Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert review£2,499.99

Great handling all-rounder

BikeRadar score4/5

Specialized’s all-new Stumpjumper puts them right back into the running for all-rounder honours. While it’s not light, this alloy version is bang on for value, versatility and outstanding ride response.

The reconfigured Brain shock gives the Stumpjumper a unique acceleration/climbing edge while the fluid Fox/FSR linkage suspension and superb handling shine on the descents.

Ride & handling: Confident yet characterful, with unique auto suspension actuations

We’re used to bikes feeling very assured and ‘right’ from the start these days, but the Stumpjumper still feels particularly good from the get go.

Wider bars for more leverage are an obvious upgrade, and the tall front end meant we immediately dropped the cockpit as low as possible to inject aggression.

Otherwise the long, very slack angled front end, low bottom bracket and short rear end work superbly, with loads of speed stability for straightlining riverbeds or drifting corners, but it’s still pop and hop agile in the tight stuff.

The conventional head tube and slight frame flex means it’s not the stiffest, sharpest feeling bike, but it's constantly communicative and friendly however far you push it. Regular pedal taps from the low bottom bracket are the only real downside if you ride roots and ruts a lot.

Once you sync your preferred ‘Brain Fade’ sensitivity to shock pressure the new ‘Brain’ is genuinely outstanding too. It’s tight, wallow-free and ready to sprint on the smooth bits for a responsive, racey feel.

However it switches instantly and seamlessly to the fluid and grippy feel of the pedal- and brake-independent FSR four-bar style as soon as it hits your preset trigger level. That trigger level now runs from emergency save for World Cup whippet to fully plush, clunk-free full-time succulence.

Extra Brain cans and hoses do add weight, and the higher overall weight meant slower acceleration despite the fast rear tyre. Despite that it bagged a string of notable ‘first time cleans’ on test climbs and we were dropping 6ft North Shore ladders on it with no clunk or kickback.

Specialized stumpjumper fsr expert: specialized stumpjumper fsr expert
Specialized stumpjumper fsr expert: specialized stumpjumper fsr expert

Frame: Classic suspension layout, but chassis isn't as stiff and precise as some

Before you ask, we’re running the alloy Expert here because the Expert Carbon bike (£2,999) isn’t available until later in the year. Extensively hydroformed main tubes, cold forged keystone pieces and even a hollow driveside dropout mean there’s only a 100g weight saving between the 8M carbon chassis and the M5 alloy one anyway. It doesn’t get the tapered fork-ready head tube though, which is a shame.

Out back travel increases from 120mm to 140mm in a kicker link style setup. Seatstays mount directly onto the back of the shock with smooth ball bearing pivots throughout, and bolt-on down tube clips for cabling add belly impact protection plus there’s room for a conventional bottle.

Rear mud room is restricted though, and you’ll need to cut the seatpost down to allow a major drop down the kinked seat tube. You’ll also need to check sizing carefully as we had to a have large rather than the usual medium frame to get the right size for our test team.

Equipment: Quality own-brand finishing kit, Fox fork and Avid brakes

In terms of kit Spesh have mixed and matched to great effect, with custom colour Shimano XT cranks driving SRAM rear mech and shifters. Avid Carbon lever brakes bite on big 203/185mm rotors on the large size too, so stopping power is massive.

Fox’s 32 TALAS fork has a manual lockout and 140/120/100mm travel options up front. Specialized’s unique oversized end cap and big quick-release design is apparently on par with 15mm axles for stiffness too.

The own-brand Purgatory and Control tyres can be a bit slippery when wet, but otherwise we like the bigger, grippier front / narrower, faster rear combo. Bars could be wider but otherwise the own-brand finishing kit caused no complaints.

The 'brain' system has never worked seamlessly, until now: the 'brain' system has never worked seamlessly, until now
The 'brain' system has never worked seamlessly, until now: the 'brain' system has never worked seamlessly, until now

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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