Under Test: Specialized AWOL Comp Bicycle

There’s something about this that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black. — Nigel Tufnel, Spinal Tap

Specialized’s AWOL family are built around steel frames and forks, generous tire clearance, disc brakes, and brazed-on fittings for nearly anything you’d want. The AWOL Comp model pictured above features Reynolds 725/520 Cr-Mo tubing, a SRAM/FSA 2×10 drivetrain, and Specialized’s own AWOL handlebars and saddle.

Stay tuned…

21 thoughts on “Under Test: Specialized AWOL Comp Bicycle

    1. gravelbike Post author

      Adding bosses for cantilevers or v-brakes would most likely require thicker and/or larger diameter seatstays (to reduce flex). Plus, rim brakes would limit you to 700C rims/wheels in the event of a (remote) emergency replacement.

      1. Alex

        But disk brakes limit you to wheels with disk hubs only in the event of an emergency replacement, and those are much more rare

        1. Raiyn

          Gee Alex, what third world retro-grouch hell hole are you planing for? Disc wheels rare? Hardly. Even Wally World “bikes” have disc hubs these days. Now if you were planning an unsupported tour of Whogivesaripistan you -might- have a case but then again you also wouldn’t be buying a $2,000 weekend warrior rig.

    1. gravelbike Post author

      It’s going well. The AWOL is well-mannered in the dirt, and on pavement, too. Extremely stable over rough ground and broken pavement.

  1. Nick Salvador

    I built mine using C-Record, White hubs/36 spoke 700c Victory rims, BB7 brakes. It weighs in at 27 lbs naked, which I find ridiculously heavy. I’m tossing the fork for a WoundUp CxDisc, and the brakes for TRPs. The seatpost is also going. I like the geometry, but I’m finding the weight to be oppressive.

  2. fortheridehome

    When will the review be up? I really want to know how feel about the AWOL, compared to the Vaya. Summer’s acommin!

      1. Some Dude

        Jus’ curious whether you’re getting close on your AWOL review… it’d be great to hear your thoughts.

        I’ll be buying a bike soon and am considering a range of high-stack, gravel-friendly road bikes that can run 40mm tires: Spec. AWOL, Salsa Vaya, Novara Mazama, and Salsa Warbird Tiagra. With the exception of the Mazama, I’ll need to modify the drivetrains for lower gearing. I’m out of shape, but want to do extended Front Range climbs anyway.

        1. gravelbike Post author

          That’s a great selection of bikes. The AWOL would be the best choice for commuting or touring (with a front load). The Vaya is extremely versatile, and one of my all-time favorites. While I haven’t ridden the Warbird, I have found that I prefer steel forks over carbon, as the former work better on low frequency washboard terrain. No experience with the Novara, but the specs look good.

          1. Some Dude

            Yeah, I think any of these bikes would be nice and way better than my current old 26″ MTB clunker.

            Seeking opinions from experienced riders like you has been helpful in my search. I have no riding experience with the type of bikes I’m considering other than some short test rides at my LBS. So far I’ve tried the Vaya (spritely all rounder) and AWOL (super stable, if a bit tank like). I’ll test the Mazama soon (and visualize how it might ride after swapping out the way-too-wide stock bars).

            The 2016 alloy Warbirds haven’t arrived at my LBS, but I hope it’ll be soon. To be honest, the alloy models sound too good to be true. If you haven’t heard… Salsa is claiming that the alloy models are something like 7% more compliant than last years’ titanium model. They’ve switched to bowed seatstays and a new Warbird-specific carbon fork.

            Speaking of forks, I find your preference for steel forks quite interesting. In contrast, the manufacturers seem to be trending toward carbon forks, including on higher end titanium bikes.

            The main appeal of the Warbird for me is lower weight on extended Front Range climbs. But comfort on washboards is important too…

          2. gravelbike Post author

            When I tested Volagi’s Viaje, I found the front end to be a little on the harsh side. Since I was riding a steel frame with my own tires, I attributed it to the carbon fork. On my alloy-framed 29er, I tried two carbon forks (Carver, Whisky), but found that a $100 Salsa steel fork offered a better ride (with the same tire/handlebar). Carbon forks work extremely well on high-frequency, low-amplitude bumps (ex: chip seal roads), but in my experience, steel forks are superior on lower-frequency bumps of more moderate size (dirt washboards).

          3. Raiyn

            @ Some Dude The industry trend of carbon forks on everything isn’t something I welcome at all for a few reasons. First: the failure mode, steel bends, carbon – not so much. There was an incident locally where a man died because of his carbon fork snapping on him http://preview.tinyurl.com/prc8yh4
            Another reason is I’m a Clydesdale, and I simply don’t feel comfortable with ANY weight bearing carbon fiber. You could tell me that it was engineered to handle five times my weight on a downhill bike and I STILL would have nothing to do with it. I know I’m not alone in saying so either.

        1. gravelbike Post author

          No, we wanted to see how it fared with various rack/luggage combinations. Should have the final review wrapped up very soon.

          1. gravelbike Post author

            Wrapping up the review, and should have it posted soon. Wanted to see if the new REVER disc brakes would work with the stock wheels and hopefully reduce front-wheel pull.

  3. Some Dude

    Thanks for your insight on steel vs carbon forks. The difference you’ve experienced make me wonder why so many Tour Divide folks use carbon. Maybe it’s a combination of factors like running larger, more compliant tires than most gravel bikes, dampening of high frequency bumps, and saving weight? I also wonder whether riders and companies have systematically experimented with mixing differing materials on gravel bikes to handle both low *and* high frequency bumps. For example, steel frame and fork combined with carbon bars, stem, and/or seatpost?

    Switching focus back to the AWOL, would you mind sharing your thoughts on rim inner width? The AWOL seems to use unusually wide rims (26mm inner width) with wide tires (42mm). I suspect that double wide combination plus 40 psi pressure played a significant part in my test ride feeling so stable at speed on bumpy dirt roads with patches of deep, loose gravel (the long wheelbase probably helped too). It’ll be interesting to see how the Warbird Tiagra handles the same roads on its narrower rims (17mm inner width) and tires (35mm).

    1. gravelbike Post author

      A wider rim will change the tire’s profile from a light bulb shape to more of a U shape. The latter offers improved sidewall support and better traction.

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