Perhaps no other mountain bike update received as much hype this year as the revised Specialized Stumpjumper. Clearly the folks at Specialized are really proud of the bike, and the attention to design details is apparent. But, how does it ride? I was really interested to find out for myself, and on a recent trip to Sun Valley, Idaho I got a chance to take the new Stumpjumper for a short test ride.
Stumpjumper Expert 29
Specialized offers a dizzying number of Stumpjumper flavors, from alloy to carbon, with 27.5 or 29er wheels, and there’s even a “short travel” version of the bike. I tested the Expert 29 which features a 12-speed SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain, RockShox Pike RC fork, carbon Roval wheels, a Specialized Command dropper post, and SRAM Guide R brakes. The Expert build utilizes the same FACT 11m carbon frame as the top-of-the-line S-Works Stumpjumper but at a more affordable $5,500 price.
I chose a test loop at the Galena Lodge trail system that serves up a good mix of climbs and swoopy descents. As expected, the Stumpjumper climbs incredibly well, thanks to its lightweight construction and overall stiffness. Sure, it’s a trail bike so I expect it to climb well, but despite offering 140mm of rear travel, the Stumpjumper felt like an XC bike going up.
Not only is the bike super responsive when pedaling, it also felt really nimble on acute switchbacks. Some bikes tend to feel a little noodly when leaning into a sharp uphill switchback, making it difficult to consistently hit the right line. With the Stumpjumper, lateral inputs are met with an immediate response, which allowed me to power through short, steep ups with confidence.
Not to be confused with suspension stiffness, frame stiffness (often referred to as lateral stiffness) is a bit underrated in my opinion. Although we don’t always feel our power or energy being sapped by frame, wheel, or component flex, over time this wasted energy really adds up. Not only that, a frame or fork that flexes from side-to-side makes consistent bike handling more difficult because the rider is never quite sure how his or her physical input is going to be translated into bike movement.
Specialized pulled out all the stops when it comes to optimizing the Stumpjumper for maximum stiffness, rethinking the shock linkage and overall carbon layup and tube design. The upshot to all that stiffness is the climbs seem to fly by and left me saying to myself, “that’s it? I want to keep climbing!”
One of the first things I noticed descending on the Stumpjumper was how quiet the bike sounds. Specialized introduced a new chainstay protector that is designed to interrupt chain slap, and well… it works. There doesn’t seem to be any real performance benefit; after all, narrow-wide chainrings and clutch-style derailleurs have all but eliminated dropped chains. Still, a quiet bike is a happy bike, and makes for a happy rider.
Speaking of quiet, the internal cable routing goes a long way toward eliminating noise as well. Specialized touts the ease of installing cables with their end-to-end internal cable chase design, which keep everything nice, neat, and secure.
Picking lines and sticking to them was a cinch with the Stumpjumper, thanks again to the lateral stiffness built into the frame.
I found small bump compliance to be somewhat lacking, which I could honestly say for pretty much every Specialized bike I’ve tested over the years. Specialized claims the Stumpjumper suspension is perfectly linear, which results in the unique ride feel the company is known for. Obviously there are tradeoffs with a linear suspension configuration, one of which is suppleness at the beginning of the stroke.
Bigger suspension hits felt much better, and the bike does a great job taking the sting out of coming back to earth. This is where that 150mm front / 140mm rear suspension really shines. It’s one thing to make climbing easier, but that’s no good if the descents aren’t any fun. The Stumpjumper is willing and able to tackle jumps, rocks, and roots at speed while keeping the rider firmly in control.
I found the Specialized Command dropper post works really well, and on the XL model I tested the post offers 160mm of travel. That’s a good amount, but I could always use more. Also, the Command post is really loud on the return, and at first I was worried the seat might smash into my nether regions if I wasn’t careful. That never happened, but it took some practice to avoid bracing myself whenever the post popped up.
Specialized clearly put a lot of thought and effort into redesigning the iconic Stumpjumper and it’s hard to say what they could have done better. It does what a trail bike should do — it gets riders to the top of the mountain with ease, and allows them to descend with confidence. This is a serious bike for riders who want the best technology available, all in an accessible and fun package.