Reviewed by Matt Thompson and Jess Pedersen // Written and Photo'd by Brandon Turman
Somewhere along the way, Specialized realized that people who ride burly terrain want easily pedal-able bikes that are up to the task. So, rather than putting out something that those types of riders would have to heavily modify to get just right, they took their popular Stumpjumper FSR platform, bumped up the travel, slackened it out, lowered it, slapped some burlier parts on, added EVO to the end of the name, and told us all to have some fun. And guess what? We had an absolute blast on the Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO during our 2013 Test Sessions in Southern Utah.
Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO Highlights
- FACT IS 9m carbon main triangle and M5 alloy rear triangle
- 26-inch wheels
- 150mm (5.9-inches) of rear wheel travel
- Tapered head tube
- 67-degree head angle
- 68.2-degree actual, 73.5-degree effective seat angle
- 335mm (13.2-inch) bottom bracket height:
- 420mm (16.5-inch) chainstay length
- PressFit 30 bottom bracket with ISCG05 tabs
- 142x12mm rear thru-axle
- Measured weight (size Large, no pedals): 27 pounds, 12 ounces (12.6kg)
- MSRP $6,400
So what exactly is different from the standard Stumpjumper FSR to the Stumpjumper FSR EVO? Comparing the 2013 Expert Carbon models, which are priced within $200 of each other, there are several key differences in the frame and components. Starting with the frame geometry, the EVO model sees an increase from 140 to 150mm of travel, a 1-degree slacker head angle, 3mm lower bottom bracket, 1-degree slacker seat angle, the wheelbase grows by 5-6mm, the stack is a little bit taller and the reach is slightly shorter. Considering the effect the addition of a bigger fork has on a bike, it's clear that the EVO frame is very different from the standard Stumpjumper FSR. It's also worth noting that the EVO model uses M5 aluminum seatstays as opposed to FACT Carbon stays.
The components also see a bit of tweaking, with a shorter stem, beefier Gamut bashring and chain guide, slightly burlier Roval Traverse Wheels with fatter DT Swiss Super Comp Spokes, Avid X0 Trail brakes, a Specialized Butcher tire up front, the addition of a Float CTD shock in place the Brain shock, and new for 2013, a 150mm FOX 34 Talas CTD fork as opposed to the 140mm FOX 32 Talas CTD.
Out back, the Stumpy EVO's 150mm of travel is delivered by Specialized's FSR suspension, which they've been tweaking and tuning for nearly 20 years. Also known as a "Horst Link" design, FSR suspension is a four-bar linkage claimed to effectively isolate chain torque and brake loads. Full-cartridge bearing pivots throughout keep the system running smoothly.
Aided by an AUTOSAG addition to the FOX Float CTD Factory rear shock, suspension setup is incredibly simple. You just pump the shock way up, sit on the saddle, depress an air release, and viola! you're ready to roll. Shock positioning is great, allowing easy access to the levers while staying out of harms way. We will say that we're not huge fans of the proprietary link used to mount the shock, as it limits your ability to quickly swap shocks.
One additional point that we're not particularly fond of is the cable routing. Save the dropper post, cables follow the underside of the downtube and bottom bracket, presenting greater opportunity for damage.
Also of note, the rear end uses Specialized's 142+ hub, which provides additional wheel stiffness over a traditional 142mm hub design. If you'd like, it's still possible run a standard 142mm rear hub as well.
On The Trail
All told, the Stumpjumper EVO line is meant to sit squarely in-between the standard Stumpjumper FSR and the Enduro, creating a bike that's both XC worthy and big-mountain capable. With that in mind, we chose two trails to test it out. First, Jess piloted it around St. George, Utah's Zen Trail - think technical rock ledges, punchy climbs, high speed descents, and some good chatter mixed in with a few sizable hits. Next, Matt took a spin on the faster, flowier, and more pedally Barrel Roll Trail. The two combined offered a good mix of terrain, both tech and pedally, to see what the Stumpy FSR EVO was really made of.
For a 6-foot rider, the cockpit of our size Large test bike was very comfortable. The top tube length was just right, with the perfect reach and a bit of room to move around. The rider position was very neutral, balanced, and centered.
Taking off down the trail, we were immediately fans of the geometry offered by the Stumpy FSR EVO. It was slack, it was low… it was just right. This bike offered a very aggressive ride on the downhills but still climbed very well - a rare combination. The super short 16.5-inch chainstays made it very easy to get the front end up, the 13.2-inch bottom bracket gave it a lot of stability and cornering prowess, the 67-degree head angle made it ready to attack, and the 73.5-degree seat angle kept it upright enough for the climbs. Just a few pedal strokes into the ride, it was clear that this bike was going to be so much fun to ride.
Confidence inspiring? Playful? Stable? Precise? Responsive? Changes lines easy? Yes, yes, and a dozen more yesses. The Stumpy FSR EVO flat out ripped down the trail, regardless of what was in front of us. It wanted to be taken to steep slopes and thrashed. It was stable yet nimble, changed lines quickly, and gave us a herculean amount of confidence when pointed downhill. Combined with a smart parts spec, it could be ridden casually without getting into trouble, but loved to be pushed. The bike was stiff in all the right places, and when you hit a certain speed it felt incredible. Fun was the name of the game, and the Stumpy FSR EVO turned anything and everything into a playground. Drift this, pop that, double here, pump there… what a blast!
Key to that fun feel is the FSR suspension system, which we found to be very active. Set up using the AUTOSAG feature and in FOX's 'Trail' mode front and rear, it was surprisingly balanced, equating to more confidence on the trail. It pedaled well over rough terrain, begged to be ridden hard downhill, tracked well in the turns, and good mid-stroke support rewarded us with speed when pumping anything and everything. It also soaked up small bumps and square edge hits incredibly well. Some harsh bottoming was experienced on larger drops, but we didn't feel like that was out of the ordinary for this size of bike.
If anything, the FOX 34 Talas CTD front fork was the only thing slightly holding the bike back. It felt a little feeble compared to how bomber the rear end was. There was some flex going on when it got steep and rough, though we most likely wouldn't have even noticed this if the great working rear suspension and stiff back end didn't inspire more aggressive riding. Additionally, when climbing with the Talas in the low position, we struck our pedals numerous times on the ground. Pedal timing was critical in rough, rocky terrain, particularly with big flat pedals. While it improved steering performance when on steep, tight terrain, the travel adjustment on the fork seemed unnecessary at most times, leading us to think that a 36 Float, 34 Float, or RockShox Revelation 150 would be a better match.
At a measured 27.8-pounds, the Stumpjumper FSR EVO was right in line with other trail bikes in its price range, if not a little better, and the perceived weight on the trail felt right on target for a 6-inch travel carbon trail bike. It was light, snappy, and rolled fast.
Although this bike came with real tires with real knobs on them (for you know, riding in the dirt?), we would still say it accelerated well when sprinting. In 'Trail' mode, which we stuck with most of the time, we didn't notice excessive suspension bob under hard efforts when out of the saddle. Opening things up in 'Descend' mode, the bike becomes a little too active for any serious efforts. Conversely, it's surprisingly efficient in 'Climb' mode. When aided by the seat angle, neutral body position, and stiff frame, pedaling up seemed like less of a chore than it should have been, leaving ample energy for the roller-coaster of a ride back down. The short chainstays did encourage the front end to come up when things got steep, but all it took was a little body position adjustment and all was good.
Spec'd with the rider who gets after it and charges anything and everything in mind, the list of components on the Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO was very good, and we didn't feel the immediate need to swap anything out. That said, there's always room for further improvement.
As mentioned previously, we feel like bike would be better off by swapping out the FOX 34 Talas CTD fork for a 34 or 36 Float, given the damping and possible stiffness improvements. At a price tag of $6,400, we were a little surprised to see a Performance series fork on the front of the bike, which lacks FOX's Kashima coating.
Specialized's 720mm wide All-Mountain low-rise handlebar was solid and felt great, but if the goal was to create a bike capable of just about anything, we'd love to see something a bit wider on the front end. Combined with a slightly shorter stem, the fun factor would surely be maximized. We did love the all-new Sip Grip design, which is a simple half-waffle pattern with a lock-on collar.
Braking duties were addressed by Avid's new X0 Trail disc brakes, which provided plenty of power and great modulation with no noticeable fade. The X0 Trails have proven themselves to be top notch performers in several of our tests, though they can be a bit tricky to bleed.
The custom SRAM S2200 carbon double XC Trail crankset with 36/24 gearing was plenty stiff and provided a good range. Coupled with a Gamut bashguard, dual guide, SRAM X7 front derailleur, and X9 rear derailleur, shifting performance and drivetrain protection was dialed. The lack of noise combined with the fun factor this bike has makes it feel like you're riding incredibly smoothly, and we loved hearing nothing but the tires on earth as we carved turns and hopped through sections.
The inclusion of Specialized's Command Post BlackLite is a welcome addition, as we feel dropper posts should be on any all-around trail or all-mountain bike. The three position system is intuitive and easy to use, though it's sometimes hard to find the middle position. Reliability has been great in other long term tests, so there are no issues there as well. The only things we aren't particularly fond of are the setback, requiring us to move our seat forward on the rails, the rather unnerving speed at which it rebounds, and the sometimes elusive lever.
Perhaps one of the biggest distinguishing factors between the Stumpjumper FSR EVO and other trail bikes is the inclusion of tires that work very well. We're big fans of the 2Bliss ready Specialized Butcher Control 2.3-inch dual-compound front tire when combined with the Purgatory Control in the rear. The combo yields consistent climbing and cornering traction while still rolling quickly and maintaining a pretty light weight. They are proven performers that make no compromises.
Additionally, the Roval Traverse 142+ all-mountain wheelset with DT Swiss internals and spokes proved to be plenty stiff and reliable. Overall, Specialized's in-house components impressed us, which doesn't happen very often.
Long Term Durability
This is a solid platform with solid components. Everything on the bike seemed reliable and in it for the long haul, leaving no doubts in our mind about durability. Charge it, blast it, huck it... the Stumpy FSR EVO will keep up.
What's The Bottom Line?
Based on what we experienced, we can confidently say that the 2013 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO will make your local trails more fun. Thanks to well thought out angles, a proven suspension design, and a parts spec to match, it's among the best all-around trail bikes we've ridden. It offers a calculated and surprising combo of efficiency while retaining geometry worthy of the gnar. This bike flat out shreds and we have a really, really hard time hating on it in any regard. It's that much fun to ride, which makes it worth every penny in our eyes.
Check out www.specialized.com for more details.
About The Reviewers
Matt Thompson - Humble enough not to claim his Master's Downhill World Champ status when we asked him what his accomplishments were, Matt has over 20 years on a bike and likes to go fast. Really fast. At 210 pounds of trail building muscle, he can put the hurt on a bike in little to no time.
Jess Pedersen - Jess is one of those guys that can hop on a bike after a snowy winter and instantly kill it. He's deceptively quick, smooth, and always has good style. He's also known to tinker with bikes 'til they're perfect, creating custom additions and fixes along the way. Maybe it's that engineering background...