Bicycling (South Africa)
Iconic MTB, total makeover: the 2019 Specialized Stumpjumper.
THERE IS NO STRONGER HERITAGE IN MOUNTAIN BIKING THAN THAT OF THE SPECIALIZED STUMPJUMPER.
Born in 1981, it was the first mass-produced MTB; but with no suspension and a rudimentary spec, it’s barely recognisable as the ancestor of the latest incarnation of the Stumpjumper brand. The 2019 Stumpjumper is a full rebuild – not just a facelift of previous editions.
The new model comes in one of three variants: a short-travel ST marathon bike, the standard trailfocused Stumpjumper, and then a gravity-inspired EVO, though the EVO will not be available here.
Essentially, the Stumpjumper ST together with the Specialized Epic EVO will replace the nowdiscontinued Specialized Camber. The ST has a 130mm fork with a 120mm rear; snappy and nimble, it lines up against competitors such as the Trek →uel EX, the new Giant Trance, and the Scott Spark Ultimate.
The standard Stumpjumper, however, combines a 150mm fork with a 140mm rear; and while the difference in weight between the two is negligible, the geometry tweaks are the big enabler.
Having spent a lot of time on the previous Stumpjumper, I opted to test the 2019 standard model, placing me in the best position to make an informed comparison.
The most significant visual change is the new sidearm frame design, which connects all three mounting points of the rear end and shock to the frame – technology that’s trickled down from the Specialized Demo downhill bike. The idea was to create a light frame that would still yield the optimal dose of frame stiffness, strength and suspension dynamics for improved ride quality.
Not so visual – but oh so impactful on the ride dynamics – is a revision of the FSR suspension kinematics, which allows Specialized to rely less on the shock damper for the desired ride, and more on the science of pivot placement. As a result, with your sag set at 30% the beginning of travel is supple, and there’s improved mid-travel support – and less resistance to bottoming out at the end of the travel, which was an issue with the previous model.
Every shock and fork in the Stumpjumper range gets a custom tune via the shim stack. This means the bike you buy will be supplied with the correct range of adjustments to suit you, including a female-specific tune.
Other changes include moving to a non-proprietary metric shock, a threaded BB, a geometry-adjust flip chip, improved cable routing, a larger SWAT down-tube storage unit, and a quieter drivetrain. Naturally, given the complete frame redesign, all the geometry numbers have changed; the bike is longer, lower and slacker than the previous-generation Stumpie.
At 1.75m tall I opted for a size Large, which gave a fair amount of reach and stack to create a spacious and aggressive ride position.
Deserving of special mention is that when you buy the bike, it’s specced with an appropriately-sized stem and bar, which makes a significantly positive impact on handling (if a trail bike of this nature isn’t specced with a 50mm stem and at least 780mm-wide bars, you should ask your dealer some serious questions!).
One of the first things I noticed on the trail is how well the bike carries speed – everywhere! On smoother climbs it’s easy to firm up the damping to create an almost fully rigid experience and help you climb like a trail boss.
On to the singletrack, and with the suspension opened up, the free-flowing nature of the bike is evident – it’s easier to hold speed than on many other bikes I’ve ridden. As the trail gets gnarlier the buttery Fox damping smooths things out significantly, without excess wallow.
After a few rides I started to push things a little, and the bike responded well. With an already low bottom bracket, I ran the bike in the higher setting. This gave a little more clearance from rock strikes, yet still yielded an incredibly low dynamic ride height, which helped me to corner like a beast.
With the redesign has come resizing, and the bigger-reach numbers of the Stumpie mean that steep climbs are not a problem. The SRAM XX1 Eagle 12-speed drivertrain is flawless; and while we did run out of gears on one of the faster descents, that only happens at the sort of speed where it’s more efficient to tuck anyway.
SRAM Guide RSC brakes (with a 200mm front rotor and 180mm rear) are the business, providing ample power and modulation.
This bike has an amazing spec and is loaded with features, but there are a few add-ons which could further improve your ride experience.
The SWAT downtube storage compartment is huge, and super-convenient. Everything you need to carry in a hydration pack or pockets for a three-hour ride can easily fit into the SWAT box; it’s a major feature, worth considering.
There is also a handy multitool storage compartment in the steerer tube, which is easily accessible and allows for superquick set-up tweaks on the trail.
The chainstay protector has raised knobs added which help eliminate chain slap and reduce bike noise.
REGULAR OR ST?
So: do you buy the faster ST, or the regular? The simple answer is that it depends on where you live, what kind of trails you spend the bulk of your time on, and what sort of riding your buddies are doing.
Personally I would go for the standard Stumpjumper; but I’d include in my purchase a lighter set of rubber, to enable me to do events such as the Origin of Trails or Sani2c. That would reduce rotational weight; and while the standard Stumpjumper isn’t as quick as the ST in a marathon race, it’s a bike I can play with all day.
Every shock and fork in the Stumpjumper range gets a custom tune via the shim stack.
Right now, a low, slack, welldamped 130-to-140mm 29er is the exact weapon you need to cover everything a trail might offer you. And if ever there was a bike that epitomises what mountain biking is really all about, it’s the new Stumpjumper. The ride is comfortable, sprightly and accurate on the singletrack, and firm, responsive and efficient under power.
Whether it’s a solo fivehour singletrack adventure for clearing your head and seeing the world, a shuttle session with your buddies, or an enduro race or midpack marathon race – the Stumpjumper will not disappoint.