Editor’s Note: We’re still wading through the last of the Specialized Press Camp posts with Grannygear. Here’s one of the last, a report on a fine carbon hard tail. We’ll be concluding the Press Camp reports soon. Thanks for reading!
Ride impression: 2013 Specialized S Works Stumpjumper – by Grannygear
After jumping off the Carve, I figured today would be all about hard tails. So the next bike rolled out of the paddock was a 2013 Specialized S Works Stumpjumper in a great looking red color. But when I first saw it with that long and flipped stem with the Fast Trak tires, I thought I was in for a dicey ride on the rocky single track. Boy was I wrong. Carbon Roval Control SL wheels, a Brain SID fork, XTR rear der in the Shadow Plus version, a Specialized carbon crank with XX Spider…carbon bars, seat post, etc, etc. This is a very nice bike, and pedaling off to the chair lift it felt low and responsive as any bike this stiff and light will.
But when I turned onto the trail and began to dance a bit, I was expecting a nervous racing thoroughbred feel, something I would have to stay on top of compared to the Carve. But what I found was a bike I went faster and faster on as the trail continued. And although the lighter weight may have been some of that, it was more than just the lack of grams here.
There were a few things going on. First off, the riding position was working in my favor by weighting the front end in the corners. I would not normally run a stem/bar in that config…long (maybe 105mm..a typical Specialized length stem, but I did not measure) or flipped like that, but it was working really well. I had a later conversation with one of the 29″er product managers and he has been running a longer and lower control center lately, finding it gets more weight on the front end, especially as front centers get longer in the 29″er world. But here was a frame that had shorter chain stays and a longer top tube then the Carve with a longer, lower stem and it was very good.
The Fast Trak tires were much better than the Ground Controls on that trail in my opinion. I continue to be impressed by that tire and it has joined the Conti Race King as a favorite hard surface tire that rolls well. On the lighter Roval Control SL carbons they were hooking up and driving like crazy. But that was not all of the reason I was able to keep pushing faster and faster, even approaching the speeds I was on the full suspesion Camber.
Compliance. That frame was soaking up enough of the trail chatter that I was able to push faster and faster without getting bounced off line. I would come into a baby head section and launch into it with hardly any pre-braking and it would just go’ bruuup’ and I would be done and out. It was not only comfortable, it was fast. The SID Brain fork was feeling fantastic too and I had been on some Brain Rebas in the past that felt like junk. It all worked…the aggressive position, the tires, wheels, fork…and that tasty frame performance.
I was so surprised that I was grinning like a fool as I rolled back into the demo area. I almost went out again, but I was outta’ time. Now it is a bit hard to separate the light weight of a bike like this from its performance, and no doubt the carbon Rovals allowed me to toss the bike and change lines easier, but the FACT IS 11M frame was soooo smooth that, when combined with the recent ride on a BMC TE01 29″er, a bike specifically designed to be compliant while still setting high numbers for bottom bracket stiffness, that I wonder if this is finally beginning the golden age of carbon bikes where they are not just stiff and light, but are all that AND ride beyond what is possible with a metal frame. Look at the shaping of the seat stays on that frame in the picture above. They are pencil thin in diameter.
Sweet bike. Now the killer app would be that frame, or the lesser non-S Works FACT 8m frame (which is not quite as smooth as this one, so I was told) with a Roval carbon wheel upgrade and nice parts, but maybe not full S Works spec. It would be slightly heavier, but give you the goods where it counts…frame and wheels. This approach would make a killer single speed mount too. Hmmm…gives me an idea.
Next up is the latest version of the nearly do-all Epic on a real trail ride where I dice with Ned Overend and Todd Wells and pass them both. OK, they were stopped beside the trail, but still…I am counting it.