models of the Fuse can run up to a 3” wide tire in the 27.5” configuration, which is what is on my Fuse, since I have one of the older models. The tires are excellent and provide incredible traction. I have never found myself slipping in turns or fighting for control in a corner.

To get the most out of the Fuse, it is absolutely essential to set it up tubeless. With tubeless tires on the Fuse, you can run ridiculously low tire pressures (I’m talking 10-15psi) that further improve the traction and provide a smoother ride quality. Having the ability to run such low pressures on a hardtail can take away some of the harshness that is often associated with hardtail trail bikes, and it greatly reduces the weight in the wheels as well.

The low pressure of tubeless tires on the Fuse can sometimes feel a little bouncy, but they also allow the Fuse to absorb the small bumps and vibrations typically felt on a hardtail. The “bouncy” feeling is not as noticeable when standing out of the saddle, since the legs absorb more of the bounce. To me, this is a small tradeoff that is worth it for the improved, smoother ride quality of the Fuse.

Drivetrain

The drivetrain on the Fuse varies with the build option purchased. All current offerings are 1x drivetrains, which has come to be the standard for modern mountain bikes. The efficiency of the 1x drivetrain for trail riding is indisputably superior and functions well for the Fuse.

My Fuse Comp 27.5+ is equipped with SRAM NX-11, and the new Comp 29 is equipped with Shimano Deore 12-speed. The shifting out of these derailleurs is nothing revolutionary, but there is nothing to complain about either. They shift quickly and efficiently enough to provide responsive shifting on the trails without excessively driving up the price of the build.

The SRAM NX-11 1x drivetrain on the Fuse is simple and efficient: perfect for moderate trail riding.

The crankset on the Fuse is stiff and durable, but the bottom bracket uses a square-taper which could cause complications if you ever need to replace it or upgrade it. The polymer pedals that come stock leave a lot to be desired, so I immediately upgraded to a more trail-ready pedal.

The Crank Brothers Stamp pedals are a great replacement for the plastic pedals that come stock on the Fuse.

The Crank Brothers Stamp pedals are a great replacement for the plastic pedals that come stock on the Fuse.

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Brakes & Shifters

Ergonomically dialed right out of the bike, the brake levers and shifters are easy to operate and comfortable to ride.

The cockpit on the Fuse is ergonomic right out of the box. The brake levers are angled downward comfortably, and the shift levers are easily accessible. There is no wrist strain whatsoever and no reaching for either brakes or shifters.

The shifters for both upshifting and downshifting are controlled by thumb-presses, allowing the index finger to be designated for braking only, never shifting. This control setup adds to the premium feel of the bike and provides optimal grip and control of the handlebars through challenging terrain.

The disc brakes leave something to be desired, but they perform well on a budget-friendly build.

The disc brakes on the Fuse are effective and easy to use. They provide ample stopping power and the ability to quickly scrub speed on fast descents. Personally, I have never had any issues with the performance of the brakes on my Fuse.

However, the brakes are not as high-quality as the disc brakes found on higher-end bikes. I have heard other riders complain that the pads never feel properly seated in and that the brakes are not as responsive as others they have ridden.

Again, I have had no issues with the brakes or their performance, and I do tend to ride more conservatively on the trails. I brake frequently and heavily going into corners, and the brakes have proven to be quite reliable in my opinion.

Saddle

The Henge is a comfortable saddle that has been superseded by the vastly superior Bridge, which now comes stock on the new Fuse.

The stock saddle on the Fuse is now the Specialized Bridge Comp, replacing the Henge that used to come on the Fuse. I have the Henge on mine and find it to be a fine saddle. It isn’t exceedingly comfortable, but I would only replace it because of my deep love for Brooks saddles, not because I find a flaw with it.

The Bridge saddle is certainly an improvement over the older Henge. Having ridden both, I would choose the Bridge over the Henge in a heartbeat, because it truly is one of the most comfortable stock saddles I have used. Things get even better when we look beneath the saddle to where it’s mounted.

The shining star on this build is, without a doubt, the dropper post. It is easy to use and responds quickly.

One of the best features and selling points for the Specialized Fuse is its dropper post. The dropper post has exceeded expectations. It actuates quite easily and then extends quickly. The dropper post offers impressive travel for all frame sizes (note that travel varies with frame size).

I have only great things to say about the dropper post, and other rider’s sentiments echo mine. The performance truly is exceptional and pushes the bike’s trail capabilities up a notch. The dropper allows you to tackle challenging descents with confidence and extends quickly to transition back into climbing.

For me, the dropper post is what set the Fuse apart at the time of purchase. Three years later and I still love the dropper on this bike. The dropper post pushes the bike’s overall performance to a level that does not match the low price tag that the Fuse is offered at.

Handlebars

The flat bar handlebars on the Fuse are quite wide and offer no sweep. The width allows for control of the bike and stable, responsive steering during technical riding. Without any sweep, the bars provide a classic hardtail aesthetic, but some riders may find them to be a bit reachy.

The build on the Fuse is a long build and the stem has a small stack height, so the Fuse may feel a bit reachy for a trail bike. Of course, this varies from one rider to the next, but it is something to pay attention to during your test ride.

Personally, I have a longer than average torso and come from a road biking background. As a result, I did not think the Fuse felt reachy at all. In fact, I find it quite comfortable and am even considering building it out as my backpacking adventure rig due to its comfortable ride quality and position, compared to my gravel bike.

The grips on the Fuse are excellent and a favorite of many riders. They are a comfortable diameter with a soft feel, offering high performance on the trail and maintaining a solid grip of the handlebars.

Where is the Specialized Fuse Lacking?

The Fuse offers impressive performance at an affordable price tag, but certain tradeoffs had to be made to keep the price low.

The most notable area for improvement is the front suspension. While the fork is quite capable, the reality of budget-friendly bikes is that the fork performance does not compare with mid-level or high-level forks.

The second most notable area for improvement is the brakes. Upgrading to more powerful brakes and nicer brake rotors would make a noticeable performance improvement as you progress in your trail riding capabilities. One final thing to note about the Fuse is the chain slap. This was one of the first things I noticed on my first ride and should be addressed immediately. Go grab a Lizard Skin chainstay protector and slap that on the Fuse as soon as possible, otherwise you will hear the chain chewing up the paint on your Fuse during trail rides.

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The Lizard Skin chainstay protector is essential to protect the paint and frame from excessive chain slap, which is quickly noticeable on the Fuse.

Conclusion

While there are upgrades that can be made to the Fuse, it is a trail-ready rig right out of the box. It performs like a premium bike and comes in at a low price. The build presents an all-around high value for the dollar and doesn’t rely on any lackluster components to keep the price down.

The result is a bike that will not hold back your riding at all. The high-volume tires and the Specialized tread provide excellent traction and instill confidence in the rider. Combine that with a 1x drivetrain and a high-performing dropper post, and you have a hardtail build that “rips” on the trails and provides riders with a capable, fun bike and plenty of room to grow their skillset.

The Fuse is a bike that I hold in high regard. Coming in at an affordable price, the Fuse provides a premium riding experience and is incredibly fun to ride. For someone interested in mountain biking or in adding a hardtail to their collection, the Fuse is the perfect choice to go out and have a lot of fun, feeling completely confident in the sturdy build beneath your feet.

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