We were big fans of the 2013 Stumpjumper FSR Expert EVO, so when Specialized unveiled their latest offering as part of their 2014 trail and long travel mountain bike launch, we couldn’t wait to get out onto the slopes of Copper Mountain, Colorado, to put it through its paces.
Ride & handling: Confident and stable without loss of agility
Propelling the 12.1kg (26.6lb) Stumpy EVO 29 up climbs is a surprisingly sprightly affair considering the amount of travel you’re sitting on (140mm front, 135mm rear). With a decent length cockpit, things feel roomy enough without feeling overstretched.
While you’re seated, power delivery is efficient, thanks in part to the bulbous bottom bracket junction and meaty PF30 bottom bracket. Stand up out of the saddle and there’s a tiny bit of suspension bob that can easily be tamed courtesy of the CTD lever on the Fox rear shock. That said, we rarely found the need to use it, and were impressed with the controlled fashion and traction the Stumpjumper climbed with.
As the trail begins to flatten, the Stumpy EVO 29 really begins to come alive. The well-balanced suspension and more aggressive geometry help sit you in a great trail-attacking position, allowing you to react to terrain changes confidently and rapidly.
It’s this more neutral position that really bolsters confidence in tricky flat turns where grip is limited, allowing more intricate weight shifts in a bid to maximise traction.
Unlike the XX1 group, SRAM X01 uses a common 104mm bolt circle diameter
While we’re on the subject of flat turns, this was the bit we were most concerned about with regards to the height of the front end and the ability to weight the front wheel and maintain grip, especially considering the 29in wheel and lengthy, 140mm travel Pike fork. Although we dropped the stem down 10mm things never felt too lofty up front, even for our 5ft 8in (1.73m) test pilot.
When speeds pick up and the trails get rougher, the composure of the Stumpy EVO 29’s suspension, coupled with the big wheel rollover capabilities, lets you take riskier lines with an element of ease that leaves you thinking you should have gone even quicker.
There’s plenty of stability on faster, looser trails without things feeling cumbersome or the handling slow or sluggish. In fact, the Stumpjumper EVO 29 remains massively agile and playful, and can be picked up and planted on just about any line without hesitation. In tighter, slower sections we never had a problem flicking the from turn to turn or picking our way over stump-riddled paths.
We were massively impressed with the RockShox Pike fork, which smoothed the trail out effortlessly while providing stiff, accurate steering. The Pike, coupled with SRAM’s new X01 11-speed transmission, really sets the bike off, making for a fantastically capable machine that would be at home on lengthy all-day epics or more aggressive all-mountain hammering.
Frame & equipment: Similar geometry, new kit highlights
For 2014, nothing changes dramatically in terms of geometry for the Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29. Compared to the standard Stumpjumper FSR 29, the head angle remains one degree slacker and measures in at 68 degrees, while the wheelbase is stretched to 1,155mm compared to 1,147mm. The EVO also sits 3mm lower, sinking the bottom bracket to 335mm, which helps bolster cornering confidence.
The stealth 9M carbon front triangle gets new internal dropper post cable routing that, when paired with a Specialized Command Post IR (Internal Routing), makes for a clean, uninterrupted finish.
The rear M5 alloy triangle continues to use a 12x142mm axle to improve overall stiffness, and the FSR layout remains unchanged. A concentric link and shock shuttle is used to drive the Fox Float CTD Kashima-coated rear shock that controls the 135mm (5.3in) of rear wheel travel. Specialized say this configuration reduces weight and that, because the shock pivots on bearings rather than DU bushes, the suspension is more sensitive and durability is improved.
Other notable features include the PF30 bottom bracket, which is surrounded by ISCG 05 tabs, a tapered head tube and full cartridge bearing pivots.
The RockShox Pike fork is a good match for an aggressive trail bike
Interestingly, Specialized have gone for a new take on how tools and water can be transported on the bike, integrating storage into the frame and component design. They’ve named the concept SWAT (Storage, Water, Air, Tools). The Stumpjumper gets stage two SWAT, meaning there’s a compact multi-tool under the bottle cage as well as a headset top cap with integrated chain tool.
It’s the componentry that really helps the latest Stumpjumper FSR EVO standout. Up front sits the impressive new 140mm (5.5in) travel Pike fork from RockShox. This, for many, has already helped re-establish RockShox as top contenders in the longer travel, single crown fork market.
Now internally routed, the Specialized Command Post IR has three fixed positions and uses a new single bolt head that Specialized claim offers a far more secure saddle fixture than before.
Helping to reduce weight without compromising on gearing is the new 11-speed SRAM X01 transmission. No guide is needed to keep the chain in place, and you get options to take you up or down the steepest climbs or fastest descents. Specialized have included a custom SRAM S-2200 crankset, though, rather than the alloy X01 offering.
Stopping is taken care of by powerful Avid Elixir 7 Trail brakes, while tyre grip is impressively dished out via the 2Bliss Ready 2.3in Butcher Control and Purgatory Control, both from the Specialized stable.