[Tested] Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert 650b

[Tested] Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert 650b

27/04/2016
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27/04/2016

[ad3] For over 25 years now, the most iconic bike in the Specialized lineup has been the Stumpjumper.  Since its inception, the Stumpy has always been the Morgan Hill brand’s most honest interpretation of and the ultimate trail bike.  Nowadays there are divisions upon subdivisions in how we categorize the modern mountain bike.  If we were to get nerdy and technical, at 150mm of travel front and rear, the 650b version of the Stumpjumper (it’s also available with 135mm travel and 29″ wheels) would fall somewhere between “All Mountain” and “Enduro” categories.  To be honest, we try to analyze a bike and rate its intended purpose using far more factors than just rear wheel travel.  After all, bikes these days come in various shapes and sizes; with the recent surge of highly capable short travel 29″ bikes, it has become increasingly difficult to judge a book by it’s cover.  It’s also a bit ridiculous to pigeon hole a bike and marginalize it to one category over another simply based off of a few millimeters.  Bike industry rant aside, let’s see if the Stumpy is still the ultimate trail bike.

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Short chainstays, a low bottom bracket, sub-28 lbs and the ability to completely forget about wearing a hydration pack on your daily ride. Certainly off to a good start.

Details & Features

Perhaps the most notable feature of the latest Stumpjumper is the addition of SWAT to the frames.  SWAT is the Specialized answer to the hydration pack; as of a couple years ago, the brand began designing apparel that had built in storage(Storage Water Air Tools).  Now, mainly in the form of a removable door which the bottle cage bolts onto, we see a great deal of storage in the Stumpjumper’s downtube.  It’s nice and low in the frame so as not to negatively affect the handling.

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Clockwise from left : the SWAT door. You can fit a lot in there(more later)…Top right is a housing for a multi tool and bottom right is a chain tool that is built into the headset cap with storage for a spare link.

Go ahead, fill it up.  We’ve seen everything from jackets and burritos, to soft flasks and paraphernalia stuffed inside of this downtube.  To give you an honest gauge of storage capability, we managed to fit the following items in at once in Downieville: Keys, spare tube, lightweight jacket, DynaPlug, CO2 & head, tire lever.  With water in your bottle, the only things you’d need to carry on your body are a snack, your phone and wallet – at least for your daily rides.  That’s massively advantageous if you hate having a big sweaty pack on your back.  It’s also really nice to not have to fuss with packing a bag each time you ride; you just grab your bike and leave.  More quality time and you’ll never have an “damnit, I forgot my multi tool” moment…

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Specialized include two rolls to keep everything quiet. There is a hand pump in the small one under the tube.  The larger one has a long tab to make it easy to reach.

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No stone left unturned : Clockwise from left : Downtube guard, sleek internal cable routing and lots of tire clearance.

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FSR yoke and linkage.

Geometry

With regards to geometry, the Stumpjumper initially came off as a bit of a mixed bag.  420mm chainstays and a 335mm bottom bracket had us throwing up the hell horns, but we sighed a bit when we took note of the rather conservative 67º head angle and shortish 618mm top tube(size Large)

In afterthought, we realized that the numbers were carefully chosen and echoed of the classic Stumpy genes from the last 25 years.  The Stumpjumper has never been a bike that prematurely dove onto trends.  It has always been a modern classic.  This bike is no exception yet it adds remarkable improvements to the user experience with SWAT.  While we get excited to ride other bikes with the same travel featuring more aggressive numbers like a 65º head angle as opposed to the Stumpy’s moderate 67º,  we are aware that wild numbers like that may not be ideal for the working man’s trail bike on the average trail network.

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Specs

Upon first glance of the Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert, you’ll quickly realize that the product managers’ intentions were clear : this is the bread and butter bike in the lineup.  You can certainly drop major coin on the flagship S-Works Stumpy and upgrade to carbon fiber seatstays amongst other things, or on the other end of the spectrum, spend $2,100 less and still receive some of the most attractive features.  All in all, this is the model with the best value.  Carbon cranks, proven Shimano XT brakes, a custom tuned Fox shock with Autosag, a SRAM 11 speed drivetrain with a Specialized in house chainguide.  For this price you won’t see carbon wheels, but the aluminum Roval Traverse Fattie wheelset is mighty impressive.  It’s hard to find any sort of shortcoming in this bike’s build.  If we had to nit pick, we’d opt for a better bar/stem combo but that’s really reaching for something to complain about.  No pun intended.

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SRAM 11 speed drivetrain with carbon cranks. Not bad. The 30T chainring is a bit small for 650b wheels, but it’s easy to swap to 32T and those negotiating huge climbs may appreciate it.

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Typically SRAM and Shimano don’t play nice together, but Specialized spec their own Command post IRcc which has better lever than the RockShox Reverb anyway. The controls are dialed but long limbed riders who frequent steep terrain may lament the lack of a 150mm travel seatpost option from Specialized. That said, the 125mm option will suit 90% of the riders out there.

On the Trail

So, how did this modern classic treat us?  Starting with fit, our 6 foot tall, long limbed tester was a bit cramped on the size large.  Based off of numbers alone, an XL would be a bit too much bike and we weren’t too keen on running a longer 70mm stem.  It’s not a huge deal to be between sizes, but just know that the bike runs small and if you’re looking for a long stretched out feel, you’ll want to size up.  One thing that we did to stretch out a bit on the bike was to opt for a wider bar(780mm).  We liked the sweep and rise of the stock handlebar, but along with things like grips and saddles, we have our preferences just like any other rider.

DSC_0143Aside from that, we felt right at home with short chainstays and a low bottom bracket.  Both of these factors help to encourage excellent behavior in the corners, the former making it easier to snap the rear end around and latter helping to improve traction with a low center of mass.  Riders in super rocky areas may have a bit of a hard time with a 335mm BB and might consider 170mm cranks.  A better low cost option is upping the travel of the fork to 160mm with a simple air spring swap.  This should yield about a 4mm increase in pedal clearance and will slacken the bike out a touch as well.

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With regards to climbing, the Stumpy was plenty efficient kinematically speaking.  The FSR design has been around for a long time and has proven to be a great design.  The 30 tooth front chainring made it incredibly easy to motor up just about anything.  Stronger riders may want to opt for a 32 or 34 tooth but it all comes down to preference.  In terms of how the bike’s geometry played in, the head tube and seat tube angles are well aligned to distribute your weight forward on the climbs and make them a bit easier.  With that in mind, the super short stays will leave you searching for a touch more traction in the steepest of climbs.  A small price to pay for how alive they make the bike feel in corners.

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Speaking of cornering, this bike flat out rips…for the most part.  It really shines in the flat turns and low speed technical corners as well as switchbacks.  After all, it’s a classic trail bike – it should.  The aluminum rear end is plenty stiff and the rubber protective molding keeps it quiet.  Those looking for a mega premium ride can upgrade to carbon seatstays with the Stumpy S-Works, but it’s doubtful that anyone could discern between the two frames in a blind test.  The takeaway point is that the aluminum construction makes sense out back for durability’s sake, and helps afford a rad spec at a lower price.  The carbon front triangle does a great job and muting trail chatter while providing a stiff, resilient ride throughout.  When you stop and think about it, it’s quite a marvel that Specialized engineered a carbon layup that rides this well yet provides all that storage inside the front end.

As far as the components are concerned, the Butcher/Purgatory tire combo was fast rolling but kept us in control in a wide range of terrain.  The Pike fork is was stellar; we opted to run 3 volume reducers to give us a nice bottomless feel on the big hits without sacrificing compliance on the small bumps.  A SRAM 11 speed drivetrain and Shimano XT brakes speak for themselves as your workhorse gearing/braking options.  While we enjoyed the Command post and found it to perform flawlessly, at times wished for the full infinite adjustment and a longer travel option.

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The Stumpy is spry and light on its feet, but it’s not a monster truck that will blow you away when things get super burly.  Don’t take that the wrong way, while extremely capable at descending, it’s more of an every day steed than some offerings on the market.  Bikes like the Yeti SB6C or the Evil Insurgent feature the same amount of travel but are designed(and inherently marketed) much differently more aggressively.  The short front end and somewhat conservative head angle keep it snappy and quick in most mixed terrain, but when things start to approach big bike territory, it begins to pucker slightly.  Specialized doesn’t leave you high and dry though, a 200mm front rotor helps keep things under control at higher speeds and on steep terrain.  

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There are things you can do build your Stumpy out on the more aggressive side should you feel the need.  A 160mm air spring for the fork helps tremendously and cost under $40.  You could also go as far as swapping the rear shock out for a RockShox Monarch Plus Debonair or a Fox Float X.  You’ll lose the Autosag feature on the Fox, but on the long, rough descents, you’ll welcome a reservoir to help manage heat.  Keep in mind that you’ll only be able to fit a small water bottle at that point.  Lastly, a larger shock will allow you to fine tune your progression with volume reducers.  The Stumpjumper is pretty linear in nature so larger or more aggressive riders in particular may want to consider this, especially in rowdier terrain.  With all of that in mind, the shock is well tuned from the factory and the rider looking for a middle of the road quiver killer won’t need to bother with any of the aforementioned.  

Overall

So, after a few months on the Stumpjumper, where do we stand?  It’s safe to say it is the gold standard as the modern classic trail bike. It should suit the majority of riders for the majority of mountain biking that they’re doing.  It’s not a long, low, slack enduro bike, nor is it an anorexic XC rig; rather it sits comfortably in the middle as Stumpy always has.  Keep in mind that Specialized makes this bike in 3 different iterations to suit just about anyone’s taste : 650b, 29″ and 27.5+.  The lineage is the same though, it’s a utilitarian quiver killer for the enthusiast who likes to set it and forget it.

SWAT makes the ride experience dramatically better and the incredibly well thought out components leave virtually nothing to complain about.  Each and every part on this bike has already proven its mettle; even the in house saddle was impressive.  Whether you’re a rider who splurges and buys a new bike once every few years, or someone who is a fickle, incessant upgrader it’s worth a serious look.  Speaking of test rides, Specialized dealerships are generally quite good about keeping a solid demo fleet so you can take one out and see if it’s for you.   Most likely you’ll come back smiling.
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www.specialized.com

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