Com­pli­ance and new con­fi­dence

Multisport Mecca - - Gear Test - Grant Ed­wards Grant.Ed­

TRAVERS­ING the rocky out­crop in Ferny For­est, the line was all sorts of wrong.

Where a hard­tail would have been a hand­ful, the Spe­cial­ized Cam­ber 650b cut a swathe through the ter­rain.

That’s the ben­e­fit of full sus­pen­sion. The dual sus­pen­sion of the Cam­ber does an out­stand­ing job of mak­ing the novice feel more at home in the sad­dle – eas­ily mop­ping up mis­takes and charg­ing through sec­tions which would oth­er­wise cause mo­ments of con­cern.

With a re­tail price of $2400, the Cam­ber 650b is one of the best-value dual sus­pen­sion of­fer­ings on the mar­ket.

An ally for cross-coun­try and down­hill ac­tiv­i­ties, it’s de­signed as an all-rounder.

Test­ing its abil­i­ties for train­ing ses­sions and an off-road triathlon, the Cam­ber proved its worth on count­less oc­ca­sions when the go­ing got tricky.

The SRAM GX 1x10 keeps the shift­ing sim­ple. That means just the one chain­ring with a 10-speed cas­sette at the back… and it was only on a cou­ple of down­hill sec­tions where there was a need for big­ger gears.

Race day

Com­par­ing times to the pre­vi­ous year around the Ferny For­est track at Lands­bor­ough, the Cam­ber proved slightly slower, but this year’s event in­cluded an ex­tra climb.

There was one stark dif­fer­ence though – I re­mained rub­ber side down.

Whereas my 29er hard­tail has a ten­dency to fire me into the bushes (as oc­curred in my pre­vi­ous off-road at­tempt), the Cam­ber was re­mark­ably more com­pli­ant and adept.

The se­cret comes via 130mm of travel at both ends,

which helps en­sure the rear end re­mains grounded on wide-rang­ing ter­rain, and en­ables the rider to stay in the sad­dle more and put power through the ped­als.

Pneu­matic sus­pen­sion is cus­tomis­able, and there are sug­gested set­tings de­pen­dent on weight. It’s easy to ma­nip­u­late to your pref­er­ences.

At the front is the tried-andtested Rock­Shox unit which was pretty out­stand­ing.

One is­sue was the 750mm han­dle­bars which was cause for con­cern through some nar­row tree pas­sages. Although that can be eas­ily changed, or sim­ply sawn to size.

Key dif­fer­ences

Most of­ten, when com­par­ing dual sus­pen­sion bikes to hard­tails, weight is a piv­otal dif­fer­ence.

The Cam­ber is a rea­son­ably heavy unit, and given the ad­di­tional sus­pen­sion, that stands to rea­son.

There was also lim­ited room for a drink bot­tle, and while we could fit a stan­dard bidon it was eas­ier to fit a smaller op­tion for faster ac­cess.

Other op­tions

Com­pe­ti­tion in­cludes the Trek Fuel EX 5 29 ($2999), Gi­ant Stance 2 ($1999), Fo­cus Vice ($2600), Norco Fluid Plus 7.2 ($1999), the 2016 model Merida Ninety-Six 9.800 ($2299), Norco Fluid Plus 7.2 ($1999) and the Board­man Per­for­mance 27.5 ($2299).

Funky fac­tor

Our test ma­chine was fin­ished in an ash grey, which is fairly sub­dued. There is also a green op­tion for those who like to stand out. It’s cer­tainly a good look­ing rig, with in­ter­nal ca­bling pro­vid­ing a sleek ap­pear­ance.

The low­down

For those keen to hit the trails with con­fi­dence, it’s hard to go past the dual sus­pen­sion bike.

Of­fer­ing greater con­fi­dence through im­proved com­pli­ance and bet­ter con­tact with the ground (also aided by the smaller wheel di­am­e­ter in this case), the Cam­ber is a fine op­tion in this full sus­pen­sion realm.

For the coin you get solid com­po­nen­try which will han­dle the rigours of tough trails with­out break­ing the bud­get. And most im­por­tantly for the new­com­ers to moun­tain bik­ing, keep you rub­ber side down.


Grant Ed­wards on the Cam­ber 650b.

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