Usually when a bike comes in with a flip chip I end up putting it into the lowest and slackest setting and leaving it alone, but not this time. In the low setting the Stumpjumper's bottom bracket height is a ground-scraping 328mm, and after one too many pedal strikes I ended up putting it into the higher position for the majority of the test period. Yes, that does steepen the head angle by .5 degrees, but it's still only 64-degrees in that high setting, which qualifies as being very slack in my book, especially for a 140mm 29er.
Despite those pedal vs. ground battles, the Stumpjumper is a surprisingly decent climber, especially considering that its geometry looks like it was lifted from a DH bike. It's not going to set any speed records, and it can feel a bit sluggish on flatter or slightly rolling terrain, but the slack head angle and relatively long chainstays do allow it to crawl up and over technical sections of trail without any issues. There's a reason those crazy hill climb motorcycles
are so long – the extended wheelbase makes it easier to keep the front end on the ground.
It's the opposite of a twitchy and skittish XC machine, and rather than encouraging out-of-the-saddle attacks on technical climbs, the Stumpjumper EVO makes it possible to stay seated, or at least not make as drastic of a position change, when tackling steep bits of trail. It felt like I had more time to decide how to unlock the puzzling parts of a climb, due to the fact that I didn't need to make as many micro-corrections.
I typically flipped the DPX2 shock into the middle setting for big fire road grinds, but for chunkier climbs, I left it in open to get as much traction as possible. Specialized didn't go crazy with the Stumpjumper's anti-squat numbers, but I still found that there was plenty of support to keep the shock from cycling too deep into its travel, even when standing up and sprinting out of the saddle. All that being said, the EVO is still a bike with a clear focus on the descents – climbing and getting through mellower terrain are simply tasks that need to be taken care of before the fun begins.