Specialized 2013 Camber Comp: Out Of The Box/ First Impressions- by Guitar Ted
The Specialized line up for 2013’s 29″ers was previewed by Grannygear and you can see the post on the Camber Comp here. In that post he covers a lot of the technical points regarding the Camber Comp. (Note: In his report the images are of the alternate color for the 2013 Camber Comp.) You can see my intro to this test here.
Although Grannygear did a great job covering the technical points on this model, I will reiterate the highlights here for ease of reference. The Camber line up consists of six models and this is an example of one of two aluminum frame models with the rest of the bikes being rendered in carbon fiber. Here Specialized has unleashed a new design for the Camber using their “M5″ alloy. This frame also has better standover clearance, and features a new concentric link for the rear suspension, which is said to be stiffer over last years bike.
Other features include a 142+ x 12 rear through axle, a PF-30 bottom bracket, tapered head tube, and highly formed tubes that at a glance look like carbon fiber, but upon closer inspection reveal their true metal roots.
Component Highlights: The rear damper is a Rock Shox custom tuned Monarch RL with a unique feature called “Auto Sag”, which I will detail later. The front fork is also from Rock Shox and is a Reba RL. Both ends of the Camber are listed at 110mm of travel. Interestingly, Specialized relies on their OS traditional quick release style front axle instead of a through axle here.
The crank set is a double with an alloy guard, customized for Specialized by SRAM. it turns a 36T/22T ring set which powers the SRAM PG-1030 11-36T cassette. Not surprisingly the shifters and derailleurs also are SRAM bits. X-7 up front and X-9 in back, which is a Type 2, (anti-chain slap clutch), derailleur. Shifters are SRAM X-7’s with the MatchMaker clamp. Brakes are Avid, customized for Specialized. The front is a equipped with a massive 200mm rotor, while the back has a 180mm rotor. (Note: Small/Med size Cambers have 180FRT/160R rotor set ups)
The brake levers are Avid Elixir 3R’s with tool-less reach adjustment. Those levers reside on Specialized’s Mini-riser bars which are a wide 720mm length and feature a 10° rise, 10° back sweep, and a 6° up sweep. 31.8mm clamp diameter, naturally.
The grips are a new model called the “Sip Grip” and have a half waffle pattern, are “aramid infused”, have a lock on clamp, and come in a smaller size on the small/med Camber Comps for those with smaller hands. The model shown here has the “XL” sized grip.
The wheels are Specialized’s Roval branded hoops which are 26mm outer width and drilled for 32 spokes. These rims are laced to Specialized “HiLo” hubs. The front having the OS 28 end caps which are said to provide similar stiffness to a 15mm through axle set up.The rear features 4 sealed cartridge bearings and the aforementioned 142+ flange spacing.
The tires are tubed Specialized Ground Controls (2.1 rear, the new 2.3″er up front) Both tires are Control casing models and are “2Bliss” for ease of tubeless conversion. (We’ll attempt a tubeless set up on these which will get reported on in a future installment.)
There are more Specialized bits in the cockpit including the seat post, stem, and saddle, (a new Body Geometry model called the Henge). Whew! That should about cover things on the components side.
First Impressions: Specialized calls the Camber Comp, “ a classic well rounded trail bike every rider will enjoy. “and also claims it is, “an ultra-capable trail machine“. Certainly the spartan, (by today’s standards), suspension controls, lack of bar mounted gee-gaws, and straight forward appearance speak to a simplicity and ease of use that we’re not used to finding on many review bikes coming through TNI.com. Is this the “everyman’s mountain bike”, or is it just a stripped down model that will leave us wanting for more? I set out to ferret out these questions on my first trail rides. But first, let’s get back to that Auto Sag feature I mentioned above.
Auto Sag is Specialized’s feature which is designed to help make suspension set up easier, repeatable, and accurate. We’ve been setting up suspension bikes for quite sometime, and the ritual setting up sessions can be somewhat tedious. I found the Auto Sag to be a very different experience.
Auto Sag is actually quite easy to use. The rider sets the air spring to 50 psi over their riding weight. Then, mounting the bike while balancing yourself against something stable, the rider unscrews the gold-ish anodized knob opposite of the Schrader valve used to set the air spring, and then pushes the cap back into its mounting which releases a predetermined amount of air. Holding the “button” in until you no longer hear air released indicates that you can now screw the button back in and then cycle the suspension while seated several times to equalize air pressure internally within the damper. Bam! That’s it. Your sag is set perfectly and you are ready to ride.
No more sitting on the bike, getting off, pumping in more air, or releasing some, and re-checking it all over again. Nice! Rock Shox’s revamped Solo Air spring in the Reba also simplifies set up on the fork a bit too. Okay, so the set up is easy, but the proof is in the ride, right?
With several hours of riding on the Camber Comp I can say that the suspension works quite well. The RL Monarch is a simple damper with lock out or open positions. The lock out is not a full on, no movement lock out, so there is some suspension activity here, but obviously it has a stiff feel in that setting. The open position is a deeper feel, more active, but not so much that you feel rider activated bobbing. (Although if you look, it does move slightly with every pedal stroke.) Simple, but effective, even though it is lacking a platform choice or two. Bumps were smoothed well, the rebound control actually has a good tuneable range here. I found a “happy place” without any issues.
On the front end, the Reba RL has the older style compression control which can be set in any position one chooses, not limited to three, as with Fox’s current forks. This appeals to my mind, although it may not be seen as a benefit by some riders. The lack of a through axle was made evident when I got the rotor to skim the pads in hard lean angles during cornering. Otherwise I couldn’t find issue with the OS end cap design.
Both ends exhibited a nice, balanced feel, and as the components were working in, I was able to obtain full travel from both the fork and rear damper. Big hits were taken with aplomb, and small trail chatter was erased for the most part. Sharp, sudden hits were a bit overwhelming for the dampers here, but otherwise this feels like a nice, perhaps slightly plush, feeling rig.
Overall the chassis stiffness is quite good. I can feel the rear wheel give way at times in off cambers or in hard cornering though. The Specialized Ground Control tires, great in typical dry conditions, were no match for our tacky, muddy conditions here of late, and caused a few tense moments on steep climbs and sharp corners. Other components functioned as expected. No issues there, with typically decent braking and shifting from the workmanlike SRAM fare here.
I’ll continue to put the Camber Comp through its paces and will report again in my Mid-Term Report.
Note: Specialized Bikes sent the Camber Comp for test and review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being bribed, nor paid to do this review. We will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.