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Product Review: Specialized AWOL

Adventure Without Limits. If there is one way that I would wish for my life to be described when it’s all said and done and I come sliding in sideways (on a bike, of course) into my final resting place, it would be that. No, I don’t  necessarily want AWOL on my tombstone, but I sure hope to push my personal limits to the point that I know I got the most out of this one trip rodeo we call life.

Can a bike embody that ideal? Probably not. Bicycles are tools. They get us from one place to another under our own power faster than we could walking. While walking can deliver you to many places where adventure is inevitable, throwing a leg over a two-wheeled machine can turn the most mundane trip to the grocery store into a micro-adventure. On the same token, they can be also be utilized for multi-day adventures where the risk to reward ration isn’t always in your favor.

The AWOL is no different it just happens to be engineered to do all of the above well.


 

Current Stats on the AWOL:

  • Relationship Duration – 9 months and going strong
  • Mileage pedaled (rough estimate) – 237.23
  • Tires – 3 rears, front is still holding strong
  • Nights spent together outside – 17

 

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I bought my AWOL much like I purchase most things, on a whim. I justified, yet another bike purchase because my 29er was going away. I had recently fully immersed myself in the chubby world, but still wanted a bike that would fit that smaller dirt tire for long rides when I was pedaling around a loaded bike. Seeing that 29×2.0 tires will fit on this bike (unless they have really, really big knobs), it’s essential a mountain bike with drop bars.

The first thing I noticed about the AWOL was how cool it looked with the knobby tires. Maybe it’s just me, but drop bars and knobs just look good together. Murder it out and add some bikepacking bags and you have a bike that makes you feel like you could get yourself in trouble on some adventures.

Of course, looks probably aren’t your biggest concerns when purchasing a touring bicycle. You most likely want to know how it feels loaded. The geometry of the bike is designed to be long and low, placing the rider in between the wheels and almost tucked into the frame. I have never had panniers on my bike, but fully loaded with bikepacking bags, it rides pretty darn nice. Smooth, easy to maneuver and transitions well from pavement to dirt and back again. I’ve done some singletrack riding, both loaded and unloaded. It reminds me of a slower reacting cross bike and makes for an enjoyable gravel grinder.

The long and stable geometry is confidence inspiring when pedaling a loaded bike on technical singletrack. It is anything but twitchy, erring on the side of stability so the bike almost rides smoother when completely loaded.

The only downside that I can find with this bike is the weight, not that it is inappropriate for a touring bike, I’m just used to less.


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My favorite part about this bike is where it has inspired me to ride. I rarely remove my bags, leaving the bike ready for adventure at the drop of a hat. When I see it sitting in the garage, waiting, eager with its bags left open, I can’t help but start to plan a ride. I’ve found myself camped, on the side of a road with my bike hanging from a tree more times since purchasing this bike than I ever had before. It’s taken me on multi-day trips, long overnighters and my current favorite – the sub 12 hour overnighter. There isn’t anything that helps me get through the work week better than loading up my bike and riding to a hobo camp on a Wednesday evening. Even though I will be back to work by 11 AM the next morning, it feels like a mini-weekend and when you live for the weekends, that’s pretty special.

Does this bike create adventure? No, it’s more like that one friend that is always pushing you to go a little farther, to attempt that jump that’s a bit beyond your abilities and putting ideas in your head that sound horribly awesome. I think I’ll see where this relationship takes me.

Written by Moose.

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