Specialized Bicycles Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29 2017 Mountain Bike Review

Specialized Bicycles Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29 2017

Reviews / Trail Bikes

Specialized Bicycles 1,900,890

At A Glance

Specialized’s Stumpjumper has been around longer than most of us have been in long trousers, first hitting the market in 1981 in steel hardtail guise and since then it has gone on to become the go-to, do-everything, jack-of-all-trades trail bike of the Specialized range, reinventing itself year on year to stay with - and often just ahead of - the pack.

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For 2017 the numbers look very healthy with a 67.5 degree head angle, 150mm forks, short chain stays (for a 29er) and a low bottom bracket - even if it is of the press fit persuasion. The shock is a RockShox Monarch RT providing 135mm of travel allied to the now legendary FSR linkage, utilising Specialized’s very own Horst Link-driven independent rear suspension platform. Gone is the front mech mount (possibly in line with SRAM’s announcement of the demise of such things), and in comes an ISCG 05 mount, though it isn't put to any use as stock.

" You might say that this bike is idiot-proof, such is the speed you can carry into turns and still come out riding."

Looks wise I’ve never been a fan of the Stumpy, it’s always looked a little tall, gangly and ungainly, perhaps ill-suited to the rugged and steep terrain of my local trails. However, it has beefed up a bit over time and alongside the aforementioned numbers, the bike now looks an entirely capable animal, ready for accepting of some more rugged terrain. Although not designed to compare directly to its stablemate, the Enduro, the 2017 Stumpjumper appears ready for pretty much anything you can throw at it.

Cable routing is tidy with all but the rear brake hose being housed internally on the new model. Despite sitting on the outside of the downtube the hose is securely fastened and against the black of the frame blends pretty well. Maybe it will move indoors next year. There are some lovely detail touches where cables meet frame, such as the proprietary, bolt-on chainstay protector and various invisi-kit style coverings to keep that tidy-looking frame, well, tidy-looking. The finish on this bike is excellent and the Stumpy oozes class and refinement at every weld.

As the MTB world moves towards an ever increasing number of wheel sizes the Stumpjumper has for 2017 become a Swiss Army Knife of a bike, offering both 29 and 27.5+ wheels to be fitted to the same frame; the inclusion of boost hubs and acres of tyre clearance hinting at the myriad possibilities for wheel size and tyre dimensions. So, in theory, this should be one playful little soul of a bike.

Taking care of ‘go’ duties on the Comp model is SRAM’s GX 1x11 with a Race Face Aeffect 28 tooth chainring for getting them big wheels ‘a turnin’, while stopping power is provided by SRAM’s go-to trail brake, the Guide R, featuring a 200mm front rotor and 180mm disc out the back. The finishing kit and contact points are a blend of Specialized’s own, with a reassuringly short (60mm) stem, wide (750mm) bars, lock on grips and Body Geometry saddle.

Specialized have added their in-house tubeless ready Roval rims and own brand Boost hubs with sealed cartridge bearings to the party. Cynically you might say they’re saving money here, but the weight and spec proves otherwise and at this price point the sturdy, 29mm wide rims and DT Swiss spoked wheels should not be smirked at. Add in a 12x148mm thru-axle at the rear and a 15x110mm front hub and you’re looking at a stiff wheelset - usually the soft underbelly of the 29” wheel.

On The Trail

Being a long-limbed fellow, bike frame sizing has always proven a conundrum as what makes for a good ‘pedalling bike’ doesn’t always make for a good gravity one. And so it was that the query raised its head again when considering the size L frame on the test bike. At a little over 6’2” (188cm) on paper the large sounded too small, however, once on the bike all became apparent as the front centre length (738mm) sat me in a nicely balanced position ‘in’ the bike. Good, hopefully no front wheel washouts or falling off the front then! The low BB did lead to a number of pedal strikes in rougher terrain, but the ‘planted’ feeling this offered far outweighed the negatives.

The first ride out showed the Stumpy to be a happy mile-munching machine as the big wheels and taut frame put every ounce of power into moving forwards at pace, with the silky smooth FSR linkage and Monarch shock combining to give a truly stunning ride. Yet this isn’t by any means its party piece and at the first corner the bike came alive and started to show its true character; grip. So much grip! Allied to the larger footprint of the 29” wheels - and even in spite of their seemingly cumbersome size - the Stumpjumper just loves corners, and as a result I found myself continually in the hunt for more.

The same run over a flowing section of local singletrack yielded faster and faster results as the bike refused to slide out or jackknife, the combination of the chunky Butcher front tyre, stiff frame and balanced suspension combining to inspire so much confidence that it became impossible not to charge faster and faster into berms. You might say that this bike is idiot-proof, such is the speed you can carry into turns and still come out riding. Time and time again I railed out of a berm wondering why I was still on the bike and at what point it was going to spit me off. Flat corners were treated with similar disdain as the back wheel followed like an eager, loyal spaniel and on the occasions it did give out the front wheel remained firmly planted. It’s perhaps unfair to other test bikes that the Stumpy never saw a wet surface in the time it was on test, but that aside it was bloody great fun.

Given that many comparable 29er trail bikes offer a chunkier fork I was surprised to find that the Stumpy 29er comes stocked with a 32mm RockShox Revelation, which on paper gave me concerns about the forks ability to remain ‘on target’ through rough sections and appeared to be a miss-match considering the otherwise semi-burly nature of the bike's angles and dimensions. In an attempt to test this theory the bike was pointed toward as many loose, rocky descents as I could feasibly find and each time it passed the test admirably with only a slight flex apparent when pushing through rock gardens. Quite how it would take to sustained rocky Alpine style descents, however, I’d like to find out!

Being new to Specialized’s very own take on the dropper post - the mechanically driven Command Post IRcc - it took some time to get used to the incremental height concept, whereby a series of ‘stops’ on a ratchet provide pre-determined options for altitude. It’s still not something I’m totally convinced by and it doesn’t feel quite as intuitive as its hydraulically operated counterparts, but the end result is more than sufficient. Throw in the potential reliability of a spring and ratchet system over a hydraulic one in grimy, wet conditions and you can see where they’re going with it. It must be said, however, that the spring is vicious and extreme care should be taken to ‘guide’ the saddle up with one’s bottom, or get well clear, otherwise a significant smack in the gentlemen’s (or ladies’) area will occur, as I can attest to!

It’s fair to say that you can tell this is a time-honoured suspension platform. The FSR linkage provides confidence and feedback in spades and helps to power those large wagon wheels up and over obstacles you’d have previously thought impassible, while pedalling over rough ground feels buttery smooth and compliant - the rear wheel remaining under control at all times thanks to the Horst Link (until fairly recently a patented design of Specialized's).

For dry conditions the tyre choice is more than adequate, with both front and rear offering plenty of significant side lugs for some aggressive cornering. Come wet season, however, it might be wise to look for some rear rubber with a chunkier centre line to aid with traction.

Overall

In a world of multiple bargainous mail order bike options the Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29 is exceedingly good value for money. But it’s not just the monetary value that shouts volumes about this bike; it’s the ride factor, the huge grin it kept putting on my face and its ability to elicit a series of small yelps of excitement each time I pinned it through a succession of tight berms or boosted it off a drop. Incredible straight line speed and an ability to hold its line over moderately rough ground is just one more feather in its cap.

If any lasting reservations about 29ers remained prior to sampling the Stumpy then they are long gone now. Yes, it might not be quite as ‘chuckable’ as a 27.5” bike (or dare we say a 26”), but the climb rate and straight line pick up is incredible, and the reassurance the bike offers even in the sharpest of switchbacks is nothing short of mind-blowing.

As a trail bike, and let’s not forget that’s what it is, it excels on technical climbs as well as twisting and flowing singletrack trails where its balance and poise belies the height of those large wheels.

If there is to be a chink in the armour of the Stumpjumper it may lie in those 32mm stanchions of the Revelation forks, which while perfect for trail riding would likely find their limits pushed in the high mountains. Understandably the Specialized Enduro plugs this gap, but the Stumpy feels ever so capable and it would be great to try it out with a stiffer fork.

If you’re spoilt for choice in the world of wheel sizes (let’s face it, most of us are) then the fact that the boost frame can be switched out to fit 27.5+” wheels (or 6Fattie as Specialized have dubbed them) then this bike offers one hell of a package for those looking for a plush, do-it-all rig.

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By James Swann
Originally from Sheffield, James lives and works in the mountain bike mecca that is the Lake District and has been falling off bikes since he was six. In between working on bike events, riding bikes, racing bikes and writing about bikes he enjoys talking about bikes with anyone who will listen. He really likes bikes.

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