My roommate in college had a red Specialized hardtail, emblazoned with a stylized, white Stumpjumper logo on the top tube.
The fork probably offered 120mm of travel, complete with fork boots and all. Even back then, it was considered old-school, but that didn’t stop it from being a beauty of a bike, or my roommate from absolutely shredding on it. My introduction to mountain biking came in the form of being left in the dust by my friend ripping a two decade-old bike, and me just trying to stay on the trail. Maybe that’s why these days, whenever I picture someone riding in the in the early days of the sport, they’re on bright red Stumpjumper.
First introduced in 1981, Specialized released the Stumpjumper just as mountain biking was beginning to garner mainstream attention. Fast forward 38 years and the model is still keeping up with the times, and, as of 2019, perhaps setting a new bar. The latest iteration (which was actually released in 2018) was completely redesigned with an updated FSR suspension platform and more modern numbers in nearly every category, delivering a longer, more slacked-out trail weapon.
The most significant change on the bike also happens to be the most obvious. Specialized rearranged the split top tube so that the secondary support asymmetrically connects the top tube to the seat post on the right side of the bike, around the shock. And while I think it looks dang good, it’s also “19.999999 percent stiffer,” according to Specialized’s engineers.
Throughout the years, the Stumpjumper has always been respected within the world of mountain biking, but I think it’s fair to say it’s been easy to overlook for the past few years. Specialized has slowly phased the bike out of its XC roots, and while it’s stayed capable and relevant in the brand’s lineup, something’s been missing. Thankfully for 2019, Specialized figured out what that something was, updating the Stumpjumper to a bike that exceeds all expectations of what a trail bike is, and looking damn sexy while doing so. I had a hunch that if the bike handled anywhere near as good as it looked, it would be a game-changer.
With 150mm of travel in the front and rear, the Stumpjumper isn’t trying to be a send-it-to-the-moon kind of bike. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that while this thing is certainly capable of flying through the air, it’s most fun when hovering slightly above the ground. Specialized didn’t push the wheelbase with this one, leaving it at a humble 1212mm. This provides enough stability to not be wanting more, but also a playful feel that can capitalized on every inch of the trail.
All in all, the new Stumpjumper has pretty standard measurements as far as “modern” trail bikes go. The head tube angle is 65.5 degrees across the board, which is slack, but not overbearingly so. At 74.6 degrees (size large), the seat tube angle is relatively slack, which I did find attributing to the front end wanting to lift on steep climbs.
While the reach (455mm, size large) is slightly on the short side, the Stumpjumper’s cockpit never felt cramped. At 5”11 and with average length arms, I found the bike extremely comfortable and responsive. The bike has a chainstay length of 430mm throughout the lineup, delivering a snappy and playful rear end and the ability to absolutely rail corners.
The Stumpjumper Expert 27.5” is built with the intention of delivering the highest quality ride feeling while subbing in mid-spec components where they make the least amount of difference. Built with Specialized’s Functional Advanced Composite Technology (FACT) carbon layup, plus the asymmetric design, the frame is noticeably stiff and light. The inside of the downtube has been transformed with Specialized’s SWAT technology, creating cargo space in the frame. It was incredibly nice to be able to stuff a tube, pump, snacks and anything else I wanted in there and not have to worry about carrying a bag.
I’ve had multiple people tell me their surprise at the weight—filled SWAT box and all—and when I point out all of the components (save the wheels) are aluminum, it becomes even more impressive. Going with aluminum bars, cranks and a GX Eagle setup allowed Specialized to keep the bike at a decent price point with its full potential. Stocked with 780mm bars and a 5mm rise stem, I found slamming the stem down gave me the best front end handling possible. The GX Eagle delivered on all accounts and I’m a firm believer that the actual shifting capabilities throughout the Eagle lineup are hard to notice. I rode this bike for six months without having to make any adjustments to the shifter or derailleur. The Guide R brakes up front held consistent and true, delivering enough stopping power to keep the bike in control when it wants to cut loose.
Suspension-wise, the Expert model is stocked with a 150mm Rockshox Pike RC, DebonAir up front and a Deluxe RT3 in the rear. The Pike delivers without question, but I had mixed feelings about the Deluxe RT3. With only nine positions of rebound, it was tough to find a setting that pleased on all aspects and I felt the shock getting fatigued on a few longer rides. More often than not, I found it a little lackluster compared to the bike’s capabilities.
Specialized stocks their Command dropper on the Expert and this was really my only gripe with the components. Out of the box, the Command has an impressive amount of power—you could shoot a beer off the saddle like R2D2 launches Luke’s lightsaber at the Sarlacc battle. Over time though, the post gets noticeably slower. The other factor is it doesn’t have infinite adjust, meaning it only stops at select points within its 160mm of travel. While sometimes annoying, I found the post’s functionality sound.
What really delivers the gravy on this ride though are the carbon Roval Traverse 30mm inner-width rims. Stiff, stout and snappy, these hoops deliver straight tracking on rough terrain and power out of corners. It’s really easy to notice how carbon rims complement the stiffness of this bike. Paired with 2.6" Butcher tire up front and a Purgatory in the back, this thing grips like a machine and tracks like the Terminator.
If I had to sum this bike up in one word, it would be intuitive. This goes especially for tracking and handling with the Stumpjumper—and that’s exactly what I want in a bike. There was no need to figure this thing out on my first ride, it was simply go time. I felt this charging into corners, popping on jumps and getting a little rowdy in the steeps, making for a bike that’s just simply fun to ride.
To classify the Stumpjumper within the full spectrum of modern bikes, I’d chalk it up as a fully capable trail bike. Between its geometry and numbers, it’s not quite a full-send enduro bike, but that’s not what everyone necessarily needs these days.
At speed, this bike holds its own and feels surprisingly stable for a 27.5”. Even while hurtling through chunder at speed, I never felt like the bike being close to exceeding its capabilities on the trail. Back to that intuitive feel, its surprisingly easy to maneuver in all situations, whether that’s dumping speed at the last minute or slowly navigating a tight and technical corner.
On the climb, it was easy to put the Stumpjuper’s front end exactly where I wanted it. This made any type of tech extremely manageable, although when pushing this thing—and myself—to the limits on steep climbs, the front end did want to lift up.
After months on the Stumpjumper Expert 27.5” I can’t say a single bad thing about the bike, nor do I want to. It’s been fully capable in every situation that I’ve put it in, and it doesn’t just deliver, it excels. Anybody can—and will—have a blast on this bike.
Specialized Stumpjumper Expert 27.5
See more at www.specialized.com