We test the Specialized Amira 2013 women’s road bike
Specialized Amira (2013)
Women’s-specific bikes have a hard time trying to be feminine without being fluffy. It’s all a matter of personal preference, but for us a bike that steers away from ‘girly’ but has touches of ladylike glamour is pretty much what we’re after. The Amira – which means princess in Arabic – manages to strike the right pose with a sophisticated looking matt-black finish combined with turquoise swooshes, making it appear serious yet fun, cute yet powerful.
Frame and fork
We tested the 2013 Amira so the colours are likely to change with the new range appearing now – but see the bike in silhouette and you’ll have no doubt that you’re looking at a Specialized. The Amira’s arcing top tube with a slight hump at the front, that tapers from a fatter front end to a skinny rear instantly gives it a family resemblance to many of Specialized’s tried-and-trusted men’s bikes.
The seatstays are elegantly slim, but it’s all business at the bottom end of the frame, with burly chainstays and a BB30 bottom bracket to maximise power transfer. The relatively wallet-friendly price of the Amira is largely down to some surprisingly low-end kit, as the frame and fork are made from the brand’s proprietary FACT 8r carbon. The swooping curve of the top tube allows for a female-friendly short reach but this is no bike to be fitting a shopping basket to: the tapered, integrated head tube and full-carbon fork are designed for stiff, snappy steering. The stated aim of this bike is racing.
The obvious quality of the frame does mean you might do a double take at some of the kit on this bike, but then it’s easy enough to upgrade and this spec does bring the Amira into first-timer territory. The groupset is mostly Shimano’s entry-level Sora, and it’s particularly disconcerting – though not unwelcome – to see the hood-top gear indicators that come with it on such a classy frame. Elsewhere, Specialized has provided many of the components, and that allows for a truly bespoke female fit with parts we’d happily pinch for any bike we’re riding. The compact handlebars helped give a comfortable hold, especially for our shortest testers, and as for the Body Geometry Riva Sport saddle – whatever brand of bike you’re riding, we’d recommend swapping in this saddle. Our three testers all gave glowing reports, and that’s saying something for what’s often the first thing women want to swap on a bike.
Elsewhere though, we had mixed feedback on this bike. There’s absolutely no doubt that when you put your foot down, the Amira responds immediately. That chunky bottom section and the stiff, high-quality carbon help push all your power into moving the bike forward. It’s not the lightest complete bike out there, but it certainly feels lively and we’d bet that upgrading the wheels and groupset would see you flying along on this frame – which shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone, given that the (higher end) Amira is the frame of choice for pro riders Team Specialized-Lululemon in the States.
The bike handles nimbly too, the stiff and tapered front end and reassuring control from the short reach allowing effortless steering. A little too effortless, according to some of our testers, who found the bike a bit too easy to oversteer.
There’s a contradiction at the heart of the ride though which, whether our testers loved the bike or just liked it, was remarked upon by everyone who rode it for us. Despite its clear racing pedigree there’s just something about this bike that seems to set a limit on your very top-end speed. This could be down to aerodynamics, or just us getting used to the unusual shape, but it just didn’t feel like a sprinting bike.
Of course, for many of us that’s no bad thing since steady speed is what we’re after as triathletes, and this bike really comes into its own over long distances. Its responsiveness, ability to hold a steady speed and rattle-free ride makes it comfortable for day-long excursions and we’d happily race a full 180km triathlon bike leg on the Amira. As for that saddle – it’s so good, we almost took it off the bike to sit on at home.
Surprisingly for Shimano, the Sora shifting wasn’t entirely reliable, sometimes taking a couple of lever shifts to change gear correctly. And the brakes were a bit stiff, which can be hard on your hands after several hours in the saddle.
+ High quality stiff carbon frame responds well to power input
+ The best female-specific saddle we’ve ever been on
– Disappointingly low spec for such a well-made frame
– Strange speed-limiting sensation makes this more a long-ride option