Specialized Women's Camber Comp 650b review£2,400.00

An XC-focussed trail bike that loves the climbs and playing on the trails

BikeRadar score3/5

Designed at the cross-country end of the trail spectrum, the alloy-framed Specialized Camber Comp is a 650b bike that’s efficient on the climbs and fun on the trails, though its lively feel can be a little too twitchy on steep and techy descents.

  • The Specialized Women's Camber Comp 650b is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.

This version comes specc’d with reliable, though not exceptional, parts. It’s a bike built for reliability and robustness; treat it right and it’ll keep you rolling on through the years.

The unisex version of the Camber comes in either a 29er version and a 650b version, while the women’s version is only available in the 650b option.

When quizzed on why, Georgia Leslie of Specialized UK explained that the company “found that women tend to swing more towards a 27.5 wheel and our historical sales have shown this. It also means that we can increase the size options and offer an XS model.”

Specialized Camber Comp 650b frame

Specialized is one of the main big bike brands to start moving away from producing bikes with women’s specific frame geometry, while others such as Canyon are moving towards it.

Specialized says that the data it has collected through thousands of bike fits indicates that, while there does seem to be a cluster of differences between the average male and female rider’s body, a unisex frame design based on data from both genders is the best solution for providing the best fit.

RockShox Reba RL forks provide 130mm of front travel
RockShox Reba RL forks provide 130mm of front travel

The Camber replaced the women’s specific Rumor in 2017, in a similar way that the new Stumpjumper has replaced the Rhyme in 2018, and this latest version has a good quality M5 aluminium frame, which is fairly standard at this price point with 130mm of travel.

The unisex frame geometry sits more towards the XC side of things, with a relatively steep 68-degree head angle and 75-degree seat angle.

That head angle helps give this bike an agile, responsive feeling on the trail, able to follow tights twists and turns. The trade off is that it makes descents, particularly steep or technical ones, a little nervy.

Climbing is something that the Camber does very well indeed, and that steep seat angle certainly helps, placing the rider weight forward and over the bottom bracket, which helps with efficiency and traction on the ups.

Specialized Camber Comp 650b spec

720mm bars are great for navigating tight trails but a little narrow for my liking
720mm bars are great for navigating tight trails but a little narrow for my liking

The Specialized Roval Traverse wheels have a decently wide 29mm rim width, which make the 2.30 tyres — some of the narrowest in our women’s trail bike of the year category — feel relatively wide.

Up front, a Specialized Purgatory tyre offers plenty of grip for traction and control, while a Ground Control tyre at the rear gives a fast rolling feel. When riding in relatively dry conditions or on packed trail-centre surfaces, the grip was plenty, but taking it away from groomed trails I found the performance sketchy on roots and in the mud.

The Fox Performance DPS shock and the forks both have the women's specific 'Rx' tune
The Fox Performance DPS shock and the forks both have the women's specific 'Rx' tune

SRAM Level TL brakes performed reliably enough for me, but don’t have quite the same level of power as the pricier SRAM Guide brakes. That said, for most trail riding these are more than up to the job and it’s an area that can be upgraded in the future.

Both the forks and shock have Specialized’s ‘Women’s RX tune’ which is designed for lighter riders. This is a lighter compression tune — effectively the route that oil is channelled through is more open in the shocks’ damper, freeing up the flow of oil.

Up front the Camber Comp has a RockShox Reba RL fork paired with a Fox Performance DPS shock with autosag. Together, they control 130mm of travel at the front and 130mm at the rear.

The autosag feature is supposed to make setting up the sag point easy, except it didn't
The autosag feature is supposed to make setting up the sag point easy, except it didn't

The autosag feature is designed to make setting up the sag point of the shock simple. Just pump up the shock to a high pressure, sit gentle on the bike and press the release button. Hey presto! Your sag is set. Except that it didn’t work for me on any of the times I tried. I’ve encountered this problem before with Specialized’s autosag and end up just setting it the old fashioned way.

A mixture of SRAM NX and GX provide the gearing with a 1x11 system based around NX shifters, GX rear derailleur, NX cassette and RaceFace Aeffect cranks.

The 11-42t cassette provides a good range of gearing, especially since the bike comes with a 28t chainring, which together provides low enough gearing to spin easily up most climbs. If you would like something lower, you’ll need to upgrade to an Eagle groupset.

The 1x11 groupset is a mixture of SRAM NX and GX
The 1x11 groupset is a mixture of SRAM NX and GX

Specialized alloy handlebars are reasonably wide for XC riding at 720mm, but this is narrow for a lot of trail bikes that tend to have bar widths around 750/760mm. The narrowness of the bars is great for weaving in amongst the trees, but feels less stable and secure on steep descents.

Upgrading to a wider and, if you’re budget can stretch to it, carbon handlebar will improve the handling if you’re using it more for trail riding and drop some weight off the bike.

The women's specific Myth Sport saddle proved plenty comfortable
The women's specific Myth Sport saddle proved plenty comfortable

Sadly, there’s no dropper seatpost at this price point, which is disappointing. It’s only when you use one regularly then go back to having a bike without that you realise just how revolutionary they are on a ride.

Instead, there’s a standard alloy post, and the women’s specific Myth Sport saddle mounted at the end of it was comfy.

Specialized Camber Comp 650b feel and verdict

You’re getting a good quality frame and relatively lightweight setup for your money here. While there’s nothing exceptional about the spec sheet, this version of the Camber Comp is one that will feel the benefit of future upgrades and will see you through a few years of riding, if you look after it.

A few choice swaps in the future will shave some weight off the not-unreasonable 13.8kg on our scales, and carbon bars should be first in line.

The Camber climbed exceptionally well, making short work of inclines on fire roads and technical trails alike, so if you like climbing, or better yet don’t like climbing and want something that will make it easier, this is one to consider.

It sits more towards the cross-country end of the spectrum, so while it’s great for undulating trails, trail centre riding and so on, if you start getting too ambitious with the techy descents you need to be a competent, confident rider to keep it under control.

However, you can squeeze a lot of fun out of this bike on XC trails and it’s a bike that is supportive and manoeuvrable at slow speeds and just gets more fun the more you learn to handle it.

Specialized Camber Comp 650b pricing, sizes and availability

The Specialized Camber Comp 650b is available in four sizes: XS, S, M and L and retails for £2,400 / $2,450 / AU$3,400.

Also consider...

If you're in the market for a bike and want to know what else is on offer, have a look at the following list of tried, tested and reviewed options.

Want more? BikeRadar Women has loads of women's cycling news, reviews, interviews and advice and more.

Aoife Glass

Women's Cycling Editor
A mountain biker at heart, also drawn to the open road. Likes big long adventures in the mountains. Usually to be found in the Mendip Hills or the Somerset Levels in the UK. Passionate about women's cycling at all levels.
  • Age: 35
  • Height: 173cm / 5'8"
  • Weight: 74kg / 163lb
  • Waist: 82cm / 32in
  • Chest: 86cm / 34in (below bust measurement)
  • Discipline: Mountain, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Rocky, rough and a long way from anywhere.
  • Current Bikes: Liv Avail Advanced Pro 2015, Juliana Furtado 2013, Canyon Roadlite AL
  • Dream Bike: Juliana Roubion, Liv Avail Advanced SL
  • Beer of Choice: Red wine for the win!
  • Location: Weston Super Mare, Somerset, UK

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