Specialized’s quietly quick trail bike range used to be split between XC-friendly standard Cambers and more technical trail happy EVO variants, all with 29in wheels. For 2016 there are 650b bikes to sit alongside the 29ers, and both are based around a tweaked EVO template that makes this deceptively easy speed machine a real grower.
Stretched-out, for a 29er
In geometry terms, that means a relatively relaxed (for a 29er) 68.5-degree head angle to stretch the front end of the big-wheeled bike out. The steep, curved seat tube with ‘Taco Blade’ front derailleur spur allows a short rear end despite the twin chainrings and 120mm (4.7in) of travel, but does limit seatpost drop.
While the carbon models get an auto-lockout ‘Brain’ shock and ‘SWAT’ storage box in the down tube, the alloy frame doesn’t. You do get Specialized’s custom Autosag Fox shock to simplify setup though.
The Autosag shock makes initial setup easy
There’s a lot of Spesh’s handiwork in the kit too. The impressively light, 29mm wide (internal) Roval wheels are homegrown, as are the 2.3in rubber they’re wrapped in. The wide 750mm bar suits the bike’s trail-focused attitude, and the fact larger sizes get bigger grips and brake rotors shows the detail Specialized goes into.
You still get a quality RockShox fork even on this base model, though the budget doesn’t stretch to a dropper post. While SRAM’s X7 gears aren’t as durable or simple as its renowned 1x11 setups, the lower ratios are kinder on less experienced legs – and even with twin rings this is a competitively light bike.
Easy roller with an edge
The supple start of the Fox DPS shock and the pedalling-neutral FSR suspension architecture mean there’s some softness in the pedal stroke unless you flick the lockout lever, and even then there’s flex in the light, low spoke count wheels. Gaps can appear when other bikes accelerate, but if you keep the pedals turning, the smoothly efficient ride over rough sections will soon wind you back into contention. The further you go, the more the Camber’s easy, fatigue reducing ride becomes an advantage.
Specialized’s Roval 29s aren’t the stiffest wheels but they’re light and their extra width gives good tyre support in the corners
It’s got the same gradual-grower character once you’re heading down. Again, the smooth suspension and wheel flex slightly dull the edge you’ve got to work with.
The angles aren’t so slack that the steering feels invincible either, and not being able to fully drop the seatpost into the frame inhibits weight-shifting swagger too. Sooner rather than later the deceptively easy speed and smooth, ride-quietening suspension will take you into a corner or rough section too hot though.
Hit the rough stuff and the Camber is happy to unveil its wild side
It’s then that you’ll realise that the short back end and ample traction are superbly weighted to surf a slightly tail-happy slide with grin-stretching composure, or notice that it carries speed really well through rocks and won’t buck badly even when a 6ft/2m drop slams the shocks to their stops.
As soon as this registers you’ll start deliberately provoking this deceptively mild-mannered machine to reveal its berm slinging, rock skimming, hop-and-pop wild side at every opportunity, before spinning easily back to the top to do it all over again.