The Beta Tests: Specialized Stumpjumper S-Works
More Epic than Enduro, this new Stumpjumper is a thoroughbred speed machine.
-130 millimeters rear travel, 140 front
-Full carbon frame
-Not a Horst link
-Lively and responsive
-Not as versatile as previous Stumpjumpers
-Unforgiving of poor setup
-Flex stays only available on carbon models
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Might as well jump right into the meat and potatoes – there’s no Horst link on this Stumpjumper. Forget the past twenty-three years, this is an entirely new take for one of the most accomplished mountain bikes in the history of the sport.
Now, Specialized hasn’t abandoned the pivot on all their Stumpys; the new Stumpjumper Evo line and the standard alloy models have the more familiar suspension platform. However, once you step up to the first carbon model at $4,200, the dropout pivot disappears and things get interesting. Looking at the seatstay, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where the flex happens, but a quick visit to the Specialized website shows that the magic happens a couple of inches up from the axle above the brake mount—one thing’s for sure, it’s a tidy bit of engineering. Specialized claims 55 grams of weight savings just from the pivot removal. And that’s unsprung weight. The most important weight.
The geometry numbers are very much on the progressive side with one of the slacker head angles you’ll find at this travel—65 degrees in the low setting and 65.5 in the high. Seat tube angles are 76 and 76.5. As to be expected, Specialized is offering the Stumpjumper in S1 thru S6 sizing, which roughly equates to XS thru XXL. Chainstay length is a short 432mm on sizes S1 through 4 and then gains 10mm on S5 and 6, which aligns with their philosophy on sizing being more about ride characteristics then stand over height. There is a water bottle mount, the fantastic SWAT storage, and a noticeably quiet chainstay protector. Overall, the finish details on the frame are superb.
Our test bike came dressed in the top spec S-Works build, and will set you back an eye-watering $9,800. Yes, that is hefty, but it is as close to a dream build you’re going to get from a mainstream bike company. Full SRAM XX1 AXS with a RockShox Reverb AXS dropper makes it a two-hose bike, which we find gloriously clean. Another highlight is the hand-built Roval hoops laced to the virtually indestructible DT 240 hubs. Testers agreed, they wouldn’t change a thing.
So, does it ride like a Stumpjumper? The short answer is no. The plushness and active suspension characteristics we’ve all come to expect from the Stumpy and its FSR suspension aren’t there, but they’ve been replaced by responsiveness and efficiency. As one tester said “This not the Stumpjumper I’ve known for so long, owned for so long.” It rocketed up our test loops lengthy climb just as fast as a couple of the short travel cross country bikes in the test. Power transfer is exceptional, not to mention, it’s light, which is a refreshing quality in a category filled with increasingly heavier bikes.
The handling can be described as precise. Razor sharp even, with the frame stiffness playing a noticeable role in nearly every situation. Rough, technical climbing is also good, we think partly because it pedals so well that you’re likely to be carrying more speed into and through those sections. The 130 millimeters of rear travel proved plenty capable for descending. It doesn’t feel like any more or less travel than it advertised. The Stumpy handled everything we threw at it without ever getting overwhelmed. Where the bike truly shines while descending though, is its cornering. In a way, the precise steering allows it to maintain speed in sections more suited for bigger bikes, just as long as you knew how to steer it.
On the topic of suspension performance, it did draw criticism for its fussy initial suspension setup. Testers agreed that there was a very narrow sweet spot, and one needs to pay close attention to shock sag and damper settings. The good news is though, is that it is absolutely worth the extra effort to get it right.
While the previous Stumpjumper was the hallmark of versatility and the quintessential one-bike quiver choice, this new one is not that bike. It’s more focused on responsiveness, speed and sharpness, which it absolutely excels at. Testers agreed that if they lived in areas like Crested Butte, Durango or Sun Valley, where the trails overall are bit less rocky and technical, but with gobs of climbing, that this new Stumpjumper would be choice numero uno.
Sticking with carbon, which is the only way to get the flex-stays that gave the Stumpjumper we tested so much of its character, the entry level is the $4,200 Stumpjumper Comp. The full SLX build literally does nothing wrong except maybe the slightly heavier Fox Rhythm 34 fork. 4-piston brakes, 30-millimeter inner-width Roval alloy rims and actual Shimano hubs. With how light this bike rides naturally, the weight gained by going with the entry level carbon build is of little consequence.
That’s why we’ll talk about the entry-level alloy version of this bike separately. It rides differently. More traditionally Stumpjumper-esque. You can get into it at $2,400 for the Stumpjumper Alloy. It’s got a few highlights, like a pretty reliable Trans-X dropper that actually takes advantage of Specialized’s 34.9mm seatpost diameter with a thicker upper tube and bigger diameter guts. It sticks with the 200mm front rotor and 180 rear and trusted Specialized tires. But it’s got Tektro brakes, an X-Fusion rear shock and a strong but bare-bones RockShox 35 fork. It’s a bit of a leap in price to the $3,400 Stumpjumper Comp Alloy, but it is absolutely worth it. Fox suspension front and rear, G2 4-piston brakes and Roval rims. We reviewed it in February, and it is the Stumpjumper we’d recommend for the budget-conscious.
Find them at specialized.com/stumpjumper
Photos: Anthony Smith