The not-so-minor details
Blends the best of the Epic and the Stumpjumper in one superb package.
Formula T1 brakes are good, but not in line with the rest of the bike.
It wasn’t too long ago that we declared our desire to “marry” a Specialized test bike (the Stumpjumper Expert Carbon), so deep was our love. But now, it seems that we’re lusting after another… we’ve had an affair with the lady in red, and it felt good. Ladies and gents, our new love, the Specialized S-Works Camber 29.
The Camber confused us for quite a while. There aren’t many bikes in that 110mm-travel category; in Australia we’re used to seeing 100mm-travel cross-country bikes or 140mm+ trail bikes. With so little apparently separating the Camber from the Epic, we didn’t really understand its place in the world.
But after a few days together on the trails of Atherton in Tropical North Queensland, we’ve definitely got a handle on what this very glamorous bike is all about. We know it’s easy to be wooed by the superb components, immaculate finish and low weight of the S-Works version of the Camber, but the fundamentals that make this bike so great are echoed throughout the Camber range.
Watch the video and learn why the Camber might just be the one you’ve been looking for too.
We tested the Camber up in Atherton, in Tropical North Queensland, where we stayed at a fifth generation farm.
The greasy berms and jumps of the Ricochet track proved just how relaxed the Camber is even when the tyres are sliding about and the landings are harsh.
Looks nice from this angle too.
The Formula brakes are lovely to look at but we feel their performance is not in line with the rest of the componentry. Specialized specced a 160mm rear rotor and a 180mm up front.
Brakes, suspension and drivetrain aside, everything else on the bike is made by Specialized, including the Henge seat and Command IR dropper post.
The Camber uses a 15mm axled fork – it’s another small difference that gives this bike a very different ride to the Epic, despite the two bikes being quite close in travel and geometry terms.
The cockpit setup is key to the Camber’s confident and playful ride. The stem is 70mm, the bar 720mm – ideal in our minds. We spent a bit of time adjusting the bar position – it has a lot of backsweep, and so rolling the bars back or forwards it in the stem has a big effect on the ride feel.
The Camber gets Specialized’s new SWAT system, which stands for Storage, Water, Air, Tools. Basically it’s all about carrying these items on the bike, rather than on your body. There is a multitool mounted to the bottom of the bottle cage. We initially thought it was a bit of a silly idea, but sure enough it came in handy on a few occasions!
Unlike the Epic or Stumpjumper, the Camber doesn’t use a Brain shock. Instead, it’s equipped with a standard FOX CTD Kashima shock. We have to say, as good as the brain is, we prefer this setup.
Another element of the SWAT system is a chain breaker, mounted underneath headset cap.
The Control SL carbon wheels are spoked with a radial pattern on the non-disc side up front. They’re plenty stiff, and have a lively feel and sound on the trail.
Wow, that is a truly striking bike.
The DT-made rear axle is as neat as it gets, cinching up the 142x12mm dropouts without tools or fuss.
With a 2.3″ up front and a 2.1″ out back, the Ground Control tyres are ideal for this bike. We didn’t suffer any cuts or tears in the rocky testing terrain (this can’t be said for other bikes we were testing on the same trails).
There are Formula brakes on a large swathe of the Specialized range this year. The T1 Racing brakes took quite a long time to bed in – a trait that seems to be common across all Formula brakes. The master cylinder piston works on ‘pull’, rather than ‘push’ mechanism. Once they’d bedded in, the power was decent, but not incredible.
Some riders might be concerned that the Camber uses a 32mm fork, not a 34mm-legged fork, but we disagree. The 32mm fork is light, and because the travel is only 110mm, there’s less flex than with a longer travel fork.
The cabling is all internal, and we had no problems keeping it all clear of the frame for zero cable rub.
Specialized’s Auto-Sag suspension is brilliant! Inflate the shock to 250psi or more, hop on the bike in your riding gear, depress the valve under the red cap. That’s it! Perfect suspension sag in seconds.
We were truly impressed by how easily the wheels and tyres sealed up for tubeless use – getting the tyres to bead was simple, even with a standard track pump.
Specialized have gone to the trouble of colour matching the gloss black finish of the frame and fork. The shiny black looks fantastic against the gold Kashima fork legs.
The Camber is equipped with the new internal routed Command IR dropper post, with 125mm of adjustment. The small remote lever is integrated oh-so neatly into the grip lock-ring. Compared to the standard Command Blacklite post, the new IR version is far superior.
Carbon hoops! The bike comes tubeless ready – just install the supplied valves, add goo and go.
Bike schmike, give me some shit to roll in.