With over 1,000 miles in the saddle, I can finally write a few words about the new Stumpjumper. For the past 30 days, this bike has magically found its way to my garage. I cannot thank my friend enough for allowing me to spend quality time with his ride. You know who you are. I’ve been riding a 2009 Stumpjumper 29 Single Speed over the past 3 years that has been very good to me. Originally, I purchased the SS frame to build a nice lightweight climbing machine. After owning only a single speed for 3 years, I got tired of standing for every climb. I ditched the single speed gearing and converted it to a 1×10 with the use of a simple derailleur hanger and a few other parts. Thank you Specialized for making it painless. Please keep that derailleur mount on all your frames! Around the same time I purchased the SS frame I also came into a complete S-Works Stumpjumper 29 HT that I used for races. That bike had cheetah speed, cat like reflexes and was light enough to chuck down field. This 2012 Stumpy fits perfectly between both of the bikes I have owned over the past few years.
I have had a love/hate relationship with carbon frame bikes for years. As much as I love having a lightweight bike, I am drawn to old school aluminum and steel. Some of you probably think I’m nuts. Well, you may be right. That same craziness is what drew me toward owning only a SS for a number of years. That bike was also fully rigid at one point as well (no front or rear shocks). At 18lbs, the bike was amazing uphill. Downhill, well thats an entirely different story. It felt like riding a giant BMX bike and I loved it. Just couldn’t handle it day in and day out with the kind of miles I put on bikes. (I currently average around 200+ miles per week)
Before I could take the new bike out for a spin I had to make a few changes. To make things easy, lets call the bike I own the SS. The top tube length on my SS is 586mm and on the new bike it measures 590mm. My SS also uses a 90mm stem, while the new bike came with a 105mm stem. In order to get my fit correct, I swapped my Thomson stem on the new bike and adjusted the seat forward. Close enough.
With my reach now ready to go, the next step was to swap out the standard Specialized round grips for a set of Ergon GX1 grips. I’ve been using these grips on all of my mountain bikes for years and have a hard time using anything else. Can’t wait to try the new GS1 grips! A quick spin around the block and I quickly recognized the handlebars were not as wide as my Niner Flat Top RDO bars. I thought about swapping them out but if I kept swapping out parts, I would no longer be reviewing THIS bike. The Niner bars are roughly one inch wider and have +/- 3mm less sweep. One inch does make a difference but nothing I’m worried about. Yes, I realize thats what she said.
As I mentioned early, I have put more than 1,000 hard miles on this bike. For local riders, this has included Blackstar Canyon, Maple Springs, various other sections of the Main Divide, Whiting Ranch, STT, Luge, Aliso Woods, Ladera Ridge, Bell View and a ton of road miles in between. My SS and this bike share a nearly identical geometry. If you compare both 19-inch varieties on the Specialized website, the numbers almost perfectly match. Although the geometry is close, the plush carbon frame and much newer components make this a completely different bike. Being back on a carbon bike has been a joy. I forgot what its like to climb on a light bike. Not to mention having a full set of gears again. The geo is very complimentary to someone looking for an XC hard tail with speed in mind. This bike wants to go fast. It needs to go fast. I have a hard time riding this bike at a slow pace. Unless of course I am bonking. Don’t tell.
This is the first bike with Brain technology I have spent a considerable amount of time riding. Last year, I borrowed a 2010 Epic Evo R 29 that used Brain shocks both front and rear. I was left very impressed at the amount of control and confidence the bike offered. The Custom RockShox SID 29 Brain fork on this bike features inertia valve technology with Brain Fade adjustments just like the other. If you’ve never thrown your leg over a bike using Brain tech, think of it as a shock with steps inside. The harder you hit something the more steps the shock allows you to take in order to soften the blow. Almost as if the shock gives up for a split second when you hit something but quickly responds. The first couple of rides are going to feel weird. Once you get the hang of it, your control will increase beyond what conventional shocks offer. The 90mm of travel is plenty for the trails around this area. The roughest downhill trail that I usually hit is the Luge. The Luge is a combination of switch backs, drops, rocks and exposure. A few small sections are also steep. All of these combined means, you better have control over your bike or else. In comparison, I would choose this RockShox SID Brain shock over my current Fox 100mm shock any day of the week. Not to mention, its lighter.
Looking at the new Renengade tire, the word confidence doesn’t come to mind. Low, fast rolling knobs are great for hard pack XC racing but usually suffer on most average trails. This bike comes with a light S-Works version in front and Control in the rear. Both are 29×1.95 and 2Bliss (tubeless) ready. In the past, I have replaced several S-Works model tires because they simply didn’t hold up over time. Sidewall tears and flat happiness caused nothing but wasted time. This time around I am happy to report I have yet to suffer a flat and traction is way above par for a tire such as this. I haven’t noticed the bike slipping on any of my local trails, front or rear. Kind of incredible looking at this tire. The low knobs allow for speed while still providing enough traction to keep you moving through the corners. When my rear tire wears out I am going to grab one of these. It should be perfect for the soft over hard pack SoCal trails.
Another Specialized feature that has never lasted long are factory Roval mtb wheels. Rumor has it the new Roval Control 29 wheels have been beefed up without adding weight. After watching friends taco these wheels and riding them out of true rather easily, I have to say this time around they are staying nice and true. I thought for sure my last trip down the Luge or Whiting was going to result in wobble wheels. Nope. So far they are still straight and wheeling strong. Either Specialized upper their game or maybe I finally learned how to pick better lines?
Having a full set of gears has been a joy. The SRAM Carbon S-2200 crankset comes with 38/24 chain rings, a removable spider and either 170 or 175mm arms. As you can see, the bike has been through quite a few miles already in its short life. Shifting has been spot on and I only managed to drop the chain once over 1,000 miles.
The SRAM XO rear derailleur and X9 shifters work in unison without flaw. I am running the same combination on my SS, er 1×10. If you’re looking to drop weight, consider a SRAM XX cassette and lose the heavy PG-1050 11-36t cassette it comes with. Factory bikes usually come with weights attached to the rear, otherwise known as lower level cassettes. Upgrades! I love the built-in chain stay protectors Specialized seems to be adding to most of their bikes now. No more electrical tape wraps. Score.
The Phenom saddle has made its way to a number of Specialized bikes these days. The Comp Hollow Cr-Mo version comes standard on this bike. I’ve been using the Hollow Ti version for years. My former road bike was even sporting a Phenom. Very comfortable on long days.
Purchase tip: A good number of parts can be swapped out to fit the rider during the time of purchase. Any authorized Specialized store should be willing to make sure the bike is dialed in to your specifications. Have your sit bones checked in store so they can make sure you ride away with the proper saddle. Stem length can also be changed. I would highly recommend getting fit to your bike. Ask your dealer for more info.
Let’s get down to what really makes this bike work. The oversize head tube and bottom bracket. Much like the S-Works bike I had for a while, the power to weight transfer is wonderful. I never feel the bike flexing under me or sluggish. As soon as I crank, the bike explodes out of the gate. The wide head tube gives the rider additional control while traversing hard corners. The bike goes exactly where you point it. I never get that “hanging on for a ride” feeling. The carbon frame does this better than my current aluminum frame. However, the hate portion of the love/hate relationship with carbon I mentioned earlier is witnessed in the rear. While the front end sticks like a pin in a pegboard, the rear seems to scatter itself around rocky terrain. My aluminum frame does a much better job controlling varying size trail debris. I do realize this is a hard tail bike. Having owned mostly hard tail bikes, I can feel the difference in every one. I’ve learned having a loose feeling rear is something you have to deal with riding most HT bikes. Some do it better than others. This bike doesn’t do it poorly, it just does do it as well as its aluminum counterpart. I would still choose this bike over mine on race day, but would rather take mine down a rocky hill.
Whats that you say? Not SRAM brakes? OMG! Well, I have heard all sorts of rumors as to why SRAM brakes didn’t end up on these bikes. I am not going to share them. Most likely, unless you work for either company you don’t know the reason so shut it. I will say that I am very happy these Formula R1 brakes showed up. One word, tacky. These single-finger brakes stop on a dime. Modulation is great. The 160mm rotors have been more than enough for my 185lb body. I typically have to run a larger rotor up front in order to get decent life from brake pads. They have faired well through mud, sand and even held up after going through quite a few water crossings. I wonder if they will make it on 2013 models?
I have really enjoyed my time with this new bike. It makes me want to throw a leg over the S-Works model really bad. As well as the new Epic 29. I can only imagine an even more plush carbon frame with super lightweight goodies attached. Pure bred race bikes. Here’s to hoping I can throw my leg over some competitive bikes one day and give you some side by side notes. If you see a HT in your future, and this bike is in your price range, definitely grab a loaner from your local bike shop. Use that try before you buy program if available!
Thanks for reading!
A solid choice if you are looking for a lightweight carbon, hard tail mountain bike.