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2014 Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon EVO 29

Black and Slack Carbon 29er

Words by Omar Bhimji. Photos by Morgan Taylor.
April 14th, 2014

When presented with the opportunity to review Specialized’s 2014 Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO 29 I jumped at it. Spending some time with the Expert EVO 29 would afford me a number of new experiences – riding a carbon frame off road, putting some miles on a 1×11 drive train, and trying out Rockshox’ updated Pike fork – on a platform I know and love: the 29er trail bike.

After my first ride, I sent a note to NSMB content manager Morgan Taylor that my review was done. In fact, I had two versions of the review, ready to go, both of which were two words long:

Holy shit.

Or, alternatively: buy it.

I had never had such an OMFG response to a bike. After a cold shower, I sat down to figure out why my initial reaction had been so positive, and came up with two things. Firstly, geometry-wise, the Expert EVO 29 is eerily similar to my personal ride – a pre-production Banshee Prime 29er – and I felt comfortable on it immediately. Secondly, where my Prime was cobbled together on a tight budget, the Expert EVO 29 is spec’d to shred, and weighs an astonishing seven pounds less than that bike, even with aluminum rims.

Thankfully, Morgan ordered me back out on the trails for further testing in hopes of eliciting a more thorough review, and I am only too happy to oblige. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Prime – but it’s like her hot younger sister just showed up, and I have a two month hall pass to see how the other half lives.

Check back in later this Spring for my full review of the platform. In the meantime, here’s a quick overview of the bike and some of initial impressions.

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The Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO 29 is brought to you by the letter S and the colour black.

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Can a finish be both understated and stunning? The black on matte-black graphic treatment on the Expert EVO 29′s FACT 9 carbon main frame would suggest so: it’s asymmetrical, imperfect, almost organic.

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Subtle Specialized branding everywhere you look. The one problem with matte black finishes on bikes is that they don’t hide dirt worth a damn.

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The Expert EVO 29′s rear stays have that classic FSR profile, and are made of aluminum. If you want a full carbon frame, you’ll have to pony up for the S-Works Stumpy and an Evo link, and swap out the Brain shock. On second thought…

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Rear suspension duties are handled by a Factory Fox float shock with all the bells and whistles, along with a just-for-Specialized AUTOSAG feature that does a good job of ball-parking the appropriate spring rate for any rider. The Evo link bumps the rear travel up to 135mm.

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Out front, the Rockshox Pike RC complements the bike’s blacker-than-thou colourway and trail shredding personality. While it lacks the aftermarket version’s three step “efficiency circuit”, adjusting the low speed compression to suit a range of speeds and conditions is quick and easy.

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The frame has provisions for a direct mount front derailleur on the chainstay…

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… but the Expert EVO 29 comes stock with an 11-speed drivetrain, driven by a set of custom SRAM carbon S-2200 cranks with a 32 tooth X-SYNC ring.

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Out back the drivetrain is all X01. The drive side chainstay comes factory wrapped in a rubber protective sleeve, which is a nice touch, and the derailleur’s clutch mechanism has been keeping things orderly thus far.

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The stock 2.3” house-brand tires – a Purgatory out back and a Butcher in front – seem well chosen for their individual roles. The Purgatory is a good all-round rear tire, not too slow or slippy, and the Butcher carves as well as its name would suggest.

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Flexy and/or heavy wheels have held back many a would-be hard hitting 29er. The Roval Traverse 29 wheels seem well suited to the Expert EVO 29: light and stiff, with enough width to pair nicely with meaty tires and enough spokes (32) to bode well for long-term durability.

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I can’t decide whether lacing the non-brake side spokes on the front wheel radially is cheeky, obsessive or smart.

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While I have had good luck recently with Elixir brakes, their well-documented consistent inconsistency is enough to make me nervous every time I see them spec’d on a bike: stopping and control is the last part of a bike’s performance where you want to be playing Russian Roulette. The DT Swiss rear axle simply tightens by hand.

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The handlebar lever for Specialized’s Command Dropper Post integrates tidily with the lockring of their Sip grip, which has a semi-waffle pattern reminiscent of ODI’s venerable Ruffian MX.

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Speaking of the Command Post, it now features internal routing, along with few more letters appended to its name (IR) in fine Specialized tradition. While the post’s clamping mechanism has fared well thus far, the stock Henge saddle was an early casualty of my efforts to find the limits of the Expert EVO 29′s capabilities. Which is a shame, because it was my favorite house-brand saddle I’ve ridden to date – a slightly plusher and more compact version of the Chromag Moon that ended up pinch hitting for it.

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A chink in the all-house-brand-finishing-kit spec? No: the stock item is a non-descript mid length number; my trusty Thomson stem made its way onto the Expert EVO 29 in order to knock 10mm off the reach and help me dial in the handling and fit. The stock bar is 750mm wide with an all-but-imperceptible 10mm rise.

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Specialized’s SWAT (Storage, Water, Air, Tools) technology purports to “put all necessities in a clean, sleek, and aerodynamic location that’s easy to access.” The side-access water bottle cage allows me to run a tallboy without any storage or access issues, while the multi-tool provides peace of mind.

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The Expert EVO 29′s last piece of SWAT gear: a chain tool integrated into the stem top-cap. Hoping I never have cause to use this during the review but better to have it and not need it than to snap a chain and end up walking out, as they say. Also nice to see a company giving weight weenies the function-over-fairy-dust finger.

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Specialized’s Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO 29 in all her murdered out glory. The Kashima coating on the rear shock is killing me a little, but I’ll get over it. The bike runs for $6200 US and $6300 CDN.


While the recent Stumpjumper 650B announcement likely indicates the end is near for 26” Stumpy, the 29 will go on and that’s a good thing.

  • Stormymonkey

    Great teaser for the bike! Can you give info about your height and so on for fit reference?

    • boomforeal

      glad you enjoyed it. i’m 6’2″ with long legs, and the large stumpy fits me like a glove with a 70mm stem

      • Znarf

        I am 6ft with long legs and long arms and the large as well fits me perfect with a 70mm stem. And now I start to feel like a parrot :)

        Great write up btw@boomforreal

      • boomforeal

        thanks for the props, and for the tip re. the seat post clamp

  • kevin

    I took one from the Demo tent at crankworx last year for a quick lap through cut yer bars and roll yer bones, same initial reaction as you, amazing bike.

  • Znarf

    I have this exact bike’s 26 inch sister. And let me tell you, it is a stellar bike. I even like the elixir trail brakes.

    The clamp on the command post ir can be reversed btw. If you want less setback!

  • asin

    I’m totally curious about this bike. I’ve been told this bike is like the E29′s little climbier brother. But why go this route when you could have more travel and shorter chainstays? Or is chainstay length not necessarily the deciding factor for a bike’s playfulness?

  • JCL

    Buy one now before they ruin it (possibly) with a short rear centre next year.

    • asin

      Or maybe it turns into the perfect shorter-travel version of the E29?

      • JCL

        I own both. One of the downsides of the E29 is the short rear centre/weight distribution. Apart from straight-lining chunder the SJ Evo is the faster more stable bike. The obsession with hugely rear biased weight distribution is bizarrely unique to the mountain bike buying public. It’s a shame we can’t learn from every other wheeled vehicle.

      • asin

        Can you say more about this?

      • JCL

        Well it’s just my personnel view but I strongly believe the early marketing (which Specialized was largely responsible for) that short rear centres (or chainstays, but really only hardtails have chainstays) are advantageous lead to people becoming used to rearward weight distribution as such bikes were so commonplace in the market. what has also happened since those early days is that rear centres have remained fashionably short but front centres have increase massively. There are just far too many negatives to such rearward weight distribution like a large front to rear spring rate differential, low front cornering grip, pitch instability etc.

        I recommend trying the 29″ SJ Evo, even in a parking lot, set the suspension spring rates and then just ride around and preload the suspension with your feet (95% of your mass contact point when riding out the saddle) and watch the suspension. You should see the fork close to evenly compress along with the rear shock. Now try the same thing with something like a Process or 26″ SJ Evo. You’ll probably find the rear shock compressing far more than the fork. To compensate you usually have to run a lot more rear spring rate which sounds okay but think about what happens when you’re riding something steep, your weight distribution has moved forward and to compensate you have to hang off the back of the bike to load the oversprung rear and unload the undersprung fork.

        Obviously this is compounded the larger the bike so anyone on a large/XL should IMO really be on one of these or the Camber Evo (450mm RC). Even for my medium size they’re a huge step in the right direction for optimum rear centre lengths rather than short as possible.

      • boomforeal

        nice to have you expound rather than simply snark jamie

      • JCL

        Oh shut up.

      • RMD

        Hey boomfor real.. I look forward to your review. Just on the odd chance you get this, can you just quickly answer my question above on whether or not the sj evo can handle the odd shuttle run and the steeper more technical shore trails? I’d wait for your review but I have to make a decision on an sj evo or an enduro ASAP… like today.

  • SJ29er

    Got one of these awhile back after coming off a 26″ carbon bike and wow, what a difference. I have almost the same build spec as this review and its incredible how fast this bike is both up and down the hill. The only thing that is a bit of a downside is the longer wheelbase which makes really tight switchbacks a bit of a handful. Not too bad really and a very small price to pay how awesome everything else is. Anyone who says that 29ers aren’t playful or fun in the air hasn’t ridden this bike. It’s stellar, and paired with the pike/1×11 its unbeatable for someone who likes to climb and descend fast.

    • boomforeal

      yeah, long + low + slack doesn’t play well with slow + tight, but that’s not really the kind of trail i enjoy, or that the bike is designed for, so i was ok with this compromise

  • RMD

    Anyone ridden this on steeper North Shore trails? Could it handle the odd shuttle run at Cypress / Seymour? I know it’s not really built for that, but I’d like to know if I could still have fun doing that kind of riding now and again on this bike.

    • boomforeal

      final review is in the can so i think i can answer this: though its not a gravity-specific bike, i definitely think the expert evo 29 could handle occasional shuttle duties on the north shore. i had no problems with the wheels in terms of stiffness or durability, and they’re the same ones that come on the enduro 29, so that’s not really a concern. steep and/or fast tech are where the bike shines. the increased travel on the enduro 29 would probably help for deep chunder, but the expert evo 29 is incredibly balanced, an absolute beast for trail riding of all sorts, and isn’t going to hold you back on technical terrain

      • RMD

        Thanks so much!!! Can’t wait to read your full review.

  • teknorob

    I have one of these but i have put a dual position 150/130mm pike fork on as i ride XC loops during the week, biger trails at the weekend (all in the UK) and Spanish mountains 4 or 5 times a year. Coming from an SC Bronson i’m blown away by this bike. It’s incredibly light, fast and perfectly balanced. I’m not the biggest of riders at 5ft7 and 156 lbs (medium sized frame) but in 4 months of riding all sorts of terrain i’ve come nowhere near finding it’s limits. The only other changes are really just down to personal choice including easton havoc stem, enve sweep carbon bars and fizik gobi saddle. :)

    • boomforeal

      interesting that you chose to run a travel adjust fork out front. while reviewing the expert evo 29 i would have sworn the bb was as low as it could go… recently i’ve had cause to rethink that