- 150mm rear travel
- 160mm front travel (size S1 is 150mm)
- 29-inch wheels
- Available in carbon and aluminum
- SWAT frame storage
- Independently adjustable BB height and headtube angle
- Super-capable for everyday riding and enduro racing
- Efficient pedaling performance
- Internal frame storage
- Long wheelbase is stable on rough terrain
- Packed to the gills with premium components
- Starting at $4k, multiple Stumpy models can provide similar riding experience
- Requires knowledge of how frame geometry affects bike handling to fully appreciate its features.
- You have to pay to play
I’ve been beating up a Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper Evo trail bike on the rugged terrain found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Reno, Downieville, and Lake Tahoe for about a year now. The latest iteration of the Stumpy Evo was released in late 2020, and that model year was featured in both the Beta Tests and a recent piece I wrote on the history and evolution of the Stumpjumper Evo line. In this piece, I’ll detail my experience with the newest Stumpy Evo in comparison to its predecessors, the bike’s unique adjustability, how I decided on my geometry and suspension setup, overall spec performance and reliability in relation to its price tag, and ultimately my thoughts on how the “perfect bike” cliche does, in fact, exist.
When riding a new bike, I regularly catch myself nitpicking out loud about handling, geometry, overall value proposition, the type of rider the bike is perfect for; and inevitably, pondering whether time really is a flat circle. Basically, I’m like one of those vloggers who reviews bikes while riding them, only there’s no GoPro around. The paragraphs below are largely a compilation of my self-chatter—so, if we’ve crossed paths on the trail over the last nine months, some of this may sound familiar.
Stumpy Evo 29s have 150 millimeters of rear-wheel travel, with a 160-millimeters up front. Versatility and customization are two of the key factors that makes the latest Evo as capable as it is fun. Out of the box, the Evo has a healthy wheelbase for stability on rowdy terrain, plus the bottom bracket height can be raised or lowered by 10mm via flip-chip, which is independent of the exceptional wide 2.5-degree range of head-angle adjustability. From the full-alloy Evo Comp model to the spendy S-Works edition, every Stumpy Evo features Specialized’s SWAT internal frame storage, which in my opinion is one of the best inventions, if underappreciated, bike inventions of the past several years.
The spec for the full-carbon S-Works Evo offered today on Specialized’s website is practically identical to the one initially released in the fall of 2020, with highlights including Fox Float Factory suspension, SRAM XX1 AXS Eagle wireless drivetrain, RockShox Reverb AXS wireless dropper, carbon Roval Traverse SL 29 wheels, and SRAM Code RSC four-piston brakes.
Before I go any further, let’s acknowledge the massive, green elephant in the room: the S-Works Evo’s price tag. In late 2020, it cost about $9900; however, due to a variety of reasons of late, including but not limited to a global supply chain shortage for raw materials, the current S-Works Stumpy Evo has a going rate of $11,300. According to Steve Saletnik, who’s the product manager for the current Stumpjumper line, the price increase is due to several small price increases adding up. “There are a lot of factors that go into the increase, but the summary is that we are seeing significant raw material price increases across the board, labor costs are going up, plus less-favorable exchange rates,” explained Saletnik. “Compound the increases we are seeing on frame production side with all the OE suppliers dealing with similar issues that are causing increased component prices. It’s all those “small” increases that are wrapped up in the total bike price.” For most people, either of those two prices equals a lot of money to spend on a bicycle. Is the S-Works Evo 29 worth its price tag? I believe so, and I’ll explain in a moment. Not every Stumpy Evo requires bodily organ harvesting or cashing out your Bitcoin to afford one. There are currently six complete bikes in the Stumpy Evo line, and two of the ones which standout to me are the alloy Stumpy Evo Comp that goes for $4,000 (with SWAT frame storage previously only offered on carbon fiber frames), and the carbon Stumpy Evo Pro rivaling the S-Works model with premium components, like Fox Factory suspension, a SRAM Eagle AXS wireless drivetrain, and RockShox AXS wireless dropper post for $8,600, which is $2,700 less than the S-Works edition.
Touching the Evo Void
Since the turn of the century, I’ve had practically every generation of the full-suspension Stumpjumper. For as far back as I can remember, I’d start with a complete bike and inevitably tweak, modify, rebuild, and repeat this process until I had the custom machine I felt was ideal for how and where I liked to ride. The most recent Stumpy that I gave this makeover to was a 2017 Stumpjumper Pro 29. That generation didn’t have an Evo model in the line, and all Stumpy 29s had 135 millimeters or rear travel and 150mm up front. This isn’t an exaggeration: in order to get that 2017 bike to be exactly the machine I wanted to ride, over time, I literally swapped every single component, with the exception of the seat collar, in order to create what I used to call my “trophy truck trail bike.”
Once complete, I’d exchanged the stock fork for a 160mm one, upgraded the alloy wheels to a carbon set; swapped the air shock for a coil; replaced the stock brakes with powerful four-piston stoppers; installed a dropper with 150mm of travel to replace the stock 125mm-drop version; ditched the 60mm stem for a 50mm, installed 170-millimeter cranks to replace the stock 175mm stock ones, and I also had a custom, one-of-a-kind, offset shock-mount bolt made that slackened the head angle by 1.5 degrees; among numerous other less-obvious revisions. Season after season, I rode and raced that bike into the ground, while simultaneously keeping an ear to that very terra firma for what might be a contender for my next do-it-all trail bike. My riding buddies would often question why I was still riding that old thing. “Don’t you know people in the bike world?” they’d ask.
I had my reasons. Like most gearheads, newly released bikes catch my eye, but at the end of the day I felt most of those new machines weren’t far off from what I’d created for myself. I just never felt the necessity to drop serious coin for a bit slacker head angle or steeper seat tube angle, despite my appreciation for those geometry modifications and the riding characteristics they deliver. Although, admittedly with each new bike I’d read about, one ubiquitous trait of those latest-and-greatest trail smashers would keep me awake at night. Wheelbase envy dreams. Which brings me to the geometry and sizing of the current Stumpy Evo.
Bikes be Getting Bigger
Having always had one, or both, feet in the mountain bike magazine product review world since 2000, I’ve ridden my share of test bikes. Yet, only in recent years have I felt obligated to mention my height in a review. At 5-foot-9-inches-tall, I’m a relatively medium-sized person, and for ages I’d always default to most brands’ size-medium bikes. However, as trail bikes became slacker, lighter-weight, received more suspension travel, and simply more fun and capable, I went up to a size large across all brands to utilize a longer wheelbase. Look, I’ll never be confused for Sam Hill (I mean, I don’t even have an Australian accent), but as modern trail bikes made it easier and more comfortable to charge rowdy terrain faster than ever, I could sense my medium-framed bikes dancing side-to-side below me rather than being stable and holding my intended line. This realization made going to a larger frame size an obvious move. It’s worth mentioning many current size-medium, mid-travel trail bikes across numerous brands are longer today than their size-large bikes from just five or six years ago.
For example, the 2017 Stumpjumper I described above was a size large, and that bike had a 1,179mm wheelbase. These days, Specialized uses the S-Sizing that ranges from S1 to S6, with the S1 being comparable to an XS and the S6 being on-par with a XXL. The S-Sizing is intended for people to choose a size based on riding style along with their physical dimensions, rather than purely one’s height. The smaller S-Size numbers are going to be more nimble because of a shorter reach and front-center measurement, while larger S-Sizes deliver more stability and a roomier ride. Since flip-whips aren’t intentionally in my trail riding repertoire, but riding high-speed, chunky terrain is, I opted for the S4 in the latest Stumpy Evo, which is comparable to a current size large. How does the S4 compare to my previous generation size large Franken-Stumpy? From what’s basically one large Stumpy to another, the S4 has a 1,247mm wheelbase, which is not only a 68mm-longer wheelbase (nearly 2.7 inches) than my heavily modified 2017 version, it’s also 35mm (basically an inch-and-a-half) longer than the model year 2017 Stumpjumper’s size XL. Trail bike evolution in plain sight.
Turning knobs and Flipping Chips
The latest Stumpy Evo is packed with unique and customizable features. The integrated and offset headset cup provides two degrees of adjustability, ranging from 63 to 65.5 degrees. The chainstay flip-chip allows for further customization based on riding style and desired terrain. It provides a half-degree head angle modification along with 7 millimeters of bottom-bracket height adjustment, and a change in chainstay length of 5 millimeters. Other than a few times when I rode the Evo at ski resort bike parks and utilized the 63-degree head angle option, I preferred to run the bike in the middle headset setting and the low bottom bracket height. This resulted in a bike with 443-millimeter-long chainstays and a 64-degree head angle; which, for comparison, is just a half-degree steeper than my 2021 YT Tues Pro downhill bike with 200mm of travel, so it’s still darn slack for a bike with uphill intentions. This is a fun tool to play with to visualize the Evo’s geometry settings: Stumpjumper Evo Geometry Finder
By now, many riders know adding or removing those spacers can significantly modify how a bike handles. Personally, I utilize them so my bike is typically riding in the middle of the travel on undulating terrain and doesn’t wallow, dive, or use more travel than necessary on high-speed impacts. At the end of the day, I ended up maxing out the Fox Factory 36 spacers with five total spacers; and, on the shock I ended up maximizing the spacer allowance there, too. This required reducing the psi in the fork and shock air springs around 8-10 psi to provide ample small-bump sensitivity, but they really ramp up nicely when attacking larger terrain features, all while maintaining proper amounts of suspension sag.
Arguing for Bling
For the better part of a year, I’ve been giving the Stumpy Evo the business to the best of my ability. Aside from replacing disposable bits, like grips and tires, I’ve not replaced, repaired, or wished to change a single significant component on the bike; which is a stark contrast to the time, energy, and resources I put into getting my aforementioned prior-generation Stumpy to my liking.
Tip-to-tail, an S-Works-level bike is expected to have top-shelf components, and the S-Works Evo does not disappoint. It’s almost impossible to find a fault in the spec, as the bike’s premium build is packed full of lightweight, yet appropriate components for the bike’s intended use. Sure, the SRAM Code RSC brakes are not my first choice of stopper (that would be Magura’s MT7); but the Codes work well, are reliable, and haven’t given me a good enough reason to go through the trouble to replace them. During the entire time I’ve been aboard the S-Works Evo, the only non-rubber bit I swapped out was the 30-tooth chainring for a 32. The 30, in combination with SRAM’s 12-speed 10-52T cassette provides such a low gear ratio that I wanted a chainring that allowed me to maintain a bit more momentum while hammering in the 52T cog. I don’t know if I’ve ever ridden a practically stock bike for any length of time outside the duration of a product review, but I’m more than impressed at how it’s held up to the abuse. Between not having to spend a bunch of money replacing finicky, fragile components, combined with the bike’s personality-changing geometry adjustability, I believe the bike is worth the price. It’s an extremely high price tag, but for those who can swing it, there is actual value here. I’ve ridden a lot of high-end bikes, and most of them don’t hold up as well as this one has. This is my justification for the price.
To date, the only mechanical issue I’ve had with the Evo was a heinous creaking that developed where the shock meets the rear linkage. With every pedal stroke, whether seated or standing, it quickly became the world’s most annoying metronome by keeping my hyperventilation in perfect time with my cadence. To put it mildly, I’m severely OCD when it comes to my bike being completely silent. After several days of investigation (and, by investigation I mean standing trailside, swearing as I couldn’t locate the source of the noise) I ultimately realized the noise was coming from the area where the shock eye and wishbone-shaped push link meet. Although difficult for me to diagnose, it was an easy fix: remove one bolt, clean and grease the mating surfaces, stick it back together and listen to the sweet sound of silence.
Cliché Killing Spree
Like a lot of things in life, everything is relative to one’s personal experience and expectations. Does the “perfect mountain bike,” “Holy Grail of performance,” or “super bike that blurs the lines between two genres” really exist? Well, yes, but that isn’t going to be the same bike for every rider. Everything depends on how you’re looking to ride and where you want to do so. For years, I wanted a trail bike that was super-downhill capable on challenging trails, yet lightweight and efficient enough to be ridden all day, which is why I painstakingly transformed a 2017 Stumpjumper into what I felt to be the perfect bike for me at that time. Today, I still want those exact same parameters in an everyday trail slayer. However, in my opinion, now the perfect bike for how and where I like to ride is an off-the-shelf Specialized Stumpjumper Evo. If five years down the road you and I cross paths on the trail, don’t be surprised if you hear me still murmuring unintelligible, bike-related thoughts to myself. However, I have a hunch those words will be in defense of how I’ve yet to find another bike that suits me better than my now five-year-old S-Works Stumpjumper Evo.