Words by Courtney Steen // Photos by Courtney Steen and Carson Blume

Memory. It isn't just a song from Cats the musical. It's a valuable tool for relating to others and their personal experiences given an experience you've had. While I rode the Specialized Rumor 650b, I was thinking, "Who is the gal this bike is best suited for?" My memory brought me back to eight years ago when I was first getting into mountain biking.

The Specialized Rumor women's bike was first introduced in 2013. Since then rider preferences and trends have continued to progress. Women are getting out there, mastering a variety of trails, and have been asking for a Rumor with different geometry in the 650b wheel size. Listening, Specialized added this new daughter to their trail family. Now the Rumor is available in two different wheels sizes: the new 650b and the original 29-inch (which was revamped for 2015). Specialized didn't just take their 29-inch Rumor and slap smaller wheels on it either. They designed the bike from the ground up, complete with different geometry and more travel.

Rumor 650b Highlights

  • M5 aluminum frame
  • 27.5-inch (650b) wheels
  • FSR rear suspension design
  • 125mm rear travel // 130mm front
  • Custom women's tune on rear shock with Autosag
  • Internal cable and dropper post routing
  • Tapered headtube
  • 12mm x 142+ rear axle
  • PF30 bottom bracket
  • Water bottle mount inside front triangle
  • Available in Small, Medium, and Large sizes
  • Available in Expert, Comp, and Base models
  • Weights: Expert - 27.5 pounds, Comp - 28.4 pounds, Base - 29.7 pounds
  • Women specific contact points at the saddle and in size specific stem and crank lengths

Geometry

Specialized works with their Professional female athletes and analyzes tons of fit data collected world-wide to find what kind of geometry works well for women mountain bikers. The end result? Given the smaller wheel size, the Rumor 650b has a lower standover, lower bottom bracket, and shorter chainstays than the 29-inch Rumor. The 68.5-degree headtube angle is also a smidgen slacker, and the Rumor 650b has a much longer reach, shorter top tube, and a steeper seat tube angle than the Rumor 29 has.

Initial Impressions

When Specialized invited us to ride a new bike of theirs before Sea Otter kicked off, we didn't know what it was going to be. As everyone met up at one of the Fort Ord trailheads near Laguna Seca, the new Women's Rumor 650b was revealed to us. I rode the 2015 Specialized Rumor 29 previously and was interested to experience it with the different wheel size.

For our initial ride on the Rumor 650b, we rode mostly smooth trails complete with fun turns, some tricky sandy sections, and a few downhills you could really get cruising on. The bike felt like it had potential for more. While it has a decent amount of travel to tackle rougher sections, it still pedals very well with a spritely kick to it. Pedaling efficiency was notable even with the suspension left wide open the entire ride. It never felt like the shock needed to be switched to a firmer setting for any climbs. There was also little pedal bob in or out of the saddle pedaling. The positive pedaling traits extend to the geometry, too. My position felt natural and not like I was off the back of the bike on the climbs, having to reach forward to the pedals or popping unexpected wheelies when things turned steep.

As the trail crested the top of the hill and the fun really started, the bike felt very stable and balanced, not twitchy or wobbly. The suspension sucked up the little bumps and roots we happened across on the Fort Ord trails. The Rumor 650b was also playful and fun in corners. Oh man! I enjoyed going through turny sections of trail as fast as I could because the bike was so much fun through them. If there were more tech on this trail, I think I would have dove in without a hint fear. I felt comfortable on this bike, not afraid it would put me on my head if I had to face some intermediate level rocks or roots. That sense of comfort I felt tells me that the Rumor 650b is a great little number.

You might wonder what is better, the Rumor 650b or 29er? I'd say it really depends on what you want from your bike, and I've had the benefit of riding both of them. When I rode the 29-inch Rumor, I didn't have as much fun hitting corners. It was like cornering a Jeep at times. I felt like I had to slow down and then put an extra conscious effort into laying the bike over if it was going to make it through the tighter turns. The 29-inch bike did do very well at cruising on wide open trails, and the bigger wheels roll a bit more easily though rough terrain. While some people like Jeeping and 4x4-ing, some like go-carting. That's how I felt on the 650b bike. I wanted all the corners I could get. I didn't even care if they were sandy. It's just a more playful ride. Specialized offering this bike with both wheel sizes is good for every rider. Now each individual can choose the bike that would suit her riding style and things she enjoys best.

Returning to my memories, when I first started mountain biking I was on a dinky little hardtail with a fork I'm not sure actually moved. I had earned the money for the bike doing yard work in my tiny Colorado hometown during Junior High. This was my bike for riding to swim team practice and friends' houses on what then were country dirt roads. That little bike put up with a lot and took me on some rad adventures when I started riding real trails in college. There were times though that it was a bit scary and maybe not the most forgiving of a bike while learning to ride more technical trails. Could a more capable first bike have saved me from a few scars and those pesky mental blocks as a result of mishaps on the trail? I truly think so. The Rumor 650b is a bike that would make for a great first mountain bike. Not a good one, but a great one. The balanced feel and comfort it gives would have been more forgiving while rolling off or through things I shouldn't have the way I did. Then it would have grown with me and my love for mountain biking as I continued to advance.

Right now, if a girlfriend of mine who wanted to master challenging sections that may have gotten the best of her before, wanted to ride some of the legendary trails she's heard about, or wanted to just have more fun on the trail, I would recommend the Rumor 650b. I think a more experienced girlfriend whose favorite trails are of the twisty, swoopy, flowy, and not mega techy variety would like this bike too. It really is a nice ride.

Models, Pricing And Availability

The bike is available in three models in a variety of colors and build specs. Prices are $2,200 for the Rumor 650b base model, $2,700 for the Rumor 650b Comp, and $4,800 for the Rumor 650b Expert. Bikes are available now.

Visit www.specialized.com for more details.

Bonus Gallery: 23 photos of the Rumor 650b up close and in action


About The Reviewer

Courtney Steen has been hitting the dirt on two wheels since 2007 when she started riding mountain bikes in college. She raced alongside her collegiate cycling team in every event from XC and short track to downhill and mountain cross, scoring several podiums, fist pumps and shiny medals along the way. A dream trail for this girl would have lots of down, some fast and flowy, and like the sprinkles on a cupcake, some fun technical sections to keep her on her toes – we’re talking mountain biking after all, not cruising a sidewalk. Courtney currently lives on the road with her boyfriend in a 5th wheel toy hauler loaded with bikes, traveling from one mountain bike mecca to the next in search of the best trails North America has to offer. Anytime she's on a bike and in the dirt, she has two thumbs up and a big smile.

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