BEST FOR: Going fast; trails where full-suspension is overkill. THE TEST: “The bite you expect from a hardtail, but with so much finesse,” said one rider after a five-hour epic on the Fate. With a low center of gravity and only 3.1 inches of travel up front, the bike looks like an F1 racer. And while it is indeed fast, it’s not as firm as you’d expect. That’s because of the inherent bump damping of 29er wheels and the fact that Specialized designers took women’s smaller stature into account, engineering more vertical flex into the Fate’s tail than they do in their men’s models. THE VERDICT: Finally, a race-ready 29er to fit most women. 22.7 lbs
The SRAM 2x10 drivetrain on the Fate weighs less than three chainrings in front, is less likely than other designs to drop the chain, eliminates cross-chaining concerns, and still gives you all the gears you need.