Specialized Camber Expert review£2,000.00

Ticks every ‘must have’ box

BikeRadar score4/5

Specialized introduced the Camber last year and stiffness increasing frame updates have made it even more fun than it was last year.

Ride & handling: Big trail fun

The immediate difference between this year’s Camber and last year’s is between the pedals and back wheel. However hard we stamped, there was no ghost shifting out of corners from the BB30 crankset. The screw-through axle means the tyre now scuffs and chatters as it lets go, rather than weaving and twanging. This does put the focus back on the front end though, and occasionally the fork twists when you wish it would stick. The short stem and wide bar create plenty of authority to force it out or fish it back in when it starts going astray though.

The Ground Control tyres are very workable rubber too, with ample grip and predictable ‘let go’ at the edges. Having a slideable back end suits the overall Camber character. The relatively slack head angle is amplified by a tendency for the rear shock to sit a fair way into its travel in the ‘open’ damping position, lowering and slackening the bike. Add a short back end and it’s a naturally trail-happy bike, farting in and out of traction between corners with child-like enthusiasm.

The long front and short rear make it easy to manual and drop off ledges too, with a playful feel that you can’t help but enjoy. The low ride height also helps when you’re railing through sweepers and berms too. Aggressive corner-takers will want to use the ProPedal damping for a more solid carving edge. The tendency to rush through its travel when ‘open’ can also make determined pedalling a squishy and bouncy affair, and we found ourselves making more use of the ProPedal and lock settings than normal on mixed terrain rides. The combination of steep seat angle and a fat saddle makes dropping the seat essential to avoid getting caught up on steeper or slower descents too.

Frame: Long front, short back and low belly

Flex issues with last year’s Camber meant we were delighted to see the 2012 model get a fat bottom bracket shell to take 30mm axle compatible PressFit 30 bearings and oversized matching crank axle for 2012. The rear axle has also changed from a spindly quick-release version to a 142x12mm screw-through axle. A kicker link for the suspension, smoothly hydroformed M5 alloy tubes with dropper post clips and a tapered head tube complete the neat-looking chassis. There’s even room for proper bottle placement, although fat tyres will be tight out back.

Equipment: Good spec for the money

The RockShox fork gets a tapered top, but uses Specialized’s unique fat skewer and oversized axle face set-up rather than a proper screw-through axle. The bar is good and wide though, and the short stem sizes change in relation to frame size. A custom SRAM double-and-bash chainset with wide spread 38/24t chainrings restores a bit of clearance to the low bottom bracket. The Fox Triad II shock is a custom damper too, with lock, ProPedal, low-speed compression and open settings controlling the 51mm stroke. The whole package is really light for the money too.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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