This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–http://reviews.mtbr.com/category/enduro-compare-o-2014
If your idea of buying a bike includes heaping helpings of bleeding-edge technology, revised frame designs, hot trends, and a cool new name, then stop reading right now. The $9000 Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29 is not for you. The FSR suspension design carries over from last year. The wheels are not 27.5. They’re 29. And the name, well that’s been around since 1981, when it was given to the world’s first mass-produced mountain bike.
However, if you’re simply looking for one bike—albeit an expensive one—that does a lot of things very well, then read on. For the Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29 is one kick ass piece of two-wheeled machinery that can climb with the grace of a mountain goat, and descend like an Austrian ski racer. And that’s why it was such a hit in Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O bike test.
“This was one of the most plush, stable, predictable and endearing bikes in the test,” gushed one tester, echoing a sentiment held by nearly everyone who rode the bike. “It’s so capable, so forgiving, and so smooth. It rewards anyone regardless of skill level.”
This is exactly what Specialized had in mind when it concocted the EVO designation, which essentially means that the bike takes a normal model and gives it a gravity-friendly make-over. In this case, that means wider bars, Avid XO Trail brakes, and the much-loved, 35mm-stanchioned RockShox Pike RC 29 fork. For a full preview click over to our First Look from a couple weeks ago.
If It Ain’t Broke, Why Mess With It?
Thirty-three years ago, when the Stumpjumper debuted, it was a mountain bike suited for anyone looking for a mountain bike. Today, that mandate is more refined, residing at the mid-point of Specialized’s expansive fat tire line, between lithe XC race steeds and gnar-munching downhill demons.
The four-bar FSR suspension design remains unchanged from year’s past, utilizing a concentric link and shuttle that propel the Fox Float CTD Kashima-coated rear shock. Other features of the FACT 9m carbon front triangle/M5 alloy rear triangle frame include an efficiency-enhancing PressFit30 bottom bracket, ISCG 05 tabs, full cartridge bearing pivots, and a tapered head tube.
The net effect is a bike our tester’s found to be imminently capable of dealing with just about anything you could throw at it — including user error.
“The bike rewards everyone regardless of skill, but I felt like I had plenty of room for mess-ups in technical downhills,” wrote one tester. “I could make mistakes and get away with it. It’s so smooth and stable at high speeds that even bonehead lines can be navigated by someone with minimal skill.”
This is in part due to the slacker 68-degree headtube angle and 5mm difference between rear and front travel (135mm rear/140mm front), which conspire to keep you in attack mode. The Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29’s downhill handling also benefits from a low 13.2-inch bottom bracket height—and its Pike fork, which was universally loved by our testers.
“I’m still scratching my head at how good this bike descended,” added another tester. “I guess the Pike IS as good as everyone says, and 29-inch hoops DO flatten out the sharps, though on the Stumpy these parts transcended their individual attributes. Braking bumps—erased. Drops and jumps—bottomless landings. Rough patches and roots—just point-and-shoot.”
That point-and-shoot ability was not limited to the downside of this equation. At 26.16 pounds (size Large), the Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29 proved to be a capable climber as well. Multiple testers commented on how well it ascended, though in some cases it took a little getting used to.
“Lifting the front wheel up on ledges/logs was a little more difficult than other bikes I tested—the Bronson Carbon and Ripley in particular,” explained one tester. “But rear wheel performance was excellent even under uneven power input. Given the way the bike handled in almost every other condition I’d chalk up the wobbly performance to lack of familiarity.”
Fire road climbing produced more of the same anecdotal evidence, with testers calling the Stumpy “sprightly” with no noticeable bob and virtually no performance variation whether the bike’s rear shock was in Climb, Trail or Descend mode. “Even with the shock wide-open the bike remained very neutral,” said one tester. “It took some intentional erratic pedaling to induce detectable bob.”