PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Words by Mike Levy, photography by Tom Richards
While forty years separate the very first Stumpjumper and the fancy new one you're looking at here, its all-around intentions remain the same. What has changed is the recipe, however, with this Stumpy being a 130mm-travel 29er (with a 140mm fork) based on an all-new frame employing a completely different suspension layout. That's right, Horst has been replaced and it means big changes on the trail.
Specialized has slimmed the Stumpjumper range down to only six bikes and a frameset, all of which are designed around 29" wheels. The least expensive is the $2,199 Stumpjumper Alloy, along with the $3,199 Stumpjumper Comp Alloy; both aluminum frames get the same geo as the carbon bikes but similar Horst Link rear-suspension to the previous Stumpjumper that makes it a bit confusing. We'll review one of those soon, too.
• Travel: 130mm rear / 140mm front
• Wheel size: 29"
• Head angle: 65-degrees
• Seat tube angle: 76-degrees
• Reach: 475mm (S4)
• Chainstay length: 432mm (S4)
• Sizes: S1, S2, S3, S4 (tested), S5, S6
• Weight: 27.3 lb / 12.3 kg (as pictured)
• Price: $9,499 USD
Carbon fiber models start at $3,999 USD for the Comp, but it's the top of the range, $9,499 USD S-Works version that's reviewed here.
What do you get for that money? Even more carbon in the form of Roval's (Specialized's house brand) carbon wheels, factory-level suspension from Fox (including a 34 with the GRIP2 damper), as well as a wireless AXS drivetrain and dropper post. All that added up to 27.3 lb on my scale, including the Maxxis Minion DHF and Dissector EXO+ control tires that were installed without inserts. Want to build your own dream Stumpy? The frame/shock combo will cost you $2,799 USD.
The side-arm frame design is back and it may look similar, but every tube is new and Specialized say they spent a ton of time making this the lightest version yet. The claimed frame weight is 2,240-grams with the shock and all the small bits, making it 100-grams lighter than its predecessor and 510-grams less than the also-new Stumpy EVO frame. The press material says that much of the savings came from taking out the "lazy carbon,'' which is the stuff that was just adding grams without adding strength, but don't forget that ditching the sealed bearings and hardware down at the axle pivot also helped.
Onto some of the details. Things on my trail bike must-have list include ISCG tabs, a threaded bottom bracket, room for the biggest of big bottles inside the front triangle, and loads of effective frame protection. I'd absolutely insist that the only way internal cable routing is acceptable is if it's pass-through, which it is on the Stumpy. Actually, the previous Stumpy had some of the best cable routing I've seen, and that's been carried over on this version. SWAT is back, of course, and this version is said to be the lightest yet, with an internal carbon 'skeleton' of sorts that helps retain tube rigidity.
We should probably talk about the suspension now. Specialized has used a Horst Link layout since forever, including every full-suspension Stumpjumper model... Until now. Look at the back of the new Stumpy and, well, there isn't even a pivot at the axle! Or is there? Much like the new Epic, there’s still a “pivot” there, only it’s up on the seatstays and it's a flex zone rather than a couple sealed bearings and a bunch of hardware. Specialized says this saves 55-grams, and I bet it helps side-to-side rigidity to boot.
The new Stumpy uses Specialized's 'S-sizing' where all the frames get a ton of standover clearance that's combined with long-stroke dropper posts. The idea is that you can choose a reach and wheelbase that work for you instead of saying, "The medium's seat tube is too short, so I have to go to the large." Sizing runs from S1 with a 410mm reach to S6 and its 530mm reach (my S4 is 475mm), and Specialized says that if you were on a medium previously, you might like the Stumpy in S3. But you don't have to - you could go to the shorter S2 if you want a bike that's easier to toss around, or up to S4 if your trails call for a bit more stability. In the low setting, you get a 65-degree head angle and 76-degree seat angle, as well as 42mm of bottom bracket drop that puts it at 333mm high. If you want the bike a bit higher and quicker steering, the flip-chip at the clevis shock mount can be used to add half a degree to the head angle and 7mm of bottom bracket height.Climbing
Every trail bike on the market will get you to the top of the mountain in some fashion or other, but so will a 35lb enduro bike sitting on coils and 1,400-gram tires. There's more to it than just getting to the top,
, and I'd argue that a 130mm-travel 29er meant to be pedaled anywhere and everywhere surely has to be a bit more special than that. I want my carbon fiber trail bike to feel like it's helping me up the mountain, especially when it costs this much and I'm in a hurry, which is precisely what the latest Stumpy does.
I'm not sure how much of it is the new suspension layout and how much is the digressive piston hidden inside the Fox shock, but the red and black Stumpjumper is an entirely new animal compared to its predecessor. There's much more life and energy to it that makes those smooth, long climbs seem a bit shorter, and how the bike responded to my uneven stabs at the pedals meant that I never once felt like I'd be quicker with the pedal-assist switch activated. Its three different assist settings seem near-useless to me, and I mean that as a compliment.
It's all praise on the efficiency front, but this isn't a sporty race bike that rolls fast but offers less traction than your old dirt jumper with Hookworms inflated to 60 psi. Instead, you can stay seated and ride the bike into off-angle roots and ledges that might see you using some extra body English if you were aboard a less-forgiving package. That'll help your cause when you get off the boring gravel roads and into the fun technical uphills, of course, with the Stumpy being a better dance partner than the softer Blackthorn or P-Train "trail bikes" in those moments.
If you opened up my mud-speckled post-ride notepad, you'd find phrases like, ''Sporty but not race-y,'' ''Loads of grip,'' and ''This was my 93rd time up this climb this week,'' all of which nicely sums up the latest Stumpy. Descending
If you read the comments under the Stumpy's debut video
, you might be under the impression that the new single-pivot layout is inferior to the previous version’s Horst Link suspension, with some citing Horst's better performance under braking and the fact that Specialized just needed something different, even if it’s worse. Wait, worse?
Sure, certain suspension layouts have inherent traits to them, but it’s crazy what a few millimeter difference here or there in pivot location can make, let alone way more than that. Not to mention different shock tunes... And is your shock setup even in the right ballpark? I hope so. Point being, the change in layout doesn’t have to mean a step backward in performance, especially if that’s subjective. Keep in mind, this is a 130mm-travel trail rig meant to be many riders’ do-all-the-things kinda bike, not something with more travel and a more defined purpose like an enduro machine that's supposed to level all the bumps.
After countless back-to-back laps on the Stumpy and the other four contenders, it's clear how well-rounded they've managed to make its 130mm of travel. No, it isn't near-coil-slippery like the Blackthorn, but it does manage to deal with all the little stuff quite well, and without feeling too active and gooshy in a way that might steal some of the bike's all-important zest.
In other words, the support is there as well, as it should be with 130mm of travel. The Fox shock's air spring comes in the middle of the volume range, too, giving riders plenty of room if they're looking for more progression, not that I ever needed it. I'm eating more donuts and promise to bulk up for the next Field Test.
In case you can't tell, I'm impressed with the back of the Stumpjumper, missing Horst Link be dammed. bUt iTs SinGle PiVot, LeVy! Yeah, I don't doubt that this Stumpy is a nip less active than the Horst Link version when you're pulling levers to the handlebar and praying, but it didn't feel that way when I pointed it down all the wet, steep stuff. Traction was great, and I didn’t sense the back-end was sliding around any more than usual. Maybe those Horst Link devotees just need to get comfy skidding more? Only joking...
The Stumpy is a bit 'small' next to some of these so-called trail bikes that have 160mm-travel forks, but that never stopped me from feeling just as comfortable on it as I did on the softer machines. In fact, I had my second-quickest descent time on it, beating the Salsa by a single second and coming 11-seconds behind the enduro bike in disguise that is the P-Train. It's fair to say that the Stumpjumper suits my riding style more than the bigger, slacker bikes - it lets you do more with the trail, at least how I approach it. There also wasn't anything I didn't ride on the Specialized that I did do on the other bikes, but there were plenty of big rides where I'd much rather be on the lighter, sportier, more well-rounded Stumpy.
I think we’re seeing those bigger trail bikes these days because everyone wants theirs to be the most capable. Hard to argue that, right? Well, if it was only about being the most capable on the descents, we’d all be on 200mm-travel ''trail bikes.''
Of course, the danger of not specializing is not being the best at anything, and so many of us want the best descending “trail bike.” I think it’s easy to lose the plot chasing that goal, though. The fact that Specialized also offer the Stumpjumper EVO, an entirely different frame made for more aggressive riding, lets them keep this Stumpy as a true trail bike. I had a blast on tame, flowing terrain while aboard the Stumpy, more so than the others, but it’s as capable as most of us will ever need.