Compliance and new confidence
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.