Erik’s Sparkle Abyss: the Custom Skid Sled

If a beast were to crawl its way out of the Abyss, only to find itself mutated into a two-wheeled, human-powered machine, it might look like this thing. When I first saw it in person, with the Supernova light dangling from the stem, I was reminded of a Deep Sea Anglerfish. A fish that spends its life in complete darkness, only illuminating its path with a luminescent organ called the esca at the tip of a modified dorsal ray. Could that be this bike’s spirit animal?

Erik works at the big, bad S. He’s a designer for the AWOL and other excursion-oriented bicycles. He made this bike as a special project for his plans on taking on the SF-area’s Super Brevet Series. Initially, he wanted a bike that would fit a 45mm slick 700c tire, with a tighter geometry than the AWOL and a tapered headtube, mated to a carbon fork. He spec’d the main tubes from a stock AWOL with the geometry more like a cross bike, milled a head tube to spec and used a Secteur fork for its rack attachments. While the AWOL is a dedicated touring bike, this is closer to a light-tourer or randonneur. So, in short, this is a one-off custom, made in the USA bike that gave Erik the ability to test out a few concepts.

Erik's Sparkle Abyss: the Custom Skid Sled

The bars have an aero shape, there’s a Supernova AWOL switch in the bar end from the EVO project. The tires are prototype, made especially for muddy trails. There’s even a custom-milled stem cap that holds a USB battery but what puts this bike back into the Abyss is the sparkle, glitter fade paint, which Erik applied himself.

As with most concepts, ideas Erik used to create this one might trickle down the Specialized product line at some point, but don’t hold your breath. Unless you’re an Anglerfish.

  • Got any more info on the fork? Still searching for a tapered carbon disc fork with rack mounts…

    • JScriv

      Prior to the Secteur going into Diverge, and right when disc’s were starting to make their way into the lines the. . . it had what is essentially a carbon crux fork w/ single rack mounts. This existed up until the marriage of Diverge and Secteur. I would guess that’s the fork. I had one on my Crux for sometime.

    • fizzle

      you and me both

    • JScriv

      Niner’s RLT fork should be available aftermarket or through alt. channels in the New Year.

      • Yeah I heard the same. I’m just hoping that they’ll make it in black or at least something less terrible than the way it is painted on the complete bikes.

    • Brian Sims

      +1 rack mounts on a carbon fork with 15mm TA is needed. The Niner seems to be a good option, but may need custom paint.

  • brennan

    Killer build – Erik produces some fantastic projects and custom paint. It is awesome to see these kind of experiments come out of the Big Red S. I bet it rips.

    That light mount is on point. The Secteur was absorbed into the Diverge line, but all those forks have always had Zertz – so I would assume that fork is not a production fork either. The Storm tires have also been around a bit so they might have a new tread profile. I am not super familiar with them.

  • fizzle


    • Rider_X

      Me please. I ride long distance over mixed terrain and trails to work. Laptop in panniers on a front-loading rack please!

    • h000k

      Erik would have to remount the light, but you could add a decaleur and mini rack for a small front bag like a Swift Ozette.

      • AdamBike99

        It ain’t Rando without a Rando bag… 8~)
        +1 for a Swift Ozette. Anyhoo, this is one cool braingasm. Thanks for sharing the inside game John.

        • Not too much into aero thoghts but on a 600 k solo brevet with head wind, a frame bike packing solution will save you A LOT of effort compared to the much bigger frontal area of a randobag. I love my Swift randobag but I’ll try save that energy on the big rides since they’re hella long and hard already

          • AdamBike99

            Would love to discuss some aero-rando bag ideas with you. I’ve been thinking, “why not just turn the functional storage space into a lightweight fairing that also protects from some weather?” The traditional placement in front of the bars makes accessing everything sooo easy.

          • Rider_X

            Fairings/front bag setups have been tested before. Depending on the rider position fairings can actually increase drag. Google “Aerodynamics of Real-World Bicycles” – it was in a BQ issue a while back.

          • Ben Hoffman


            BQ says the HB bag is more aero than a similarly sized seatbag.

          • Rider_X

            Yes that is true, a tear-drop shape (larger front, tapered rear) is more aero. (This is also why drafting the lead rider gives the lead rider small aero advantage). BQ however did not test frame bags, which should offer lower drag as they are sitting in an area with disturbed air flow.

          • AdamBike99

            Exactly. That would be the goal of designing a new, more integrated setup. To create easily accessible storage, weather protection (for rider’s hands and the gear inside), lighter weight and greater aerodynamics- all based on the rider & machine as a singular unit. Integration is paramount! Are you up for this Erik?

          • Rider_X

            That would make an awesome Win Tunnel test! Especially over 600 km, the time split could get scary big.

          • Guess I need to try to make that happen !!

          • Rider_X

            Sweet! I wouldn’t be surprised if a properly setup frame bag even bests a “naked” bike.

    • Ray Penrod

      Couldn’t stay away, huh?

      • fizzle

        came for the bike, stayed for the trolling.

  • Bananas, just totally bananas. I love it.

    • And just holy crap Erik’s sparkle game is seriously on point.

  • I really want one of those. Maybe with 650b wheels though (just because I’m short)

  • Brian Richard Walbergh

    It will be a shame if this or something damn close doesn’t make it into production, Big S hasn’t made an bike this exciting in a long time, Even more exciting if it could be around the same cost as the AWOL (obviously not with SRAM 1x Hydro). Cage mounts on the fork would be dope too.

  • JP Coates

    Maybe my favorite bike on the site this year. Ticks all the right boxes. So much want.

  • owmurphy

    Fun stuff! Minor question in the grand scheme of things: would a hardier, rubber, push-button be safer than a thin metal toggle for the Supernova switch? Or just put the toggle ont he backside of the lamp body where it would be more out of harm’s way?

    • It’s a complicated system, that’s kind of a pain to install, so I don’t think they’ll be offering it anymore. Or at least not aftermarket. But the switch is protected by the lip around the bar end, so you’d have to hit it dead center to do any damage.

      • Matt O’Donnell

        Aw that’s a bummer. I really wanted to get this setup for my AWOL Poler.

    • The while idea is to remove the switch frim the lamp to make it smaller and put it in a multiway switch to toggle between the light and the usb socket. All other Supernova light have it on the back of the lamp. Like John said, it switch sits embedded an won’t do any harm .

      • recurrecur

        That light and battery setup is just wild.
        You could make some money from selling that stem battery thing – my money.

  • Adam Sklar

    that shot with the city in the background.

  • Scott Karoly

    this is pretty cool. FYI, those tires may be prototypes, but they’re in the dealer catalog for 2016 – 29×1.8 storms. so if you want them, looks like you can get them too.

    • Correct, I ride an early proto version of the available Storm.

      • 29×1.8 = 700c x ~45mm.
        Why are these labelled like an MTB tyre as opposed to a cross/road/gravel tyre?

        • Because it’s the baby version of a Downhill tread, made for shitty and wet conditions. Folls asked for a narrow version and S made it

  • Matt O’Donnell

    Are the rear dropout bolted onto the frame? Is that what I’m seeing in #9 and #23? And man oh man this thing is so good. It’s this magical beast that lives somewhere in between my AWOL and my Niner RLT9 Steel, but with a couple extra great Nohlin touches, like the Supernova and the custom stem cap. Hot.

    • Matt O’Donnell

      Actually, along that note… did Erik let you ride this thing at all, John? How would you compare it to the RLT9?

    • Ray Penrod

      The dropouts look like alternator-style adjustables, to me.

      • It’s the AWOL Swinger, the first project I was involved in at S. It was introduced 3 years ago on the Awol Comp. The Swinger pivots from the frame and enables you to do an IGH like Alfine or Rohloff or ride single speed, fixed gear or belt drive. There’s a more conservative, non-swinger version to.

        • Shane

          Hi Erik, for Rohloff compatibility was a new generation swinger dropout to be released for AWOL transcontinental frames with swinger dropout s?whats the best solution you know of for conversion to Rohloff. I am eyeing a medium sized AWOL transcontinental with and Alfine 8 hub for conversion to Rohloff but maybe Alfine 11 is more realistic ?

  • Nils-Erik Hilliard

    Digging so many little things about this bike, and that paint too! It’s a real gem. Still figuring out/admiring his lighting and wire routing situation. I’ve been wanting to devise a similar toggle switch of some type for my bike, so it’s cool to see one already exists! Great to meet my spirit animal/brother Erik at the Cub House. #metal

    • A hole in the fork and a junction box in the steerer. The switch cable runs on the outside of the bar, under the tape, and the dynamo cable along the leg. Normally I’d do a full internal but didn’t wanna drill the Krabon more than nec..rad seeing you Nils-Erik

  • dthio

    Any info on the USB battery?

    Looking for a system that can act as buffer for smartphone charging and can be “hidden” in the frame for a long time…

    • It’s made by Neco and probably hard to track down for another couple of months

      • dthio


      • philip finden

        Erik did the usb ever make it to production?

    • Jo Nathan

      I have a $10 Anker from amazon which I have been using for a few months and had no issues. Works very well and I get about 2.5 iphone charges out of it before it needs a new charge.

  • Bo

    What’s the scoop on those pedals?

    • jway18

      Look like CrankBrothers Candy?

      • Bo

        Think yer right, look like candy 3’s.

  • Tim Guarente

    Those bars look funny, are the rotated oddly, or is it some one-off? I mean, custom frames are one thing, but custom aero drop bars would be straight crazy.

    • Made some silicone inserts to improve the ergonomics on my 400 and 600 k brevet. They’ll save my ulnar nerve completely to the point where I can ride 26 straight hrs without gloves. It looks a bit funky but feels amazing

      • Tim Guarente

        It does look comfortable, like a nice cradle for your palms.

      • Matt O’Donnell

        That’s really awesome. S puts so much into developing a huge array of saddles, really paying a lot of attention to posterior comfort on the bike, imagine if they could do the same for bars/hands. That would be amazing.

  • Mike

    That light setup is rad, utilitarian yet smooth as butta. I wonder how much riding you would need to go to charge it up?

    • A dynamo produces 6 volts, the same amout a smartphone needs. That means that as long as the phone is off, and you ride faster than 8-10 mph needed for a steady current, the charging time should be about the same as a plug in the wall. Different irl but I’ve charged a smart phone from dead to 100% in about 20 miles. My single top cap cell should be the same. Off road, usb chargers are pretty worthless since you won’t sustain the steady current for long – the reason why I use this system for my Garmin now instead of the Supernova usb plug.

      • Rider_X

        Thoughts on the supernova hub? Are they as reliable as a Schmidt? I sold off my Schmidt with a bike and would like to dyno up my AWOL. Digging your battery setup, so much more slick than what some of us were hobbling up years ago. Does it come out easy? I often charge an external pack, so I could take it into the tent at night.

        • Brian Sims

          Supernova dynamos are made by Shutter Precision. I did some research and found enough reviews to convince me the Supernova / Shutter Precision was a well made hub at ~ half the cost of Schmidt. With Shutter Precision you get more options IIRC. I went with a disc 15mm TA dynamo. Works great with a Schmidt E-Delux light. I read one or two reviews comparing the Supernova and Schmidt lights and the Schmidt was find to be far superior. I’ve not used both so I can’t comment.

          • Supernova isn’t making hubs anymore though.

          • Brian Sims

            Oh yeah, look at that. Nothing on their site. I guess they are focusing just on lights now. Thanks for the update.

      • Jeff Liu

        When it is switch to USB mode, is the dynamo running into the a power amplifier/rectifier and then into the battery?

      • movemint

        Sign me up

  • Eric Hancock

    This is fantastic. So well-executed.

  • Mike Spadafora

    that bike looks so bad ass…simple and fun…my kind

  • kermitonwheels

    35 could be January’s calendar shot…

  • Very sweet ride! I’d love to see S do a version of that for production. I’m curious about that Supernova stem mount as my whole light/power setup for bikepacking is Supernova.

    • Just drilled an M4 in the stem and threaded it. There was enough gods in the stem to do it. Holes in frames, forks and components are always to be evaluated thoroughly – most of the times it’s not to recommend, just saying.

  • Alta

    Totally rad bike, but why not just ride the Diverge? Is this a tighter geometry (More Crux than Roubaix)? Just wanted steel?

    • It’s almost identical to Crux and yes, steel is my frame material of choice, the ride, the feel and the aesthetics

      • Alta

        Looks great.

  • Zac

    Fucking. Drool.

  • Soup

    Erik, I know John warned me about not holding my breath… but I’m holding my breath. This bike is kinda a dream. How has S reacted to the positive response? And what can riders to do convince S to bring this steel bike to production?

    • Breath! What you can do? Just what you did! Stay stoked and give feedback on projects / one off concepts like this – Rider’s the boss!

      • Justin Dodd

        When this was posted, before I realized it was just a prototype, I was literally going to run over to my local Specialized dealer and preorder one. Drop one of the 5 road bike models (tarmac, allez, venge, roubaix, diverge) and put this in the catalog for next year instead! :)

        • Domingo

          There are moments when I ride my AWOL with a backpack rather than loaded. It is at these times I throw the bike around more; this bike looks like an AWOL with more of a rubber-side-up attitude! Which I can only imagine would ride so so beautifully. I’ve been looking for a new steel steed to give the AWOL a break and save it for tours/longer rides. Erik, kudos to you sir

  • Jon B.

    Right when I fully commit to buying an AWOL Comp this madness/perfection appears. So killer—great work.

  • Robert0321

    If n=1, this is the (kind of) bike i’d get.

    Why not go for Thru Axles though?

    • Jeff Liu

      I would think not many thru-axle dynamo hubs on the market yet.

      • Both Son and SP have thru-axle dynamo in their lines, still not a mindblowing offering but there are some.

    • Simply because this isn’t a new development, more a Frankenbike from
      existing parts. It would be a thru-axle if it was, no doubt!

  • reteptterrab

    “The devil is in the details” as they say.
    Amazing bike in both concept and aesthetics.
    We can only hope that this one man mission not be diluted by corporate indecision.
    Man those tires look sick, big shoulder knobs and lowered knobs down the middle – almost perfect. Perfection would be if The Big S would make these in their old Umma Gumma compound…softer grey rubber with tan sidewalls! I was always astounded at the great traction a set of well worn Ground Control Umma Gummas would provide.
    …Erik, may the devil be with you.

  • Jon Winter

    And he’s done it again! Head tube battery, handlebar mod, supernova front light mount, all really cool details. Was looking to get a Diverge to add to the Awol and Roubaix however, if S make this then it would be on the list instead. Great work once again Erik and awesome photos as always John. Keep it up guys!

  • Julio bustamante

    This Photo Set tho!

  • Alex Alvarez


  • Rice Rocket

    Hot damn. How long/short is that stem?

  • Mark Vonk

    Question for Erik, as he seems to chime in (very much appreciated!): why develop this bike? Isn’t it basically a steel Diverge type of bike?

    • It isn’t so much of a development but AWOL tubing, Crux geo and Secteur fork. Can you imagine exactly how a steel Diverge would ride? Me neither. Had to try this to evaluate from a riders perspective, many hundreds of miles, if it makes sense. Assuming is one thing, first hand experience something completely different. Learned a lot by doing this, which is the reason of doing it in the first place

  • stric

    I have the original Transcontinental edition AWOL. It’s a strong and very versatile bike. The only drawback is its weight (34 pounds in XL size). How much does this prototype wights? Thanks.

    • No idea about the weight. A heavy bike, given that it’s still properly done, is just something that will last longer and make you stronger. I could cut out 10 pounds from that build but it would make it 1. More expensive, 2. Less durable and 3. It wouldn’t pass testing. Weight is most often just a number for me since I’m not a racer, other factors are way more important.

      • Raoul Morley

        Hi Erik I’m guessing you check comments or have a link, I’m trying to get an answer from Specialized and Specialized UK about running a pizza rack on the Sequoia but haven’t had any response, could you shed any light on this, thanks Raoul

  • Benny Watson

    I love the idea of a steel bike with the tall head tube and big tire capacity of the AWOL, the carbon fork and lower BB of the Diverge and the in-between chainstay length of the Crux. With the right gearing that could be just about perfect for the gravel roads I love to ride. I hope it happens.

  • J Dos Santos

    Hey Erik, I apologize if this is a bit off topic, but since you’re one of the AWOL’s designers I wanted to give you a shout out about how much I’m loving this bike. It’s become my long-distance tourer, daily commuter, and grocery getter. I get more questions about it than any other bike I’ve ridden. At work they call it my murder bike, since it’s the matte black/gray. Very low-key, almost non-existent logos which I like. The first month of owning it, I took it for a 500-mile 5-day mixed-road excursion and it excelled. The best part is, since it’s a production bike, I’m not as worried about the inevitable abuse it gets being such a workhorse. It’s gonna get scratched, dinged, dented, chipped, ridden in rain, ridden on dirt, ridden on gravel, probably crashed, and with all the tweekers skittering about where I live, probably stolen. Coming up spring of 2016, I’ve got a 3-week trip to Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and British Columbia and I’m really stoked to be using this rig. Plus, as I get ready this year to order my first custom bike, this bike is helping me figure out what direction I really want to go with the build. Keep up the killer work!

  • J.Turner

    Hello Erik,
    What kind of wheels are thoose? When will S build this bike? I want it so bad!!
    And thanks for finally selling the Pizza Rack in Europe.

  • Christoph Buom

    @eriknohlin:disqus Is this combination of lightswitch and battery for sale or are these prototypes? Thanks for your answer. Rad bike dude