Brandon Meadows took his new ride to a podium finish on Saturday.  credit: James Ayres

I’m a sucker when it comes to new bikes. When people start talking about their ’04 lines, you can practically see the foam around the corners of my mouth. And why not? The deal with everyone’s ’04 line is that they’re better and less expensive than what they were offering for 2003. More bike for less buck? That’s always cause to get excited. I caught up with Brandon Meadows in Lancaster and got to eye up the new ’04 S-Works frame. Here’s why you want one…

First, Specialized went back to the drawing board on this one. Unlike last year’s S-Works frame, made from 6061 aluminum, this year’s version is made from a new material that Specialized is calling M-4 metal matrix, which they say is a proprietary aluminum alloy similar to AL-6066-T6. In English, this new material allows them to make lighter tubes, yet because of the way the tube is designed, the overall frame is actually stiffer and stronger. Specialized estimates that the ’04 frame is about 1/8 of a pound lighter than last year’s model, and that the Pro XL should weigh in somewhere around 3.9 lbs—definitely under four pounds. Another nice little detail is that the brake bosses on the S-Works frame will be titanium. Sweet. Of course the down tube and seat tube are double-butted (another weight-saving feature), and the bottom bracket has been internally relieved. And did we mention that it was going to retail for almost $200 less than the ’03 S-Works? Yup, the ’04 frame should have a retail price somewhere around $369-$399. Expect all the Factory Specialized guys to be on one, as well as the Sun and Marzocchi factory teams, and Fox’s amateur NBL team.

Notice how the top tube doesn’t wrap around the down tube like last year’s frame?  credit: James Ayres

Specialized’s ’04 line will also have a few new additions model-wise, including a mini, a Junior, a Junior Cruiser, and an Expert-sized bike. The best part is, they will all be dialed spec-wise, and you won’t have to worry about breaking the bank—the mini will retail for right around $300.

The Hemi Pro and the Hemi Comp are both back in the lineup, and both have pretty big changes. Although both frames are still made from straight-gauge 6061 aluminum (versus the M-4 metal matrix that the new S-Works uses), the Pro will feature Tru-Vativ’s team-level 7050 aluminum cranks, Sun Rhyno Lite XL rims (with those cool aero-bladed spokes), and Specialized’s double-A Main tires. Did we mention that it was going to also have butted chromoly forks with a CNC-machined steerer tube? How about Shimano Deore brakes, a dope new seat, and a ton of other trick parts? Expect it to retail for around $600 bones. And what about the Hemi Comp? For about $400, you get the same frame, chromoly forks, bars, Sun rims, Tru-Vativ cranks (the 6066 version), a KMC chain, and bunch of other goodies.

One of the bikes Specialized really went back to work on was their 24″. To make the transition from 20″ to 24″ as easy as possible, they’ve shortened the back end up on the 24″ and from what they tell us, it rides a lot like the 20″—perfect for anyone who races Class and Cruiser.

You should be able to find Specialized’s new line in shops sometime in July.… Just remember that if you’re going to drool, bring a bib.