This season I decided to take the plunge into the realm of 29er full suspensions. Having ridden 26″ bikes for years I was slightly skeptical of what a 29er trail bike would feel like. I was looking for a capable all rounder to race enduros on this year so I had a particular set of requirements in line. I was looking for a 5″ to 6″ all mountain or trail bike with slightly slack geometry that would slay the downhill but still allow me to enjoy the ride up. I wanted it to corner on a dime, carry straight line speed, and be quick and nimble through technical sections. A pretty tall order for one bike.
Why a Stumpjumper?
I decided to go with the 2013 Stumpjumper EVO comp for a variety of reasons. It fell into the specs I wanted for travel and geometry quite nicely. With 135 mm of rear travel and 140 mm cushioning the front, I was satisfied that it would handle most anything I could throw at it in an enduro race. The relatively short chainstays and aggressively low bottom bracket meant it could attack the corners aggressively and provide that nimbleness I want in a bike. Tipping in at 30 lbs, the M5 alloy bike is heavier than its carbon racing cousins but a more capable big mountain workhorse. Weight aside, the bike is balanced, poised, and pedals lighter than it feels.
What is an EVO?
EVO? What the heck does that mean? Over the last few years Specialized has introduced EVO bikes into most of their line ups. It stands for evolution. They take an existing platform, in this case the standard stumpy FSR, and tweak it to make it more ride style specific. In the case of this bike, they tweaked it to have a more big mountain/freeride feel to it. How? The two big contributors are an additional 10 mm of travel front and rear over the normal platform and by slackening the head tube angle from 69 deg to 68 deg. Some minor kit adjustments were made too. Such as the addition of a chain guide and taking the standard triple up front and switching it for a double with a bash ring. These seemingly small changes totally morph the characteristics of the bike though, definitely an evolution.
Why a 29er?
29ers are here and in a big way. But that doesn’t mean that all 29ers are created equal. I was leery to dive in at first because many of the first round of big wheel bikes had to many trade offs for me to justify in my riding style. It is incredibly difficult to build a 29″ platform that maintains the handling characteristics of. 26″ bike while reaping the rewards of the extra diameter. However, I think this bike pulls off a good balance that will be we’ll suited for its intended purpose – enduro racing. With this style of racing gaining momentum I thought it appropriate to find the right tool for the job as I venture back into the competitive world. Racing multiple stages on varying terrain with varying degrees of technicality over the course of two or three days, enduro requires the racer to be well equipped for any type or riding. Mandatory climbs lead to the start of special stage timed downhills. The kicker is that you only have one bike to compete on no matter the stage. No swaps day to day, no changing forks or wheels. One bike, one rider, all types of terrain. So I wanted something I knew would climb reasonably well and go down with speed and confidence. I wanted the fast rolling benefits of a 29er without giving up the nimble control I love in a bike. The geometry and build kit on the Stumpy EVO Comp 29er checked all the boxes.
The M5 Alloy frame is a hydroformed tube set that provides decent rigidness in a reliable and durable package. It runs a press fit 30 bottom bracket and the new, wider 142mm rear dropout, providing a stiff, positive power transfer to the rear wheel. As mentioned, 135 mm cushions the rear of the bike with the patented Specialized FSR design. The design is widespread across the various bikes in the Specialized line up and is designed to create an efficient suspension design that doesn’t react to braking forces, minimizes pedal bob, and gives the most reactive and compliant feel over varying terrain. Multiple incarnations of this technology are included across the range from cross country racers to downhill sleds.
The bike is air sprung with a Fox Float CTD Evolution in the rear and a Rock Shox Revelation RC3 up front. The Fox Float has two new technologies built in for the 2013 season; CTD and Autosag.
CTD stands for Climb-Trail-Descend. It is a series of preset compression adjustments that can be easily swapped on the fly via an easy adjust level on the shock. As expected, each position optimizes the shock for the terrain type you are riding. There is a noticeable difference in stiffness and bike handling in the climb mode. Pedal strokes are more efficient and effective. The trail mode is the setting that will probably see the most use and if you are a “set and forget” type it will handle anything you want to do with minimal fuss. The descend mode is a full open, plush setting that I haven’t fully tested as of yet – more to come.
Autosag was added as well. This is a feature built into the shock to help the end user arrive at the right suspension settings with minimal effort. Setting the shock sag is critically important to ride quality and getting it dialed in can be a hassle sometimes for those just venturing in to full suspension bikes. Autosag takes the guess work out. Simply pump the shock up to 300 psi, put on all of your riding gear, press the little red button, and Voila! The shock lets out air pressure until the appropriate amount of suspension sag is reached. Quick, easy, and seamless. This will get you a solid baseline set up that rides well. More advanced riders who have certain particulars they want I their suspension set ups may use the autosag as a baseline and then tweak and customize from there.
Up front, the Rock Shock Revelation RC3 does a brilliant job of handling any type of terrain you throw at it in a tidy, easy to use package. Sprung with a Solo air damper, the fork is much like the rear shock and has adjustable rebound paired with a three position preset compression setting for, you guessed it, climbing, trail riding, and descending. Setting the air pressure using the handy chart provided on the fork keeps it simple and then it becomes a matter of finding the rebound settings you like best. The compression settings perform as advertised and provide a noticeable response from an easy on the fly adjustment found on the top of the fork.
Overall, the suspension is well balanced and progressive. Providing great small bump compliance while maintaining the ability to take a big hit when needed. Traction is maintained and the compression adjustments can be found and changed intuitively without having to stop or get off the bike. The Revelation is a real bonus for a bike at this price point, a real performer.
The Stumpy Evo runs a well spec’d and reliable SRAM drivetrain. An X9 rear mechanical is paired with X7 shifter pods and front mechanical. The X9 provides all the performance of an X0 just in a more subdued and slightly heavier package. The X7 shifts on command and maintains consistent feel but doesn’t have the crisp, positive feedback found in its more advanced brethren. Standard SRAM alloy cranks power the system and provide adequate stiffness and reliability and comes stock with a chain guide. Stopping power comes from a pair of Avid Elixir 5’s. They provide a progressive feel that brings on more power the more you pull. While reliability has improved over the years, I have had multiple issues with the seal assembly on other avid brakes throughout the years. I will be swapping stoppers for a pair of Shimano XT’s for two main reasons; reliability and feel. I prefer the more direct and responsive “on/off” feel of the shimanos as opposed to the progressive nature of the Avids. Neither is good nor bad, it’s a personal thing.
On a very positive note – I’m quite glad to see the command post stocked on this bike, truly a must have for this type of ride.
Rolling on the set of Roval 29er alloy wheels is a relatively non plussed experience. They are neither heavier or light. Noticeably stiff or flimsy. They don’t accelerate mind blowingly fast but they won’t slow you down. They are exactly what you would expect to find on this bike. Well built, reliable, and a stable all rounder. If I were to dress this ride up little bit I would strongly consider adding the new Roval Carbon 29er wheels. Dropping weight and adding stiffness, those wheels would make this bike the bargain of the year.
A Specialized Butcher tubeless ready keeps you tracking up from and a Purgatory in the rear. Both are aggressive all mountain tires that will handle anything from sand to mud to hard pack fast with relative easy. They hook up and hold a line quite well. For my taste, they are almost a little toward to break traction on because they grip so well. Slashing and slarving turns takes a lot of effort to get them to release. Not a bad characteristic to have if you want a tire that will let you hook up in almost all terrain though.
At first I was skeptical that a 29er could do justice to the style of riding that I enjoy. I thought it would be akin to riding lumbering wagon wheels with a choppy, slowly responding feel. I was sorely mistaken and pleasantly surprised by the Stumpy Evo. Throwing my leg over it, I immediately noticed two things. First,I felt right at home in the the cockpit. The 720 mm wide mini rise bar was just right for driving the bike into the corners and achieving the right balance across the bike. Second, I felt remarkably “in” the bike. I didn’t feel perched up high or unbalanced. I felt low in the saddle with my weight transferring easily through the bottom bracket. The design of the bike has pulled the rear wheel deep into the frame and has resulted in short, stiff, and responsive chain stays. Paired with the low bottom bracket height, this bike dives into the corners remarkably well. The geometry lends it self to preloading the bike and G’ing out bermed turns with ease. Moving through the fast, flowy, terrain that dominates the Anchorage area was fun and easy. The responds quickly and accelerated astonishingly fast for its size and weight. The benefits of the 29er were felt immediately as it picked up speed on the downhills and rolled over any hazards with easy. With the 30 or so miles I have put in, I am quite impressed and am confident this will be a great racing steed for the season. I will provide updates when I get a few longer rides under my belt. I am particularly interested in the ride quality on aggressive downhills, jumping, and tight technical trails.
The 2013 Stumpjumper Line up has a little something for everyone. If you want something similar but with slightly more aggressive geometry, a standard stumpy will do nicely. Both the Stumpjumper and the Stumpjumper EVO are available in 26″ and 29″ options depending on your preference. The Carbon frames are available and provide unrivaled stiffness and responsiveness but, for the value, I think the EVO comp 29er is the bike to beat this season.