Dirt Rag Magazine

Bless Me Father For I Have Sinned


photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

Disclaimer: When an invite simply entitled “Back to the Future” came in from Specialized to go to Moab, Utah, for a few days to test out a new bike that it dubbed “the latest technological breakthrough in mountain biking,” it was the worst kept secret in the industry. This was the U.S. launch of the brand’s new, off-road specific e-bike. Heck, this super high-zoot Turbo Levo FSR 6Fattie was already on the company’s website. Some media flat out declined participation and I almost did, as well. But, after some internal discussions at Dirt Rag headquarters I realized it was my responsibility as a journalist to attend so I could intelligently explain my stance on e-bikes with this experience in my pocket rather than having to shrug my shoulders when asked, “well have you ever ridden one?” (Until now, I had not.) 

Here are nine things I learned:

1. E-bikes are fine (and fun) on OHV trails

Make no mistake, I had fun. But, I also fully believe in and support limiting e-bikes to OHV (off-highway vehicle) trails. The bike I rode isn’t the rattle-can e-bike we’ve seen from some other companies; it’s such a cutting-edge, extremely fast bike that savvy mountain bikers can actually keep up with and even pass dirt bikers on slower, technical trails. Specialized’s Turbo Levo FSR 6Fattie is a full-on trail bike that you can go really fast on.

2. It does have a throttle

I was scolded for making throttle twisting motions with my right hand and talking about pinning it before I actually rode the bike. Sure, there is no twist throttle, but it’s still a throttle—only through pedaling to gain extra acceleration and power. But you have to give to get back. The harder you pedal, the more you’ll get in return power. The power is also adjustable with Eco, Trail and Turbo modes to meter output and battery life.

During the presentation, there were some mixed messages. The usual condescending phrases like “wives, girlfriends (or both), less fit or out of shape people and older riders who can’t keep up” were explained as target buyers, as well as concepts like, “This is a bike for everyone. With pedal assist you can do your normal four hour loop in two hours if you drill it—those long rides are now lunch rides thanks to so much additional speed uphill and on the flats.”

And then we went out and rode some of Moab’s really hard trails really fast: Sovereign, Amasa Back and Slickrock. Without a high level of experience you could get in real trouble riding one of these. The rides were not beginner-friendly, plus you had to pedal hard and work a near 50-pound bike through difficult terrain to get the benefits. And be careful with a soft half pedal on super tight switchback—the motor will kick in and lurch you forward.

Specialized brand manager Sam Benedict shows what an e-bike do in the right hands. Photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

Specialized brand manager Sam Benedict shows what an e-bike can do in the right hands. Photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

3.  In the proper setting, the Specialized Turbo Levo FSR 6Fattie is really fun

Face it, we all like to go fast and that’s very possible on the Specialized. It uses the same chassis design and suspension as the standard Stumpjumper FSR 6Fattie with custom tuned damping for the additional weight (the Expert shown here is 48.5 pounds, size medium without pedals). It has normal trail bike geometry and a “classic” parts spec consisting of a SRAM XX1 or X01 drivetrain, depending on price point. It works and feels just like a mountain bike.

4.  It’s hard work to ride one

Specialized explained it this way: “We didn’t want an electric bike; we wanted a mountain bike with pedal assist.” That’s exactly what this is. If you stop pedaling, the motor shuts off. What you put in is what you get back from the motor. “You get your watts back; if you push harder you get more power,” says Specialized.

But, just because there is a device on the bike that limits power depending on rider input rather than a twist throttle doesn’t make it not an e-bike. It is still an e-bike, just with a pedal-controlled throttle.

Speaking of, average power return is 250 watts but with some work you can reach a 500-watt return. In order to comply with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations and qualify as an electric bicycle and not a motor vehicle in the U.S., there’s a speed limiter and it’s 20 mph. Go above that and you’re pedaling all under your own power. No matter how much I wished and tried, the rear wheel wouldn’t kick up a rooster tail of dirt at any power under acceleration. The bike isn’t any easier to wheelie under power, either. It is, in fact, harder to wheelie.

It also takes a bit of relearning to ride one. The best way is to never stop pedaling, with a higher-than-normal cadence. Also, accelerate up to and over tricky terrain. To accommodate this style, the slight geometry changes are a 7 mm higher bottom bracket matched to 170 mm cranks (almost all mountain bikes have 175 mm crank lengths) for better ground clearance while pedaling. Everyone there also ran their Specialized Command dropper posts one click down while climbing and on flatter sections (about 10 mm lower than normal ride height); it was just more effective for some reason.

After two days of multiple rides I was pretty cooked because, indeed, I didn’t stop pedaling. I was on an electric assist bike so of course I wanted all the power I could get to go as fast as I could. Additionally, because of the weight, I was also using a lot more upper body strength to muscle the thing up and over stuff compared to a “normal” mountain bike.

While I was generally missing being on my “classic bike” (what Specialized has taken to calling the normal mountain bike we all know and love) a change of opinion came on Slickrock. With so much traction on those steep pitches, the assist was awesome to power up and over everything (note that Slickrock is open to motor vehicles and that motorcycle riders mapped out most of the original loops).

Photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

Photo by Specialized / Colin Belisle

5. This is next-level technology

Specialized has never held back with cutting-edge technology and this is no exception. The aluminum frame has a downtube cutout that houses the eight-pound battery, which is clicked into place via a cam-lock and a 15 mm thru-axle. It locks in securely, doesn’t rattle and is not a structural part of the frame so the bike can be ridden sans-battery. Specialized designers were very specific in making this look like a “regular” bike so you won’t find any bulky display units, gadgets or thumb controls scattered all about the handlebars. The three modes are easily accessible by push button on the side of the battery. There is also a small handlebar remote available as an option, as well as a new Garmin computer that can control the modes on its touchscreen. Plus, Strava has now added a new “e-bike” tag to its dashboard to go along with this.

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But, wait, there’s more. Specialized developed its own Bluetooth and ANT+ Mission Control phone app that becomes the system’s brain and talks to the battery. You can perform diagnostics, check the battery level, track rides, record your power numbers with the motor’s integrated power meter and even tune pedal assist output by changing mode outputs and how the power comes on. This feature gives you the ability to manually set assist response for each level. Stock setting is 20 percent for Eco, 50 for Trail and 100 for Turbo. I kept Eco and Turbo stock but inched Trail up to 60 percent for a bit more grunt.

There’s also a program called Smart Control that works like this: if you want to ride 25 miles and make sure you’ll have battery power the whole time, you would program in “25 miles” and choose a percentage number to finish with (let’s say 15 percent juice) and the app will communicate with the battery every 10 seconds metering power output over the terrain to insure you end the ride with your chosen percent. You can also choose hours instead of miles. While this setting eliminates any fear of losing pedal assist power, the longer you plan to go the less assist you’ll get. You also have to make sure your phone is with you and its battery is completely charged since it is controlling the bike’s battery.

Whew … that’s a lot to think about on a bike ride.

Batteries need some recharging after the first ride of the day. Photo by Mike Cushionbury

Batteries need some recharging after the first ride of the day. Photo by Mike Cushionbury

6.  Battery life is important

If you run out of juice, you end up just riding a nearly 50-pound bike. Specialized mixed and matched electronic components to get the best battery and motor system in the business. In fact, the battery itself is made by the same company that makes Yamaha’s e-motocross bike battery. It sourced a motor elsewhere.

Range varies depending on a host of variables including terrain, what mode you use most, wind and rider weight. Specialized says you’ll get 5,000 feet of climbing on a charge. Time wise, in Moab we were all averaging 2.5 to 3 hours on a charge (it takes about 3.5 hours to recharge). Obviously, being a bike launch event, Specialized had multiple batteries on hand so all we had to do was switch them out between rides. Extra or replacement batteries retail for $900 and you’ll get 700 recharge cycles before needing a new one. That means if you rode the battery completely empty every single day you’d get a two-year life span, so estimates are probably 4 to 5 years on a battery. After 700 recharge cycles, it still works but, just like an old computer battery, it will start running dry quicker than when it was new.

7. Airline travel with an e-bike is tough

Air travel will be hard. At the bikes’ weight, any top-line travel bag or box is most likely out of the question unless it’s international and you can go over the 50-pound weight limit, and that’s expensive. In a cardboard box you should be fine because you have to remove the battery anyway. I asked Specialized about it and they said you can’t take the battery on a plane—you have to ship it FedEx, UPS or USPS separately in a special battery box.

Photo by Mike Cushionbury

Photo by Mike Cushionbury

8. The details

In its Turbo Levo e-bike line, Specialized will be offering three levels of Stumpjumper FSR 6Fatties for $5,500, $7,500 and $9,500. There will be a 6Fattie hardtail for $4,000 and a fat bike for $5,000. In the women’s category there will be an FSR 6Fattie for $5,000 and a hardtail for $4,000. Specialized told me it will be bringing in about 10,000 bikes to the U.S. and is expecting to sell half of those.

9. In conclusion

As I said, I had fun riding the bike on OHV trails but, ultimately, I won’t be trading in my “classic bike” anytime soon—I was very happy to get back to non-motorized riding. That’s not a knock on the Turbo Levo 6Fattie; it’s an amazing bike with incredible technology, it’s just not the technology most of us will choose while riding in the woods.

The biggest issue for the future is land access. These bikes must be limited to OHV trails or we’re all going to lose. The simple fact is that it will only take a few incidents on open trails to throw real mountain biking back to the dark ages. We run the risk of Joan and John Q. Public trail user umbrellaing all mountain bikes as motorized. That would shut down all we’ve worked for in a fraction of the time it took to get what we have now. Specialized realizes this and pleads that buyers adhere to local rules and regulations. That said, as these bikes get more stealthy and silent (from a distance this looks like any other FSR 6Fattie) it will get harder to police this, so we can consider that giant can of worms now opened.

Do these bikes have their place? Certainly. They’re great for city commuting and for a select group of riders who are legitimately limited in ability. A few weeks ago, I came across a disabled rider on a hand bike out on the trails and couldn’t help but think that would be a great application for e-bike technology. Not just so you can rip about the trails faster, which is what will start to cause problems in most user areas.

Admittedly, this was a hard story to tell. I sat on it for days and almost pulled the plug on the whole thing for fear of crucifixion, but e-bikes are here and—no matter how I feel—it’s a story. Will they stay or go away a few years down the road? I’m guessing they’re on their way to becoming here for good. The question to ask is, “Who will be buying these to ride on OHV trails opposed to just getting a motorcycle?”

For Dirt Rag, we see these as a whole new category that is outside mountain bikes and bike culture as we see it, know it and experience it. We might occasionally report news on e-bikes when appropriate (such as this story) but will not be doing e-bike tests in our pages.

Do you agree with this?

 

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Blast From the Past: 1984 Specialized Stumpjumper


Photos by Justin Steiner, Adam Newman and Kyle Heddy

In the new issue of Dirt Rag, #190, you’ll find our side-by-side-by-side comparison of the latest and greatest Specialized Stumpjumper FSR models. Now available in three wheel sizes, it’s likely the longest-tenured mountain bike model in existence, after company founder Mike Sinyard introduced it to the world in 1981.

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2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 6Fattie

The 2016 Stumpjumper FSR has generous helpings of carbon fiber, hydroformed aluminum, tubeless wheels, larger tires, SWAT storage inside the frame, advanced suspension and hydraulic disc brakes. The 1984 edition pictured here has not one of those things. We acquired it from the impressive collection of vintage mountain bikes at Velo Cult bike shop in Portland, Oregon, and decided to get it dirty.

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1984 Specialized Stumpjumper Sport

Now, this bike is older than some of our employees and likely many of our readers, so don’t expect modern performance. Comparing it to a modern bike more than three decades newer just doesn’t seem fair. But we’re going to do it anyway.

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Let’s start with the frame. Steel? Nothing unusual there. Plenty of great steel bikes on the market these days. But, lugs? It’s rare to see them outside of a NAHBS show hall these days. The geometry will have some modern riders scratching their heads, too. A 67 degree head tube angle seems fun, but the 69.5 seat tube angle and 18.75 inch chainstays are about as opposite from today’s style as you can get. Then again, it is remarkably stable, comfortable and well-suited to the adventures of the day. On the trail, the long wheelbase helps keep you feeling centered in the bike, but it definitely prefers to keep two wheels on the ground. (Most of the time.)

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The highlight here is the beautiful dual-plane fork crown, a feature that disappeared shortly after with the introduction of unicrown forks. You’ll also find rack and fender mounts, a testament to the versatile nature of these early mountain bikes and the variety of ways they could be used.

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The aluminum wheels and lightweight tires were the real magic that made “fat-tire” bikes happen. They shed pounds of weight off the old steel rims and heavy balloon tires of the past. The Maxxis tires here aren’t original, but they look the part and offer a surprising amount of traction.

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The Shimano cantilever brakes are … let’s say “adequate.” They have a positive feel and good modulation but, to be fair, they modulate between “sorta slowing” and “OH S%&#!” The huge, motorcycle-style brake levers help you get four fingers on there, but that doesn’t leave many on the handlebars for control. In a recent interview, Charlie Kelly told me the single biggest innovation in cycling has been disc brakes, and now I believe him.

“I started my off-road career in a time when the brakes were obviously the weakest system on the bike and they remained the weakest system on the bike for 20 years,” he said. “Disc brakes have revolutionized [mountain biking] even more than suspension, if you ask me.”

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The drivetrain runs through a collection of parts that probably didn’t expect to meet each other on a single bike. The SunTour thumb shifters work great—as long as you’re not shifting too often—and are mated to early Shimano Deore XT derailleurs. Steering runs through a threaded headset (Remember those? They’re the carburetor of the bike world.) and mates to a beautiful bullmoose handlebar, as invented by Tom Ritchey. The crankset is a Shimano Tourney XT unit with—count ‘em—three chainrings and a freewheel with half as many cogs as a modern cassette.

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And the suspension? I looked all over but didn’t see any. The quick release seat clamp means you can lower your saddle for descending, but that’s about the only consolation to gravity, a far cry from today’s trail bikes. While it’s still fun to blast downhill, it also results in a lot of bumping, bouncing and banging from the chain slap.

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Let’s go back and put this bike into some perspective. In the early 1980s, what was considered “mountain biking” was more akin to today’s gravel touring and adventure riding. The era of NORBA racing, 140mm stems, skinsuit downhill racing, huge Mountain Dew contracts and a free mountain bike with the purchase of a Volkswagen was still years away. In fact, what to call this kind of riding on dirt paths and hiking trails hadn’t even been settled. I found a great article in the May 1983 issue of Bicycling magazine by John Schubert that highlights this newfangled trend of “lightweight fat-tire bikes.”

“Indeed, there is no general agreement on a generic name for these bikes. People I’ve talked to rule out ‘klunker’ because it sounds undignified, ‘cruiser’ because it refers to limited-purpose beach cruisers, ‘off-road bike’ because they’re quite usable on-road, and ‘MountainBike’ because it’s a trademark.”

The owner of that trademark at the time? Mr. Kelly, in fact.

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In that same article a Stumpjumper Sport just like this one features prominently. It’s also mentioned in a sidebar about organized off-road touring groups. Hmm… sound like any currently popular trends? There’s even another section about riding “ballooners” on cross-country ski trails—more than 20 years before fat bikes would arrive. In October 1982, two Colorado bike shop owners organized a race in Boulder through eight inches of snow. The winner was Kent Eriksen, founder of Moots and current NAHBS award winner with his own brand.

The prize for winning? A Specialized Stumpjumper.

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Read all about the 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR in our three-part review of the 27.5, 27plus and 29er versions in Dirt Rag Issue #190, on sale now.

 

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Öhlins to release RXF 34 fork


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Motorsport suspension giant Öhlins has been secretly working on its first trail bike fork, the RXF 34. It will be the first trail fork to feature a twin-tube design, duplicating what’s found on the Swedish brand’s TTX rear shock. Öhlins has also partnered again with Specialized in the development (a common thread for all of Öhlins mountain bike suspension releases) with specific tunes for the Camber, Stumpjumper FSR and Enduro.

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The key to the fork’s performance is a claim of parallel and separated oil flow to control pressure levels, ensuring initial smoothness while staying high in the travel with excellent bump absorption, traction, and stability — all hallmarks of the twin-tube design. The RXF also has three air chambers: two positive and one negative. This allows the shape of the spring force to be adjusted by the rider, such as increasing sensitivity without bottoming out. Bringing it all together is a unique forged “unicrown” steerer and crown assembly that delivers top-notch stiffness and tire control with less chassis flex. Öhlins and Specialized claim the result is a fork with 34 mm stanchions that’s more rigid than other 35mm forks and comparable with a 36mm fork.

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Specs

  • 120, 140, 160 mm travel options for 29ers only as of now
  • 15 mm thru-axle only
  • High/low speed compression & rebound adjustments along with adjustable air spring.
  • $1,150 MSRP

Forks will be available soon from Specialized retailers and they will also continue to have available Öhlins rear shocks, springs and cartridges. We’ll have a test sample arriving in the next few days. Additionally, Specialized has announced that Öhlins USA located in North Carolina is now authorized to service and sell its shocks and forks to fit on many other brands. More info at ohlinsusa.com

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First Ride: Specialized Stumpjumper FSR 6Fattie


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Specialized went all-in on 27plus bikes for the 2016 model year with 6Fattie versions of the Stumpjumper and Rhyme, as well as dedicated 6Fattie hardtail models for men and women, called the Ruse and Fuse.

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Here at Crankworx Whistler we took our first ride aboard the top-of-the-line S-Works Stumpjumper FSR 6Fattie with 150 mm of travel up front and 135 mm out back. All this with 27.5 x 3.0-inch tires on 30 mm-wide rims. Another number to consider is the $8,600 price tag of this S-Works model. However, the aluminum Comp model rings in at $3,500.

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We’ve posted previously about the new 29er and 27.5 Stumpjumper tech details, so head on over here for the full scoop. For now, we’re going to focus on the 6Fattie.

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The 6Fattie shares its front triangle with the Stumpjumper 29, but the Boost 148 aluminum swingarm and plus-specific version of Fox’s 34 fork are unique to the 6Fattie model.

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Our thoughts

Both Adam and I rode the bike today and had pretty good conversation about so we thought we’d share:

Adam: So we got to ride the 6Fattie today on the Hey Bud trail, which was the first stage of the EWS race here in Whistler this week. Justin, you and I were a bit skeptical of this new tire size, but I think it’s safe to say we came away impressed. What was one factor that stood out to you?

Justin: Traction, without a doubt. I couldn’t believe how well this bike hooked up on loose terrain.There were times I’d have my ass on the back tire for fear of going over the bars, and you know what? I could have stop in the middle of that downhill to eat a sandwich. What jumped out at you?

Adam: I think the biggest surprise was just how normal it felt. If I was riding blindfolded (which I only recommend at SSWC, by the way) it would have been hard to distinguish it from a 29er, except for the traction you mentioned (especially braking) and this sort of “safety net” feeling of stability. I’m not 100 percent sold that it’s “better,” but it is certainly confidence inspiring.

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Justin: You’re all about the safety net, Newman. I walked away convinced the 6Fattie will be “better” for a lot of riders simply as a result of the huge fun-factor. Sure, might feel a little slower while climbing, but if you can turn the pedals over you could climb a tree. In rough terrain, the 6Fattie will roll through terrain it simply shouldn’t. Descending, it’s a hoot due to all that traction. Who do you think would like this bike?

Adam: Haha, I need that safety net! I think the kind of folks who will enjoy these bikes are the kind of people like us who are not shredding in the 99th percentile, but are more interested in having fun than going fast. The tires were a bit of a question mark going in, but the Ground Controls 27.5×3.0 on our demo bikes performed better than expected despite the super round profile.

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Justin: Agreed. I was really eyeing up the Purgatory tire on the front of some of those other bikes. Wonder what other tires they have in the works? In general, I’d have to agree with you. There’s a stumpjumper for everyone; 6Fattie for fun-loving, optimistic types, 27.5 for shred-bros doing tricks, and 29 for speed-racers.

Adam: Aside from the bike, I also wanted to give a special shout-out to the new Command Post IRcc dropper. It has internal cable routing but uses a basic shift cable and the actuation lever is the best I’ve ever used. Plus instead of the classic Command Post’s three positions, it now has 10 so you can get it just right.

What do you think?

Is 27plus going to roll over the mountain bike scene? Or is it full of (hot) air? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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First Impression: 2016 Specialized S-Works Camber FSR Carbon


Action photos by Carson Blume

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Destination: Trail. That was the buzzword surrounding the much anticipated launch of the all-new Specialized Camber. To showcase just how capable and versatile this bike is Specialized choose the Downieville and Lakes Basin area in Northern California as launch headquarters, based out of the Graeagle Lodge which proved to be a celestial mountain bike destination with amazing trails accessible right from your cabin door. While this is dirt heaven it’s not without its devilish side—the trails vary from high-speed flow with bermed switchbacks to gnarly rock gardens and slabs that require full attention at speed. And accessing all this bliss requires a healthy dose of long distance climbing over the same style of terrain at high altitude. In a nutshell, this was mountain biking at its finest.

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The Specialized Camber was already a favorite around here, but we’ve been hoping for an update to take the geometry to a more modern place and our hope was not misplaced for 2016. Besides a shorter rear-end and slacker geometry, Specialized also developed a position sensitive micro Brain rear shock and RockShox RS-1 fork specifically for this model, both of which include an all-new spike valve.

The big news about the Camber Brain is that unlike the shock on the cross-country specific Epic which has its inertia valve engaged at all times this one remains inactive until 25-percent of sag is reached to keep it tender as well as responsive to smaller bumps and unloading. This “trail focus” as Specialized calls it gives the shock free float off the top and then once the 25-percent sag point is hit the inertia valve kicks in.

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“For the first time Camber gets an all new position sensitive micro Brain. We believe in active, independent suspension and this is a direct connection, everything meets at the same spot and very similar to what’s on the Epic,” Sam Benedict, Specialized marketing manger quoted. “We’ve tried Brain on trail bikes like the Stumpjumper but never got the right active trail feel we needed but with this we found it.”

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In describing the comparisons he continued, “All the compression and tuning is very different compared the Epic Brain shock. Sit on it and you don’t feel any Brain engagement and that’s because of the design. It doesn’t engage until the sag point is met, the first 25-percent of travel there is no inertia valve. Where we do want the Brain is climbing, when you start climbing you’ll sag in and get a solid platform; firm pedaling but active and independent when you hit a bump. This is the first time we’ve made a position sensitive Brain specific to trail bikes.”

The front triangle is shared with the new Stumpjumper, it’s called a “trail chassis” with the front triangle being designed for both bikes, which were being developed together so the Camber isn’t just a downsized Stumpjumper. This also means the carbon bikes get the nifty SWAT door for on-bike storage of tubes and tools in the downtube. The concentric FSR link, shock yoke, mini air sleeve, Auto Sag, and of course the inertia valve mounted to the rear of the frame near the axle at a 16 degree angle are similar to what’s found on the Epic.

Geometry

There won’t be two geometries like the current model but rather just one based on EVO numbers but with a few substantial tweaks. Additionally, with the bike being offered in either 27.5 or 29-inch wheel sizes, and each one has dedicated geometry.

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My test time at Graeagle and also at home in Pennsylvania was on the S-Works 120 mm 29er and I can say it is simply amazing, it feels like an Epic on steroids. “A trail bike first and foremost, a confident trail bike based on speed,” is what Benedict calls it and I’m in complete agreement.

Lofting the front wheel is effortless and the bike hugs the trail as if it’s on rails. Once settled into the sag, the Camber climbs very efficiently without the skipping that sometimes happens with the Epic’s more aggressive valving—this keeps the Camber gripping on the steepest and roughest of climbs. It’s also a speedy descender with a distinct trail bike feel, not an overdone freeride bike. The position sensitive Brain is a wonderful thing, it stays active off the very top when you need it but once settled the Camber climbs very quickly, of course that’s helped by a 27.7-pound weight (size medium w/o pedals) with Purgatory Control 2.3 inch tires.

To me, this is a true do-it-all bike if you like your fast, technical descending complimented by punchy climbing that varies from smooth to crawling up the scree—helped by a 28-tooth front ring on the SRAM XX1 group. The addition of the custom spike valve makes a world of difference with the RockShox RS-1, it fully opens on abrupt hits and once I dialed in the air pressure I was able to get full travel on every ride without complaint.

Another component of note is the new 125 mm travel Command Post IRcc dropper. It has 10 positions and one of the best engagement levers I’ve used.

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There will be a wide selection of Camber models to choose from, including what Specialized calls the Module which includes the frame, shock, RockShox RS-1 fork, Roval Traverse SL carbon wheels and Command Post IRcc dropper. All you need to add is the drivetrain and cockpit. For the kids you’ll find the GROM, which comes with 24-inch wheels, enough spacing for 26ers as they grow and 110/130 mm of travel.

  • S-Works Camber FSR Carbon 29/27.5 – $9,800
  • S-Works Camber FSR Carbon 29/27.5 Module – $7,300
  • Camber FSR Expert Carbon 29/27.5 – $6,200
  • Camber FSR Comp Carbon 29/27.5 – $3,800
  • Camber FSR Comp 29/27.5 – $2,500
  • Camber FSR 29/27.5 – $1,850
  • Camber FSR GROM – $2,200

 

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Inside Line: First ride on the 2016 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR


If any one single model epitomizes “mountain bikes” it’s the Specialized Stumpjumper. One of the first mass-produced off road bicycles, it been a mainstay of the lineup since 1981. Its evolution has traced the course of mountain bike design, through various frame materials, suspension setups and user categories. There are no fewer than 19 different Stumpjumper models in the 2015 lineup, spanning both hardtail and FSR full suspension designs, so redesigning a bike as iconic as the Stumpy is no short order.

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Riders familiar with Specialized and its products will find many familiar features in the 2016 Stumpjumper FSR, plus a few surprises. While the previous model was available in both standard and EVO models with more travel and a rowdier disposition, the 2016 model adopts the more aggressive geometries across the board. Essentially, all of the 2016 models are the EVO model. There are 10 models in total, both aluminum and carbon fiber, stretch from $2,900 to $8,900, plus four frame-only options.

Another feature many folks were hoping for was the adoption of the chainstay design from the Enduro model that keeps the rear center as short as possible, shrinking from 450 mm to 437 mm in the 29er version and 435 mm to 420 mm in the 27.5 version (which Specialized continues to refer to as 650b, even though most of the mountain bike industry has settled on “27.5”). Head tube angles are 67 degrees for the 27.5 model and 67.5 degrees for the 29er.

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While many of the models are built with single-chainring drivetrains, others are offered with doubles and the front derailleur mounted on the “taco blade” adapter that was also first featured on the Enduro model. Travel sits at 140/135 mm on the 29er and 150 mm front and rear on the 27.5 model, which is no longer “adapted” from a different model as the 2015 version was. That travel moves through a custom-tuned Fox Float shock with Specialized’s AutoSag feature that makes setup a breeze.

Also featured on every single model is the new Command Post IRcc that is still controlled with a shift cable (internally routed) but does away with the three fixed positions and instead offers a dozen stops along its 125 mm of travel. While we are fans of the Command Post, we can’t help but wonder why Specialized doesn’t offer one with zero offset for the aftermarket, as all of its bikes are designed around a large 35 mm of rearward offset.

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While hub standards seem to be all over the place right now, the 2016 Stumpjumper FSR sticks with the 15 mm front / 142 mm rear hubs, with one small exception: the Roval Traverse Fatty wheels have what Specialized calls 142+. It’s not *quite* a new standard, but close. While the overall hub spacing is the same, the freehub body is pushed outboard 2 mm [PDF]. This means a standard 142 mm hub will fit, but the 142+ hub probably won’t fit another bike because the cassette may interfere with the chainstay. The rims feature Specialized’s hookless tubeless bead and a 29 mm internal width.

The SWAT box

Specialized has been rolling out accessories with the SWAT label for a few years now (Storage, Water, Air, Tools), and they offer smart ways to carry essentials like tubes and tools. For example, there is a multi tool that clips into the frame just above the shock mount, a spare chain link and chain tool hiding under the top cap, and an optional cargo box that mounts to the bottle cage bolts.

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The carbon fiber versions of the new Stumpjumper take SWAT to the next level with the introduction of SWAT box, a large cutout in the down tube of the frame that lets you hide things like tubes and tools inside the frame. The opening is roughly 2.5 x 4 inches and the compartment extends two thirds of the way up the down tube. The included tool rolls keep things from clanking around in there, and because the frame is specifically designed around the opening you armchair composite engineers out there can rest assured it is as structurally sound as any other bike frame. Those properties don’t translate to aluminum however, so it is only available in the carbon frames. And no, a beer can doesn’t fit. We tried.

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On the trail

I had a chance to sample the 29er version of the new Stumpjumper FSR at our own Dirt Rag Dirt Fest this past weekend, and while it was hardly a long-term test, I came away with an impression of how versatile this bike could be. Usually 29ers with this much travel are really only happy with high-speed descending, but the Stumpy could have easily been mistaken for its shorter-travel cousin the Camber.

Sometimes hoping on a bike just feels right, and the XL I demo’d fit perfectly right out of the gate with nice wide bars and a comfortable cockpit. Getting the suspension set up with the AutoSag feature is brainless, but I would like to experiment with a bit more than the automatic 20 percent sag. Unlike many Horst-link designs that require a firm shock platform, the Stumpjumer renders the Fox CTD lever unnecessary with its built-in composure.

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Our Tech Editor, Eric McKeegan, rode the 27.5 version. Here is his take:

“With the changes to the Stumpy, I somewhat expected to feel like the 27.5 version to feel like an ‘Enduro-lite’, but even with the slacker angles, things felt more trail than all-mountain. I’m not sure if the suspension kinematics have been changed, or it is the new Rx Tune for the rear shock, but I agree with Adam, I didn’t feel much need to flip the platform lever on the rolling trails of Raystowne Lake. I did lock out both ends for the pavement climb, and thought they could use a little more ‘lock’ to the lockout.

“I also agree on the fit, I’ve always been very happy with the way Specialized fits out of the box, and had no problems pushing the pace from the get go. Well, maybe not the get go, the brakes weren’t bedded in yet so the first corner was interesting, to say the least.

“The main thing I can say about my test ride? It was too short. I wanted more ride time.

“A few years ago we did a comparison test between the Stumpjumper EVO 29 and Stumpjumper EVO 26. Maybe it is time to return to that idea, with all three bikes…”

One more thing

Wait, there’s a third bike? While we didn’t get to sample one in person, there is also a new Stumpjumper 6Fattie coming, built around the same 27.5×3 wheels and tires of the new Fuze and Ruze models. To fit the wide wheels it uses the new 110/148 mm hubs and a few other tweaks. It will be available in both carbon and aluminum models later this summer.

 

Correction

This article originally misstated the head tube angle of the 29er Stumpjumper. It is 67.5 degrees.

 

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At the Helm – Mike Sinyard of Specialized and the Stumpjumper Expert Carbon World Cup


Editor’s note: “At the Helm” was a project we undertook earlier this year as part of our 25th Anniversary celebration. Four bikes, four companies, four founders. Much like Dirt Rag’s own history, each of these founders has seen rough times, but the ship still sails with a firm hand on the wheel. The stories you’ll read in the next few weeks aren’t just about the bikes, but also the history and the men behind them.

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Mike Sinyard has had his far share of controversial moments, including the latest dust-up about Specialized’s overzealous pursuit of a trademark defense. We get into that and review the spiritual successor of the original Stumpjumper in the form of a Stumpjumper Expert Carbon HT World Cup.

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Read the full story

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Inside Line: Get the scoop on Specialized’s radical new Demo 8


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I think it’s safe to say that Specialized has created an instant icon. Simply put, the new Demo 8 is unlike any downhill bike we’ve ever seen. While it retains the classic FSR suspension layout, the pivot points were all moved as far down as possible, with the main pivot finding itself concentric with the bottom bracket. With the pivots out of the way, the seat tube was really only there to support the seat, and since that doesn’t have the structural requirements of linkage, it could be pared away to its minimum. The resulting asymmetric frame design is something that could only be possible with modern carbon fiber technology.

specialized-demo-2015-12 See it in detail here.

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Coming soon: Radically redesigned 27.5 Specialized downhill bike


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Despite the continued success of athletes Troy Bronson and Aaron Gwin on the UCI World Cup circuit, Specialized’s top-tier Demo downhill bike has been around for quite some time. Advancements in carbon fiber and shock technology—not to mention those bigger wheels—meant it was time for a new bike. Specialized took advantage of the long layover between races on the UCI calendar to get the bike to its top athletes in time for its debut at Monte St. Anne this weekend.

See more about the bike here.

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Inside Line: 2015 Specialized Era 29


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Specialized will update its women’s specific line to include a redesigned Era 29 to go along with the Fate hardtail. The Era is essentially an Epic with women’s specific geometry. Previously, the Era was only available as a 26-inch bike. At the top S-Works level, it, as well as an updated men’s Epic will feature a custom inverted 2015 RockShox RS-1 fork with Brain inertia internals.

Read the full story

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UPDATE: Specialized posts details of 27.5 Stumpjumper FSR EVO


This morning we brought you news that Specialized was readying the release of the new 27.5 version of the Stumpjumper FSR and now the brand has posted photos and details of the two models on its website. There are two models, both of the EVO persuasion, which get extra travel and a more enduro focused build kit than the standard Stumpjumper FSR. Both feature 150mm of Specialized’s FSR suspension system with PF30 bottom brackets, ISCG-05 tabs, internal dropper post routing

The $6,500 Expert Carbon EVO will come spec’d with a carbon front triangle and an M5 aluminum rear, paired with a RockShox Pike RC fork and SRAM XO-1 build kit, Fox Float CTD shock with Kashima, and a stealth-routed Command Post dropper. An interesting spec choice is the Shimano XT brakes, as Specialized has traditionally spec’d SRAM, Magura or Formula brakes.

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The $3,400 Comp EVO is a full M5 aluminum frame with a Fox Float CTD Evolution shock, matched with a RockShox Revelation RC3, a SRAM X7 and X9 2×10 build kit, Shimano Deore brakes, and externally routed Command Post.

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Still no official word on availability, but expect them to be hitting dealerships in the near future.

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Specialized quietly releases 27.5 tires


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There was no fanfare and no press release, but a handful of 27.5 versions of Specialized’s tires have become available on the brand’s website. There are versions of the S-Works Fast Track (2.0), Ground Control (2.1) and Butcher (2.3) listed.

The new tires are notable in that Specialized doesn’t make a 27.5 bike to fit these tires, though a push into the aftermarket segment is certainly a good idea since the wheel size is here to stay.

Will there be a new round of Specialized bikes built around 27.5? No comment yet, but the brand was famous for saying it would never make a 29er, and we all know how that turned out:

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UPDATE: We got a hold of Specialized and predictably enough they didn’t spill the beans on any new bikes, but they did confirm these tires are going after the aftermarket segment.

“A lot of riders think of us as a bike company,” said Sean Estes of Specialized. “In reality, tires were our first product and we remain a tire company as well as a bike company. These treads reach across XC to Trail to All-Mountain giving these riders high quality choices for their 650b wheels.”

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First Impressions: Jamis Dakar XCT650 Comp and Specialized Camber Comp 29


Editor’s note: Here at Dirt Rag we don’t really do “comparison tests” or “shootouts” or declare “winners”. Every bike we review has a story to tell, and they’re all interesting. That said, we rounded up six full-suspension trail bikes in the $2,500-ish range to see what’s really out there in the heart of the mountain bike market. To get the party started, we spent a week riding in and around the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Watch for full reviews of each bike, as well as more about the trails, in an upcoming issue, but for now, a teaser:

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As hard as it is to believe, high-end bikes can get boring. Riding nothing but top-o’-the-line bikes that use proven components and geometry usually results in reviews that are pretty predictable. How many ways can you say “this bike is sweet but a lot of money”?

After floating this $2,500 round-up idea around the office, and getting some push back from our group of spoiled-brat bike testers, I realized we’d become way too coddled by XTR and XX1. Time to recalibrate the snob-o-meter!

I assigned myself a pair of trail bikes, a Specialized Camber Comp 29 and a Jamis Dakar XCT650 Comp. Read the full story

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First Impression: Specialized CruX Elite EVO Rival Disc


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By Mike Cushionbury

For a great many of us, road riding isn’t a dedicated endeavor of criterium racing and hill repeats. It’s a combination of long days on the pavement, as many dirt roads as we can find, a training race here and there and maybe even a cyclocross race. This of course begs the question, is there just one do-it-all bike for all of the above?

The answer according to Specialized is, in fact, yes. Taking what it learned from the successful CruX cross line, Specialized has been dabbling in creating the ultimate gravel road bike, a concept that seems to be working as team riders Rebecca Rusch and Dan Hughes both won the Dirty Kanza 200 this year on specially outfitted editions of the “gravel” Crux. The production model, dubbed the CruX EVO, is a $3,200 road/gravel/cross machine that could be the only drop bar bike you’ll ever need. Or want. Read the full story

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