Specialized Women's Camber Comp Carbon mountain bike review£3,200.00

Climb-loving carbon trail bike with cross-country efficiency

BikeRadar score3.5/5

The Camber Comp Carbon is a 27.5/650b wheelsize trail bike that gives a fast, responsive ride and climbs exceedingly well. While it's capable on technical trails, steep technical descents are a little out of its comfort zone and it sits more towards the cross-country end of the trail bike spectrum.

The Camber Comp Carbon is a 27.5, 130mm travel trail bike with a 68-degree head angle and 75-degree seat angle — putting it in line with the Cube and Trek in this Women's Trail Bike of the Year test.

The Camber Comp is a relatively new addition to the women's line up and is based around the same frame as the men's/unisex line — that's been a firm feature for a few years now — but with women's specific finishing kit and colourways. Unlike the men's/unisex version, the women's camber only comes with a 27.5 wheel option or 650b as Specialized prefers to call it.

While the Camber may be more XC-focussed, it doesn't skimp on trail capability and fun
While the Camber may be more XC-focussed, it doesn't skimp on trail capability and fun

Carbon frame and XC/trail geometry

As the name suggests, the Camber Comp Carbon features a carbon frame, and has a geometry that sits slightly more towards the XC end of the trail spectrum compared with the Canyon Spectral and Trek Fuel EX 8.0 also on test for Women's Trail Bike of the Year.

A 68-degree head angle provides a slack position that helps confidence on descents, but while the 720mm handlebars (narrowest on test) and long stem were good for squeezing between trees they did make for a slightly sluggish feel to the steering.

However, the geometry works very much in favour for those who like the challenge of besting a climb, with a 75-degree seat angle that places the rider's weight nicely centred for pushing maximum force up hills, mountains, fireroads or technical trails.

The Camber does have the shortest chainstays on the test at 420mm, and combined with a wheelbase of 1,119mm gives it agile handling on trails. While it may not be be set up for navigating tricky steep technical descents, the bike handles beautifully on more flowing trails and rolls up and over obstacles and features with a fluidity that makes flying along the trail a pleasure. And once you get a feel for the bike it handles impressively, rolling through rock gardens, navigating roots and getting playful with drops.

The carbon frame on the Camber has a subtle but oh-so-beautiful navy glitter finish. In my opinion, anyway
The carbon frame on the Camber has a subtle but oh-so-beautiful navy glitter finish. In my opinion, anyway

While the bike does have a carbon frame and alloy rear end, it weighs in mid-pack in the Bike of the Year test at 13.1kg. This additional weight is probably a result partly of that rear end and also partly on the component spec. Like a lot of carbon bikes at this price point there's a compromise to be made to get that frame material, and it's usually in the form of budget components which add weight.

Suspension and groupset

Up front, a RockShox Revelation RL Solo Air fork provides 130mm of travel, which gives great small-bump sensitivity and works well with mid-sized features. However, there is a degree of flex in the 32mm stanchions that makes rock gardens and bigger hits a little sketchy, though in practice it holds up well.

The Fox Float Performance shock gives 130mm of travel at the rear and has a women's specific tune based on the idea that women are on average lighter than men for equivalent heights.

The autosag feature on the Fox Float Performance is designed to make setting the sag a lot easier. We had mixed results
The autosag feature on the Fox Float Performance is designed to make setting the sag a lot easier. We had mixed results

It also has an autosag feature, so you can pump up the pressure, open a particular valve, weigh the bike and it will automatically release just enough air to get the perfect sag position. In practice, the resulting sag still felt too little, so further tweaking was necessary. In fact, I did end up playing around with this shock quite a bit to get the feel I wanted, though once I found it it did feel good.

The Camber is specc'd with a SRAM NX/GX mix in a 1x11 set up. With a 28t RaceFace chainring and RaceFace Aeffect crankset, combined with an 11-42t, there is a wide range of gearing, though at the end of a long day of riding I did catch myself wishing for just one more easier gear. The shifting movement was smooth and efficient, and the gears shifted reliably, even when changing gear under tension.

Otherwise, the gear range is enough to facilitate that rapid climbing ability and gives a nice efficient lick of speed when you put the power down.

This is partly due to the stiffness in that carbon frame and also the suspension, which uses a ‘Concentric Pivot’ system to efficiently isolate pedal-forces, meaning a noticeably direct transfer of power from pedal to forward momentum.

Shimano M506 brakes do a reliable job, but don’t give the subtlety of control that can be found on some of the other bikes at this price point.

Fast rolling rubber

The Specialized Roval Traverse wheels have a decently wide 29mm rim width, which make the 2.35 tyres — narrower than others in the test — feel relatively wide. A Purgatory at the front provides traction and control with a faster rolling Ground Control tyre at the rear. While the grip is sufficient for dry singletrack, on slick roots or muddy trails the ride becomes sketchy

The slight flex in the 32mm stanchion, 130mm-travel RockShox Revelation RL forks feels a little unnerving on rock gardens or on rough descents.

The Command Post dropper gives 100mm of indexed, incremental travel (120mm on large bikes) but be aware: the return is violently fast! The women’s specific Myth Sport saddle, mini-rise bars and Slip Grip lock-on grips provide a very comfortable selection of contact points.

Thoughtful, useful features

One big mark in the plus column for the Camber is the SWAT storage compartment, hidden in the downtube and accessed through a panel behind the bottle cage. SWAT stands for Storage, Water, Air and Tools, and is the name Specialized has given to a range of features and tools that complement various bikes, products and riding styles.

The compartment is easy to access and big enough to stash spare inner tubes, tools, snacks or a packable waterproof jacket. Along with the integrated bottle cage, it gives you the option for traveling light for riders who prefer to ride without a pack. This is great for fast blasts around your local woods or those out for a longer distance who want minimal weight and encumbrance.

The SWAT storage in the downtube is ideal for storing spare tubes, tools or a packable jacket
The SWAT storage in the downtube is ideal for storing spare tubes, tools or a packable jacket

As mentioned before, the bike has women's specific finishing kit, and the Specialized Women's Body Geometry Myth Sport saddle with steel rails was a popular choice among the testers. Of course, saddle choice is a personal one, but swapping the saddle out for a lighter option in the future would help reduce the weight.

The cockpit is formed of 720mm aluminium Specialized Mini-rise handlebars with Sip Grip lock on grips. The 1x system means an uncluttered feel and the action on the Specialized Command Post dropper control was easy and smooth.

However, the actual seatpost itself, which has incremental adjustment to 12 positions, could be best described as violent in its return to the highest position. The medium sized bike comes with a 100mm dropper, which goes up to a 125mm on the large size and down to 75mm on the XS size frame.

And finally, it would be remiss if I didn't mention the looks of the bike. Aesthetically, it's a beautiful shape and it's further augmented by a subtle yet striking navy blue and orange paint job with flecks of silver glitter, which only become apparent closer up. It attracted the most attention from passers by and from all genders, so it's certainly got the looks.

Specialized Women's Camber Comp Carbon overall impression

Since I started the test, the Camber has jumped in price by £300, making it the most expensive bike in the Bike of the Year shortlist. While the frame is excellent, the comparatively budget spec adds weight and doesn’t have the smooth performance of other groupsets. 

That said, if it’s an efficient climber that you’re after this is the pick of the bunch, and despite erring towards the cross-country end of the trail bike spectrum it still feels fast and focussed on trails. 

The Camber also gets plus points for the SWAT storage compartment in the downtube, which has enough room for a tool roll or packable waterproof jacket.

Ripe for future upgrades, it’s a great bet for the trail rider who likes low-luggage, fuss-free blasts, and values speed and efficiency above all.

Pricing, sizing and availability

The Specialized Camber Comp Carbon comes in a range of sizes from XS to L and is available from Specialized distributors and retailers worldwide. 

Price: £3,200 / $3,800 / AU$5,500

How we tested

This bike was tested head-to-head against a number of other women’s specific trail bikes as part of the 2017 BikeRadar Women’s Bike of the Year awards. Each bike was tested multiple times on a test loop that incorporated a variety of terrain from technical climbs and descents to rooty singletrack, steep chutes, berms, rollers, tabletops and drops.

The size tested was an 18-inch frame, recommended for a rider of my height at 5ft8in.

In addition to the solo testing I conducted, each bike was also test ridden by a panel of five BikeRadar Women readers, all of a similar height and with a range of riding backgrounds, preferences and experience.

The Specialized Camber Comp Carbon might be aimed more towards the XC end of the spectrum, but it handles trails well
The Specialized Camber Comp Carbon might be aimed more towards the XC end of the spectrum, but it handles trails well

What our reader panel says

This bike was tested as part of the 2017 Women’s Trail Bike of the Year awards, and it’s important to BikeRadar that we take into account the views of the women the bikes in the test were aimed at. All the bikes were ridden by at least three members of the panel, who have provided feedback which has been incorporated into this review and into the judging for the overall title.

  • Saskia Dugon: "The suspension was fluid all the way through the travel. I got a lot back from pumping through corners and felt comfortable going over rough terrain with speed. Brilliant handling and easy to manoeuvre during climbing, but the handlebars could do with being a little wider."
  • Jennifer Purcell: "Although I was put off by the look of this bike, it felt really good and I liked the riding position."
  • Grace Zarczynska: "Climbing wise, the bike is great. Descending, I felt too close to the front."

Women’s Trail Bike of the Year

Look out for the results of Women’s Trail Bike of the Year coming soon to BikeRadar Women and What Mountain Bike magazine. We’ll give you the lowdown on the testing, introduce the reader panel, show you the shortlisted bikes and of course reveal that all-important winner. Which bike will take the coveted title? Not long to wait now.

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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