Reviewed by: Amelia
Price (MSRP): $1200
Best Use: Multi Use
Where to Buy: Specialized Retailers
Testing Location: Yellowstone National Park and Wisconsin trails
Testing Environment: All conditions
This summer we have spent a lot of time looking to replace my old Gary Fisher bike that I have had literally since I was 16. It’s time for some new wheels, but choosing the right bike has not been easy. When we were in Moab this past spring, I fell in love with mountain biking and was convinced I needed a full suspension bike. While I still hope to have one sometime in the near future, we quickly came to the conclusion that for everyday use, a full suspension was not going to be adequate. This is why people have 6 bikes…
What I needed my bike to do:
– Be able to pull a bike trailer (and smoother ride for everyone)
– Have some suspension to ease up the bumps
– Do great both on paved roads (for longer distances) and dirt roads (particularly the 5 mile gravel road with a 1000 elevation gain we climb between Gardiner and Mammoth.)
– Disc brakes so I knew I (and my 100+ pound trailer load) would indeed be able to stop on steep hills
– Be comfortable (and fit me well!)
I approached Specialized in the hopes of being able to demo a bike. I wanted to be able to show off some bike options for my readers, but also have an opportunity to test out a bike before we dropped hundreds of dollars. I suggested a bike very different than the one they offered, though.
However, they know their bikes well and I have fallen in love with the Specialized Ariel for a variety of reasons.
About the Ariel:
A hybrid bike built for both trails and the road, it has some “big wheels” to fill. Around here, we needed something that would work well both on the big hills that are paved AND not paved. We are usually hauling some big weight (in gear and kids) so it had to be able to handle that too.
The Ariel comes in a bunch of different models ranging from $580 MSRP to $1200 MSRP (differences are brakes and components.) I have the Ariel Comp Disc so will be sharing the specs specific to that bike.
The Specs can be found on their site (because I fear overwhelming some with all the jargon).
What I love:
– Very light
– The disc brakes make slowing down quickly (even with a load) absolutely possible (and are so far above my previous ride I can’t even compare…)
– The narrower tires still have an aggressive-enough tread to allow for biking on dirt roads and trails (even those that will make most bikes slip on the gravel) and make for less interference on the paved roads we usually commute on
– The wheels are “700s” and like “29 inchers” do great at making pedaling easier and faster and the ride smoother since there is more surface area to run over
– The geometry is very women-friendly and requires less leaning forward to make up for a big space between the seat and handlebars (which I appreciate more and more in pregnancy too…)
What I am not so crazy about:
– The bigger tires also make it a little bit taller, so it isn’t quite as easy for me to straddle (while still having the right size bike.) However, there is also a “step through” version.
– With our hilly and steep terrain, and the fact that we are often towing kids, it would be nice to have a lower gear to allow for more power up hills.
– I actually ended up switching out the seat that came stock on the bike with another Specialized one I picked up at the bike shop. We were preparing to do a 76 mile ride this summer and I wanted just a little more comfort with a wider seat.
– Getting the safety strap of the Chariot around the disc brakes adds some complexity…
The Bottom Line:
While I know that most people (especially with kids) have the money to drop $1200 on a commuter bike (unless you are really into it), the Ariel is a great bike for filling the numerous needs of its women riders. While I would personally move past the base model (which still does have the front suspension) just to get disc brakes and some better components because of the precious cargo I am usually carrying, the Ariel in general is a great bike. The tires are aggressive, yet still remain great for road riding, the ride is smooth and Specialized clearly has women in mind! You can find the full Ariel line here.
Specialized generously provided us a demo of this bike in order to facilitate this review. However, as always, the opinions expressed here are completely and honestly our own.
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