Specialized was the first major manufacturer to get the 120mm category 'right'. The all-new Stumpjumper FSR continues to showcase the company's competent, holistically packaged prowess.
Frame: Enduro inspired
This year, the Stumpjumper gets the short rocker link-driven FSR setup which made its debut on the 6in Enduro in 2007, and the frames have a very similar design. The new M5 chassis is a swoopy hydoformed structure, with a super-low braced top tube and curves at both ends of the big down tube for fork/shock clearance. Curved and tapered chainstays make their way to the classic 'Horst Link' pivots just ahead of the dropouts, while a hollow 'fortune cookie' brace ties the rectangular to round seatstays together.
Tyre clearance is reasonable all round. Specialized has gone to town on the aesthetics. Cranks, rims, brake levers, grip collars and even cable mount bolts are colour-matched for a slick 'custom' look and the whole bike is impressively light.
Ride: a safe bet
Specialized FSRs are always impeccably balanced. The tall front end and overall feel is confident and completely planted as soon as you sit on. The handling is equally obedient; it's weighted just right for breaking out the back end before the front if you push it too far. Natural steadiness and flex between the two frame halves make it a little slow to re-grab control and make that a default cornering setting, though.
In fact, while it always copes fine if you do get into trouble, it never actively encouraged any of our testers to push their limits, however safe they felt on it. A low bottom bracket boosts stability at speed but really interrupts pedalling over rough/rocky sections.
The low overall weight and lightweight Captain tyres mean that it picks up speed easily and efficiently, and the rear end follows the ground smoothly to suck up traction. There's a definite feel of suspension squat and power absorption if you really stamp on it, though, and flicking the shock into Pro Pedal mode is essential for a sense of sprinting 'snap' or climbing kick. We had to tighten the top shock mount bolt several times during testing, too.
Equipment: impressive chainset and brakes
The full Fox suspension is super-controlled, but it's the 'custom' components that impress. That anonymous chainset is actually last year's XT, and while the Juicy Seven Ultimate brakes lack carbon levers of true Ultimates, you still get the magnesium bodyweight saving.
The DT wheels are solid kit, too, complete with their stout, lever lock skewers.
Actual Specialized kit is mostly good, although wider bars would add more trail authority. While the Captain tyres are fast and light, there's not much leaning edge on them - we blew both skimpy inner tubes on the first ride, and punctured regularly with normal ones unless we ran higher than usual pressures.
It looks fantastic down to the tiniest detail. It packs great components on a well balanced frame, and an exceptionally light complete bike. Many people will - and should be - happy with their Stumpy.
However, we felt it 'coped', rather than 'encouraged', when we raised the tempo on the crazier technical sections that its competitors handled with aplomb .