First Look: 2016 Specialized Camber

The new Camber leans toward cross country speed

27.5 29er All Mountain Trail Cross Country
We're not convinced the Brain should be on this bike.

We’re not convinced the Brain should be on this bike (click to enlarge).

What we didn’t like

We’re not completely sold with the new Camber concept as the flood of Specialized full suspension options seems to have pushed the Camber in to the XC category too much. The geometry changes are excellent but the addition of the Brain rear shock is not celebrated by all. It helps the fast, fire road abilities of the bike but the technical climbing and the descending abilities of the bike are not fully realized. This Brain is much better than any of the previous Brain shocks as it is only active at the sag point. But this bike would be more trail descent capable with the newer RockShox Monarchs or Fox EVOL shocks.

The RockShox RS-1 front fork is a great XC fork but it does hit its limits under rough descending and hard cornering, braking conditions. Again, great for XC but not as good for trail riding or beyond.

We like the SWAT door since riding without a pack is liberating for us. But the market seems to be split on that as this is a system some won’t use but it adds a couple hundred grams, adds cost and results in some loss of stiffness to the frame.

Taking berms with the Camber

Taking berms with the Camber (click to enlarge).

What we liked

The Camber is now an incredible climber. It is lighter than ever and the bb is stiff with the huge chainstays so power transfer is excellent. The addition of the Brain shock has optimized this bike for climbing as the rider can put the power down all times without having to reach for a platform or lockout mode.

Having two wheel size options is good. Supporting both 29 and 27.5 wheel sizes is good for giving riders of different heights and riding styles the ability to enjoy this bike.

Shorter seat stays and slacker head angles are an excellent idea. 437mm stays and 68.5 head angle on the 29er version makes this bike much more capable on corners and descents.

The 30mm wide carbon rims are a perfect complement to this bike as well. Wide rims give the bike better air volume, traction and puncture resistance in all conditions.

The SWAT Door

Camber frames now have an integrated storage chamber in the down tube, accessible by a door under the bottle cage.

2016 Specialized Camber cage and SWAT door.

2016 Specialized Camber cage and SWAT door (click to enlarge).

And instead of merely cutting a hole in the frame for this purpose, a more accurate depiction of the process is that the frame was designed with this integrated storage cavity in mind. Structural integrity and stiffness could not be compromised. And the insides of the frame needed to be free of clutter and carbon manufacturing imperfections.

2016 Specialized Camber SWAT door.

2016 Specialized Camber SWAT door (click to enlarge).

Inside the frame, the carbon cavity is nice and tidy. Carbon cable guides have been added to each side of the frame to protect the cables and make installation easy.

2016 Specialized Camber SWAT door with pump.

2016 Specialized Camber SWAT door with pump (click to enlarge).

The frame cavity can house a lot of supplies and accessories as it extends all the way to the head tube. To make accesss easy and to prevent rattle, special pouches are included with the frame.

2016 Specialized Camber long pouch with tube.

2016 Specialized Camber long pouch with tube (click to enlarge).

Continue to page 3 for our bottom line and for bike pricing »

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • Jeff Scanlan says:

    specialized has soooo many bikes in it’s line-up…it’s crazy

    the swat door…idk I use a camelback so to me this is just useless and borderline gimmicky, kind of turns me off since if I got one of these it would stay empty 100% of the time.

    So the upper model Cambers have 30mm wide rims but the 6fattie’s have 29mm???

  • WasatchEnduro says:

    Disagree on the “too xc” statement in the article. Camber fits squarely into the Trail bike category, so much more capable than the Epic. Stumpy is Aggressive Trail. Enduro is….. errrr….. All Mountain (not Enduro!).

    Most riders would do well with either the Camber or Stumpy. My next ride will likely be a 2016 Stumpy 29.

    Interesting point though that the recommendation is to go with a “lower” model to get suspension that handles the downs better, guess that’s where the comment came from.

    • Francis Cebedo says:

      Valid point. In the context of the Epic and the Stumpy, this bike makes sense. But in the context of the 120mm competition, this bike seems constrained.

      We have been riding the 2015 Mach 4 and the 2016 Trek Fuel 9.9. Both bikes have the same travel but have a much higher quality of initial travel. We’re excited about this new trend of bikes that short travel but give very little up in terms of geometry and quality of suspension travel.

  • dr.zeek says:

    Great review and comments, thanks.

    My view is that the brain was added PRECISELY to make the Camber more XC and less trail, in order to differentiate it from the Stumpy – with which it shares a front triangle.

    What I do find odd is that the seatstay bridge was removed from the Stumpy but retained in the Camber – could it be to make the rear stiffer for longer XC-type rides and races?

    The one thing that no-one comments is that all the Spez trail bikes are now 1×11 – we’ll see how that works for the average rider.

    My next bike will probably be a 2016 camber comp carbon, as the $2,000+ jump to an expert or elite is simply nuts for a rider of my ability.

    • Gregg says:

      Most spec bikes might be 1×11 but they are all compatable with the “taco blade” adapter to fit a front der onto to go 2×11

  • stw says:

    I’m sooooo happy I got my MY2015 version of the Expert Evo Carbon rather than what they are showing for 2016. 2015 model feels so perfect with a Pike up front, the kashima Fox in back, Xo1, Shimano XT brakes. Carbon front triangle, alloy rear. The bike just rocks. It goes up well. It goes down well. So composed. So capable. So straightforward. I want no part of that RS1 up front or the brain shock in back. No thanks. I’m so very happy with the clear, simple package that I have now.

  • Ronnie Kaftal says:

    Thanks for a great and objective review, this one is on my radar and I was looking forward reading a review.
    Was Just wondering, If the $3800 Compromise Carbon is the one to go, how come nobody is reviewing it? In almost every magazine I found they keep reviewing the S-works builds which comes with brain shocks and carbon wheelset. However only few lucky sponsored riders will ever get to own one. The majority of us are riding the sub $4k builds of the rig.

  • Dan says:

    I am shopping for a replacement for my Anthem 29er X0 as my ride crew have moved away from XC and on to 150/160mm travel bikes for faster down and less XC.

    I still love the rollover of the 29er + pedal efficiency but want the flick ability of a 26” 150mm rig. Rode a Pivot Mach 5.7 150mm w 26” wheels and loved it, but 26” wheels are out of fashion so I would be a fashion victim if I grabbed that.

    The geometry has become a real issue to me, 120-130forks, 68deg head angle 74deg seat post angle and 430mm stays seem to be the recipe. Giant are always well spec’d for the price however I think the Maestro cannot be shortened up enough to get 30mm out of the 462mm 29er stays. SO… I am looking elsewhere. Specialized IMO offer low spec for the price but the rear suspension is short at 437, EVIL Following with 430mm stays reads well but not available in Australia and has had warranty issues with Chinese production control, Trek never a fan, and many others don’t offer a 29er in 430mm stays.

    What else is out there that has “the Recipe”?

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