Matt Wragg's Specialized Stumpjumper Evo 29
Lust. You never know when it is going to strike, or why. In late 2018, amidst the endless deluge of the latest carbon wonder bikes, the Stumpjumper Evo stirred something in me. I couldn't tell you why, but I knew I had to get my hands on one. The raw, almost unbranded aluminum frame and the wild angles looked nasty in all the right ways. So much so that I cancelled the carbon rocketship I had on order and started pitching calls to everyone I knew at Specialized to try and secure one. I picked it up in March of last year and have been fettling and refining it since into a bike I feel confident I'm going to keep for the next few years.
Before I get into what I have done with it, I should start with the why. In 2018 I fully embraced middle age and, for the first time ever, bought myself a full carbon DH bike. But after a year of ear-to-ear, shit-eating grins and bike park laps I had to admit that the reasons that I typically always had mid-travel bikes rather than full-blown DH rigs were still true - they're just too expensive and impractical to own. If I could get to a chair lift it was incredible, but even on the shuttle days around me a DH bike was the wrong tool for the job. So it sat gathering dust. I needed something a little, well, less. I wanted what I guess the kids would call a park bike, something that I didn't really worry too much about pedalling (I still have my Scott Spark
for that), but would be perfect for shuttle days and bike park laps, and maybe some winch and plummet fun once in a while.Sizing/Geometry
In many ways the Stumpjumper Evo is an awkward bike for me - at 1.75m/5'9" the S2 sizing is too small for me and the 480mm reach of the S3 was right on the limit of what I felt I could live with, but I figured I could make it work with some tweaks. At 480mm in the high setting this is on the edge of my comfort zone - I know from about 460mm to 475mm I'm good, but beyond that, I start to struggle to really get a grip on a bike. The number that really got me going, though, was the chainstay length. Specialized has always pushed the short chainstay agenda, so to see them start heading the other way seemed significant and after playing around with adjustable stays a year or two before the 443mm chainstays, low BB and long reach left me certain that it was going to feel great in corners (spoiler: it does). The head angle is the one number I was mostly indifferent about, even though it is one I see discussed a lot, because after riding two seasons of EWS courses on a Mondraker Foxy with a 66/67 degree HA, I believe that overall wheelbase is far more important than head angle. Suspension
I used the suspension to change the intentions and dynamic geometry of the bike. The big difference is at the back is the 55mm stroke RockShox Super Deluxe. The stock bike comes with 50mm stroke to give 140mm of travel, so the extra 5mm stroke bumps it up to something like 155mm travel - it works so well I really don't understand why Specialized don't offer this as a stock option. That extra 15mm travel took it from a bike that encouraged me to go charging in, only to remind me at the critical moment that it only had 140mm travel, to far more of a big hitter than can stay composed no matter what you throw at it. That extra travel means increased sag too, which helps reduce the reach when I'm on the bike. Up front I then upped the 36 to 170mm travel (and dropped in a GRIP2 damper for good measure) to further shorten the reach and raise the BB a little as I was struggling a little with getting weight on the front and getting pedal strikes. from the super-low BB.
To get the Super Deluxe singing perfectly I popped over to see a friend who handles the suspension of a local SRAM-supported EWS racer. He dropped in a two-stage compression shim stack and a light rebound tune, and I then added 3.5 (of a possible 4.5 max) tokens and a Meg Neg can with a single band installed. I did try a DHX2 coil on the bike for a short while but found that the frame is far too linear for that setup, at least for me. The Super Deluxe set to around 30% sag has given me a comfortable, yet very progressive bike that picks up and holds speed easily. I was especially impressed with the Meg Neg can as it noticeably smooths out the wall you tend to get when your progression comes primarily from tokens and the extra mid-stroke support is subtle but useful. That mid-stroke support, combined with the longer fork and running the bike in the high setting has pretty much eliminated the pedal strike issue for me. Out front, the fork is still with the three tokens that came fitted from stock and on the lighter end of the recommended settings from the manual for the upgraded GRIP2 damper, except at 75kg I upped the air pressure to 80psi so it stood up in the travel a little more.Drivetrain
The drivetrain on this bike is more or less the same one that was on my Scott Spark I wrote about in 2018 - I switched that one over to an 11-42 11-speed setup, so had this one going spare. I've said it before, but I don't understand why everyone is so enamored with 12-speed setups as they are both heavy and expensive. This cassette is an 11-36 XTR 10-speed block that is around half the price and weight of a high-end 12-speed cassette and, for me, I'll take that cost and weight saving every single time. The derailleur is a short cage Zee driven by a Saint shifter. The crank is a Raceface Next R with a 32t ring, as I have a long history of running their Next cranks (I think it's coming up to 6 years now) and they have proven themselves utterly dependable, not to mention being sexy and light to go with it. Braking duties are handled by a set of Formula Curas, which I still rate as the best brake on the market right now - they have great initial bite, followed by good modulation and bulletproof reliability. On this bike, I have thrown on 200mm rotors for some extra punch. Wheels
After writing a long piece about how aluminum rims are better than carbon rims because they are more compliant
, my choice of wheels should come as no surprise. DT Swiss' EX 1501s are coming up to being on the market for 7 years now, yet they are still the benchmark and are the only rim I can think of that have been ridden to both DH and Enduro world titles in the same season. They're not cheap, although compared to a carbon rim they're pretty reasonable, the weight is good and they are a true fit and forget component, I've never had so much as a loose spoke on them over multiple seasons. Inside are Effetto Mariposa rim strips and fluid. As I'm using this as more of a big-hitting bike than an all-rounder, I went for Schwalbe Magic Marys both front and rear. In the Supergravity casing, I run 21/25psi and they not only grip fantastically, but they are so reliable I don't understand why anyone this side of the EWS would need to add an insert to them. Contact Points
I've been running Renthal bars and stems since 2011, so there should be no surprise what I have chosen there. With the long reach, I opted for a 32mm stem. I may try a 40mm at some point as I think the 32mm version makes the steering a little too fast and means I'm not getting the full benefit from the slack head angle. I went for a 30mm rise bar as that was what I had to hand and it seemed to work, so I haven't changed it.
When I wrote about my Spark I made a big point of disliking steerer spacers as they reduce the reach, but on this bike I wanted to bring the reach in a little, so popped a 5mm spacer under the stem. One big change for me this year is that I am running Ergon GD1 grips, which are pretty much the opposite of the Ourys I ran for so many years - they are thin and minimal. My wife is sponsored by Ergon and had a set laying around that I tried out of curiosity and they felt so good, there was a noticeably more direct connection to the handling, that I switched all my bikes over to them this year. The saddle is Ergon too - I'm not sure if this carbon-railed version of their enduro saddle is available to the public, but I like light saddles and after visiting their HQ
some years ago, I like the way they do things. Popping that saddle up and down is an ultra-dependable Fox Transfer post with 150mm of drop. Pedals are Shimano XT because they just work.
I don't know what this all weighs, but it doesn't feel heavy and I trust every single component on the bike. It took me some fettling to get the bike to where I consider it perfect, and there is a little bit of me is tempted by stories of people running 216x57mm imperial shocks with a 3mm offset bushing in the head to reduce eye-to-eye to give 160mm+ travel, but I don't think I want or need to go that far... In the end, it feels fast, steady and forgiving, which is exactly what I want for shuttle days and bike park laps. And as for the long chainstays/low BB combo I was so excited about? This bike corners like no other I've owned, you really feel like you're in the bike and can lean further and carve harder. It's exactly how I hoped it would ride, and a feeling I don't think I will ever get bored of.