Ride Impression: 2013 Specialized Camber Comp 29″er- by Grannygear

At the 2013 Specialized Global Press launch at Snowbird Resort in the mountains of Utah, we were able to grab quick rides on a pretty good variety of new scoots and wring them out a bit.  The trails there were pretty limited and I cannot imagine what someone riding a Demo 8 would have done, but for a Trail/XC bike it was short but better than nothing.

First off the launching pad was a 2013 Specialized Camber Comp 29″er.  The Camber was relatively new to the line-up when we reviewed one here here, and here and found it to be a very good all-rounder and an excellent example of the week-end warrior’s one-bike 29″er solution.  With 110mm of travel front and rear, it is a momma bear number between the typical 100mm XC bikes and the newer 120mm/130mm XC/Trail bikes that are popping up all over.

For 2013 the travel remains at 110mm.  I am a bit surprised as I did anticipate a jump to 120mm if for no other reason than to be more in line with the marketplace. Would it make it a ‘better’ bike?  Dunno’…maybe not, but until something happens to get the FSR longer legs or there is a bigger travel 29″er from the big S, then 110mm will likely be the stopping point.  2014 will be interesting.  As a side note, I have run a 120mm fork on our long term Camber and the gain was 20mm in AC height.  I liked it that way and I would run it at 120mm all the time, but that may be a warranty issue for the general public.  Better check ahead before you trespass.

So what did change for 2013, besides the fact that there are no more 26″ Cambers in the line-up, was a new M5 level alloy frame and a revised rear shock/link pivot, now with concentric link, that provides a stiffer frame.  Stand over was increased and the smallest frame size has a fork crown stop built into the down tube to arrest the fork, keeping it from rotating into the frame and activating your frame warranty!   A PF30BB, 142+ rear hub spacing, FSR rear suspension of course, and now there is Auto Sag on both Fox and Rockshox equipped rear air shocks.  Fox forks lowers accept the OS28 front axle interface, but even if it is stiff and such, I think it is time to move on to a more standard QR15 front fork/axle, especially for the ease of upgrades for consumers.  The Ground Control tire is now in a 2.3″ version and that is spec’d on the front with a 2.1″ GC on the back.  Dropper posts are on some models, but not the Comp although the cable routing is there.

The Comp I rode had a SRAM X7/X9 combo with a SRAM custom for Specialized crank turning a 22/36 2×10 system.  Brakes are custom Avid Elixir 3R with semi-metallic pads and a 180mm front on SM/MED and 200mm front on LG/XL…rear rotor size follows with either a 160mm or 180mm depending on frame size.  The fork is a Reba RL 29 and the rear shock is a Monarch RL with Autosag and a lock out position.

On trail it had a familiar feel compared to the Camber we have.  Cambers pedal well but need the platform shock to do it and I pointed it up a steep fire road for a mile or so just to see if anything stood out.  I felt that the handle bar was too high, something I noticed on the test Camber.  Spacer or bar swapping will take care of that as this bar has a 10* rise.

Over the course of the single track return, a windy, dusty and rock spattered ribbon diving though the forest, the Camber reminded me why it is the bike I most often grab if I am out for a trail ride with a group, especially if the terrain will be varied and uncertain.  It goes up well enough and with killer wheels on there it can really come alive.  I missed the Command Post dropper post on this model but that can be added.  It really compliments this kind of bike in general.  The Ground Control tires are quite decent all-rounders, but they are not near the trail bike tire that a Purgatory is, so I would pull the front and swap that over, at least if the soil is loose and rocky.  On the rear the Ground Control is OK.

A Camber is right in between some of the 100mm XC 29″ers that can feel a bit racy and the nearly point and shoot of an FSR or something slightly burlier like a Yeti SB95 or a Niner RIP9.  Did I notice the newer stiffer chassis?  No, I cannot say that I did but keep in mind that these are snapshot rides and hardly a real test of anything.  But if they say it is, then it likely is, and I would have to ride them back to back between old and new to really sort that out.  The old Camber was hardly a noodle.

The Camber is an important bike for Specialized and now is 29″er only…no little wheeled Cambers.  It is more refined for 2013 and likely will make a lot of riders happy for some time to come.

Next up is an S Works FSR.  What happens when you mix together carbon, 130mm of travel, and remove a lot of grams before you hit the ‘blend’ button?  Fun times, that’s what.