Compare-O Bottom Line: Sublime Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29 makes a case for substance over buzz

29er Enduro Enduro Compare-O 2014

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.”

Multi-Talented Machine

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.”

Continue to Page 2 for more on the Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29 and full photo gallery »
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About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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  • Tad says:

    You described the 17.9 inch chain stays as “shorter”. They would have been shorter 4 or 5 years ago, however now it is definitely on the long side. Having a hard time manualing up and over logs? Look no further than those long chain stays. The Ripley, Enduro 29er, and the BMC that you tested all have much shorter chain stays. Be willing to bet that the Stumpy will get the short Enduro stays for 2015.

  • gg says:

    Arrghh. Can’t stand the external cable mess at the BB. Surely Spec and fix that with internal routes? And it just looks like crap. C’mon!

  • Loll says:

    Your tester said climbing was the same with climb trail or wide open mode. Obviously they are not hammering and standing. I own the non evo version and one ride up Kennedy or Mission Peak will prove your test wrong

    • slo_rider says:

      i agree w/ above: there’s plenty of commentary on mtbr’s forums about spec’s FSR rear suspension having less anti-squat compared to other designs like VPP, DW-link, and Maestro. pros are more active suspension (and less pedal kick-back) when climbing, cons are more pedal-bob. seems like it’s the kind of rear end that favors smooth pedaling while grinding in the saddle, as opposed to mashing while standing.

    • Shaun says:

      I have to agree with Loll! I have a 2013 model and putting it in trail or open mode when climbing is like riding a pogo stick.

  • Mike says:

    Sounds a lot like my Pivot Mach 429 that I just picked up for a third of the price.

  • VII says:

    Got one of these after riding a VPP2 (Blur LTC) for years. After everything I’ve been reading over the years on forums, I was expecting a decrease in pedaling efficiency, but it actually pedals very well. It’s plusher on the descent than my Blur, more active when pedaling in the rough, and there isn’t a noticeable loss of efficiency climbing. Maybe a factor is rider weight? (I’m a light rider.)

  • Bob Stimson says:

    Next time you do a review, how about picking a component/wheel set that most people can afford. How about all XT, $3000 bikes, instead of this $10k titanium/magnesium setups that are in the realm very few…

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