The Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert EVO 650B is the latest model in the trail bike department from the Morgan Hill company. How will it stack up against it’s bigger wheeled brother? Does it fit your riding style? Read on to find out our take.
The Stumpjumper has been in the Specialized line for quite a long time. But it has morphed and changed over time, with hard tail versions and full suspension. Starting with the “future-shock-rear”, or “FSR”, they entered the early days of trail bikes. In the last couple years they developed the “EVO” geometry, which generally means it’s a bit more gravity oriented, or goes better downhill, than other models without that designation. More travel is the name of the game. “EVO” also means things “wider handlebars, bigger tires and more robust wheels,” and “creates a fairly slack head angle and lower bottom bracket height.” It’s built for aggressive trail riding. Of course, these things are all subjective, and depending on your riding style and where you come from, may mean different things. For me, all those points add up to lots of fun on the bike.
While Specialized still fully believes in the 29” wheel size and produces one of the largest selections of bikes in that size of any manufacturer, they’ve recently introduced the Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Evo with 650B, or 27.5” wheel sizes, and 150mm travel rear and front. Compared to the 29″ model the 650B features a slightly slacker head tube angle, but at the end of the day, even though the geometry is technically slightly different between the two bikes, Specialized tried to create similar ride qualities throughout the model line.
The bike’s component mix is fantastic in my opinion. I’m not afraid to mix component groups and I’m pumped that Specialized went with Shimano XT brakes on this bike. They felt great, and have a proven reliable track record. I’ve also become a huge fan of an 11 speed rear cog and single chain ring up front, which for the time being, means SRAM. Fine with me, as it works super well. As part of that arrangement, I also love the simplicity of only a brake lever and seat post dropper lever on the left hand side of the handlebar. I also prefer the Command Post dropper lever over other competitors. It felt very natural reaching for it.
Suspension wise, the RockShox Pike is solid and proven. This is the fork that brought RockShox back to the top of the game. Super predictable, and for me, it was hard to imagine bottoming it out. With a smooth stroke and almost no sticktion, it was sensitive on smaller hits and forgiving when I went a little too big. It kept me out of trouble.
The Fox Float CTD is a rear shock I’m very familiar and happy with. The 650B’s rear suspension provides more support in its mid stroke allowing you to push the bike actively. The well-tuned air spring curve of the Fox damper has a good progression, ramping up well on bigger hits to avoid a harsh bottom out. The Climb mode, when used on this bike, was very efficient. If you already pedal smoothly, this bike will feel like a hard tail when setup properly for you. Nevertheless this is where the 29er is still faster and offers more traction.
I rode a Medium on the 650B at a height of 179cm (5’11”). It did feel like I was riding in a fairly upright position. With the riser bar and 2 spacers under the stem the cockpit’s height is pretty similar to the 29er, however it feels a little bit more compact and upright, I would like to test a Large too as I fall right between the sizes.
It did feel very nimble and quicker side to side, allowing a very playful and active riding style. If you’re the type of rider who tries to catch air off every little bump in the trail, you’d enjoy the snappiness of this bike. The front wheel was easy to pop off the ground, getting up and over trees or big roots in the trail. This is a good thing, and would probably help riders who sometimes have trouble with those kind of riding maneuvers. It felt lively jumping off natural terrain features. Very fun.
Stand over and clearance on the bike were great, which really helped to be able to move around on the bike, and put yourself in the right position to cruise the steeper stuff. On the downhill the 650B’s suspension with 150mm of travel in front and rear feels more active and capable than the 140/135mm of the Stumpy 29“. However, when mixing the high speed with steep sections the 29er gives a feeling of more security – more traction, a better roll-over capability and a longer wheelbase (1155mm compared to 1137mm) making the 29er our favorite here.
Specialized is making a big push in the tire department and spec’d this bike with the 2Bliss Ready Specialized Butcher 2.3″ in front and the Purgatory Control 2.3″ in the rear. I would need a bit more time on the Specialized tires to feel really comfortable, but I do think they have the potential to be great. It’s hard to argue with the suspension spec on the bike, between the Pike and Fox Float CTD. This bike could be a great choice for many people, in many different riding environments. It’s efficient, and does a great job for it’s intended audience, the all around trail rider looking for a great riding bike. For those of you looking for a mountain bike to ride, day in and day out, this would be a solid choice. It’s a lot of fun, with enough suspension to get you out of danger if you come in a little hot on the wrong section of trail, or are working on drop-offs or learning to hit jumps that are becoming so common at so many flow trails. I think with some slight changes to the bike, it would work great in a racing environment.
The Stumpjumper FSR EVO 650B right now comes in two models, the carbon Expert, $6500 msrp, and aluminum Comp, $3400 msrp. Within the Stumpjumper family, there are multiple options for 26″ and 29″ wheels, carbon and aluminum frames, and EVO geometry or not.
Bottom-line: Both bikes feel very well-balanced and coherent within their concept. The 650b is more playful and allows a more active and aggressive riding style. The downhill capabilities are pretty similar, but here the 29er offers more stability, which most riders will benefit from. For jumpy, tight trails you are better served with the 650b, if you prefer a more stable riding feel, and a capable bike that offers more security we’d recommend the 29“.
Words: Daniel Dunn Photos: Daniel Dunn
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