All-New Specialized Epic

The paint job on this S-Works model is ridiculous, changing colour like a carbon chameleon.

From our perspective, it feels like cross country is on the ascendency again. The World Cup coverage of XC is superb, huge players like Iron Man and Red Bull are investing in top-tier cross-country events and athletes, and there are loads of brilliant new XC race rigs hitting the market too. In the past 12 months, both the Scott Spark and the Giant Anthem have had a complete overhaul, and now you can add Specialized to that list.

Hey! Where’d your Horst link go?

There are so many changes with the new Epic that we don’t really know where to start. Perhaps we could begin by pointing out that this bike is no longer the Epic FSR – it’s just the Epic. Why? Well, it no longer uses an FSR linkage. For the first time since god knows when, Specialized have ditched the Horst link, a design that has been underpinned their dual suspension bikes for decades.

Another look at that sleek and pivot-less rear end.

Instead, you’ll find a flex stay arrangement. Travel is still 100mm, but dropping a pivot obviously, saves weight, reduces a point of wear and potential flex, and makes for a super stiff rear end laterally. Even the alloy versions of the Epic use a flex stay.

For the first time, RockShox supply the Brain shock for the Epic. The layout and damping has been changed entirely from the previous version.

There have been some absolutely massive weight savings. The mainframe alone is 500g lighter than its predecessor. 500g! That’s like removing the shock, all the pivot hardware and the paint. And that’s just the front end. On the models with a carbon rear end, Specialized have shaved another 200g+. That’s the better part of a kilo chopped from an already light bike.

Specialized’s long-standing partnership with FOX for their Brain shock seems to have come to an end, with RockShox providing the new rear damper across all Epic models. The Brain system is totally revised too, both in terms of structure and damping. The Brain reservoir now rearward of the brake caliper, behind the rear axle. By our reckoning, this should increase the responsiveness of the inertia valve hugely. But what really grabbed us, is the integration of the shock, the linkage and the hose that joins the shock to the Brain unit. The pictures do a better job of telling the tale, but in a nutshell, the linkage forms part of the conduit from shock to Brain, with the damping oil actually running through the linkage. Insane. Brilliant. Sleek as hell.

The hose from the shock to the Brain valve is integrated into the linkage, which becomes an element of the shock itself.

With every iteration of the Brain, Specialized seem to strive to make it feel less intrusive when you don’t want it. While we haven’t ridden the new bike yet (we will soon!) Specialized claim the new Epic has a far more plush ride, closer to that which you’d expect from the Camber.

Of course, the bike uses Boost hub spacing, and like all new bikes, the geometry is slacker and has more reach than before. The head angle is now 69.5 degrees, a full 1.5 degrees more relaxed than the previous Epic. The Epic uses a custom RockShox SID Brain-equipped fork, with just 42mm of offset (compare that to the 51mm found on many 29er). It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the handling, it should make it very stable in theory.

The new cable routing deserves a mention too, running over the top of the bottom bracket shell (which is threaded, not press fit – hooray!), and there are provisions for running a dropper post too, which we think many people will. This bike has a much more ‘trail bike’ kind of vibe to it than earlier Epics, so a dropper would play to those strengths.

Apparently, we’re not going to be waiting long to actually get a ride on this bike too, with stock arriving in July 2017, but prices have been set as below:

S-Works (men’s and women’s) – $12,500

S-Works Epic frameset, including fork – $6500

Epic Expert – $6900

Epic Comp Carbon (men’s and women’s) – $5200

Epic Comp – $3800

Flow’s First Bite: Specialized Camber Expert Carbon 29

Let’s take a quick look at the new Camber before we get it real dirty. Full review coming soon.

The Camber is available in carbon and aluminium, ranging from $2799 up to the S-Works for $12999, check out the full range here: Specialized Camber.

Our review of the 2015 Camber Expert Carbon EVO: Camber EVO review.  

Read our review of the new 2016 Stumpjumper too, she’s a real beauty. Specialized Stumpjumper review. 

Seen the new 6Fattie range? Worth a look if you’re a fan of traction. Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie review. 

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The new-look 2016 Camber, subtle with its minimal graphics and lack of stickers.

Slotting in between the lean and mean Specialized Epic and longer legged Stumpjumper, the Camber has grown to be a mighty popular trail bike with its ability to suit just about any mountain bike rider with its neutral ‘just right’ on-trail character.

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The front end is a beautiful mixture of smooth lines and sleek shapes. It’s hard not to run your fingers over it and say “ooooh”.

Two wheel sizes: The Camber is now available in both wheel sizes (previously only 29″), 650b and 29er. 120mm travel for the 29er and 130mm for the smaller wheel 650b version. We’ve got the 29er on test, the Expert Carbon Comp 29.

Tighter numbers: It’s all the rage, shorter rear ends for a zippier ride. The new Camber 29er drops from a previous length of 450mm to a short and snappy 437mm. The head angle slackens off slightly to 68 degrees.

Internal routing: We really appreciate a clean bike, and this new Camber is so damn fine it’s just a dream. The cable routing is even neater than before, and everything just seems to be so tidy.

Internal cable routing done the good way.
Internal cable routing done the good way.
_LOW0109
Trimmed the rear centre down in length, and beefed it up in girth.

SWAT: What? Storage, Water, Air and Tools. The new Camber uses the SWAT Door, a storage compartment under the water bottle cage. It’s Specialized’s new thing that nobody else has even come close to, you’re able to mount small repair tools on the bike, there’s always space for a full size water bottle and now even a storage compartment INSIDE the down tube takes it to another level. Match that up with their excellent SWAT Bib (that we’ve reviewed and swear by) you can leave your hydration bag at home and carry all the essentials you need for shorter rides on your body or on/inside your bike.

In addition to the SWAT Door, there’s a nifty little allen key set hidden under the tup tube and a chain tool integrated into the headset top cap, now that is clever! We’ve used the SWAT Door plenty of times, and it is actually a really great feature executed very well.

Stiffer and lighter linkage: The new Camber is a lighter and stiffer frame than its predecessor, chiefly due to a new linkage that connects the rear shock directly to the seat stays, said to improve lateral rigidity whilst losing weight. The bike weighs a very impressive 12.34kg out of the box, not bad at all.

The tiny little FSR linkage.
The compact little FSR linkage.
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A reconfigured linkage drives the tiny Micro Brain rear shock.

Position-Sensitive Micro Brain: Specialized have used their Brain rear shocks for yonks, made in collaboration with FOX it uses an inertia valve housed down towards the rear hub which can differentiate between impacts from the ground and the rider’s inout pushing down. Over the years our relationship with this system has improved, earlier versions whilst very efficient they would lack feel.

The latest version of the Brain is said to be a vast improvement in this regard, with a greater range of adjustment with more sensitivity. This is of particular interest to us, we’re looking forward to testing it out on the dirt.

Wide Rims: YES! 29mm wide rims, winner. Specialized got the memo about wider rims are better rims a couple years ago, and now offer good width on so many of their bikes. The Roval Traverse wheels on this Camber have an internal width of 29mm. Thumbs up.

The classic tyre combo of a Specialized Purgatory up front and the Ground Control out the back is a real winner in our eyes, and they’re all set up tubeless.

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Glossy FOX forks.

34mm FOX: The new 2016 FOX Fit 4 forks are sweet, and with the 34mm legs leading the way everything is stiffer and more precise.

Shimano meets SRAM: In what Specialzed must call ‘best of both worlds’ the brakes are done by the Shimano with the new XT brakes that are winning everyone over with their light feel and heavy power, read our review on them here: Shimano M8000 XT tested.  And the drivetrain comes from the other corner, SRAM.

The SRAM 11-speed drivetrain uses a tiny 28 tooth chainring on carbon cranks up front, with the base level 10-42 tooth SRAM GX cassette out the back, that’s a nice and low range of gears.

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It’s all looking pretty good so far, but we couldn’t help but gasp at the price. $8799 is pretty massive, the prices of bikes just keep on going up, and it seems Specialized are particularly effected. Only a couple years ago the same version was closer to $6000, crazy.

We’ll be putting in the testing miles on the Camber this summer, so stay tuned for more.

_LOW0123
Let the testing begin!

Specialized Unveil Completely New Camber, in Two Wheel Sizes and with new Brain Shock

Not long after Specialized revamped the classic Stumpjumper and introduced the Rhyme, we’ve been handed the exciting news that a whole new Camber will also be on its way for 2016. Do these guys sleep? So many new bikes, so much work!

The new Camber is a completely fresh bike, but its position in the market remains the same. Filling the gap in Specialized’s line up between the racy Epic and all-mountain Stumpjumper, the Camber is a popular one for riders seeking a lightweight, short travel dually with a confident feel on the trail.


We recently tested the Camber’s bigger brother, the brand new 2016 Stumpjumper FSR – hear our thoughts. 


Camber 1
The top tier S-Works Camber FSR Carbon 29. A whopping $12999!

[divider]Highlights of the new 2016 Camber range[/divider]

– Available in TWO wheel sizes, 650b and 29″.

Previously a 29″ only model, riders will now have the ultimate choice, two wheel sizes. Choose between smaller diameter 650b wheels for a fun and flickable ride, or 29″ wheels for speed and confidence.

The 29er uses 12mm of travel, the 650b has 130mm.

We’re all about choice, as no two riders will want to ride one trail the same way, so having the same bike in two wheel sizes is a great option. The 29er will have shorter travel (120mm front and rear) and sharper geometry than the 650b model (which runs 130mm-travel front and rear) to play to the strengths of the bigger wheels.

In an effort to simplify the large range, there will be no Camber EVO model, with the 650b version filling that void with slightly more travel a more aggressive riding style.

Camber 12

– All-new geometry with shorter chain stays and a slacker head angle. 

The 2016 Camber will have a wheelbase of 1119mm (650b) and 1135mm (29″). But most interestingly to note is that the chain stays on the 29er drop from a previous length of 450mm  to a short and snappy 437mm,the  same length as the upcoming Trek Fuel EX 29. The 650b version is much shorter again.

The all-new 650b model will have very tight 420mm length stays which brings it right in line with other fun and playful bikes. I It’ll be a sweet bike to ride, for sure.

Head tube angles are slackened off, too. With the 29″ Camber moving from 70 degrees to 68, and the 650b version will sit at 67.5 degrees. The low bottom bracket height remains the same, 329mm (650b) and 335mm for the 29er.

Camber 5

– New Concentric Link FSR, for a stiffer and lighter rear end.

The linkage arrangement has been given a big shakeup. The new Concentric Link is allows weight to be saved from the seat stays and is said to be a stiffer arrangement.

Camber 8

Camber 3
The fat carbon stays bolt onto linkage centred around one pivot. It’s all lighter and stiffer than before.

– New Position-Sensitive Micro Brain rear shock.

Short travel suspension bikes from Specialized use their proprietary inertia valve suspension design – The Brain. Constantly evolving, this very clever system has the ability to give your rear suspension ultimate efficiency – it ensures your suspension is only activated when an impact occurs from the ground upwards (i.e. hitting a bump), and not from you pushing down on the bike (i.e. pedalling). You can dial in how much damping you want from the Brain, from almost totally non-existent, through to super firm.

The Brain concept has been around for yonks, but for 2016 we will see the Camber with its own special variant called the Position Sensitive Micro Brain, and we like the sound of it very much.

The Position Sensitive Brain will let you feel the trail underneath more. The inertia valve will only engage when you’ve reached the sag point of the travel. The first 25% of the travel will remain open and plush.

Whilst the Brain has always been great in that it let’s you hammer hard on the pedals without the rear suspension bobbing bob as you do, we’ve found it it can be somewhat unpredictable and intrustive at times. For instance, when pumping the ground, or pushing into the bike to preload the suspension to make a jump, we’ve often found the Brain can make the rear suspension feel a little funky.

So, with this new 25% of ‘brainless’ portion of travel at the top of the stroke, we can envisage this letting the rider feel the terrain a little more, not skimming over the top of it.

Camber 9
The new Micro Brain operates along the same lines as earlier Brain shocks, but the inertia valve is always kept open in the initial 25% of the travel.
Camber 11
The blue dial adjusts the firmness/sensitivity of the Brain, so you can adapt its performance to suit your trails.

– SWAT Door.

Like the new Stumpy and Rhyme, the Camber gets the new SWAT Door. There’s literally a hinged door, that gives you access to the the big space inside the downtube for storage. Understandably, we’ve heard many people deride the new SWAT Door (or Glovebox as we like to call it) but we’re sure it’ll end up being super useful. It’s all part of Specialized’s goal of freeing the ride of the need to use a hydration pack, as you can mount a water bottle, tools, and spares on/inside the bike.

Camber 10
The SWAT door. A handy place to stash your spares, you sandwich, or hide your Euros if riding in Greece.

– Taco Blade front derailleur system.

Following suit of the Enduro and Stumpjumper range, the Camber will now use Specialized’s trick front derailleur mount, the Taco Blade. This allows the bike’s rear end to be super short in length, whilst still allowing the use of a front derailleur if needed.

Camber 6

Details are a little light on the Camber at this stage, but stay tuned as we attempt to find more out about this sweet new bike. In the meantime, have a flick through our reviews of the original Specialized Camber.


S-Works Camber 29:  http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-specialized-s-works-camber-29-finished/

Camber Expert Carbon Evo 29: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/tested-specialized-camber-expert-carbon-evo-29/

Women’s Specific Rumour Expert Evo 29: http://flowmountainbike.com/tests/shred-ette-specialized-rumor-exper-evo-29-reviewed/


[divider]Australian Retail Pricing[/divider]

S-WORKS CAMBER FSR CARBON 650B $12,999

S-WORKS CAMBER FSR CARBON 29 $12,999

CAMBER FSR EXPERT CARBON 650B $8,799

CAMBER FSR EXPERT CARBON 29 $8,799

CAMBER FSR ELITE CARBON 650B $7,799

CAMBER FSR ELITE CARBON 29 $7,799

CAMBER FSR COMP CARBON 650B $5,799

CAMBER FSR COMP CARBON 29 $5,799

CAMBER FSR COMP 650B $3,499

CAMBER FSR COMP 29 $3,499

CAMBER FSR 650B $2,799

CAMBER FSR 29 $2,799

CAMBER FSR GROM $2,999


 

2015 Highlights from Specialized

Specialized are the boss. With their gap-free range of exemplary bikes, strong and visible marketing, thorough array of parts and accessories and their excellent in-house components, it’s no wonder these guys sit so high in the mountain bike food chain. What’s new for the next season? What can they improve on? For 2015 Specialized release a new Enduro, and do more than just dip a toe into the water with the 650b bikes.

The women’s range makes up for a huge portion of Specialized’s catalogue, with a new Era (29″ wheel race bike modelled around the Epic) and a Rumor EVO all-mountain bike. Our first impressions of the women’s range is here.

We snagged a few quick test rides around the Gold Coast’s fast and zippy singletrack of Nerang, and and in between dirt time we perused the halls of the 2015 dealer show, and picked out our fave new rigs for next year. Here are our thoughts on the new bits and bobs from the bold crew from Morgan Hill, California.

Click on the smaller images for captions and details.

Specialized Vintage FSR 8

 

Highlights from the 2015 mens mountain bike range:

  • New Enduro with 650b wheels.
  • New wide profile Roval Fattie wheels.
  • Stumpjumper EVO with 650b wheels (released a few months ago).
  • New 380g dropper post with a slight 35mm of drop, the SXP, on Epic and Stumpjumper HT.
  • Low-tread aggressive Slaughter tyre on Stumpjumper EVO, Demo and Enduro range.
  • The Camber remains unchanged for 2015, aside from a couple of spec changes.
  • You’ll have to look hard to find SRAM brakes, with more Shimano and Magura on the vast majority of models.
  • There are five fat bikes…jeeeez.

[divider]Enduro[/divider]

Specialized have had a bike named ‘Enduro’ in their lineup for many years, long before it became a trendy buzzword, and the sport blew up on the international scene in a big way. The Enduro comes in two flavours, 650b and 29″, with a couple of carbon models and one aluminium framed versions available in Oz.

The downhill World Cup superstars Aaron Gwin and Troy Brosnan both raced the Enduro 650b at the first two rounds of the 2014 World Cup in Pietermaritzburg and Cairns. If they can whack a dual crown fork on an Enduro and light it up at World Cup level, we have no doubts that it’s up to the hardest riding we can deliver.

When Specialized released the Enduro 29, they focused heavily on keeping the bike’s dimensions short in the rear end, with the chain stay measuring a paltry 430mm thanks to the development of a special front derailleur mount (or by ditching it completely for SRAM 1×11 models). 29″ wheels on a 155mm-travel bike is a tough one to get right, but the end result was amazing, the bike never felt too big or too long.

AQ5A5851
The two Enduro Expert Carbons. 650b and 29″.

Still, a bike with 29″ wheels still has its drawbacks, hence the smaller 650b option. Here at Flow, we ride medium size bikes, we love to jump, pump and let the bike hang out on the trails, slide a bit, pull manuals and hoon around. That’s where a smaller wheeled bike shines. What the 29″ Enduro gains over the 650b Enduro in traction and sheer rolling speed, it loses to its smaller brother in agility and playfulness. It’s your pick! To be completely honest, we often wish we didn’t have to think about wheel sizes so much. Will bikes like the Enduro all be 650b in the future? We hope so.

We took the 650b out for a razz, and holy moly did we love it! Our initial fears that on the fairly flat and buff trails of Nerang would not be enough to fully appreciate such a capable mountain bike, were banished when we let the brakes off and burned around the turns at reckless pace. So much suspension should really suck you of your pedalling energy, but we give this Enduro the thumb up.

Specialized Enduro S-Works 26
Mansfield’s Shannon Raddemaker feels at home going fast on a 29er, but loved the agility of the 650b in the fast turns. Foot out, flat out.
Specialized Enduro S-Works 22
The flagship Enduro S-Works is a total dream. You don’t get much better than this.

Specialized offer the Enduro in the up-for-it EVO format too, with slightly more travel (180mm) and Rockshox BoXXer and an Ohlins coil shock too. In fact, it’s pretty much the exact bike that Gwin and Brosnan raced early in the season!

One of for the bike parks or calmer downhill tracks - the Enduro Expert EVO 650b, $6999.
One of for the bike parks or calmer downhill tracks – the Enduro Expert EVO 650b, $6999.

[divider]Stumpjumper FSR[/divider]

Carrying the same name as the world’s first ever mass-produced mountain bike, the Stumpjumper FSR is a bike that suits the traditional mountain biker, one who favours all-day rides, up and down all types of terrain. The good old Stumpy is a well-loved, comfortable and capable classic.

Starting at $3199 for the Stumpjumper 29, the FSR range is an eight-strong offering of well-specced bikes. There are six 29ers (including two EVO models) and two 650b EVO models as well.

Check out our review of the 2014 Stumpjumper Carbon Expert here.

The Stumpjumper EVO 650b was the first bike that Specialized announced would be rolling on 650b wheels. The news was received with mixed feelings, as we all know how strongly Specialized professed that 29ers were the way forward, and they had 29″ wheels across the overwhelming majority of their mountain bike range. But, hey presto, we have an Enduro, Demo and a Stumpjumper in 650b now. Maybe Specialized didn’t do themselves any favours with their somewhat awkward  media release headlined “Bigger is better, except when its not”. But either way, we welcome 650b bikes to the catalogue.

Giving the purchaser the option of the same bike in two wheel sizes is both a blessing and a curse. Is there too much choice? Or is this the way the whole industry is going?

Specialized Stumpjumper 28
The $7699 Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO 650b.

In the Stumpjumper 29er series, there are no real changes from 2014 aside from spec. The regular Stumpjumper 29 still has 135mm travel, and the two EVO versions (one carbon, one alloy) get a 5mm increase in suspension travel, a long fork, with a few key parts to boost its attitude, like meaty tyres and wider handlebars.

When it comes to the 650b bikes, there are again two options, in carbon or alloy. Instead of making expensive new moulds for the 650b, Specialized have actually added a spacer under the headset of a 29er Stumpy mainframe, to achieve the right geometry for 650b parts to be used, coupled with an entirely different aluminium rear end. Compared to most of the superbly refined range, especially the 650b Enduro, the approach of using a spacer to correct the frame geometry for 650b wheels feels a little underdone.  In Specialized’s defence, we’ve been told that through simply using the spacer, they were able to achieve the right geometry without the costs of constructing a completely new frame. So that’s got to be a good thing for the consumer, as they aren’t cheap in the first place.

Construction aside, how did the 650b Stumpjumper ride? We took out the bright yellow Expert Carbon 650b out for a solid few laps, and we liked it for the most part. The geometry is quite unique though, in classic Specialized form, the bottom bracket is low, but this one had us banging pedals on the ground when climbing up rocky terrain. Too low? We think so. Our cranks were scuffed up after one lap.

The handlebars are fairly tall too, we’d drop them down or swap for a flat bar unless your local terrain is steep. On paper, the tall bars, low bottom bracket and a fairly sharp 68 degree head angle seems like an odd combination, but it rides well. The smoothness off the FSR suspension was a real highlight, and cornering the bike was a blast, with oodles of traction and a very confident and centred position with wide bars holding your body in a good position for any unpredictable terrain ahead.

The trails of Nerang are hard packed, with loose gravel and sand patches to catch you out. A few jumps here and there, and many flat turns. The Stumpjumper really was a hoot to blast about on, we’d love to keep one in our quiver for the long all-day rides. Just watch your pedals on rocks.

Specialized Stumpjumper Expert 5
650b v 29″? You decide, we can’t tell you. Agility and playfulness or massive speed and confidence? Or, are you short, tall, experienced or a beginner? Confusing, isn’t it…

[divider]Stumpjumper HT[/divider]

HT = hardtail. No rear shocks on this one; it’s got an eye for the buffed cross country race tracks.

There are five models in this racy series this year, only one of which is alloy. For 2105, the Stumpy HTs get a SWAT kit (allen key set mounted to bottle cage) and we see a FOX Terralogic fork creep back into the range on the Marathon Carbon. FOX’s Terralogic damping system is not too different to the Specialized Brain damper which many Specialized riders will be familiar with, using an inertia valve to keep the fork firm until you hit a bump.

It’s funny to say, but it’s the seat post on one of the Stumpy HTs that really got us going! The XCP dropper post is found on the Stumpjumper HT and a couple Epics, and with a slight 35mm of drop, it allows the rider just that perfect bit of freedom to move about when the trails are rougher or steeper. It’s a part-carbon post, in 27.2mm diameter, with a neat internally routed cable. Mmm, chapeau Specialized on that one! We think this is just the ticket for cross country racers who don’t need a 100 or 125mm dropper post.

The back end of this bike is gorgeous, with an allen key bolt-up rear hub axle in place of a quick release skewer and a pair of very thin seat stays, offering a bit of give and compliance to the ride quality of the lightweight hardtail.

Specialized Stumpjumper HT 7
The Stumpjumper Marathon Carbon. A race hardtail with a dropper post? YES!

[divider]Epic[/divider]

Specialized Australia bring in a whopping nine models of the Epic in three variations.  The three variants of the Epic differ slightly, but are based around the same FSR suspension with a FOX Brain rear shock. There is the mighty sharp angled and lean Epic 29 World Cup, the generously geared and SWAT equipped Epic 29 Marathon, and the regular Epic 29. It’s no wonder why the Epic is the only dual suspension bike to win a World Championship XCO race, these guys are bred for the race track.

There’s no 650b wheels on any Epic, they 100% lend themselves to the bigger 29″ wheel’s rolling efficiency and generous traction.

The World Cup model uses only 95mm of suspension travel front and back. In a world where 100mm of travel is as lean as you get from almost every other brand out there, the Epic World Cup doesn’t pretend to be anything but a pure cross country race bike. All World Cup models use a single-ring drivetrain, and without a front derailleur to worry about, Specialized can go to town in the name of stiffness, with a wide and remarkably fat chainstay. Behind the chainring the tolerances are tight, all in the name of achieving a stiff, and responsive pedalling bike.

Specialized Epic Expert WC 1
Best looking bike in the showroom? The Epic Expert Carbon World Cup 29. A very orange bike for $7199.

We snuck out on the Specialized S-Works Epic 29, the top of the pile, $12500 bike for a couple laps of the buff Nerang trails. What does a bike that costs this much ride like? Not too bad… Ok, it’s a real delight. The low weight, quick wheels and snappy handling made for a fast feel that you’d expect from the most premium of bikes available. It’s not hard to see what you’re spending these type of dollars on when you’re actually riding it, believe us. The new Shimano 11-speed XTR paired with the RockShox RS-1 fork makes for a jaw droopingly gorgeous parts kit and with a Brain damper in the fork matching the FOX Brain rear shock, you can make it as firm or plush as you like with a twiddle of the dials.

Twisting and winding our way through the open forest, we relished in the momentum and efficiency of the low-weight 29″ wheels. The Epic is a super sharp handling bike, with class-leading efficiency and pure speed.

This was also Flow’s first ride on the wild new inverted fork from RockShox. Sure, it twists when you hold the wheels between your knees and pull and push the handlebars, more than a SID would, but on the trail its another story. The carbon legged RS-1 is so incredibly smooth, supple and quiet on the dirt. The fork really takes a lot of the sting out of the trail with the combination of both a good suspension action, and a little bit of ‘give’ in the chassis, in a good way. We’re still worried about the price and exposed inner legs to trail damage, but we love its look and feel so far.

The Epic would have to be our pick for the cross country races or multi day stage races in the calendar.

Specialized Epic S-Works 12
Flow’s Mick Ross giving the $12500 Epic a little bit of a razz. Is this the first time this bike has seen baggy shorts?!
Specialized Epic S-Works 47
This is what a $12500 bike looks like. Holy sh*t.

[divider]Demo 8[/divider]

Now you can ride the bike that Troy Brosnan piloted to a World Cup win in Fort William this year. A 650b wheeled Demo 8.

Specialized have released a completely new S-Works Demo Carbon that is due early next year, but still honour the masses with two versions of the immensely popular aluminium Demo, tweaked to fit 650b wheels.

Aside from the upsize in wheels, the Demo is now available in a new sizing range called S3 Geometry. No longer are the bikes XS, S, M, L etc, where the length and height increases with each size. Instead, you you choose your length, and you choose your height. This has come about from riders going a size up on their downhill bikes for the stability of a longer wheelbase, and so now you can a long size without the seating position going higher if you don’t wish to.

Specialized Demo 3
The Demo 8 FSR II 650b, for $7499.

[divider]Fatboy[/divider]

FIVE fat bikes in the Specialized range for 2015. Isn’t that nuts? Like a tumour, it’s growing, and this just proves it.

The Fatboy Expert with a RockShox Bluto fork is a bit of a winner, and with decent suspension, the bikes don’t bounce about uncontrollably anymore. We might even test one…

Specialized Fatboy Range 13
The top-tier Fatboy is dripping with carbon. All for a fat $4999.

 

[divider]Body Geometry and the Retül fit system[/divider]

Specialized bought the exclusive rights to the industry leading Retül Müve body fit system. If you see one of these at your local Specialized dealer, sign up for a proper fit. It’s a whole-body experience and will let you get the most out of your bike, in comfort.

Specialized Retul 6
This thing looks like it’s built to torture you. Or power a blender.
Au revior, for now.
Au revior, for now.

 

Specialized Women’s 2015 Range Highlights

Specialized have a history of taking women’s needs seriously. The company’s 2015 range of women’s bikes took up 30% of the floor space at the Australian and New Zealand launch, a firm statement about the variety of bikes on offer for different types of riders.

While some brands offer ladies a modified head tube length, reach and standover in comparison to their men’s line, Specialized bikes sit inbetween the men’s sizes.

That is to say that a medium women’s frame has tube measurements that place it in-between a men’s small and medium. A female rider of average height will sit closer to the middle of the recommended height range for a medium frame, rather than at the top end of a small. Imagine that!

Other features of the women’s range include carbon lay ups better suited to the weight range of their intended users offering a more compliant ride feel. You’ll also notice slightly easier gearing, narrower bars, appropriate stem lengths, a parts selection that’s comfortable at key contact points and aesthetics designed for ladies who want to look fast and get their bikes dirty.

With the exception of two entry-level bikes, the women’s mountain bike range is sticking with the 29” wheel size for 2015. The new women’s XC dual suspension weapon, the Era, was the talk of the show. Racy women will consider selling every expensive possession they own for the experiences this high end, and surprisingly versatile bike, offers on the trails. For us, the biggest highlight was the Rumor Evo trail bike because it’s simply so much fun to ride.

[divider]The Rumor[/divider]

We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the 110mm trail bike, the Rumor last year. This year, the range gets extended at the top end with an Evo model, which sees the travel bump up to 120mm and the angles slacken slightly as a result.

Specialized Rumor EVO 25

We’ve seen a few women reaching for a small sized Camber Carbon Expert Evo, ourselves included, for the longer travel and more serious spec than the 2014  Rumor range allowed. The Rumor Expert Evo sees similar spec to the Camber Expert Evo, but built around an alloy frame: SRAM X01 and a 120mm RockShox Pike fork being the two parts that draw most attention from prospective owners. It’s great to see Shimano XT brakes make their way onto this bike too. We love the smooth ride feel they offer and they’re well suited to smaller hands.

The low standover of the Rumor frame means riders don’t overstretch the tendons of the inner thigh when getting on and off the bike, something that becomes an issue for shorter statured folk when a bike is raised higher off the ground with 29” wheels.  In comparison to our time on the Camber, we were able to squash our weight down further when riding technical descents, making the bike feel much more responsive and in control. Our centre of gravity felt more balanced allowing us to really play on the bike without having to force our riding position.

The rest of the Rumor range remains at 110mm travel and has a refined spec for 2015. Shimano brakes adorn all but the $2299 base model. The range tops out with a new Elite model coming in at $4,399. This one will run a RockShox Revelation fork, a 2×10 drive train, Shimano SLX brakes, a Command dropper post and also comes in a stealthy black.

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The Rumor Comp comes in fluro yellow for 2015.

There is still no model available in carbon, which is either because engineers are still finding a way to make the frame shape remain strong with this magic material, or because Specialized feel the market isn’t quite there yet. While we’re hanging for the carbon model as much as the next girl, riding the Rumor and a Carbon Camber back-to-back, we’d choose the alloy frame for the performance offered by the more intuitive-feeling fit.

Specialized Rumor EVO 9
The Rumor line elicits an effortless, stable riding position.

[divider]The Era[/divider]

While the Rumor Evo is the bike that grabs our attention for trail riding, the new dual suspension 29er, the Era, is the showstopper. The Era for women is what the Epic is for men: a high performance race bike designed with speed and winning World Championships in mind. In fact, Annika Langvad rode a pre-production Era to her Marathon World Champs victory a month ago causing much internet speculation about this new women’s frame.

Everything about the top of the line S-Works Era takes racing as seriously as the women who will ride it. SRAM XX1 build, light Magura MT8 brakes, RockShox RS1 forks, Roval Control SL carbon wheelset. And with gloss black decals over a matt black finish, it looks the part too. The Era runs 100mm travel at the front (90mm on small models) and 95mm at the back.

Behold, the Black Stallion. Era S-Works.
Behold, the Black Stallion. Era S-Works.

Again, the sizing of the Era sits between the men’s sizes and offers lower standover. The carbon layup reflects a lower weight range of the intended users, which, paired with such a blinged out, carbon build, gives the bike a much softer and more compliant ride feel than we expected. In fact, the finished product is so tight and agile, we wouldn’t be surprised to see riders on the small size choose it over the burlier Rumor.

Specialized Era 1 (1)
A far more compliant and versatile ride than we expected.

Running the Specialized Brain front and rear and weighing in at a reported 10.1kg for the top of the line model, the Era has all the benefits of a racy hardtail buts lets you be less precise in line choice and take on rougher trails at a higher speed. This adds to the versatility of the bike. It’s one we’d love to do a tough stage race on for sure.

Pointing to the high-performance aims of the Era is a high flying price tag. The Black Beauty you see here will sell for $11,499. The Expert model is $7,199 and the base model is a $4,499, once again reflecting a race-ready build.

Specialized Era Expert 1
The Era FSR Expert Carbon.

[divider]The Fate[/divider]

The Fate hasn’t changed a whole lot since we tested the 2013 model. It has undergone some welcome refinements in spec, which point to ever evolving parts selection available for a light and nimble hardtail. The suspension remains at 80mm keeping the front end nice and low.

The S-Works Fate gets the SRAM XX1 treatment, a change from the 2×10 SRAM and Shimano drive train it ran last year. A price tag of $8999 points to the zero comprise parts list Specialized use when assembling their top of the line bikes and the cost of extreme dieting.

Specialized Fate 16
The Fate Expert Carbon 29.

While nine grand for a hardtail will make some riders open their eyes wider than the Great Australian Bite, you have to hand it to Specialized for continually bringing bikes into the women’s market that sit on a level playing field, in terms of spec, design and fit, with the men’s.

The Expert Carbon Fate is the model that attracted us the most. It’s a more modest build than the S-Works model, for a more modest spend ($4,499). That said, the build is everything most riders need: a carbon wheelset, RockShox SID forks (with the Specialized Brain), a 2×10 chainset, and a beautifully designed and fitting carbon frame. The Comp Carbon Fate will sell for $2,999.

[divider]The Jynx[/divider]

Another new model for 2015 is the Jynx. This bike is the only one in the Specialized women’s range built around 650B wheels. The idea here is that this mid-size wheel is less intimidating for riders who are new to the sport.

The robust looking Jynx is designed for people who want to get out and discover what mountain biking is about. It’s more than capable on singletrack and equally comfortable for explorations on fire roads.

Specialized Jinx 12
The Jynx Comp 650B.

Three models are available, ranging from $649 to $899 for the Jynx Comp 650B.

[divider]Shoes[/divider]

Two new sets of shoes hit Australian shores for 2015. The Cadette will appeal to girls who want something that looks like a running shoe, but offers some of the stability of a cycling shoe. It also gives riders the option of running clipless pedals.

Specialized Shoes 3
2FO: Foot Out, Flat Out.

The 2FO Flat Women’s shoe is a bright looking shoe for ladies who like to ride flat pedals. The sole has been carefully developed to offer the right balance of grip and durability. An SPD option isn’t available yet for the ladies, but we’re hoping that’s not the case for long.

Specialized Rumor EVO 7
With a plush build around an alloy frame, the Rumor Evo still felt nice and supple on the trails.
Did we just slip a picture of a road bike in this article? The $8,999 S-Works Amira to roadies is what the Fate is to mountain bikers. Once again, we were very impressed with the out of the box fit.
Did we just slip a picture of a road bike in this article? The $8,999 S-Works Amira to roadies is what the Fate is to mountain bikers. Once again, we were very impressed with the out of the box fit.

Keep an eye on Flow for highlights from the men’s range, including the new 650B Stumpjumper Expert Carbon and S-Works Enduro Carbon.

Flow Nation: Thredbo, Day 1

It was only a couple of days ago that we were trawling the net, looking for mountain bike videos for our regular Throwback Thursday feature. In our YouTube haze we came across some footage from the 1994 National Champs, held in Thredbo.

Ah, Thredbo – as that video served to remind us once again, Thredders is a destination that’s an integral part of of Australian mountain bike history. We’d struggle to count the number of times that we at Flow have made the drive from Sydney to the idyllic Snowy Mountains, usually with a downhill bike in the back of the car, all set for another weekend of riding Australia’s longest chairlift accessed descent.

And now we’re back again, this time on a mission to learn more about the changes afoot here in Thredbo. Of course we’ve got our downhill bikes with us, but we’ve also got the trail bikes too; the recent development of the Flow Track and the commencement of work on the new Thredbo River Trail has opened up the hill to riders other than those on downhill rigs.

Our first day here couldn’t have been more spectacular, with perfect blue skies and temps in the mid-twenties. Local legend Stuart Diver (Thredbo Operations Manager) had something special to show us, a little way out of the village itself; the Cascade Track. This absolutely magnificent fire trail revealed to us a side of Thredbo that we’d never seen before. It climbs up into some of the most stunning alpine country we’ve ever seen in Australia. In fact, some of the vistas didn’t even look like Australia at all, with the huge open expanses reminding us of rides we’ve done in places like Colorado and Utah.

With a crystal clear river running through the valley floor, wild brumbies roaming the hills and the ghostly fingers of dead snow gums clawing the air, it was a sight we’re not likely to forget. If you ever come to Thredbo and don’t explore this area, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

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The Cascade Track starts at Dead Horse Gap, about five kilometres from the Thredbo Village, which you can see nestled down in the valley.
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Just magnificent; grassy tundra, spooky snow gums and blue skies that went on forever.
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From Bob’s Ridge you can look out across the range to Victoria’s Mt Feathertop.
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Stuart Diver has been exploring Thredbo for almost 20 years.
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The ‘Devil’s Kitchen.

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This ride is one where you earn your turns; there’s no chairlift out here, but the descent feels all the better for it.
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Warning: horses! Wild ones!
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Moments after this shot was taken, the photographer crashed on this creek crossing with such violence that he almost cleared the entire creek with his body. Amazing stuff!

Video: Flight Centre Active Travel Cycle Epic

The award-winning Flight Centre Cycle Epic is a great mountain biking tradition that began in 2002 with a bunch of mates challenging themselves on a 117km epic trail ride. In 2003, the inaugural Australian mountain bike marathon started a new era in the sport.

Over the past 10 years, the EPIC has gone through multiple evolutions, most recently due to the 2011 floods which destroyed much of the track infrastructure. The track-building team have worked hard to develop extensive tracks of an international standard – creating rides that cater for different ages and skill levels.

The EPIC weekend has something for everyone, from the novice rider through to the professional, offering six races and several categories to challenge and reward riders.

Flight Centre Active Travel Cycle Epic from dean saffron on Vimeo.

Flow’s First Bite: Specialized’s 2014 Range Tested

Trail testing fresh new rides from the big, bold and brilliant; Specialized.

 

Flow joined loads of Aussie and Kiwi dealers to check out what the big, bold and red (and black) bike manufacturer, Specialized, has in store for us next season. Not only was this a great opportunity to test all the bikes out in a short time, it also gave Flow the chance to meet the minds behind them, not just the marketing people, but the engineers. We asked why certain things were done, how and why.

 

Here we pick a few highlights and offer our first impressions on the new 2014 bikes, which we have just finished riding on the trails in and around the high altitudes of Copper Mountain, Colorado.

 

Putting in the hours on a Stumpjumper 29 EVO.
Putting in the hours on a Stumpjumper 29 EVO.

Stocking Specialized in a bike store is a mighty safe bet, no doubt about it. With a bike range so complete and everything to accompany them, the options are plentiful. It is a daunting range with so many models and there’s sure to be a suspension travel amount and attitude style of bike perfectly matched to you. From the hardtails, to a 95mm Epic World Cup, all the way up to the 200mm travel Demo downhill bike, with half a dozen or so in between. The women’s range is also growing with more options in a wider range of price points. Add to this even more Body Geometry apparel, accessories and parts than ever before.

Epic 29

Out of the 2014 range, it was the two Epics and Cambers that really caught our eye, with their completely overhauled frame constructions. The Epics, in carbon and aluminium, receive a new lighter rear shock tune, a racier frame option (Epic 29 World Cup), internal cable routing, SWAT compatibility, and space for two water bottles.

Epic 29, in black. Ohhhhh my.
Epic 29, in black. Ohhhhh my.

Taking a look at the rear suspension, we found that now with a couple clicks on the Brain Fade adjuster, the efficiency is quite simply, perfect. The Mini Brain shock has received a lighter compression tune in the name of increasing sensitivity during repeated impacts, and for us that knocking feedback transferred to the rider as the inertia valve opens and closes is most definitely less prominent than before. The shock is also 25g lighter, helped by the use of a new kevlar hose connecting the shock and damping unit. The range of adjustment has also been improved in the name of user friendliness, with only four clicks, instead of 14 or so, as with the previous versions. If this is confusing check out this video for an explanation on how this proprietary design works.

An all new frame for 2014, for one of Australia and New Zealand's most popular cross country/marathon race bike.
An all new frame for 2014, for one of Australia and New Zealand’s most popular cross country/marathon race bike. Check out the new rear end, with no quick release skewer for less weight, plus the new chainstay protector is so very nice.

With a focus on improving the power transfer of your hard-earned energy through the frame to the rear wheel the engineers have worked on streamlining the shock mounting and pivot bearing housings for a more direct line. Additionally, the chainstays have also been beefed up considerably. To neaten the package, for the first time the Epics score internal cable routing. It has been done so very nicely indeed, with foam liners to eliminate rattling inside the frame and exceptionally neat entry and exit ports that allow for one, two, three of four cables to go internal. Plus the entry and exit point locations just seem perfect. A lot of thought has gone into what can easily go so wrong – as we have seen on many other bikes over the years.

Epic 29 World Cup

If the Epic we have known over the last few years was not racy enough, there will now be a sharper and leaner Epic available, dubbed the Epic 29 World Cup. With shorter chain stays, a sharper head angle, a new single chain ring specific frame (very good to see!), and a slightly firmer rear shock damping-tune, controlling the reduced 95mm of rear travel, this is about as exclusive to the racetrack as one keen racer could ever pull from a cardboard box.

The premium S-Works Epic 29 World Cup, hold on tight, this thing is as fast as it gets.
The premium S-Works Epic 29 World Cup, hold on tight this thing is as fast as it gets. The sharp geometry, low weight and firm suspension tune will please the rider looking for the upmost efficiency, like a hardtail only much better.

Have you ever wondered how Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy can accelerate his bike so fast? Try this Epic World Cup out. We did and were imaging race situations (vivid hallucinations) as if we were all of a sudden worthy of a World Cup start.

No front derailleur mount, fat chainstays and a big main pivot section is not only the future, but confirms that single ring mountain bikes are here to stay. Does it also mean Shimano will have an answer to SRAM 11 speed soon?
No front derailleur mount, fat chainstays and a big main pivot section is not only the future of better bikes, but also confirms that single chain ring mountain bikes are here to stay. Does it also mean Shimano will have an answer to SRAM 11 speed soon?

We took an S-Works model (pictured) out for a good blast up the famed Colorado Trail, with tight switchback climbs and rocky strewn descents. The previous day we’d taken the Stumpjumper S-Works on the same trail, so the Epic was an interesting comparison, with a keener eye on smoother lines, less mindless ploughing and quick direction changes the Epic WC was lightning fast. Stomping on the pedals in and out of the saddle gave so much forward motion we had to cheer, and the long and low cockpit is exactly what racers need to cut fast laps on the circuit. Dialling in a couple clicks of Brain Fade adjustment, it was so ridiculously efficient it really was easy, there was never even a chance that unwanted suspension motion could rob you of energy. Put four clicks on, and whilst you do feel and hear it knock as the inertia valve opens, the ability to power forward is unrivalled. Love it or hate it, the Brain Shock on the Epic 29 is more supple and smoother than before, and works damn well.

Stumpjumper HT

Designed alongside the Epic, using the same top end carbon material and construction methods, is Specialized’s flagship cross country hardtail for the rider seeking the upmost speed in either short course racing or less aggressive terrain. It’s a sleek number, with visibly slimmer tubing on the rear end, and a feathery 1.05kg frame weight. That is crazy light.

Looks like a road bike frame with a dirty twist, this new hardtail is lighter than your lunch.
Looks like a road bike frame with a dirty twist, this new hardtail frame is lighter than a Colorado burrito.

Crave

The Stumpjumper HT with its aggressive geometry and high level price points also has an aluminium offsider, the Crave. Formerly named the Carve, a copyrighting issue has led to a little name change. But the Crave is a whole new aluminium 29er starting at $1400 AUD. With a lower stand over height, stiffer and more compliant frame and a relaxed geometry this guy will be a sure bet for first time mountain bikers.

Entry level 29er hardtail, handled great on the trails with really low overall weight and comfortable ergonomics.
Entry level 29er hardtail, handled great on the trails with really low overall weight and comfortable ergonomics.
Using what Specialized call 'neutral trail geometry' the Crave will be a perfect step up into the dirty world of mountain biking.
Using what Specialized call ‘neutral trail geometry’ the Crave will be a perfect step up into the dirty world of mountain biking.

 

Camber 29

Take one step up from the Epic 29 and increase rear suspension travel to 110mm and you will find the Camber, and its more aggressive twin the Camber EVO at 120mm. The Camber is a fantastic bike, bringing a more trail friendly attitude with 29” wheels to the rider who wants to race, but also ride. Out of all the bikes we rode, this was one had so many press folk and Specialized dealers excited. Geometry has not changed from previous models, but every part of construction has been slimmed, lightened and streamlined.

Camber29
A slick FOX Float fork, internal cables and an AutoSag adjustable FOX shock.
The S-Works Camber 29, with all the flash bits, it's a real looker. Who doesn't sit back and stare at their bike? We can only imagine staring at this bike as our own, wow.
The S-Works Camber 29 with all the flash bits, it’s a real looker. Who doesn’t sit back and stare at their bike? We can only imagine staring at this gorgeous bike as our own, wow.
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Up high on the Colorado Trail, our mate Morgan from nsmb.com Canada (Beardy) chose the Camber to carry his red haired legs higher than us sea level dwelling bodies should naturally go. No worries, mate.

Along with the Epic 29, the Camber receives a completely new frame in both aluminium and carbon. The range is also expanded with more models, starting at under $2k AUD, and topping out at an S-Works model with all the good stuff for a touch over $10k. Note the sleek and tidy internal cable routing, even for the new internally routed Command Post IR dropper post on many models.

The Camber uses a standard (non-Brain damped) shock, which will appeal to those seeking a nice and plush, yet not too isolating ride of bigger travel 29ers. A 110mm travel bike with 29” wheels really can go a long way in terms of versatility. We feel that it would be very well worth trying one out along side the Epic as it opens up the trails to be very comfortable and stable without losing much in the way of race speed. We would love to see more riders experimenting with a bike like this, with a few races a year and all the trail riding and fun times to be had in between. The Camber is efficient and as light as you need, but a whole lot of fun when all you are racing your mate back to the car on the weekend.

Rumor

The women’s specific version of the Camber; the Rumor is a very fine bike and we’ve been playing on it already for a while now. We will have the full review of the 2013 Rumor Comp coming very soon. No major changes to this already fresh bike, just more models in the range now to make more people happier.

Rumor, women's specific in every way, not just aesthetically.
Rumor, women’s specific in every way, not just aesthetically.

Camber 29 EVO

EVO means more juice, more travel, slacker angles and spec modifications for more aggressive riding. Flow hearts EVO.

With a different shock strut, shock length, longer fork and beefier spec, the Camber EVO is that little bit more ready to shreddy.
With a different shock strut, shock length, longer fork and beefier spec, the Camber EVO is that little bit more ready to shreddy. This model is looking to retail for around $3200 in Aus, good deal.

When Specialized waved the EVO stick at the Camber, suspension travel jumped from 110mm to 120mm, the tyres grew in meatiness, bars widened and the whole bike edges a half size towards the Stumpjumper FSR 29 in shred-ness. The frame is the same as the standard Camber, just a taller fork, and modified shock strut and shock length giving more travel and that extra oomph that an EVO has. We took the impressive Camber EVO 29 for a ride and loved it. With an aluminium frame, Rockshox Reba fork and a mid-range spec for a little over $3k AUD, this thing is our pick for the great all round bike for a rider looking to hit the trails for good times safely, and comfortably without spending too much.

Peter from Munich, very German and very fast on the Camber 29 EVO.
Peter from Munich, very German and very fast on the Camber 29 EVO.

Stumpjumper FSR 29

The Stumpjumper receives only a few spec modifications and a new rear shock for 2014, the frame remains the same, but oh dear, we are a fan of this bike.

Traction galore, lean it over and feel the confidence that the great tyres on 29" can give you.
Traction galore, lean it over and feel the confidence that the great tyres on 29″ wheel can give you.

The Mini Brain found on the Epic from 2013 and 2014 makes its way onto the Stumpjumper FSR 29. The slimmer and lighter shock helps drop 25g from the frame and with the more user friendly range of adjustability with less index settings.

WEB_Firstbite_Specialized 2014_Action0045
‘Oh, is that a burrito store I see at the end of the trail?’

We reviewed the 2013 Stumpjumper 29 this year, and with one of the greatest outcomes ever. For a bike with 29” wheels, this thing rips trails to pieces. 130mm of supple and balanced suspension travel works so hard to keep the tacky tyres in contact with the dirt and when leant right over into a turn, the traction this bike embodies is mighty impressive. When so much traction is at hand, you need to be able to use it. That is when great geometry and ergonomics come into play and being a Specialized it’s all good. We snagged the Stumpy S-Works for the biggest ride of the week, from the village all the way up past where trees can’t grow on the Colorado Trail.

Loving life.
Loving it.

Now this particular Flow member has had a love/less-love relationship with the inertia valved Brain shocks for many years, There is no lack of appreciation for it’s effectiveness and performance, it is just a personal thing, like driving an automatic or manual car. Typically favouring a balanced suspension bike with compression adjustments, like a FOX CTD shock, over one that effectively adjusts itself according to the trail, we actually really enjoyed our time aboard the Brain shocks found on the Epics and Stumpjumper FSR. Specialized say it to us every year that it’s more sensitive when switching from open and closed, but that knocking is again less prominent, whilst retaining perfect efficiency when you push down on the pedals. Chapeau Specialized.

The Stumpjumper FSR S-Works. The ultimate trail bike? Quiver killer? Yep.
The Stumpjumper FSR S-Works. The ultimate trail bike? Quiver killer? Yep.

 Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29

Now this is a highly desirable bike and remains much the same from 2013. Take the Stumpjumper FSR 29, and feed it just a little bit too much raw steak for breakfast and you have the Stumpy EVO. Available in 26” and 29” this bike is going to really appeal to the rider with a gravity fed mind but the desire to go all day long.

Black, matte black. Very black.
Black, matte black. Very black. They say black is the new black. Back in Black.
The Rockshox Pike is a fantastic fork, suiting this bikes hard-charging nature by supporting big hits with amazing composure. A FOX CTD shock controls 135mm of travel, and the new SRAM X0 level 11 speed drivetrain is flawless and black...
The Rockshox Pike is a fantastic fork, suiting this bikes hard-charging nature by supporting big hits with amazing composure. A FOX CTD shock controls 135mm of travel, and the new SRAM X0 level 11 speed drivetrain is flawless and most importantly in this case, black.

The new Rockshox Pike with the new Charger damper and big 35mm diameter legs are found on high end Stumpjumper EVO models, and we simply could not get enough of it. The trails at Copper Mountain were most definitely gravity oriented, but overall we were pumping out of corners, lifting up rocky steps, jumping and accelerating so fast. We were struggling to give it back at the end of the day.

Confidence personified. The stable cockpit ergonomics, supportive fork travel and monumental amount of traction makes for moments like this, all the time.
Confidence personified. The stable cockpit ergonomics, supportive fork travel and monumental amount of traction makes for fun moments like this, all the time.

Enduro 29

The new buzz-word making such a wide variety of riders is ‘enduro’. And lucky for Specialized, they actually have a model of FSR named the Enduro! In both 26” and 29” wheels, their big travel bike for the big mountains is a real pleaser, shed-loads of fun and can easily double the speed of the most timid rider.

Big wheels, big gonads. This is the way to boost confidence on the trail.
Big wheels, big gonads. This is the way to boost confidence on the trail.

On high-end models the Enduro uses the Cane Creek Double Barrel CS shock with the new Climb Switch. In 2013, the Enduro S-Works used a nifty little custom switch to enable slow speed compression damping adjustment on the fly, for next season Cane Creek have developed a switch that not only adds slow speed compression, but also slow speed rebound damping too, and just the right amount. Climbing this bike is not a chore like it should be considering the travel amount and maniac enhancing descending ability.

Big wheels, but tucked in to the centre of the bike to help the large bike corner quicker, Cane Creek release a new shock with a great climbing adjustment, a tight rear end and the new internally routed dropper post.
The big 29″ wheel is tucked in to the centre of the bike to help the large bike corner quicker, Cane Creek release a new Double Barrel air shock with a great climbing adjust lever, and the new internally routed dropper post.

We will see both the 26” and 29” model in Oz for 2014, but we were so impressed with the traction alone on the 29” Enduro that we firmly stand behind its ability to convert the 29er skeptics out there. Front end height management for the shorter rider may be a challenge, but not too hard at all. The new dropper post is not only neater with its internally routed cable, but the actuation is also smoother than before. The improvements make for quick and predictable seat height adjustments when the trails turn up, down, or drop away blindly before you.

26″ 27.5″ or 29″?

The question came up about wheel sizes in the future, and Specialized admitted to not being 650B haters, but simply haven’t felt the need to adopt the in the middle size just yet, even after four years of prototyping 650B bikes. In our opinion we find that Specialized have done a great job integrating 29″ wheel bikes in the tricky ranges like small sizes or big travel. They are not cumbersome, too tall, heavy or flexy. 26″ models are gone from the ranges the hardtails, Epics, Cambers, Rumors etc but Stumpjumpers, Enduros and up from there still have a 26″ option. Did we test one out in Copper Mountain? Nope, we didn’t really feel the need to. For Specialized to keep trimming down the 26″ models there needs to be good reason and that is sales, 26″ bikes are not moving off the floor like they used to, enough said.

SWAT

Storage, Water, Air, Tools is what SWAT is all about. Maybe someone at Specialized has a thing against hydration backpacks but the development of this new method of integrating, rather than carrying everything you need, is really quite cool. More bikes have twin water bottle mounts than ever before, and many models have full SWAT compatibility with tools and water bottle cages specced with the bike on the shop floor. The coolest is the chain breaker tool that is integrated into the top cap of your headset, so clever.

Remove the top cap to reveal a nifty chain breaker, and storage for a spare chain links. Bingo!
Remove the top cap to reveal a nifty chain breaker, and storage for a spare chain links. Bingo!
Storage, Water, Air, Tools. Keep it off your back and never leave the necessities behind. Check out the allen key set that sits under the top tube of some models, the 8mm key is that flat number on the bottom left. Good thinking, guys.
Storage, Water, Air, Tools. Keep it off your back and never leave the necessities behind. Check out the allen key set that sits under the top tube of some models, the 8mm key is that flat number on the bottom left. Good thinking, guys.

Fatboy

For a bit of fun for some, or the only way to go on the most extreme surfaces like snow and sand, a fatbike is a blast. Specialized wanted to make a fat bike that widened its use, not only from snow or sand, but to trails too. This one uses a full carbon tapered steerer fork and a lightweight set of wheels developed by Roval with a 795g, 95mm wide rim, and their hookless rim profile system. Not your average fat bike, this guy is also surprisingly light. Everyone who had a bounce around on one of these couldn’t wipe the grin off their faces. Coming to a dealer near you!

Mike Sinyard, founder of Specialized takes the Fatboy out for a 'bounce around'.
Mike Sinyard, founder of Specialized takes the Fatboy out for a ‘bounce around’.

Flow's First Bite: Specialized's 2014 Range Tested

Trail testing fresh new rides from the big, bold and brilliant; Specialized.

 

Flow joined loads of Aussie and Kiwi dealers to check out what the big, bold and red (and black) bike manufacturer, Specialized, has in store for us next season. Not only was this a great opportunity to test all the bikes out in a short time, it also gave Flow the chance to meet the minds behind them, not just the marketing people, but the engineers. We asked why certain things were done, how and why.

 

Here we pick a few highlights and offer our first impressions on the new 2014 bikes, which we have just finished riding on the trails in and around the high altitudes of Copper Mountain, Colorado.

 

Putting in the hours on a Stumpjumper 29 EVO.
Putting in the hours on a Stumpjumper 29 EVO.

Stocking Specialized in a bike store is a mighty safe bet, no doubt about it. With a bike range so complete and everything to accompany them, the options are plentiful. It is a daunting range with so many models and there’s sure to be a suspension travel amount and attitude style of bike perfectly matched to you. From the hardtails, to a 95mm Epic World Cup, all the way up to the 200mm travel Demo downhill bike, with half a dozen or so in between. The women’s range is also growing with more options in a wider range of price points. Add to this even more Body Geometry apparel, accessories and parts than ever before.

Epic 29

Out of the 2014 range, it was the two Epics and Cambers that really caught our eye, with their completely overhauled frame constructions. The Epics, in carbon and aluminium, receive a new lighter rear shock tune, a racier frame option (Epic 29 World Cup), internal cable routing, SWAT compatibility, and space for two water bottles.

Epic 29, in black. Ohhhhh my.
Epic 29, in black. Ohhhhh my.

Taking a look at the rear suspension, we found that now with a couple clicks on the Brain Fade adjuster, the efficiency is quite simply, perfect. The Mini Brain shock has received a lighter compression tune in the name of increasing sensitivity during repeated impacts, and for us that knocking feedback transferred to the rider as the inertia valve opens and closes is most definitely less prominent than before. The shock is also 25g lighter, helped by the use of a new kevlar hose connecting the shock and damping unit. The range of adjustment has also been improved in the name of user friendliness, with only four clicks, instead of 14 or so, as with the previous versions. If this is confusing check out this video for an explanation on how this proprietary design works.

An all new frame for 2014, for one of Australia and New Zealand's most popular cross country/marathon race bike.
An all new frame for 2014, for one of Australia and New Zealand’s most popular cross country/marathon race bike. Check out the new rear end, with no quick release skewer for less weight, plus the new chainstay protector is so very nice.

With a focus on improving the power transfer of your hard-earned energy through the frame to the rear wheel the engineers have worked on streamlining the shock mounting and pivot bearing housings for a more direct line. Additionally, the chainstays have also been beefed up considerably. To neaten the package, for the first time the Epics score internal cable routing. It has been done so very nicely indeed, with foam liners to eliminate rattling inside the frame and exceptionally neat entry and exit ports that allow for one, two, three of four cables to go internal. Plus the entry and exit point locations just seem perfect. A lot of thought has gone into what can easily go so wrong – as we have seen on many other bikes over the years.

Epic 29 World Cup

If the Epic we have known over the last few years was not racy enough, there will now be a sharper and leaner Epic available, dubbed the Epic 29 World Cup. With shorter chain stays, a sharper head angle, a new single chain ring specific frame (very good to see!), and a slightly firmer rear shock damping-tune, controlling the reduced 95mm of rear travel, this is about as exclusive to the racetrack as one keen racer could ever pull from a cardboard box.

The premium S-Works Epic 29 World Cup, hold on tight, this thing is as fast as it gets.
The premium S-Works Epic 29 World Cup, hold on tight this thing is as fast as it gets. The sharp geometry, low weight and firm suspension tune will please the rider looking for the upmost efficiency, like a hardtail only much better.

Have you ever wondered how Olympic Champion Jaroslav Kulhavy can accelerate his bike so fast? Try this Epic World Cup out. We did and were imaging race situations (vivid hallucinations) as if we were all of a sudden worthy of a World Cup start.

No front derailleur mount, fat chainstays and a big main pivot section is not only the future, but confirms that single ring mountain bikes are here to stay. Does it also mean Shimano will have an answer to SRAM 11 speed soon?
No front derailleur mount, fat chainstays and a big main pivot section is not only the future of better bikes, but also confirms that single chain ring mountain bikes are here to stay. Does it also mean Shimano will have an answer to SRAM 11 speed soon?

We took an S-Works model (pictured) out for a good blast up the famed Colorado Trail, with tight switchback climbs and rocky strewn descents. The previous day we’d taken the Stumpjumper S-Works on the same trail, so the Epic was an interesting comparison, with a keener eye on smoother lines, less mindless ploughing and quick direction changes the Epic WC was lightning fast. Stomping on the pedals in and out of the saddle gave so much forward motion we had to cheer, and the long and low cockpit is exactly what racers need to cut fast laps on the circuit. Dialling in a couple clicks of Brain Fade adjustment, it was so ridiculously efficient it really was easy, there was never even a chance that unwanted suspension motion could rob you of energy. Put four clicks on, and whilst you do feel and hear it knock as the inertia valve opens, the ability to power forward is unrivalled. Love it or hate it, the Brain Shock on the Epic 29 is more supple and smoother than before, and works damn well.

Stumpjumper HT

Designed alongside the Epic, using the same top end carbon material and construction methods, is Specialized’s flagship cross country hardtail for the rider seeking the upmost speed in either short course racing or less aggressive terrain. It’s a sleek number, with visibly slimmer tubing on the rear end, and a feathery 1.05kg frame weight. That is crazy light.

Looks like a road bike frame with a dirty twist, this new hardtail is lighter than your lunch.
Looks like a road bike frame with a dirty twist, this new hardtail frame is lighter than a Colorado burrito.

Crave

The Stumpjumper HT with its aggressive geometry and high level price points also has an aluminium offsider, the Crave. Formerly named the Carve, a copyrighting issue has led to a little name change. But the Crave is a whole new aluminium 29er starting at $1400 AUD. With a lower stand over height, stiffer and more compliant frame and a relaxed geometry this guy will be a sure bet for first time mountain bikers.

Entry level 29er hardtail, handled great on the trails with really low overall weight and comfortable ergonomics.
Entry level 29er hardtail, handled great on the trails with really low overall weight and comfortable ergonomics.
Using what Specialized call 'neutral trail geometry' the Crave will be a perfect step up into the dirty world of mountain biking.
Using what Specialized call ‘neutral trail geometry’ the Crave will be a perfect step up into the dirty world of mountain biking.

 

Camber 29

Take one step up from the Epic 29 and increase rear suspension travel to 110mm and you will find the Camber, and its more aggressive twin the Camber EVO at 120mm. The Camber is a fantastic bike, bringing a more trail friendly attitude with 29” wheels to the rider who wants to race, but also ride. Out of all the bikes we rode, this was one had so many press folk and Specialized dealers excited. Geometry has not changed from previous models, but every part of construction has been slimmed, lightened and streamlined.

Camber29
A slick FOX Float fork, internal cables and an AutoSag adjustable FOX shock.
The S-Works Camber 29, with all the flash bits, it's a real looker. Who doesn't sit back and stare at their bike? We can only imagine staring at this bike as our own, wow.
The S-Works Camber 29 with all the flash bits, it’s a real looker. Who doesn’t sit back and stare at their bike? We can only imagine staring at this gorgeous bike as our own, wow.
IMG_2794
Up high on the Colorado Trail, our mate Morgan from nsmb.com Canada (Beardy) chose the Camber to carry his red haired legs higher than us sea level dwelling bodies should naturally go. No worries, mate.

Along with the Epic 29, the Camber receives a completely new frame in both aluminium and carbon. The range is also expanded with more models, starting at under $2k AUD, and topping out at an S-Works model with all the good stuff for a touch over $10k. Note the sleek and tidy internal cable routing, even for the new internally routed Command Post IR dropper post on many models.

The Camber uses a standard (non-Brain damped) shock, which will appeal to those seeking a nice and plush, yet not too isolating ride of bigger travel 29ers. A 110mm travel bike with 29” wheels really can go a long way in terms of versatility. We feel that it would be very well worth trying one out along side the Epic as it opens up the trails to be very comfortable and stable without losing much in the way of race speed. We would love to see more riders experimenting with a bike like this, with a few races a year and all the trail riding and fun times to be had in between. The Camber is efficient and as light as you need, but a whole lot of fun when all you are racing your mate back to the car on the weekend.

Rumor

The women’s specific version of the Camber; the Rumor is a very fine bike and we’ve been playing on it already for a while now. We will have the full review of the 2013 Rumor Comp coming very soon. No major changes to this already fresh bike, just more models in the range now to make more people happier.

Rumor, women's specific in every way, not just aesthetically.
Rumor, women’s specific in every way, not just aesthetically.

Camber 29 EVO

EVO means more juice, more travel, slacker angles and spec modifications for more aggressive riding. Flow hearts EVO.

With a different shock strut, shock length, longer fork and beefier spec, the Camber EVO is that little bit more ready to shreddy.
With a different shock strut, shock length, longer fork and beefier spec, the Camber EVO is that little bit more ready to shreddy. This model is looking to retail for around $3200 in Aus, good deal.

When Specialized waved the EVO stick at the Camber, suspension travel jumped from 110mm to 120mm, the tyres grew in meatiness, bars widened and the whole bike edges a half size towards the Stumpjumper FSR 29 in shred-ness. The frame is the same as the standard Camber, just a taller fork, and modified shock strut and shock length giving more travel and that extra oomph that an EVO has. We took the impressive Camber EVO 29 for a ride and loved it. With an aluminium frame, Rockshox Reba fork and a mid-range spec for a little over $3k AUD, this thing is our pick for the great all round bike for a rider looking to hit the trails for good times safely, and comfortably without spending too much.

Peter from Munich, very German and very fast on the Camber 29 EVO.
Peter from Munich, very German and very fast on the Camber 29 EVO.

Stumpjumper FSR 29

The Stumpjumper receives only a few spec modifications and a new rear shock for 2014, the frame remains the same, but oh dear, we are a fan of this bike.

Traction galore, lean it over and feel the confidence that the great tyres on 29" can give you.
Traction galore, lean it over and feel the confidence that the great tyres on 29″ wheel can give you.

The Mini Brain found on the Epic from 2013 and 2014 makes its way onto the Stumpjumper FSR 29. The slimmer and lighter shock helps drop 25g from the frame and with the more user friendly range of adjustability with less index settings.

WEB_Firstbite_Specialized 2014_Action0045
‘Oh, is that a burrito store I see at the end of the trail?’

We reviewed the 2013 Stumpjumper 29 this year, and with one of the greatest outcomes ever. For a bike with 29” wheels, this thing rips trails to pieces. 130mm of supple and balanced suspension travel works so hard to keep the tacky tyres in contact with the dirt and when leant right over into a turn, the traction this bike embodies is mighty impressive. When so much traction is at hand, you need to be able to use it. That is when great geometry and ergonomics come into play and being a Specialized it’s all good. We snagged the Stumpy S-Works for the biggest ride of the week, from the village all the way up past where trees can’t grow on the Colorado Trail.

Loving life.
Loving it.

Now this particular Flow member has had a love/less-love relationship with the inertia valved Brain shocks for many years, There is no lack of appreciation for it’s effectiveness and performance, it is just a personal thing, like driving an automatic or manual car. Typically favouring a balanced suspension bike with compression adjustments, like a FOX CTD shock, over one that effectively adjusts itself according to the trail, we actually really enjoyed our time aboard the Brain shocks found on the Epics and Stumpjumper FSR. Specialized say it to us every year that it’s more sensitive when switching from open and closed, but that knocking is again less prominent, whilst retaining perfect efficiency when you push down on the pedals. Chapeau Specialized.

The Stumpjumper FSR S-Works. The ultimate trail bike? Quiver killer? Yep.
The Stumpjumper FSR S-Works. The ultimate trail bike? Quiver killer? Yep.

 Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29

Now this is a highly desirable bike and remains much the same from 2013. Take the Stumpjumper FSR 29, and feed it just a little bit too much raw steak for breakfast and you have the Stumpy EVO. Available in 26” and 29” this bike is going to really appeal to the rider with a gravity fed mind but the desire to go all day long.

Black, matte black. Very black.
Black, matte black. Very black. They say black is the new black. Back in Black.
The Rockshox Pike is a fantastic fork, suiting this bikes hard-charging nature by supporting big hits with amazing composure. A FOX CTD shock controls 135mm of travel, and the new SRAM X0 level 11 speed drivetrain is flawless and black...
The Rockshox Pike is a fantastic fork, suiting this bikes hard-charging nature by supporting big hits with amazing composure. A FOX CTD shock controls 135mm of travel, and the new SRAM X0 level 11 speed drivetrain is flawless and most importantly in this case, black.

The new Rockshox Pike with the new Charger damper and big 35mm diameter legs are found on high end Stumpjumper EVO models, and we simply could not get enough of it. The trails at Copper Mountain were most definitely gravity oriented, but overall we were pumping out of corners, lifting up rocky steps, jumping and accelerating so fast. We were struggling to give it back at the end of the day.

Confidence personified. The stable cockpit ergonomics, supportive fork travel and monumental amount of traction makes for moments like this, all the time.
Confidence personified. The stable cockpit ergonomics, supportive fork travel and monumental amount of traction makes for fun moments like this, all the time.

Enduro 29

The new buzz-word making such a wide variety of riders is ‘enduro’. And lucky for Specialized, they actually have a model of FSR named the Enduro! In both 26” and 29” wheels, their big travel bike for the big mountains is a real pleaser, shed-loads of fun and can easily double the speed of the most timid rider.

Big wheels, big gonads. This is the way to boost confidence on the trail.
Big wheels, big gonads. This is the way to boost confidence on the trail.

On high-end models the Enduro uses the Cane Creek Double Barrel CS shock with the new Climb Switch. In 2013, the Enduro S-Works used a nifty little custom switch to enable slow speed compression damping adjustment on the fly, for next season Cane Creek have developed a switch that not only adds slow speed compression, but also slow speed rebound damping too, and just the right amount. Climbing this bike is not a chore like it should be considering the travel amount and maniac enhancing descending ability.

Big wheels, but tucked in to the centre of the bike to help the large bike corner quicker, Cane Creek release a new shock with a great climbing adjustment, a tight rear end and the new internally routed dropper post.
The big 29″ wheel is tucked in to the centre of the bike to help the large bike corner quicker, Cane Creek release a new Double Barrel air shock with a great climbing adjust lever, and the new internally routed dropper post.

We will see both the 26” and 29” model in Oz for 2014, but we were so impressed with the traction alone on the 29” Enduro that we firmly stand behind its ability to convert the 29er skeptics out there. Front end height management for the shorter rider may be a challenge, but not too hard at all. The new dropper post is not only neater with its internally routed cable, but the actuation is also smoother than before. The improvements make for quick and predictable seat height adjustments when the trails turn up, down, or drop away blindly before you.

26″ 27.5″ or 29″?

The question came up about wheel sizes in the future, and Specialized admitted to not being 650B haters, but simply haven’t felt the need to adopt the in the middle size just yet, even after four years of prototyping 650B bikes. In our opinion we find that Specialized have done a great job integrating 29″ wheel bikes in the tricky ranges like small sizes or big travel. They are not cumbersome, too tall, heavy or flexy. 26″ models are gone from the ranges the hardtails, Epics, Cambers, Rumors etc but Stumpjumpers, Enduros and up from there still have a 26″ option. Did we test one out in Copper Mountain? Nope, we didn’t really feel the need to. For Specialized to keep trimming down the 26″ models there needs to be good reason and that is sales, 26″ bikes are not moving off the floor like they used to, enough said.

SWAT

Storage, Water, Air, Tools is what SWAT is all about. Maybe someone at Specialized has a thing against hydration backpacks but the development of this new method of integrating, rather than carrying everything you need, is really quite cool. More bikes have twin water bottle mounts than ever before, and many models have full SWAT compatibility with tools and water bottle cages specced with the bike on the shop floor. The coolest is the chain breaker tool that is integrated into the top cap of your headset, so clever.

Remove the top cap to reveal a nifty chain breaker, and storage for a spare chain links. Bingo!
Remove the top cap to reveal a nifty chain breaker, and storage for a spare chain links. Bingo!
Storage, Water, Air, Tools. Keep it off your back and never leave the necessities behind. Check out the allen key set that sits under the top tube of some models, the 8mm key is that flat number on the bottom left. Good thinking, guys.
Storage, Water, Air, Tools. Keep it off your back and never leave the necessities behind. Check out the allen key set that sits under the top tube of some models, the 8mm key is that flat number on the bottom left. Good thinking, guys.

Fatboy

For a bit of fun for some, or the only way to go on the most extreme surfaces like snow and sand, a fatbike is a blast. Specialized wanted to make a fat bike that widened its use, not only from snow or sand, but to trails too. This one uses a full carbon tapered steerer fork and a lightweight set of wheels developed by Roval with a 795g, 95mm wide rim, and their hookless rim profile system. Not your average fat bike, this guy is also surprisingly light. Everyone who had a bounce around on one of these couldn’t wipe the grin off their faces. Coming to a dealer near you!

Mike Sinyard, founder of Specialized takes the Fatboy out for a 'bounce around'.
Mike Sinyard, founder of Specialized takes the Fatboy out for a ‘bounce around’.