Video by Dan Barham
Talking Head and Verbs by Vernon Felton
Thirty-three years—that's how long Specialized has been cranking out Stumpjumpers—the world's first mass-produced mountain bike. At that age, you might expect the Stumpys to have grown long in the tooth or to have undergone some kind of middle-age crisis. But nope. No hair transplants. No cheesy red Camaro in sight. Sure, the Stumpjumpers have changed beyond recognition over the years, but they remain the company's do-it-all machines and the model here fits the bill perfectly.
There are actually 11 different Stumpjumper FSR bikes and three frame-only options to choose from, ranging in price from $2,900 to $9,500. The back-in-black model here—the Expert Carbon EVO 29er—is the angry, pissed off member of the sprawling Stumpjumper family.
Specialized's EVO models are basically revved-up versions of the bread and butter models—dressed up the way the employees at Specialized actually ride them. In this case, the EVO model gets wide (750 millimeters/29.5-inch) riser bars, a burly RockShox Pike RC 29 fork, and custom Avid Elixir 7 Trail brakes. Other just-plain-cool highlights include a carbon front triangle, a Kashima-coated FOX Float CTD Factory rear shock with AUTOSAG, SRAM's 11 speed XO1 single-ring drivetrain and Roval Traverse 29 wheels. In short, there's a crap ton (that's technical speak) of high-end components bolted to this thing.
Of course, at $6,200, you kind of expect the bike to be loaded with bling. Fair enough. It's worth noting, however, that some of the key features (and the basic frame design) are available on Stumpjumper FSR models selling for half as much.
As with all the other Stumpjumper 29er models, this bike sports 130 millimeters (five inches) of rear suspension, but a half-inch more squish than normal up front. That amounts to a fairly slack (for a 29er) 68.4-degree headtube. No surprise, the bike has a decidedly calm demeanor in technical situations. The bike's low (13.1-inch) bottom bracket helps here as well. There are a few tight corners out here in Boulder City and the bike did a fair job of navigating its way through them/ That said, it'd be interesting to see how the bike performs in tighter, forested terrain.
The kit on the Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO 29er is simply outstanding. I've been riding a RockShox Pike all summer and continue to be impressed by how well the fork resists blowing through its travel while still managing to feel bottomless. The Pike is a rugged as hell bit of kit and a smart addition to a bike that you're going to want to get rowdy with.
The Elixir 7 Trails squeeze out some serious power…four pistons per caliper mated to 180-millimeter rotors have a way of doing that. Modulation, however, is also quite good, which I was overjoyed about, since I hail from a part of the country with actual dirt, as opposed to the stone-sprinkled-with-kitty-litter-and-sharp-pointy-crap that dominates the landscape around Las Vegas.
As for the drivetrain, I've yet to find a fault with the fast-shifting and reliable X01 drivetrain. Sure, you have to remember to click through a ton of gears going from descent to climb (which, frankly, can be a bit annoying in up-and-down, up-and-down conditions), but then again you know what sucked? Front derailleurs and dumped chains—I'll go with the extra thumb workout any day.
I spend a good deal of time on an Enduro 26er and I'm a bit surprised to admit—in a straight line over chunky terrain, this EVO 29er is a close match. In the corners, however, the smaller-wheeled Enduro has a definite edge thanks to the shorter rear end. Still, I walked away impressed by my first dance with this flavor of Stumpjumper FSR. Kind of makes me want to go back for more.