There’s no denying that the 650b Stumpjumper FSR Elite stands out from the crowd – that almost fluoro paint job is quite the head-turner – but the Stumpy’s ride is perhaps less likely to turn heads.
The Stumpy is a hugely capable machine, as perfectly at home on long XC rides as it is being pointed down your nearest mountain and letting off the brakes. It just sits towards the middle of the bike handling bell-curve. It’s neither a twitchy, nervous descender nor an elongated enduro sled.
The Elite is the top of the line alloy Stumpjumper, the M5 alloy frame helping keep the weight to a reasonable, if not stunning, 12.97kg (large). While the kit plugged into the frame may not be top drawer, it’s all high performing – rather than the top RCT3 RockShox Pike, the simpler but still hugely capable RC model is fitted. Likewise, Shimano SLX brakes might not be super trick, but they are solid performers, more than capable of controlling the bike on steep, long descents. If we’re honest though, for the price we weren’t bowled over by the spec.
The Stumpy's angles add up to an accomplished, fairly traditional trail bike
Specialized have stuck with its FSR suspension design for years now, and it’s easy to see why. The four-bar linkage allows the suspension to stay active during braking, rather than stiffening up. This means that on rough descents the suspension remains controlled and compliant, sticking your rear wheel to the ground and maximising the effectiveness of your brakes. With the shock in its fully open setting though, there is some pedal bob, especially when sprinting or climbing out of the saddle.
Fortunately Fox’s custom RX Trail Tuned shock has the CTD (Climb, Trail, Descend) switch, which allows you to tame the back end. We tended to leave it in Trail mode, as we’re prone to forgetting to change shock settings while riding our regular trails, and feel through the suspension isn’t massively impacted in Trail. On long Alpine climbs we stuck it in Climb, and for serious downhills we maximised its 150mm of fun by sticking it in Descent. While we’re talking about the shock, the Autosag feature means getting the shock set up is a painless affair, save for tweaking rebound settings.
Autosag = an easy setup
While the knew 6Fattie versions of the Stumpy roll on huge oversized tyres, the regular Stumpy is shod in Specialized Butcher (f) and Purgatory (r) tyres. They’re held by Roval Traversee rims, whose 29mm internal width gives plenty of girth to the tyres. The increased prominence of the tyres’ shoulder gives already great tyres plenty of aggressive cornering grip up front, without compromising rolling resistance at the back.
Wider rims also allow you to run slightly lower pressures than usual with less puncture risk, boosting grip and control. Go too low, and they’re still prone to a bit of tyre roll, so care still needs to be taken when depressing the Presta valve. The wheels themselves are nice and stiff, even with the radial spokes on the non-disc side front wheel. In the event of a failure though, this does mean getting spare spokes could be a touch trickier. DT Swiss internals keep everything clicking round nicely.
Nip, not tuck
With the current trend in trail bikes becoming longer and slacker, the Stumpy is reasonably conservative in this regard. The 442mm reach (L) isn’t super long, nor is the 67 degree head angle super slack.
The Stumpjumper is in its element on tight and twisting trails
On the other hand, the 420mm chainstays are nice and short. This results in a lively, playful bike that is happy being lofted into the air and popped round corners – those looking for flat-out speed might want to look at the more appropriately named Specialized Enduro.
Its character then is more of an accomplished traditional trail bike, perfectly at home on twisty, tight woodland trails. Its manoeuvrability meant that on super slow speed technical trails, it was easier to get round switchbacks and squeeze through gaps than the less wieldy 6Fattie FSR Comp Carbon we were testing alongside (stay tuned for our full review), but the 650b’s non-sled like angles also meant it was a touch more nervous on steep rocky stepped trails.
On fast flowy trails, the Stumpy is a joy though. Instant reactions and a sorted wheel/tyre combo mean it skipped through meadows, encouraging us to bunnyhop drainage ditches. When we forgot, the Pike and Kashima-coated Fox shock kept everything under control, while the well damped Control casing on the tyres gave no surprises.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.