Specialized Stumpjumper EVO vs. Stumpjumper - See How They Compare

Few bikes can claim a history as iconic as the Specialized Stumpjumper. Like the Porsche 911 or Ford Mustang, the 37-year-old Stumpjumper lineage has evolved through the years — with each new model becoming the industry’s technology beacon of their era.

As the story goes, Specialized’s original Stumpjumper was the first mass-produced mountain bike dating back to 1981. The latest Stumpy is a far cry from the first generation, but shares one common thread: both are mountain bikes for … mountain biking! Today’s over-categorization and genre segregation be damned, Specialized has always intended the Stumpjumper to be the one bike that can do it all, a proverbial jack-of-all-trades — the clear choice to take on an epic 10,000-foot vertical ascent sufferfest or when you finally decide to chamois-up for what could possibly be an all-day adventure into the high-alpine, chasing your best, and most fit riding buddies.

With the introduction of new Stumpy came a few distinct models, including the regular version, a short travel version, and the made-to-party EVO version with its new school geometry. We were able to extensively test two of the most intriguing models head-to-head, pitting the standard Expert 29 against the EVO Comp Alloy 29 in a sibling-versus-sibling shootout to determine where each excels.

Join Vital MTB tester Jeff Brines for the video low down:

 

Both bikes have the same 140mm rear and 150mm front suspension travel, so we decided to test the two in a side-by-side format, under similar conditions, often riding both on the same day, and even the same trail. How’d the pair fare? Which one is better? Which one is faster? Which one is best for what conditions? We sought to answer these questions and more.

Geometry Comparison

The chart below compares the regular Stumpjumper 29 (sizes M-XL) to the EVO 29 (sizes S2/S3). We tested a size XL and a size S3.

Stumpjumper EVO Comp Alloy 29

Offered in both 29” and 27.5” wheel sizes, the EVO Comp Alloy’s geometry numbers have more in common with a YZ250 than it does with Stumpjumper’s cross-country roots of yesteryear. The geo stats are boundary-pushing for a bike of this nature, while not to the absolute extreme as a few Nicolai and Pole models are currently exploring. The EVO only comes in two sizes: S2 and S3, both with seat tube heights that allow riders to size up/down with relative ease. We sprung for the longest EVO. With a 475mm reach, it’s hardly an outlier: a number of brands currently produce XLs with significantly longer reach bikes. However, when looking at the complete package, it does start to push limits, especially when considering the bike’s 445mm (15.7") rear end (much praise), ultra low 328mm (12.9") bottom bracket height, slacked out 63.5-degree head tube angle, and reduced offset 44mm FOX 36 fork. Typically size-large riders choosing the size S3 will notice a more drastic length difference. Worth noting, one can steepen things up 0.5 degrees with Specialized's flip chip in the shock.

The all-aluminum bike comes ready to rally out of the box with aggressive 2.6” tires, downhill-worthy SRAM Code brakes, 30mm wide rims, and a 12-speed drivetrain. On paper, there doesn’t appear to be a chink in the EVO’s armor — and it all retails for $3,620 from a bike shop.

Stumpjumper Expert 29

While the Stumpjumper EVO has an industrial look with its metal tubes and welds, the Expert has a sexier supercar appearance as its carbon fiber creates smooth-arcing contours that make the bike very pleasing to the eye. Even the paint has a look to it that screams “quality.” Add carbon wheels and you’ve got one hot-looking ride that is ready to perform.

Everywhere you look you'll see another dialed detail on the new Stumpjumpers. Some very clever, others just clean as can be.

The geometry was a bit more conservative — shorter chainstays, shorter reach measurement, and a more “traditional” 66-degree head tube angle coupled with a standard 51mm offset fork. The build is clearly aimed more at trail use with SRAM Guide brakes, a non-piggyback RockShox Deluxe RTC damper, and a Pike RC fork.

Perhaps not quite as good of a value as the EVO, the Expert is still nothing to scoff at, as the bike comes in at $5,000 USD with carbon wheels.

Finally, unlike the EVO, the Expert has the super clever SWAT box feature — a storage space in the frame that allows you to keep the backpack at home and always have what you need, be it a snack, multi-tool, spare tube, or even a can of your favorite beverage (we kept it classy with a sparkling rosé, a fine canned wine).

Climbing

Both bikes climb well. In fact, we’d claim these are two of the most efficient 140mm 29”-wheeled bikes we’ve ever thrown a leg over. It should be of little surprise that the Expert scurries up climbs. The combination of lightweight, reasonably good-for-ascending geometry, and solid pedaling kinematics all worked in harmony going uphill.

Overall the regular geo'd Expert model felt like a trail bike, through and through. The bike’s expertise is in the fact it doesn’t have one; a jack-of-all-trades.

The EVO was the real surprise. Despite the slack head tube angle, we never felt the bike was unwieldy. All modesty aside, our tester set more KOMs in the Jackson area (yes, going uphill) on this bike than any other bike he has ever tested. The magic was in the steep seat tube angle paired with longer chainstay length, just long enough to keep the slack front end from rising too often.

Speaking of seat angles, depending on your saddle height, either bike may or may not prove to have a steep enough seat tube angle. This is the problem with “virtual” seat angles as it’s variable based on height. For our tester’s 34” inseam and 6’2” height, it wasn’t a problem, and he never felt in a position too far back, but it’s not hard to see a taller rider may find themselves slamming the saddle forward on the rails to keep the effective seat angle to a reasonable number.

The only caveat to the whole climbing thing is this: if the trails you frequent involve a high potential for pedal strikes, maybe count the EVO out of consideration. As far as we know, the EVO has the lowest bottom bracket height of any 140mm 29” bike in mass production, which puts its pedals at the most risk of hitting obstacles — there is a reason most bikes have a higher bottom bracket, so if you pedal through technical terrain be prepared to smash some pedals (even if you intend to swap the stock 170mm crank arms to a set of 165mm). The Expert did not suffer from this nearly as much, and one could mitigate this on the EVO with extensive ratcheting, but there are times this isn’t the most effective technique.

Descending

Let’s start with one disclaimer: you can go fast on either of these bikes. Specialized team riders Jared Graves and Curtis Keene choose to race the non-EVO Stumpy at the highest level on the Enduro World Series, so it’s clear the Stumpjumper can be piloted down rowdy terrain at ludicrous speed. That said, we did not find either bike to be a formidable enduro race weapon. There are other 140mm bikes on the market that outperform either one of these when descending — does that make them both bad bikes? Absolutely not. Let’s get into the details...

Despite extensive monkeying with the rear shock on both bikes, neither could be tuned to feel as supple or as bottomless as other bikes in this category, like the 140mm-travel Transition Sentinel and Santa Cruz Hightower LT or the 150mm-travel Trek Slash and Yeti SB150. In fact, both Stumpjumpers’ suspension action felt worlds apart from the aforementioned whips. The reason behind this isn’t entirely clear. On paper, the kinematics look good: a progressive leverage ratio compressing a modern suspension damper. But, both simply felt anemic on trail. If we hadn’t been told so, we’d guess these were “over forked” 120mm bikes.

The Expert seemed to have more appetite for eating bumps than the EVO, despite the fact that it had the less-favorable damper tune of the two. One rationale behind this was simply frame material, with the Expert’s carbon layup providing a bit more damping than the EVO’s alloy frame.

Overall, they consumed bumps similarly — and with all due respect, this was an area we weren’t overly impressed. However, when you transition from “enduro” mentality to “trail” mentality, things start to make more sense, as either bike adequately ingested bumps in normal trail situations. Charging into new, gnarly terrain at mach chicken made the bikes seem to lose their appetites. The Stumpjumper platform prizes efficiency, providing a more sporty trail-type of ride than other bikes with similar amounts of travel.

Aboard each bike, differences between the EVO and Expert were easily felt — with the Expert providing quicker handling and feeling a bit more twitchy than the EVO.

The EVO has a very special feel through the corners. That's where I loved this bike. In twisty, steep stuff, the EVO is a weapon.

The Expert rewards smaller inputs and asks the pilot to utilize a more precise touch, while the EVO, on the other hand, allows the rider to be more aggressive with inputs — tipping the bike over as far as the trail will allow — to let the wheels work the terrain.

On that note, the EVO seemed to have more grip at the tires. How? The EVO seemed to place the rider in a more neutral position over the bike, which was proven by the use of some shipping scales to determine weight balance. We weighed 47%-front and 53%-rear on the EVO; atop the Expert, weight was distributed 45%-front and 55%-rear. This difference, along with the slacker head angle and lower bottom bracket, helped us have a bit more faith to tip ‘er over in the twisties as keeping weight on the front tire is often the biggest challenge a rider faces when cornering.

Up front, the EVO’s FOX 36 was preferred to the Expert’s RockShox Pike — it tracked better and chewed bumps better. Despite being heavier, the 36 is one of our favorite forks here at Vital, especially the Grip 1 budget-based damper, which rides like anything but a “cheaper” fork.

Overall the regular geo'd Expert model felt like a trail bike, through and through. The bike’s expertise is in the fact it doesn’t have one; a jack-of-all-trades. This means you may never have the absolute best tool for the job, but it will never completely be out of its element this side of a World Cup Downhill race track or Pro-level XC race. While you give up capacity for outright descending prowess, you gain in overall efficiencies and just being able to go (and go and go).

The EVO’s true identity was far more perplexing. In some ways, it rode very similarly to the Expert. In others, it felt more like a Demo in Specialized’s DH lineup than a run-of-the-mill trail bike. Held back by the harsh feeling rear end and a more flex-laden frame, we were never fully comfortable pushing the bike to the speed the geometry asked. That said, in steep, twisty, loamy trails the EVO proved to be an absolute weapon; this was where the EVO was most at home, and these types of trails left us scratching our head in amazement at the bike’s ability.

Both bikes jumped fine, with no ill effects noticed while flying through the air, loading the lip of a takeoff, or doing something miscalculated. Though the shock’s O-ring often indicated “you have reached the end of the travel, sir,” we never noticed a harsh bottom-out, at least while riding at reasonable pressures. This isn’t to say either would be our bike of choice for hucking to flat, but larger impacts were not as much the problem with the suspension as repeated square-edge bumps. The bike simply didn’t track as well or offer the rider as much traction as other 140mm bikes.

Perhaps not the enduro race slayers we were expecting, both the Expert and EVO Comp Alloy provide a compelling blend of efficiency and versatility that have always been present in the Stumpjumper bloodline.

Worth noting, we swapped out the original 2.6” GRID tires on both bikes for a new BLCK DMND casing and compound from Specialized, which falls between GRID and DH in terms of weight and durability. However, we do feel that the original GRID tires, especially on the EVO, were on the harder side of things — this was found especially obvious in the desert where slipping and spinning on slickrock became a bit unnerving.

Additional Perspectives on Suspension Feel

We had a few buddies throw a leg over both the EVO and the Expert, and the results echoed our thoughts, highlighting a few common traits:

  • Heavier riders and faster riders were more likely to comment that the suspension provided a harsh ride for 140mm of travel, regardless of sag settings.
  • Lighter riders and slower riders, who weren’t pushing the bike as hard, were less likely to comment about a harsh ride. These riders often settled on more sag than Specialized’s 35% suggestion.

This made us wonder if perhaps the shorter eye-to-eye and stroke is partially to blame for the feeling one gets when really trying to rally. Perhaps the damper struggles to control the bike’s travel as the leverage ratio, especially off the top, is over 3:1? This is mere speculation, but something we continued to mull over as no chart, component, or number seemed to explain what we were feeling on the trail.

Which Bike is Faster? Back-to-Back Test Video

 

Long Term Durability

Both bikes passed the Vital durability test during this five-month test. Neither frame cracked and no component became mangled beyond repair.

EVO Durability Concerns

  • The rear hub would often come out of adjustment.
  • The original FOX DPX2 had a loud audible squeak in high-speed compression events. This was swapped for an updated production version which did not have this issue.
  • The pre-production frame would often creak from a variety of sources including the headset, dropouts, and main pivot.
  • The derailleur hanger was easy to tweak and was prone to creaking.

Expert Durability Concerns

  • None. The bike stayed quiet and worked just as it did the day we unpacked it.

EVO Component Check & Value

Both bikes proved to be reasonably good values, with the EVO getting the most sincere tip of the cap. We noticed in our comments section of our Stumpjumper First Look that perhaps this isn’t the sentiment of our audience, so some breakdown is required.

Specialized did an admirable job putting together a bike with a good components spec at a solid price point. In today’s marketplace, direct-to-consumer has its benefits, but the real value of this brick-and-mortar-only model from Specialized is its spec: there isn’t a single component that needs changing to really push the bike. While none of the parts may be sexy, they work damn near as well as the top shelf stuff at a fraction of the price.

The FOX 36 accumulated some weird wear on the stanchions’ finish, although performance remained stellar. The Code brakes remained flawless. Once we received the correct (production) shock, the FOX DPX2 never hiccuped. The SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain may not be as crisp as top-of-the-line offerings, but it never let us down. When compared to premium drivetrains, it’s hard to say, “We’d go faster if we had _____.”

Shoutout to X-Fusion for their Manic dropper post that functioned like an industry-leader with a satisfyingly-ergonomic lever, going through thousands of cycles without a hiccup. Considering our history with dropper post reliability, it is relieving to find brands figuring out the secret to long-term functionality for such an integral and necessary component of the modern trail bike.

The only component that required tinkering was the rear hub. It would often loosen, but this is something we were more than happy to live with considering we could spec this bike with parts double the price and probably forget we did so on the trail.

In the end, we give the Stumpjumper EVO a confident “yes” to the question “does it provide value?” It offers one of the most rally-friendly spec’d bikes at the lowest price — plus, let’s not forget there will be actual human beings at a real bike shop involved with this purchase.

Expert Component Check and Value

At $2K more, the Expert is substantially more expensive. With a carbon frame, carbon wheels, and a more high-end build throughout, it also isn’t a bad value, though nothing like that of the EVO.

Truth is, though there is an undoubtedly nicer feel to lighter weight, premium parts, it evaporates pretty quickly on the trail. We actually preferred the EVO's X-Fusion Manic dropper to the Expert's RockShox Reverb, and we wholeheartedly prefer the FOX 36 to the RockShox Pike up front for the type of riding we like to do. In the rear we liked the EVO’s FOX shock more than the RockShox on the Expert.

Oh, and one qualm with the Expert’s build: please give us the RockShox RCT3 Pike — at this price point a premium damper is warranted. Otherwise, the spec is certainly up to snuff.

 

So...Which One Would You Pick?

Even with dollars and cents out of the equation, if we were going to pick only one Stumpjumper then we’d go EVO, hands down. Though it was slightly heavier, it most often proved faster down the trail while only being a bit slower, if at all, going up. Just plan on doing some pivot greasing, be conscious of your crank length on trails with high pedal strike potential, and maybe do some tire swapping. Otherwise, we simply had more fun, more often, on the EVO than the Expert.

What's The Bottom Line?

Perhaps not the enduro race slayers we were expecting, both the Expert and EVO Comp Alloy provide a compelling blend of efficiency and versatility that have always been present in the Stumpjumper bloodline. Despite what you may see Specialized top racers doing on the bike, the Stumpjumper is, in fact, a trail bike designed for the modern trail rider.

Those looking for a sporty feeling wagon-wheeled bike that can be composed in almost any situation this side of a legit EWS stage or an elite XC race would do well to check out either model. The EVO specifically is a unique ride that rewards those who want to test the limits of modern geometry in steep, twisty terrain while sacrificing little in the way of efficiency.

Visit www.specialized.com for more details.

Stumpjumper EVO Comp Alloy 29 Rating

  • Climbing: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Descending: 3.5 stars - Very Good
  • Fun Factor: 4 stars - Excellent
  • Value: 5 stars - Spectacular
  • Overall: 4 stars - Excellent

Stumpjumper Expert 29 Rating

  • Climbing: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
  • Descending: 3 stars - Good
  • Fun Factor: 3 stars - Good
  • Value: 3 stars - Good
  • Overall: 3.5 stars - Very Good

About The Reviewer

Jeff Brines - Age: 32 // Years Riding: 18 // Height: 6'2" (1.88m) // Weight: 200-pounds (90.7kg)

Jeff didn't go on a real date until he was nearly 20 years old, largely as a result of his borderline unhealthy obsession with bicycles. Although his infatuation with two wheels may have lead to stuttering and sweatiness around the opposite sex, it did provide for an ideal environment to quickly progress through the ranks of both gravity and cross-country racing. These days, Jeff races enduro at the pro level, rides upward of 150 days a year while logging over 325k of human-powered ascending/descending on his bike. Bred as a racer, Jeff is more likely to look for the fastest way through a section as opposed to the most playful. He lives in the shadow of the Tetons in Jackson, Wyoming.

Photos by Ian Haney and Jeff Brines

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