Technological progression over recent years has meant many things for the flashiest of superlight carbon racing bikes and long-travel full suspension bikes. But it’s also made for some improvements in far more interesting bikes such as the AWOL from Specialized. Billed as an off-road touring machine, the AWOL is a true go-anywhere vehicle that’s designed to take you as far as you can possibly imagine. While the AWOL might be a little hard to categorise, think of it as a cross between a 29er mountain bike, a touring bike and a cyclocross bike. It’s got knobbly tyres for coping with singletrack littered with rocks and roots, and it’s got powerful disc brakes for all-weather braking performance. Unlike a mountain bike though, the AWOL uses a flared drop handlebar like a touring bike, which helps to maximise your available hand positions. That’s crucial for comfort when you’re riding long distances, and it’s also why the AWOL has a nice and upright riding position.
To maximise strength and riding comfort, Specialized have built the AWOL with premium heat-treated Cr-Mo steel tubing. The frame is ready to take panniers and mudguards, and it will also fit three bottle cages for when you need to port extra water for those really long rides. There’s plenty of space for fitting frame bags, large seat bags and a handlebar bag, so the AWOL can carry all the necessary camping gear for when you’re checking out of town for a weeklong bike packing adventure. And knowing full well that you’ll likely be facing some pretty long climbs in the mountains, Specialized have spec’d the AWOL with a triple crankset up front, so you’ll be able to spin your way up any gradient you might face. Once you factor in the strong 32h wheels and 700x45c tyres, it becomes clear that the AWOL is a bike designed to go places. Where exactly is ultimately up to you.