First Ride: 2021 Specialized Stumpjumper Review

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Chipps reports from a day of ups and downs in the remarkably sunny Tweed Valley aboard the new Stumpjumper. Although it was only a day, there was more than enough riding to give this new 2021 Stumpjumper a first ride review.

Can’t ask for a better first trip away… (All awesome pics by Ian Lean Photography)

I was lucky enough to travel (with work!) up to Peebles for a couple of days in early October to see the new 2021 Stumpjumper and Stumpjumper EVO. In addition to being an exciting chance to try two brand new bikes on some semi-familiar, but different trails, it was literally my first journey more than 20 miles from home since mid-March. And with Peebles rolling out some great weather and a warm welcome at the Glentress Hotel for us, it was worthy of my first trip away for six months. 

Getting (slightly) loosey goosey

The setup was a little different to previous press launches: there wasn’t the usual dozen of us all crammed into a hotel and out on a jumbo bike ride with matching hangovers the next day. It was a very ordered, minimally staffed presentation of the new bikes to two shifts of three journalists over a week. We worked on our own bikes, we got our own rooms and we ate with the same ‘bubble’ every night. Very civilised. We didn’t mind at all – we were here to see the bikes, and with some great, clear and sunny conditions in the Tweed Valley, it was a pleasure to ride out towards Gypsy Glen on the Stumpjumpers, finishing the day with some runs at Cademuir Forest to try the bikes on some steeper, less predictable stuff. 

Give us your ‘Grrr face!’

I chose to ride the S3 size of Stumpjumper to review, with a 450mm reach, it matches a lot of the bikes I’ve been riding recently, and the 140mm/130mm of 29in wheeled travel suits me well. In fact, I’m probably an ideal target rider for the new Stumpjumper. Why is that? Well, I maintain that a bigger travel bike probably won’t make me ride faster as the bike is no longer the limiting factor. If I can ride fast on a 130mm bike and feel that I’m getting the most out of it, then I’m happy. I also enjoy climbing and I value light-weight in bikes too. I still adhere to Steve Worland’s mantra that any pound of weight over 30lbs counts double and so the efforts that Specialized has made to keep the weight down on the 2021 Stumpjumper are appreciated. 

Every bit of weight has been pared down just a teeny bit.

These efforts play out in the bike’s spec. Eliminating 55g of weight by doing way with the Horst Link hardware is a flag that other parts of the bike have been similarly examined and slimmed down where possible. The same can be said for the steadfast speccing of a Fox 34 fork. There’s no Fox 36 option on any of the range, because Specialized is clear about where the bike sits. If you want a 36 and you want the kind of harder, chunkier riding that the 36 excels at, then you want the bike to go with it – and that is the Stumpjumper EVO. 

The SWAT storage is still there (on all but the alloy models) and it’ll JUST fit a light jacket. Or a sizable chicken wrap.

The same is true with lighter, faster bikes. If you’re after a fast, trail bike and you want something that is just capable enough for the kind of trails you ride, then Specialized will happily point you at the Epic EVO, with its 120mm fork and 110mm rear travel. 

Chipps railing a corner. Photo by Georgia Leslie

2021 Stumpjumper Review – What it isn’t What it is.

So, we’ve covered what it isn’t, but what is it? Simply put, it’s what the Stumpjumper has always been – it’s just a mountain bike. Specialized pitches it as the bike most people would describe if they were describing a mountain bike. It’s medium travel, with medium geometry and ‘normal’ (these days) 29in wheels. 140mm of travel up front and 130mm out back. It’s the kind of bike you should be able to ride up any mountain and ride down any mountain. Specialized has hopefully silenced the sizing debate by producing a range of bikes in six different lengths, with short enough seat tubes that you can run whatever length bike you want, with a long enough dropper post to match. While that might prove horribly confusing to the newcomers to our sport, a more experienced rider will have an idea of the kind of bike sizing they’re after. I picked the S3 as, try as I might, I can never ride in that elbows-out, balls on stem, bro-dude style and the steeper things get, the more I cower at the back of the bike. The S3 sizing actually fits me really well, at 5ft 9in, the 450mm reach put me well within reach of either end of the bike. It wasn’t so long that I couldn’t weight the front on climbs (or descents) and yet the pretty progressive geometry (a 65° head angle? That’s downhill bike territory!) makes for a lot of forgiveness from the bike. 

2021 Stumpjumper Review – The Ride

Mmm… splooshy. It wasn’t all dusty trails.

Anyone who’s done the Gypsy Glen ride from Peebles knows that there’s a lot of up, a bit more up, some along and then a lot of down. If the Tweed Valley has another XC ride, then it needs better publicity, because it’s the only one anyone ever talks about… As it was, it was pretty good for our group of journos and Specialized employees to see how the bikes did. Actually, most of the Spesh lot and ace photographer Ian Lean, were on Levo e-bikes, leaving us to fight the corner for meat-powered bikes on our own. 

The Stumpy initially felt welcoming and the ride out was fast and fun. Once the trails turned upwards (and boy, do they…) the Stumpjumper acquitted itself well. The riding position is great on the climbs, allowing decent weight on the front while supplying good grip to the rear. Despite the lack of Horst Link, there is still a trace of the distinctive Stumpjumper ‘bog’ where the geometry/kinematics and suppleness of the shock combine to make the rear end a little too active on climbs, sitting down a little in the travel. Comparing it to a similarly travelled DW-Link bike, it doesn’t feel as ‘sprinty’ or snappy, but it does feel like it’s following every undulation. It felt like a bike that rewards a smoother pedalling style – but which rewards it with a ton of grip. 

Some grip would be handy about now…

The new Stumpjumper has another trait that it keeps on from the previous generation – a very ‘quiet’ feel. The Stumpy has a composed air to it and it just gets on with things. It would be overdoing the journo-creative-licensing to say that it just ‘disappears under you’ but there’s a very unobtrusive character to the bike. It stands out by the way that you really don’t think about the bike while riding it. It’ll go up stuff and it’ll go down things. You’re not left wondering if you have enough travel for the trail, or if the head angle is steep enough, or too steep. Then, on occasion, the trail will throw you a curveball, like a rocky mess of a trail, or a wrong line that leads to a worse line and you can call on the bike to do its stuff. It’s in these occasions that it really shines. It does have that power to get you through the tricky stuff, but without you feeling like you’re lugging an extra kilo of capability and travel and geometry up the climbs just in case you need it.

2021 Stumpjumper Review – Summary

For those of you who’ve skipped to the end. I’m a fan of this new, 2021 Stumpjumper. It has a great, modern look, there’s a huge range of sizes, it even comes in a better range of colours than the Stumpjumper EVO, and I reckon that it has the travel, geometry and attitude for most riders. If you’re a fast and steep rider and you live somewhere where you can do that justice, then look at the EVO. For the rest of us who ride up hills with a bit of gusto, ride along and down with enthusiasm, then I reckon the new Stumpjumper is the ticket. If you’re after a well-mannered trail bike that will cope with everything that an average trail rider comes across, then it’s a worthy ride. If you think you need slacker and chunkier, Specialized has you covered too, but unless you live somewhere where you’re throwing yourself down and off stuff every day, then I can’t really fault the new Stumpy. It certainly lives up to the name. And with the alloy models coming in at under £2K, I expect to see a lot of these on the trails.

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Review Info

Brand: Specialized
Product: 2021 Stumpjumper Expert
Price: £4750
Tested: by Chipps for 40km
Chipps Chippendale

Singletrackworld's Editor At Large

With 22 years as Editor of Singletrack World Magazine, Chipps is the longest-running mountain bike magazine editor in the world. He started in the bike trade in 1990 and became a full time mountain bike journalist at the start of 1994. Over the last 30 years as a bike writer and photographer, he has seen mountain bike culture flourish, strengthen and diversify and bike technology go from rigid steel frames to fully suspended carbon fibre (and sometimes back to rigid steel as well.)

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