We live in the golden age of mountain bikes and the new 2021 Specialized Stumpjumper EVO is aiming to take the crown of ‘Most Versatile Mountain Bike.’ But how does a bike differentiate in the most competitive category of mountain bikes, the trail bike, typically defined with having 130-160mm of travel? And how will it succeed in addressing many trail bike duties without being too much of a compromise?
The new EVO does it with an impressive array of engineering and vision. Below are some of the developments that define it.
2021 Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Highlights
- 150mm Rear, 160mm Front travel
- 2.5 full degrees of head tube angle adjustment, 8mm of BB height adjustment
- 15% more capacity in the SWAT door
- 6 sizes that are riding style specific, not height constrained
- Sub 30 lb weight in top-spec with a 6 lb frame
- Highly tuned DPX2 rear shock that is extremely supple and tunable
- New front and rear-specific tires and compounds
- Five models range in price from $4,099 to $9,899
Specialized is on a roll with incredible frames and components as evidenced by the latest Enduro bike with a new lower link 6-bar suspension and 170mm of front and rear 29er travel. The suspension is all-new and the packaging and spec are locked in to contend for the best bike in its burly class. So folks have been giddy with anticipation as this is trickled down to the lower travel bikes, the bikes that most of us can enjoy in our regular adventures. The EVO is the long-travel version of the Stumpjumper and it is being introduced first, hopefully, followed up by a new Stumpjumper soon.
The outgoing Stumpjumper EVO is a radical bike with a 63.5-degree head angle and a rear DHX2 coil shock. It was a cool idea but it may have been a little too rad for most and crossing over too much into the territory of the old Specialized Enduro. Our impressions are available here. We were very excited about this bike but it saw limited action in the fleet because it was just a bit too much bike for Santa Cruz and Bay Area trails. Often, riding dreams don’t align with day to day trail opportunities.
This new bike features an adjustable head angle with a replaceable (and included) top headset race similar to the Cane Creek Angleset.. Combined with a rear flip-chip, it offers an impressive array of 6 geometry combinations. The head angle can be adjusted from 63 to 65.5 degrees. The bottom bracket height can be adjusted 8mm as well.
Why doesn’t it have the new Enduro suspension?
A quick glance at the frame and some may be disappointed that it doesn’t sport the new Enduro lower link suspension. Many extoll that suspension’s blend of bump-eating prowess and stable and efficient climbing platform. We can attest to that as we stated in our impressions here in our Specialized Enduro Review.
But that suspension nirvana comes at a price of weight and complexity. It adds about a pound of weight, occupies storage, water bottle, and seatpost space that is precious in the modern-day rear suspension real estate puzzle. So Specialized took a long, hard look at what makes the Enduro and Demo 8 special and they pursued those qualities using the familiar right side arm suspension in the new Stumpjumper EVO suspension. Specifically, they found they could achieve a very similar Axle Path and Leverage Rate to achieve the suspension goals in a lighter, more compact package.
Axle Path and Leverage Rate
AXLE Path discussion
In the footsteps of its big brother Enduro, the new EVO’s axle path is tuned for bumps, roots, and rock-eating suspension travel. The axle moves rearward in the first third of travel, and then vertically in the mid-travel before arcing to a forward trajectory near bottom out. The initial rearward axle path movement is what delivers that unique ‘no hang-up’ ride during washboard descends. The bike feels like it’s accelerating when it’s really just maintaining speed, breaking the mold of what we’re accustomed to. As the bike moves deeper into its travel, where pedaling seldom done, the forward axle path disconnects chain forces from pedaling forces, allowing the suspension to independently compress in response to input from the trail.
Leverage Rate like big brother’s
Much has been learned from the Enduro’s rear suspension leverage rate so the EVO follows suit. This delivers small bump sensitivity, mid-stroke support, and a compliant but controlled full travel when at the limit on the big flat or cased landings. The tuned leverage rate also makes it easier to refine the shock to match the kinematics. It feels like many different suspensions in one. And with the rearward axle path, it even pedals up hills with enthusiasm.
Six different geometries
The Cane Creek Angleset is nothing new and it has proven effective. But the difference here is it’s now part of the bike, an engineered solution with full testing and warranty with the frame. And more importantly, the bike was designed for it. Every angle, length, and leverage curve has been designed and tested, resulting in a dialed, well-engineered system.
The resulting options are staggering. Six head angle options from 63 degrees to 65.5. The bottom bracket height can be adjusted by 8mm. Thus different riding styles and local terrain can be accommodated by this EVO solution.
The key question mark in our minds is: “Will the buyer actually use this wealth of available geometries?” Or more specifically, what percent of users will use it? Like the ‘flip-chip’ available on many bikes now, we feel that buyers feel more comfortable with the purchase knowing that it’s there. But the majority probably never use it or use it just once or twice.
The adjustable headset on the EVO coupled with its flip-chip is even more daunting so it will take quite a bit of prodding, educating, and marketing to get the buyer to take advantage of this wonderful option. The buyer really has to get comfortable with the stock geometry first to establish a baseline. And then playing with the geometry settings and testing on familiar terrain can deliver good dividends.
How does it ride?
We’ve been lucky to have more than a month of seat time on this bike now and we can say confidently that the 2021 Specialized Stumpjumper EVO is the best Stumpjumper we’ve ever ridden, by far, and we’ve ridden most of them.
The suspension is supple and that stands out very quickly. It’s calm, controlled, and quiet on the small bumps and beyond. It’s a smooth suspension system that eats bumps through the initial stroke. In the middle, it has good support and it’s a joy to carve through the swoopy corners of the Armstrong Pass in South Lake Tahoe. Everything is calm until the embedded granite rocks arrive and they are immovable and unforgiving. The EVO doesn’t lose its composure through them as the front and rear work in concert to keep the bike stable.
We got confident pretty quickly and started taking all the option line jumps on rocks at the side of the trail. The bike pops up nice and high and we were less than graceful on some of the flat landings. Big impacts here and there were all handled with ease. The bike was never unsettled and didn’t bottom out.
We then proceeded to Mr. Toads Wild Ride and were rewarded with trail nirvana. This was what the bike was made for. Fast and swoopy, followed by slow techy rock gardens were right in this bike’s wheelhouse. On this trip, I rode an S2 size for my 5’7″ stature. I pushed the seat back give myself more upper body room in this 432mm reach bike and went at it. What surprised me is the bike fit well but delivered a very different ride from the 450mm reach bikes I was used to. Most notably, it was so easy to change direction and flick the bike around. It’s a testimonial to the notion of the same rider being able to ride two or three different sized bikes, opting for one size due to one’s riding style, not just height.
I was able to steer the bike so easily with my body, just moving the tail around. The trail kept changing character with rock gardens, drops, and jumps and this bike was absolutely ready for it all.
The spec is pretty remarkable with these new Eliminator and Butcher tires. The Eliminator was an able climber and willing participant in playful descents. The new Butcher tires with their new tread pattern and sticky T9 compound delivered good traction in the loose, sandy environment.
Let’s not forget that there was a significant climb to get to the top and this Stumpjumper EVO was a very willing participant. The combination of the steep 77+ degree seat angle, faster rear tire, and controlled rear suspension allowed the bike to scoot forward better than any Stumpjumper I’ve tried before it.
The SWAT door on the Stumpjumper EVO is a novel piece of carbon fiber construction and optimization. A simple pull and twist of the water bottle cage open into a deceivingly cavernous downtube storage compartment. There’s 15% more room than before–enough room to store 22oz of life-giving water in an included, specifically designed bladder. Or some tubes and a rain jacket. Now in its third or fourth iteration of the SWAT door, no compromises have to be made in frame stiffness to accommodate this feature.
The new tires – now some of the best in class
The 2021 Specialized Stumpjumper EVO comes shod with a versatile Eliminator/Butcher tire combo. The rear Eliminator features our T7 compound, bringing durability, toughness, and precise feel to this already aggressive but fast-rolling tire. Upfront, a blocky Butcher in our super-grippy, uniquely crafted T9 compound offers surefooted traction, rebound control, and small bump damping. It’s like being Velcroed to the trail.
This 2021 Specialized Stumpjumper EVO is the culmination of many things happening at Specialized and many teams working together well. With the success of the Demo 8 and Enduro suspension, they’ve been able to transfer that knowledge into this smaller travel bike through careful analysis and testing.
It’s not as cool or as novel as the lower link, 6-bar suspension, but this bike absolutely achieves its good qualities in a lightweight package appropriate for this travel.
The versatility is incredible with the adjustable head angle and flip-chip now in a better position on the rear stays. Whether folks really use it and take advantage of the options remains to be seen.
The sizing options, the components and the spec really speak to a no-compromise pursuit of the best performance. It no longer has those little details that needed to be replaced like the Command Post or Butcher Rear tire to achieve its full potential. This bike seems absolutely dialed and there are so many ways the owner can take it from here.
For more information, visit: Specialized.com