We've been big fans of the Specialized AWOl bikes since they came out. Specialized is not always the originator of ideas, but they are good at taking ideas and refining them into bikes that express the "heart of the matter" within any particular discipline. The "EVO" series is that expression, and we're stoked to have some of the new AWOL Evo models in stock.
So what's the fuss? Well, the fuss is that this is a hell of a lot of bike for $2500, and resembles in many ways what we've been doing with recent custom touring builds.
Starting with a nice butted steel frame, the Evo piles on a Sram 2x10 drivetrain with a wide-range double for a low gear of 32x36 (front/rear). Should be enough to tackle most grades while loaded, and the X.9 rear der can handle a bigger cassette if need be. Braking is handled by powerful TRP Hy/RD hydraulic calipers.
But that's to be expected. The really cool stuff is in the accessories. A set of lightweight metal fenders keep the rain on the flat-resistant Armadillo tires and off the rider.
A Specialized "Pizza" porteur rack with pannier rails and Tubus rear rack both have mounts for the Supernova lights powered by a Shimano dynamo hub. The hub runs power through a bar-mounted switch that sends juice either to the lights of to the top-cap mounted "Plug III" USB-charger to keep your other stuff all charged up while on tour.
AWOL geometry is a bit more akin to a mountain bike than a traditional touring bike, with long top tubes and short stems favoring front loading and stability on gravel and dirt. Topping off the off-road friendly nature of the rig is a carbon CG-R seatpost, a pivot-less shock absorber that takes the edge off the bumpy bits.
Lastly, the paint is pretty cool. It's called "Rocket Red" and is pops up on a number of Specialized bikes. The deal is that it will darken randomly with UV exposure, so each bike gets a kind of individual patina over time. The logos on the downtube, head tube and the seatpost are also painted in a retro-reflective paint for nighttime visibility.
So yeah, we think it's worth a fuss.