By Ed Pavelka
I rode about 800 miles on the 2002 version of the S-Works E5. This included three hard rides at pro roadie Jonathan Vaughters’ training camp in Denver and a USCF hillclimb time trial. Then last fall, I received a prototype of the ’03 frame and rode it about 500 miles.
The ’03 version is much improved. I’ll compare the frames to illustrate why. My rides were on varied terrain, including long climbs and descents as well as extremely rough western Colorado pavement and dirt sections.
I built up each frame with Shimano Ultegra components. Three problems surfaced:
- On the ’02 frame, paint had to be cleaned out of the seat tube. The ’03 was fine in this regard.
- On the ’02 frame, the left crankarm came perilously close to the chainstay. There is more clearance on the ’03.
- On the ’02 frame, the seatpost slipped down during my first ride. I shimmed the post but it didn’t help. I e-mailed my contact at Specialized. His advice: ‘Reef on it!’ I did, applying much more force than I’ve ever used on a bike’s small bolts. Although that stopped the slippage, such force should not be necessary to keep a seatpost in place.
The ’03 frame’s binder is more secure and requires less force. A carbon seatpost can still slip slightly, but an alloy post should stay where you put it.
I’m not a fan of the compact, sloping-top-tube frame design. In the case of the S-Works E5, it caused several problems:
- it’s hard to get a big bottle out of a conventional seat tube cage.
- it’s hard to wipe off the rear tire while riding. THere’s very little room between the seat tube and rear tire. Only one or two fingers will fit. A small mistake and the rotating tire could suck your hand down and wedge it, resulting in a nasty crash.
- The compact design means the top tube is too low to clamp between knees — the fast and effective way to stop frame shimmy (speed wobble).
Everyone who hefted the S-Works E5 commented on its light weight. A sub-17-pound bike is possible with stock components.
When I first rode the ’02 frame, I thought it was ‘slow’ in corners, meaning that it didn’t lay over quickly. The ’03 frame handles much more conventionally. Mario Cipollini can pilot it through the chaos of a pro bunch sprint, which tells us all we need to know.
With the ’02 frame, I experienced shimmy on a windy, steep descent in the mountains west of Denver. It Wasn’t serious, but was hard to control because I couldn’t pin the top tube between my knees. Later, on a 45-mph descent in similar crosswind conditions during a race, the bike was stable.
The ’03 frame seemed rock-solid on descents. I could eat lunch, call home or change clothes while riding no-hands.
The bottom bracket area was plenty stiff, as you’d expect with modern aluminum tubing. On the ’02 frame, I got a touch of chain rub on the front derailleur cage when I was in a 53×19-tooth gear and cranking hard on steep, short hills. However, I couldn’t make the chain rub on the ’03. Maybe Cipollini can.
Thanks for informative reviews. I bought a used bike, same as this bike that you review here. My question is, how do I know what year is my bike, SL E5 Alloy Columbus.
Daryl Elliott says
Compare the “S-works” Design to your bike: