Specialized Women's Camber Comp Carbon 650b first look

One of the most attention-grabbing bikes we've encountered

Specialized unveiled the new women's version of the popular Camber Comp Carbon this year and it's an eye-catching bike to say the least. Sleek frame, hidden storage compartments and a subtle glittery paint job are just part of the feature list on the carbon-framed 130mm-travel 27.5" full-suspension trail bike. 

A bike designed for ripping round your local trails, Specialized states that the Camber is excellent at climbing and confident at descending — achieved by combining a carbon trail chassis with an alloy rear end to give "lightweight, rigidity, and durability in one package."

The women's Camber Comp Carbon comes only in a 650b or 27.5" wheel size, unlike the men's/unisex Camber range which also offers 29er versions. This means that the cross-country focussed Era is the only women's 29er in the Specialized line up for 2017. 

Can you have a subtle glitter coat? The Camber seems to manage it
Can you have a subtle glitter coat? The Camber seems to manage it

Unisex frame, women's specific finishing kit

With the Camber Comp Carbon, Specialized is part of a general trend within mountain bikes to produce women's and men's (or unisex) versions of a bike around one frame; with gender-specific finishing kit such as saddles and paintwork, and occasionally also varied handlebar, crank and stem length. 

Specialized has a specific reason for this approach with the Camber. It uses a huge amount of data from thousands of bike fits it has conducted and also from Retul, another bike fit company, as a basis for its designs. In addition to body dimension and fit data, this information also includes the type of riding people are doing, so Specialized says it is able to marry particular fits to particular activities, which then influences its approach to bike design — what it calls it's "rider first" approach. 

So with the new Ruby road bike for example, Specialized has developed a specific geometry for female riders that differs from the geometry of the Roubaix, a bike that occupies the same 'niche' in terms of purpose and position within the range. 

With the Camber however, a bike that is a firm feature on the men's/unisex range, Specialized has determined that a unisex frame suits both male and female riders, but with different contact points to suit the needs of each gender. 

A striking frame shape catches the eye, and the oversized downtube holds a SWAT compartment beneath the bottle cage
A striking frame shape catches the eye, and the oversized downtube holds a SWAT compartment beneath the bottle cage

An eye-catching ride

There's clearly something about the Camber Comp that draws the eye. Taking it home en route to being tested I was stopped by no less than five people who wanted to talk about the bike. And, I should add, these were guys. Now, if they do fancy the bike, it's a unisex frame so there's nothing stopping them having it; all they'll have to do is swap out the women's specific saddle and make a few other tweaks — the opposite in fact of the tweaks most women make when buying a 'unisex' bike for themselves.

One of the selling points of the Specialized Camber is the SWAT storage system that's built into the oversized downtube

The frame of the bike consists of a FACT 9m carbon chassis with an alloy rear triangle and internal cable routing. Up front, 130mm of suspension is provided by RockShox Revelation RL forks, and 130mm of rear suspension is provided by a Fox Float Performance shock with a women's specific tune to suit the on average lighter weight compared to height of female riders. 

The 1x11 drivetrain consists of a blend of SRAM GX rear derailleur, SRAM PG-1130 cassette, RaceFace Aeffect alloy 28t crankset and SRAM NX shifters. On the braking side, Shimano M506 hydraulic disc brakes provide the stopping power. 

Finishing kit includes Specialized Mini-Rise 720mm alloy handlebars, women's Myth Comp saddle, Command Post IRcc dropper seatpost, and Specialized Purgatory front tyre and Ground Control rear tyre.

There are a few differences to the equivalent men's bike that sits at the same level and price point within the range, which at least initially look to be more to do with achieving the right fit for a female rider. The frame, drivetrain, wheels and brakes are the same kit whichever one you go for, but the men's version has broader 750mm Specialized 6061 alloy handlebars, a Henge Comp saddle, thicker grips on the L and XL sizes, and a larger chainring — 30t compared to 28t on the women's version

One of the selling points of the Specialized Camber is the SWAT storage system that's built into the oversized downtube, which is accessed via the removable bottle cage. It's sizeable enough to store a small waterproof jacket, snacks or tools. SWAT stands for Storage, Water, Air and Tools, and it's the name Specialized uses to cover both certain design features on some of its bicycles that provide on-board integrated storage and a range of accessories that allow you to carry tools and spares, etc on-bike. 

Price and availability

The new Women's Camber Comp Carbon is available from size XS to L, with the medium being a good fit for a 5'8" rider. If the large is too small for your height then you could skip to the men's Camber Comp Carbon range — it has the same frame after all — and it goes up to a size XL, albeit in a loud lime green and red colourway. Conversely, shorter men now have the option of going for a Camber as they can use the XS size and swap over the saddle, etc. 

  • £2,900 / $3,800 / AUS$5,500
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.
  • 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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