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