Originally launched with 26 and 29in versions, for 2013 the Specialized Camber is only available with big wheels. Travel is a whisker up from the original, with 110mm at both ends.
Ride & handling: Sorted handling but watch out for pedal strikes
Specialized bikes tend to be long and low, and the Camber is no exception. While the top tube isn’t unusually stretched, the seat angle is at the steep end of the spectrum and contributes to a long front centre. Rather than try to cram the rear wheel in, Specialized have opted for generous chainstays too. The result is a long bike, but by no means a lumbering one.
In geometry terms, the Camber is fairly middle-of-the-road. For an all-round bike that’s a sensible decision, giving nimble yet predictable handling. A low-for-the-travel bottom bracket makes for assured cornering, and while the Camber’s lively and reactive to rider inputs, it’s happy to point and shoot too.
The shock setup delivered by the Autosag valve is on the firm side, although we’re finding that 29ers can bear to run their suspension a little harder because you’re relying on it less over small ripples and hollows.
The Camber’s suspension is characteristically vice-free, with the Monarch shock proving impressive. It feels lively under power, holds itself up nicely through compressions yet settles into turns and has a well-judged progression that yields deep travel when you need it.
Specialized camber comp: Seb Rogers/Future Publishing
Frame & equipment: Foolproof shock setup but could use a dropper post
In profile the Camber hasn’t changed much from its 2011 debut. It’s gained a tapered head tube and press-fit BB30, but the general shape is essentially the same. The top tube incorporates internal routing for a dropper post remote cable.
Only the front end of the RockShox Monarch rear shock is mounted in the traditional way. At the other end, rather than the usual mounting eye, the shaft is bonded to a forged yoke that forms the top end of the seatstay assembly – effectively the seatstays and shock are one piece. This is light, stiff and eliminates a set of shock bushings, but makes replacing the shock harder.
The shock features Autosag, designed to make shock setup easier: you inflate the shock to maximum pressure, sit on the bike and undo the Autosag valve. When air stops coming out, you’re set. That’s it. To run a little more or less sag, you can tune pressure the normal way after.
RockShox also supplies the Reba RL29 fork. Rather than a thru-axle fork, Specialized has specced oversized hub end caps that increase the contact area between hubs and dropouts for better stiffness than a QR. We’d still rather have the security of a thru-axle, but it’s better than a regular 9mm QR.
Wide rims provide good support for the tyres, and if you want to go tubeless the necessary valves come with the bike – tyres and rims are both tubeless-ready.
The Camber is a seriously impressive bike. For suspension performance, handling and weight it’s very good indeed. If Specialized could just cram a thru-axle fork and dropper post into the spec, it would be pretty much perfect.
This bike was tested as part of magazine’s What Mountain Bike 2013 Trail Bike of the Year feature – read the full results in issue 147, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.