Review: Specialized Stumpjumper Elite 650B

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The Specialized Stumpjumper has been going for a very long time. A very, very long time. In California, you could buy a bike with the Stumpy name on the top-tube in 1981. Things have changed a little since then, though…

DSC_0468Out of the box, we have here a very, very bright, yellow (and perhaps eversoslightly green) bike. The frame is made of Specialized’s M5 alloy, with internal cable routing, a 142mm back end, sealed cartridge bearings and all that jazz. There’s a RockShox Pike on the front, which is a fork with a deservedly fine reputation, and the back end, with an impressive 150mm of travel, is sprung with a custom Fox Float Factory CTD with Specialized’s AutoSag feature. SRAM’s X1 drivetrain takes care of going forward duties, and Shimano’s SLX brakes look after stopping. The SWAT toolkit, while not lodged in the downtube as it is in the carbon models, is bolted to the bottle cage; and has proved to be very handy on more than one occasion. It’s somewhat difficult to tighten fully, but even when slightly rattly in the workshop has been conspicuously silent when ridden.

The wheels are 27.5in numbers of course; Specialized is sticking with calling them 650B when pretty much everyone else has abandoned it in favour of 27.5in; it’s all we can do to applaud their stubbornness. You can also get 29in wheeled Stumpys too.

DSC_0479The Stumpy has a 67 degree head angle, a 74 degree seat angle and impressively short 420mm chainstays. And the bike is commendably long – our XL test bike has 464mm reach, with a 646mm ETT. Coupled to a 60mm stem, there’s plenty of room, and the bars are an acceptable (but slightly short) 750mm wide.

To set the bike up, you fill the shock with 300psi of air, and sit on it fully laden. Depress the red valve half way don the shock (tell it no-one loves it. Arf) and it automatically sets up your bike with an appropriate amount of sag. It’s pretty straightforward, and if you don’t like the setting, at least it gives you a decent starting point.

DSC_0472The wheels are worthy of note, too. Rovals are good and wide – the rims are 29mm internal diameter, which lends an air of stability to proceedings. The front wheel was shod with a Specialized Butcher Control, and the rear wheel has a Purgatory Control. As with so many bikes, the Stumpy came with inner tubes, but everything you need to go tubeless is included (essentially, tape and valves).

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This is basically to make things easier for shops to set up; there’s nothing stopping you from converting the bike as soon as you took it home, if you wanted. It would’ve been nice to see Grid tyres on there instead of Controls though – The Controls are lighter, but past experience suggests that the extra heft of the Grids in the sidewall department stiffens them up nicely and makes them more amenable to running tubeless without the tyre carcass feeling unduly flexy.

On the trail, the bike felt predictably comfortable. It’s long (without being too long) but I do suffer from Bike Journalist’s Trope – so, yes, I’d have appreciated a slightly shorter stem and slightly wider bars. 750mm bars, for the wide open moors of Calderdale as well as the mountains of Spain (where I tested the Stumpy) are a little narrow-feeling, although in tight twisty woodland I may well feel differently. And a shorter stem would quicken up the handling a tad.

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All in all, the Stumpy is really pretty impressive to ride. While it never felt as edgy as some other bikes, it felt pretty much like the long-legged trail-slayer it is. Climbing was painless. The Specialized suspension isn’t the least active out there, but it has minimal chain growth, and thence minimal pedal feedback.The lack of anti-squat can mean it bobs a little on climbs out of the saddle, but this can be attenuated by flipping the shock damper to the ‘climb’ position.

The short chainstays don’t make the bike as twitchy going up as I suspected they might, and the whole thing felt pretty planted through technical climbs, with little sign of lift from the front end.

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Descending, the Pike is (as expected) a wonderfully capable performer, but the narrow bar and everso slightly long stem combo combine with the slightly steep head angle to make the bike feel slightly nervous in extremely steep descents. That’s not to say that it’s not capable, mind – 67 degrees is hardly a steep head angle in and of itself, but it’s worth bearing in mind that this bike rides very much like the long-legged trail bike it is, rather than the enduro bike that the travel suggests.

The shock is custom tuned for Specialized, but I felt that it blew through the mid-section of its travel slightly too fast before ramping up at the end. A little more air helped, but I suspect decreasing the air can volume slightly with a spacer to make it a little more progressive would be a more permanent fix – although I appreciate that a lot of this is down to personal preference.

The frame handles itself with impressive stiffness though, especially considering the pivot in the chainstays… and those short chainstays, coupled with the long front end, do make the bike rewarding to ride at speed, with the caveat that he Stumpy rewards a more thoughtful line through technical sections rather than a charge-at-mach-nine approach. As expected, the tyres felt a little flimsy during hard cornering – to the extent that I didn’t convert them to tubeless, as I was relying on the extra rubber in the innertubes to add a little stability. Traction was great, though; they found purchase consistently, even when leaned over hard.

Overall:

This is an excellent trail bike. It’s not so relaxed that you have to approach everyhing at warp-speed; nor is it so uptight that you can’t ride the steep stuff. Granted, it’s a little more tentative when things get really, properly steep, but the tradeoff is a bike which climbs much better than its travel suggests. If it were mine, I’d swop the tyres, bar and stem out, and I’d be very confident of a great do-it-all bike that rips through singletrack like a wild boar in chilli-smeared underpants.

Review Info

Brand:Specialized
Product:Stumpjumper Elite 650B
From:Specialized, specialized.co.uk
Price:£3,500
Tested:by Barney for Three months

Comments (0)

    Nice looking bike that.

    “…but I suspect decreasing the air can volume slightly with a spacer to make it a little more progressive would be a more permanent fix”

    Does that help the mid-stroke? I thought that only helped towards the end of the travel? I had this problem with my 2013 CTD shock and the spacer didn’t really help. I ended up having a custom tune which was ace.

    Have a look at the spring curves here: http://www.ridefox.com/img/help/page555-V15S/inline/FLOAT-air-spring-curves.jpg

    More force is required to achieve the same travel, which is exponential. So it *can* help the mid stroke, if you use enough volume spacers, depending on the initial volume of the can. 🙂

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