Specialized Myka Expert 29er :: Women’s Mountain Bike Review
Tested: “The Green Goddess”
2011 Specialized Myka Expert 29er, 15″, original factory spec
Photos by Corey J. Keizer
The upward trend in women’s specific mountain bikes is bestowing upon us more, and better, choices. Debates rage on as to whether women need a bike with different geometry, but at the end of the day only the ride can answer that question. Specialized Bicycles has put much into the development and marketing of women’s cycling equipment, and I am fortunate enough to test these bikes.
29er: Big Wheels Keep On Turning
I am one of the last to try the 29 inch wheels (rather than the normal 26″). For years I have been near anti-29er for women. We don’t need the larger wheels, the frame can’t possibly be small enough, how would corner a switchabck, and the list of undeniably contra-29er complaints rolled along. What Specialized has done for the 29er is open up a whole new market. And I can say that I have jumped aboard, and have quite enjoyed the ride so far.
The Green Goddess
Different colors speak to each of us in different ways. And there is no doubt color is an important factor in our purchasing process. The green on the Myka is bright grass green (Specialized calls it Forest Green), and is so different from what we are used to in women’s bikes that it is refreshing and exciting at once.
My first impression was likely skewed by the weight of the bike. I am of the school of thought that women’s bikes, built for lighter riders, ought to be lightweight. Obviously lighter weights come with a heavier price tag, this the Myka 29er sits with its fairly modest price around $1,250 and a weight of about 30 pounds, which is heavy for a hardtail, albeit a 29er.
In spite of the weight, the bike felt agile and the front shock worked surprisingly well for a lower end fork.
The wheelbase of this bike is very short, in line with what you would find on a 26 inch bike. In some instances I felt a slightly longer wheelbase, perhaps 1 mm, would make a big difference in handling, but the bike is very agile, which is likely due to that slightly shorter wheel base. The engineers did a great job of allowing for a short wheel base, thus a short top tube (with ample stand over for those concerned) without compromising on handling. While the bike is heavy, and is built for recreation, it still has a bit of a racy feel, which I really enjoyed.
To The Test : Going Up?
The steep yet short climbs of Cherry Canyon would be the number one testing grounds for the Myka 29er. With few adjustments to the fit of the bike, she handled the climbs well. Although in many cases if a rider does not have the weight far enough forward on a steep climb you will lose traction and pop the front wheel, I found this not to be the case, actually. I found that I could sit just about anywhere on the bike, with my upper body in any position, and the climbing was comfortable.
On longer climbs of 30 minutes and longer, the bike was comfortable, in spite of its weight.
On technical climbs, the bike handled incredibly well. What surprised me most was the fact that the bike was more agile and more manageable if I was seated. As I crossed a creek and pedaled up to the most technical climb on El Prieto (although it’s arguably much easier today than 3 years ago) I managed to pop up the climb effortlessly, and in the saddle. This is great news for riders who prefer to stay seated while climbing, such as riders who are used to full suspension mountain bikes.
As a single speed rider, I like to stand, and one complaint I have about this bike is that when I do stand while climbing, my knees hit the cable housing at the front of the bike– every single pedal stroke. This is an annoying trait that I have found to be common on small 29er bikes, and I hope manufacturers will find a way to ameliorate the issue. Perhaps a sort of internal cable routing.
The front shock has a full lockout, which I really found I was only using while riding on the pavement. It’s nice to have it as an option, though. Since there is so much adjustability on the Tora, the lockout was not even truly necessary on the trail.
More Testing : Going Down!
Climbing is clearly an important part of mountain biking, but descending is truly the bread and butter. The Myka 29er descended incredibly well for an aluminum hardtail. The bike is a hardtail, and it is aluminum. As such, the ride will be bumpy at times. Nevertheless, I have no complaints about the rigidity of the frame. The large wheel, with tires inflated properly, handled bumps with compassion to my hands and my feet.
I must state at this time that when you test ride a bike, proper tire pressure is of utmost concern. I highly, highly, and even to be a bit redundant, HIGHLY recommend running the 2BLISS ready The Captain tires on this bike at a very low pressure. There are a few reasons for this and number one is the rubber compound. The rubber is very stiff on this tire, and will ride as if you have an extra 5-7 psi (pounds per square inch) in the tires. Even with a tube, the tire is heavy and durable, and pinch flats would be a lesser concern. I finally let the air pressure down to 20 psi and the ride improved 10 fold. The recommended tire pressure for this tire is 35 psi on the low end. But for a 125 pound rider, 35 psi will send you flying and sliding out of corners. If you find cornering to be difficult, lose 5-10 psi in your tires and try again. I would prefer this bike to ship as tubeless. I am not accustomed to riding with tubes, and prefer not to.
The more upright position on this frame positions the rider in a downhill-ready stance. I would like to be able to get a tad further out over the front wheel, but I feel the factory set up on the bike works fine, especially for the recreational and occasional rider. I found no object in the trail I did not have confidence in the bike’s abilities– and even my own, once I dialed in the air pressure on the tires.
The specially-tuned 80 mm front fork (Rock Shox Tora SL La Femmer) on this bike was the bit that surprised me second most. Most lower-end forks are hard, and for 125 pound rider, probably even upwards of 150 pound, the fork doesn’t budge. This light-rider tuning is a true blue ribbon for this bike and for the industry. I was confident and smooth on this bike over bumps, rocks, drops and switchbacks.
Cornering Concerns? None
I will admit, before I had ridden a 29er I was skeptical of being able to handle switchbacks. Yet another surprise about this bike is its ability to switchback. There is true agility with this bike, which is surprising since it is essentially an entry level bike. And although the big wheels look big, once on top, they seem to cuddle you in a safe and comfortable cockpit from which you can rule the World. From sweeping wide gravelly corners on SoCal’s longest of fireroad descents to switchbacks with rocks in the center of the path, the Myka carved with perfection. Of course, once the tire pressure is perfected.
While the parts package is middle of the road there are a couple of features I did like. Having hydraulic disc brakes is of utmost importance. The weight of a cable actuated disc brake set is far greater than any benefits in braking power. In fact, the power in negligible compared to a rim brake. The hydraulic brakes, I feel, are safer and allow you to ride and react faster.
The Rock Shox Tora 29 TK SL La Femme is an incredible shock for the price. I was impressed, duly impressed with the performance of this fork. And the custom paint job doesn’t hurt, either. What also helps is the external rebound and damping adjustment, giving the rider much control over the feel of the ride.
The Riva saddle is super comfortable for most rides. If you are someone who rides considerably long rides in the 3+ hour range, this saddle will be too bulky, but for a recreational or occasional rider, the saddle is perfect.
One of my biggest complaints about the spec is the front derailleur. The Alivio will not hold up as long as the rest of the bike. And I have to say the 32 middle chain ring feels a little big for this bike. I would prefer to spend more time in the middle ring, but I found myself searching for one more gear in the back far too often. (Maybe i just need to ride more, though!) I wouldn’t mind seeing a 2×10 on this bike.
I’m not sure why women’s bikes are not coming out of the factory tubeless. For women especially, lower tire pressures will provide a better ride, not to mention eliminate the potential for pinch flats. If you purchase this bike, go tubeless. It will cost a few extra dollars, but the ride quality will be worth the exchange in money.
It is my opinion that a longer stem would offer more stability to the new rider, but I understand the bike is more of an entry level bike, and geared to fitting even the shortest of riders. Be sure to ask your shop fit specialist.
The Myka 29er is a recommended mountain bike. The typical rider will be a new rider, beginner, a recreational rider who doesn’t want to spend a fortune, and a rider who wants to add a 29er to her stable, or any rider who would like to have a green bike. This bike is perfect for the Working Girl, who wants an incredible bike, but wants to be fiscally smart.
Changes I would make to the bike right away are:
- Go Tubeless
- Front derailleur
- Lighter cranks and cassette to lighten the bike
The Myka 29er is a great bike. For the price, I would still like to see the bike weigh in at a lower weight, but overall, the ride is smooth and fast. If you purchase this bike, look into a longer stem if that is right for you, you might find you have far more control on the descents and a tad more leverage on the climbs. Enjoy!
Now get out and ride!
From Specialized Web Site:
- Fully butted, smooth-welded M4 alloy 29er frame with women’s recreational XC geometry delivers a confident and lightweight ride, with integrated headset for precision handling
- RockShox Tora 80mm-travel 29″ fork with rebound/preload adjustment, lockout, and custom women’s-specific spring weights delivers more versatility and tunability over varying terrain
- Light and durable double-walled 29″ alloy rims are tough enough to handle the rough stuff
- All-terrain 29″ Captain Control tires are 2Bliss ready and built for speed on the trail
- Shimano crankset with forged alloy arms and Octalink-splined BB interface means greater durability and better shifting performance
- Shimano dual-piston hydraulic disc brakes/levers assure solid, worry-free braking performance under any conditions
- Body Geometry Women’s Riva MTB saddle combines generous padding and durable scuff guards for all-day performance and comfort
Technical Specification from Specialized Web Site
|FRAME||Myka M4 fully manipulated alloy frame, fully butted, women’s 29″ geometry, integrated headset, forged dropouts w/ replaceable hanger, disc only|
|FORK||RockShox Tora 29 TK SL Le Femme, magnesium lower, 32mm Cr-Mo stanchions, 1 1/8″ alloy steerer, women’s coil spring w/ preload adj., turn key damping w/ LO & external reb. adj.|
|HEADSET||Integrated 1-1/8″ threadless, Campy type full cartridge bearings|
|STEM||3D forged alloy, 4 bolt, 7 degree rise, 31.8mm clamp|
|HANDLEBARS||Butted 31.8mm alloy flat bar, 6 degree backsweep|
|GRIPS||Specialized Myka, dual density Kraton, 130mm|
|FRONT BRAKE||Shimano BR-M505 hydraulic disc brake, dual piston, 160mm rotor|
|REAR BRAKE||Shimano BR-M505 hydraulic disc brake, dual piston, 160mm rotor|
|BRAKE LEVERS||Shimano BR-M505 hydraulic|
|FRONT DERAILLEUR||Shimano FD-M4306 Alivo 9sp, 34.9mm clamp, top swing, dual pull|
|REAR DERAILLEUR||Shimano RD-M592 Deore Shadow 9sp long cage|
|SHIFT LEVERS||Shimano SL-M590 Deore 9sp trigger|
|CASSETTE||Shimano HG30, 9-speed, 11-34t|
|CHAIN||KMC X9 w/ reusable Missing Link|
|CRANKSET||Shimano FC-M430-8, Octalink spline|
|CHAINRINGS||44A x 32S x 22S replaceable|
|BOTTOM BRACKET||Shimano BB-ES25, Octalink spline, cartridge bearing, 68mm x 118mm|
|PEDALS||Alloy 1pc. body and cage, reflector kit, 9/16″|
|RIMS||Alex RHD 29″, alloy double wall, pinned w/eyelets|
|FRONT HUB||Forged alloy, hi/low flange, double sealed, ground race, machined disc mount and flange, QR, 32h|
|REAR HUB||Forged alloy, mid flange, double sealed, ground race, machined disc mount and flanges, cassette, QR, 36h|
|SPOKES||2mm (14g) stainless|
|FRONT TIRE||Specialized The Captain Control, 29×2.0″, 60TPI, tubeless ready aramid bead|
|REAR TIRE||Specialized The Captain Control, 29×2.0″, 60TPI, tubeless ready aramid bead|
|INNER TUBES||Presta valve|
|SADDLE||Body Geometry Women’s Riva MTB, 155mm width|
|SEATPOST||Alloy two bolt, 12.5mm offset, micro adjust, 30.9mm|
|SEAT BINDER||Alloy QR, brass washer|
|NOTES||Chain stay protector, reflectors, clear coat, owners manual|
|Seat Tube Length – Center to Top||381mm||432mm||483mm|
|Top Tube Length (Horizontal)||558mm||575mm||600mm|
|Top Tube Length (Actual)||569mm||567mm||585mm|
|Bottom Bracket Height – Low Setting||304mm||304mm||304mm|
|Seat Tube Angle (Actual) – Low Setting||73.5°||73.5°||73.5°|
|Seat Tube Angle (Effective) – Low Setting||73°||73°||73°|
|Head Tube Angle – Low Setting||70°||70.5°||70.5°|
|Head Tube Height||100mm||100mm||110mm|
|TT is measured horizontally from center of HT to center of ST|
|*Not all sizes available in all markets.|