The lynchpin of Specialized’s move into big wheels throughout its bike range, the Camber is a deservedly popular bike. Did it impress us enough in Wales to get on the What Mountain Bike Trail Bike of the Year 2013 podium, though?
Ride & handling: Tough and smooth XC bike but sketchy front end
As much as it’s tough enough in frame and wheel to take the fight to the trail, both travel and handling character confirm a more cross-country feel in its current state. This is good in some ways.
We certainly appreciated the more quick-witted steering feel on the tight climbing trails and slower switchback sections of our Coed y Brenin test trails, in Wales.
Pre-test riding had already confirmed it as a predictably stable rather than hyperactive machine, and one that makes the most of Specialized’s own impressively grippy Ground Control tyres when clawing up steep, technical climbs. We can’t help thinking those focused on going up will naturally gravitate towards the ferociously upwardly mobile Epic range.
While Specialized’s typical long front, short rear layout gives it a naturally confident stance, the 70-degree head angle and 90mm stem give it an uptight rather than low-slung and lairy feel when you let go of the brakes.
Despite the fork having an identical chassis to that on the Whyte T-129 S, and 10mm less travel, the Camber’s 110mm Reba feels much more like a flexy derivative of the racy SID fork – which is what it is – than it does on Whyte’s. Hmm.
As much as it does a decent job, the matching 110mm stroke at the back end just can’t match the obvious potential of the muscular frame and wheels either. So, while this is definitely an enjoyable and versatile machine with masses of upgrade potential (not least to a bigger fork) it left us wanting more trail control and confidence.
Frame & equipment: Stiff yet light mainframe with aggro upgrade potential
The big-boned carbon fibre front with oversize BB30 bottom bracket give it purposeful looks and presence. The alloy back end is similarly stout and there’s very little flex or softness as you clip in and take the slack out of the chain. The Autosag feature makes it very easy to set up in a soft and smoothly trail-following tune.
At under 28lb it’s pretty light for a 29er trail bike, so while the wheels aren’t quite as quick to pick up speed, once you’re rolling it surges and climbs with a proper turbo-diesel muscularity.
The CTD shock lever lets you firm up the ride if you find fully open too pillowy, but with only 110mm stroke at either end it feels pretty tight anyway. Internal routing for a cable dropper post hints at more hardcore potential from the chunky cut frame, and the 26mm-wide rims put plenty of already generously sized rubber down. Traction is never an issue.
32 spokes each end keep these much tighter than the average wagon wheels when you start getting them sideways.