Specialized Source 11 Bike Review

Commuter Bike with Belt Drive; Internal Geared Hub

The Specialized Source 11
The Specialized Source 11.

Many people like the thought of using a bike for practical transportation. Buzzing around town, not worrying about traffic or finding a parking spot. No fares, tolls or other expense. What's not to like?

Okay, so maybe maintenance can be kind of a drag. Derailleurs and chains that get dirty and rusty. Grease on one's hands. Grease on one's clothes. But if a person could just find a way to eliminate all those negatives, things would be just about perfect for a city rider.

Enter the utility rider's dream bike, the Specialized Source 11. Though not yet on the market yet in the U.S., it's a 21st-century commuter bike that incorporates a number of cutting edge features that enhance all the good things about bike riding while, yes, at the same time actually wiping out a great deal of the crummy stuff mentioned above.

Features

The Source is an aluminum alloy frame, 11-speed bike that's got a lot going on. For starters, it uses a carbon belt in the drive train, meaning it is virtually maintenance free.  No more cleaning greasy chains or throwing on lubricant before going for a ride.  The belt is silent, clean and has a life span at least 2x longer than most conventional chains.  Also, and equally revolutionary, the Source has no derailleur either in front or back, again which reduces complexity and significant maintenance requirements. Instead, the bike has an internally geared, 11-speed hub with a wide enough range to allow everything from flying fast downhills or rolling smoothly up the steepest climb.

The internal gearing is completely sealed and maintenance-free, and the design even allows the rider to shift gears even when standing still. Stopped at a light? No problem. Shift down to first while you wait and you're ready to go when the green comes on. 

The Source 11 also features permanently mounted front headlight and rear taillights.

 These lights provide the ability for the rider to both see and been seen in less-than-ideal conditions, adding to the safety and comfort of the ride.

Finally, the bike comes with sleek, permanently-mounted fenders, front and rear, and the rear fender is incorporated with a solid rear rack that does a fine job serving as a mount for pannier bags. Additionally, the relatively narrow (30c) yet durable Specialized tires are long-wearing and flat resistant and have a built in reflective sidewall for enhanced visibility. Dual piston hydraulic disc brakes complete the package, offering great stopping in all conditions. For all considerations pertaining to utility and practicality, this is the ideal city bike.

Did we have any complaints or see any negative features on the bike?  Well, there are a couple things to be aware of.  First, it's not particularly light, weighing at around 30 lbs/14 kg.  But that's the trade-off for things like rack, fenders, internal gearing and the generator.  Second, the bike has one minor design flaw in that the chain guard (er, "belt guard") is susceptible to getting bumped, and the way the guard is attached, there is one part with just a tiny bit of clearance between a mounting screw and the carbon belt.

  On our second ride, a light bump to the chain guard knocked it a bit downward, causing the screw to dig into the carbon belt deep enough to cut a slight groove in it. We noticed and bent the chain guard back in place but not until after the (minor) damage was done to the belt.

Finally, pricing on the bike is in line with the technology it brings, and is comparable with a mid-range road or mountain bike, but may seem a bit steep when compared to the basic hybrid/utility bikes on the market.  But that's really not a fair comparison given all that this bike offers to riders who understand just how nice these features make urban riding as well as how well built it is.  The handle and feel of the bike are similar to the solid feeling a person gets around a well-built luxury sedan, for instance, the solid "thunk" sound made when a person swings the car door shut.

The bike looks sleek, but provides a more upright position for the rider, giving a road feel more of a hybrid/commuter than racing bike.

Specialized has indicated that the bike will likely be available on the US market in Spring 2015. Retail price is expected to be around $2500.