The 2021 Specialized Chisel has been released, and it is clear that Specialized are pretty chuffed about what they have produced. Hardtails, and XC hardtails especially, have had a hard time for the past few years. With cross-country being treated almost like a swear word, the humble hardtail has evolved into trail bikes, plus bikes, fat bikes, and even flat bar gravel bikes - which is almost full circle coming back to being an XC hardtail.

Riding on the coat tails of the updated S-Works Epic hardtail, the Specialized Chisel packs 40 years of XC racing knowledge into a light and capable alloy frame - and one that graces a bike that sells for $2500. Specialized claim that they have made the 'most-capable aluminium XC bike available.' 

There is no denying that low weight helps when your racing has to fight gravity, and in that area, Specialized brought in the big guns, using D'Aluisio Smartweld Technology (DSW) and their M5 aluminium. In a nutshell, DSW involves more precise production of the tubing ends, so the welded area is moved away from the points of highest stress, and they are stronger and stiffer. So this means less material is required in this area, and tube weight is optimised while also creating a stronger frame. Win-win, to help you win.

How light? Specialized claim 1400g in some sizes - but we haven't got a frame to fact check. That is about as light, or lighter, than the true weights of some brands carbon hardtail frames though!

It is easy to define the four key frame materials: aluminium is harsh, carbon is muted, steel is compliance and Titanium is only for rich people who eschew steel. But that is a little simplistic, it comes down to how the material is used by the engineers, and the quality of the material.

With DSW and hydroforming, Specialized eeked out plenty of ride feel from the Specialized Chisel. 'Laterally stiff' and 'instant power' and 'vertically compliant' was peppered through their press release. Without riding the bike we can't comment, but there are plenty of carbon bikes out there that ride like a piece of two by four, and alloy bikes that are a joy to ride. Use the material smartly and you get a great frame - it sounds like that's what has been done with the Chisel.

The Chisel has made some leaps with the geometry, which shouldn't be surprising given the leap towards long, low and slack that their Epic full-suspension bike has made. Take a 68 degree head angle, throw on a reasonable 455mm reach in large (hey, that's longer than the Stumpjumper), tie in a 74 degree seat angle, use a 42mm offset fork, 432mm chainstays and 68mm bottom bracket drop, and you have upto date geometry. Sure, a slightly steeper seat angle and size specific chainstays would be a nice touch for truly excellent XC performance - but don't forget this is a bike that sells for $2500, not $19000 like their top shelf S-Works Epic full-suspension bike!

The frames do have slightly shorter seat tubes and are 100% compatible with dropper seat posts. If you watched the first round of the tiny 2020 World Cup, you'll see that more and more riders are using dropper posts. Not everyone by any means, but a dropper post suits new riders and experienced riders, to keep your weight centred on the bike for greater traction - and greater speed.

Downside? No dropper post comes as stock

It's nice to see clean internal cable routing on the whole frame, it helps for a great looking bike and it can keep cables and hoses out of harms way. Harder servicing? You bet. Potentially less servicing? You better believe it.

The frame has 148x12mm Boost spacing and that also helps deliver good tyre clearance, with 2.3" tyres coming stock on rims with a 25mm internal width.

The frame has a threaded bottom bracket and uses a nice mix of Shimano Deore M6100 12-speed parts with M7100 SLX 12-speed parts. The RockShox Judy Gold fork might not be the most bling out there but let's be clear - this is a high performance bike coming in at $2500.

So who is it for?

The Chisel suits a rider wanting the speed and agility of a hardtail, without the cumbersome weight of a trail hardtail. The Chisel suits the rider who has no qualms about pitching themselves against other riders in bar-to-bar combat, and it is aimed right at the rider who wants to leave it all out on the trail, between the tape or otherwise, without losing sleep at night over how much money they spent on 'a push bike'.

Kudos to Specialized for creating a bike that feeds the hunger of bike races, without making people weigh up the budget sacrifices of feeding themselves instead.

Get more details at your Specialized dealer, or on their website.