Vital Rides the All-New 2018 Specialized Stumpjumper
Icould barely feel my hands. More accurately, they were so cold that they were actually hurting pretty bad, but I definitely couldn’t feel what they were doing anymore. The rain in my face and the driving wind were not making life any easier on this latest climb, and the lure of a long overdue lunch break featuring shelter and warmth turned into little more than a torture-induced hallucination when the cruel, harsh reality of a bitterly damp and resolutely unheated stone church presented itself as our next stop for the day. We were deep in the Spanish Pyrenees, in the middle of what had been described to us as a bit of a “long day out”, and the ride had already featured rain, sleet, snow, wind, river crossings, and a smattering of Enduro World Series trails that we threw ourselves down blind. We were here to test the all-new Specialized Stumpjumper, and test it we did.
2018 Specialized Stumpjumper Highlights
- Carbon or alloy frames
- Three models, two wheel sizes: Short Travel, Regular, and EVO, each available with either 27.5” or 29” wheels.
- Asymmetrical “sidearm” frame layout
- FSR suspension, “RX Tune”
- SWAT storage solutions, downtube compartment (carbon frames only) + tools
- GXP threaded BB
- Boost drivetrain spacing, 1x only
- Fully internal cable routing
- Availability: XXX
- MSRP: $3000 - $9500 USD
Ainsa, Spain. 3.5 hours from Barcelona, this sleepy little town in the heart of the Pyrenees has become quite the mountain biking destination, thanks to the concerted efforts of a group of local business people who love their mountains and who saw the potential value of sharing them with others. Zona Zero MTB has already hosted an Enduro World Series race in 2015, which will always be remembered as “the one where the timing equipment almost floated away” due to a sudden and very violent flash flood. That we were going to taste some of the same weather seemed almost like a foregone conclusion, but that did little to dampen the spirits of the journalists brought here by Specialized to discover the latest edition of their do-it-all workhorse, the iconic Stumpjumper.
Originally launched in 1981, the Stumpjumper was one of the first commercially available mountain bikes ever produced. Needless to say, what we were about to ride had little to do with a bike made 37 years ago, but such a legacy takes some living up to. If for no other reason, the Specialized crew left no stone unturned when designing the 2018 version. They rode a number of alloy mules to really push the geometry as far as it would go, to make sure that the new Stumpjumper would not just keep up with the latest trends for the sake of it, but remain true to the spirit of this particular model: a real all-round performer, as adept at getting you up a mountain as letting you fly back down it, hooting and hollering.
After extensive testing, Specialized settled on a fairly conservative baseline for the 2018 Stumpjumper geo. Longer than before yes, but not by much, because Specialized was not convinced that a super-long bike would be the best solution for a bike that has to do it all. However, to cater to people with different riding styles and preferences, they actually created three different models of the Stumpjumper, each available with two wheelsizes, for a total of six new weapons to pick from when filling up your arsenal.
The “sidearm” main triangle layout inherited from the Demo is said to provide the best possible stiffness to weight ratio, particularly in regards to that hands-to-feet connection that Specialized was so keen on optimizing.
When it came to frame layout and construction, Specialized set a few specific goals for this iteration of the Stumpy: a lighter and stiffer frame that would provide the rider with a very direct connection between the head tube and the bottom bracket, improved interaction between the shock and the rear suspension layout, and simplified cable routing. A lot of work was put into optimizing the carbon layup to identify the stiffness sweetspot, a process which involved adding carbon layers to test mules and riding them to evaluate the effects. The “sidearm” main triangle layout inherited from the Demo is said to provide the best possible stiffness to weight ratio, particularly in regards to that hands-to-feet connection that Specialized was so keen on optimizing.
Specialized also took this opportunity to work through a few new standards. Notably, they’ve now moved away from proprietary shock dimensions or mounts, so you will be free to swap in any aftermarket shock that fits. Yesterday’s pressfit BB has been replaced by a threaded version, and it’s fair to say that nobody will be sad to see it go. The frames will now take up to a 3.0 inch tire, for those who want to play around with tire size. Naturally, the frames also feature Specialized’s SWAT downtube storage compartment, which will probably accept up to a 3-inch burrito – and more, since it’s now been given an extra 20% of volume. We had no burritos on hand so we mostly opted to stuff ours with energy gels instead, because it sadly still won’t take a can of Red Bull.
Of course, the new Stumpjumper continues to make use of the brand’s own Horst-link variation, called FSR - the same suspension layout that has been used by Specialized for 20 years. For this new bike, it was modified to provide a bit more mid-stroke support as well as more end-stroke progression. Specialized has a strong team of in-house suspension experts who also spent a lot of time getting the shock tunes just right. Their concept, which is called “RX Tune”, basically aims to ensure that the base tune lands right around the middle of the available adjustments, to make sure riders are left with a large usable range when twisting their knobs. A women’s specific version of RX tune is also available, generally based on lighter rider weights and lower airspring pressures. A Flip Chip in the shock mount allows for 6mm of BB height and 0.5 degrees of headangle adjustment. Note that none of the new Stumpjumpers are equipped with Ohlins suspension.
Looking over the finer details of the frame, we were very impressed by the internal cable routing. It features an internal hose that runs the length of the frame including the stays, which means all you have to do when swapping cables is to push the new housing in from one end, and watch it pop out at the other side. The alloy version makes do with routing that sees the cables pop out above the BB area before re-entering the stays, but it is still very user friendly – and long gone are the cables under the BB. Another nice detail is a funky looking chainslap guard, which Specialized says was developed to “disrupt the frequencies” as the chain is shaken by the bike’s movements, with the aim of providing a quieter ride.
The 2018 Stumpjumper only gains a few mm of length in the cockpit compared to the current version, but Specialized has moved away from the super short chainstays found on the predecessor, which in conjunction with a half-degree steeper headangle makes for a significantly longer wheelbase. Specialized refers to it as "Trail Geometry" and it is intended to provide a good blend of uphill and downhill capabilities. Here are the numbers for the 29er versions we rode at the launch, check out www.specialized.com/stumpjumper for the 27.5" version.
On The Trail
Riding in the Pyrenees in March means you’re likely to get wet, but that was not going to deter a bunch of journalists and staff riders from having a good time. On day one, we opted to sling a leg over the Expert ST 29er, to see what 120mm of travel will get you these days. Quite a lot, it turns out. The ST is indeed a snappy animal, but also surprisingly planted when the going gets rough, helped by a 67.5-degree head angle which would have qualified as near-enduro not all that long ago, as well as a full 39mm of BB drop. This 6-foot tester opted for the XL, which was a good choice on the fast and flowy trails we rode on the first day. Note that there was not a lot of seat post left sticking out, so check your inseam numbers before committing to a size.
Opt for the ST if you enjoy longer days out with lots of self-powered uphill action, or if you want the extra fun factor of rallying your bike on the ragged edge – this one does both.
Pumping, popping, and generally playing around is where the ST version shines. It’s also really good at getting you back up the hill, unsurprisingly. The seat tube angle is on the right side of 75, and although the rear suspension remains quite active, bobbing is well controlled on this bike. Add in low rolling resistance from the excellent Butcher/Purgatory rubber combo and the 500% range of SRAM’s Eagle drivetrain coupled with a 30T chainring (32T on the 27.5 models), and you’re looking at one very capable climber. Opt for the ST if you enjoy longer days out with lots of self-powered uphill action, or if you want the extra fun factor of rallying your bike on the ragged edge – this one does both.
Day two dawned, and with it the promise of an epic adventure. We had at least 1400 meters of climbing ahead of us, and a few select EWS trails to keep our blood pumping on the way down as well. To make things extra spicy, the weather forecast called for rain…and maybe snow…and some wind…in short, the forecast included all the weather. A perfect test for the long travel version, which of course is not actually called the long travel version. Its real name is just the Stumpjumper, but with an ST in the line-up, this one was obviously always going to end up referred to as the LT. Naming quibbles aside, our Expert 29 test bike featured 140mm travel in the rear paired with a 150mm fork, with a similar SRAM/RockShox build to the ST we rode on day one. Once again opting to ride the XL, the taller fork and the big wheels left us feeling like we were really sitting inside the bike, which provided lots of confidence from the very first trail. That was a good thing, because we had a lot to get through…
Winching our way up some pretty steep and quite technical climbs, we were impressed by just how efficient this 140/150mm travel bike felt. Although it bobs a fair bit more than the ST version (easily remedied by flicking the compression lever on the shock), the bike retains a feeling of lightness to it that helps you keep your spirits high in the face of adversity and tired legs. And when it came to getting up the tech stuff, we surprised ourselves riding some sections that at first glance seemed like they were going to relegate us to the hiking detail, helped by the big wheels and the excellent traction provided by the rear suspension. Only the seat tube angle could be made a little bit steeper for people with long legs, but with the seat moved all the way towards the front, the riding position was entirely acceptable.
There is something to be said for an adventure that takes you outside your comfort zone, both on the way up and the way down, and we can’t imagine a better tool for this particular mission than the new Stumpjumper.
As the day wore on, the weather took a turn for the worse. There came a point in the ride where bailing out was considered, but ultimately the majority of the group pushed on. Those of us who did were rewarded with absolutely world-class trails and an experience we likely won’t forget any time soon. Hitting blind lines in the driving rain, on unknown terrain and with hands that feel like icicles would see us second-guessing many a line choice, but the bike took it all in stride. There is something to be said for an adventure that takes you outside your comfort zone, both on the way up and the way down, and we can’t imagine a better tool for this particular mission than the new Stumpjumper.
For our third and final day of riding, our tired legs got a welcome boost in the form of a shuttle van, although the loop we rode that day still featured a fair amount of punchy climbs as well as some epic views and some incredibly fun EWS trails. On this day, we had a chance to get the EVO dirty. It may feature the same travel numbers as the regular Stumpjumper, but it is an altogether different beast: with a super slack 63.5-degree headangle and a short offset fork, this one was designed to get rowdy. It only exists in alloy, and only two sizes: long or longer. A super short seat tube means pretty much everybody can get away with a longer bike here, and the 76-degree seat tube angle helps keep riders centered on the bike for climbing.
Heading off down the trail, the EVO was convincingly stable and very confidence inspiring in the rough, but we quickly discovered the one quirk in its geo: a very short head tube. When this bike goes on sale, it will be delivered to retailers with the steerer uncut, so customers will be able to easily dial in their cockpit height to their liking. Our test bike had a few spacers available to play with, but once we maxed those out we still found ourselves looking for a bit more height in the cockpit. We also were not convinced by the FOX 36 Rhythm (OE only) fork which struggled to keep pace with the Pike RC we had ridden earlier on the regular version of the bike. Note that the only EVO available at this point is alloy Comp version, perhaps we will see better specced versions in the future.
So who is the EVO for? Having ridden it back-to-back with the regular Stumpy, that is actually a hard question to answer. The reason is that the regular version never left us feeling like we needed more bike – in fact, it almost left us wondering if we really need any of our big enduro bikes at all. It takes a good rider and a lot of commitment to bring the 2018 Stumpy to its limit, and what you give up in pure gnar-eating capability you get back twofold in fun-factor. However, we did feel like the fork spec and the cockpit height held the EVO back a bit, so we are going to try and get some more time specifically on these two bikes to really figure this one out.
We rode both the ST and the regular Stumpjumper in the $5500 USD Expert version, which features a number of high-end parts both from Specialized itself and OE manufacturers. We also briefly tested the alloy EVO Comp (the only version of that bike that exists for now). Here are some of our observations on the components:
The RockShox Pike RC and Deluxe RT3 combo is tried and tested by now, and it put in the usual good performance during our testing here. The shock seemed to be perfectly tuned to the rear suspension layout, offering a great mix of suppleness and progressiveness. Should there be a Pike RC3 on a $5500 bike? Probably yes, but Specialized explained that they had to make some compromises specifically in order to be able to spec carbon wheels at this price point.
SRAM’s Guide R brakes work well enough, but we can’t help but bemoan the lack of a higher-end brake on a $5500 build. The RS or RSC versions of this brake work better than the simple R, mainly due to the SwingLink lever architecture found on the higher-end models.
We’re fans of SRAM’s GX Eagle drivetrain, which put in the usual strong showing over three days of intensive testing. It can be a bit finicky to set up right, but shifting is smooth and the range is perfect for long days out in big mountain terrain. The trick little chainguide is Specialized's own. Note that this bike does not feature a fully-fledged set of ISCG tabs, only two mounting holes are available which means running a bashguard is not recommended.
Specialized has a brand new version of its IRcc dropper post, replacing the tilting-head WU version currently found on the Enduro. The new post now gets a bump to 160mm of travel (or 130, as specced on the smaller sizes of the Stumpjumper), but it is still based on a micro-indexed mechanism offering 16 fixed positions of drop in a 34.9mm chassis. The action of the ergonomically perfect, MatchMaker-integrated lever is smooth, but we did note that our sample post had trouble reliably finding the top locked out position once it got really wet, cold, and dirty. Conditions were quite extreme at times, to be fair.
The other Specialized parts had us convinced: the cockpit is really comfortable, and the new carbon Roval Traverse wheels were solid. We will say that the engagement of the rear hub was a bit disappointing, but Specialized once again explained that some trade-offs were necessary here for them to hit their price point targets with this new wheel.
We’re fans of Specialized tires in general, and the 2.6” Butcher/Purgatory combo in GRID casing was no exception. Grippy and predictable, the only real cause for concern was a certain proliferation of flats during the launch event, but it should be noted that we rode very burly terrain with a lot of sharp rocks – if this sounds like your stomping grounds, you’d likely be running heavier casing in any brand’s tires.
On the EVO Comp version, the FOX 36 Rhythm fork was a bit underwhelming, while the heavy-duty SRAM Code brakes specced here reminded us once again just how good these stoppers are, especially when ridden back to back with the Guide R. Definitely worth considering upgrading on the regular Stumpjumper. The EVO also gets the smooth and reliable X-Fusion Manic dropper, mated to Specialized’s Command Post remote.
Below are the specifications of the bikes we rode at the launch, head on over to www.specialized.com for all the details on the full range.
2018 Stumpjumper 29 Expert - $5500 USD
2018 Stumpjumper 29 ST Expert - $5500 USD
2018 Stumpjumper 29 EVO Comp - $3600 USD (drivetrain info to be provided)
Pricing and Availability
- S-Works $9,500 USD
- S-Works Frame $3,200 USD
- Expert $5,500 USD
- Comp Carbon $4,200 USD
- Comp EVO $3,600 USD
- Comp $3,000 USD
- ST base $1,850 USD (base model only available in ST configuration)
Pricing is the same regardless of wheel size, suspension travel option, or Men’s/Women’s models.
More information at: www.specialized.com.
About The Reviewer
Johan Hjord - Age: 45 // Years Riding MTB: 13 // Weight: 190-pounds (86kg) // Height: 6'0" (1.84m)
Johan loves bikes, which strangely doesn’t make him any better at riding them. After many years spent practicing falling off cliffs with his snowboard, he took up mountain biking in 2005. Ever since, he’s mostly been riding bikes with too much suspension travel to cover up his many flaws as a rider. His 190-pound body weight coupled with unique skill for poor line choice and clumsy landings make him an expert on durability - if parts survive Johan, they’re pretty much okay for anybody. Johan rides flat pedals with a riding style that he describes as "none" (when in actuality he rips!). Having found most trail features to be not to his liking, Johan uses much of his spare time building his own. Johan’s other accomplishments include surviving this far and helping keep the Vital Media Machine’s stoke dial firmly on 11.
Photos by Harookz/Specialized and Johan Hjord