Specialized has delivered noteworthy bikes in just about every category for years, and they just seem to be getting better with time. The design, functionality and aesthetics of these bikes makes them highly coveted, and it’s hard to deny the quality.
At the top of the Specialized food chain are the S-Works models. They represent the cream of the crop, and are spec’d with the parts that most people are only lucky enough to read about. So I felt pretty fortunate when I heard that I was going to have a chance to test the 2014 Specialized S-Works Camber.
The Camber, redesigned this year, is a 110mm-travel 29er trail bike that’s designed to offer riders a highly versatile package that can handle technical trail conditions without bringing a lot of unnecessary travel (and weight) to the party. There are seven Camber models to choose from, four with carbon frames and three with alloy, ranging in price from around $10,000 at the top end to sub-$2,600 for the entry level model.
I’ll be riding the Camber all over the Shore, in Squamish and wherever else the weather permits over the next few months, and reporting back on the experience at the end of the test. In the meantime, here’s an overview of some of the features and high points of the S-Works Camber.
A size XL 2014 S-Works Camber. The bike comes with a Fox Float CTD fork with Kashima coating and 110mm of travel; a custom tuned Fox Float CTD rear shock with Specialized’s proprietary AUTOSAG feature; SRAM XX1 11-speed shifters, rear derailleur and cassette; a Specialized S-Works FACT crankset with a single 32T ring; Formula T1 Racing disc brakes; Specialized carbon Roval Control Trail SL wheels and Specialized Ground Control tires (2.3″ in the front, 2.1″ in the rear); a Syntace stem and Specialized XC Mini-Riser carbon bars; and a Specialized Body Geometry Henge Expert saddle with titanium rails mounted to a Specialized Command Post IR height adjustable post. Complete weight for the bike was 25.5lbs out of the box, which climbed to 26.3lbs with the addition of a set of Shimano XT Trail pedals.
Sharp-eyed readers will notice a few changes from the stock spec. The Ground Control tires were replaced with something a little more suitable for Shore riding in inclement conditions, and the Formula brakes were swapped out for a set of Avid XO Trail brakes – it only took a couple of rides to figure out that the Formulas weren’t up to the task for me and my riding style. More on that in the full review. The overly-long Syntace stem and narrow bar were also swapped out after the first few rides.
The Camber carbon frame is the embodiment of all things that make carbon appealing: smooth, sexy curves, big junctions and artful execution with stiffness and light weight in mind. The S-Works Camber boasts full carbon front and rear triangles, a 142mm rear end with integrated post mounts for the rear brake, a concentric sealed cartridge bearing shock link and internal cable routing. The massive bottom bracket junction ensures stiffness when you’re out of the saddle hammering on the pedals.
The frame may look a little busy, but it all works very well together. Specialized continues to use its tried-and-true FSR suspension design, which has evolved over the years into the highly efficient form that it takes today on the Camber. Small, stiff suspension linkages virtually eliminate flex.
The X-wing shape of the Camber frame provides stiffness and a place to attach the rear shock. The AUTOSAG feature (the red valve on the left side of the shock) makes it easy for riders to set the correct sag and air pressure in the shock. Pump the shock up to a little more than body weight, sit on the saddle, push the button on the valve to release air and you’re done. The shock technology equalizes pressure in the positive and negative chambers of the shock, and sets the correct sag for rider weight. It’s a great feature, and it would be nice to see this on all bikes. You won’t though – it’s proprietary technology for Specialized.
The Camber frame uses internal cable routing for the rear derailleur and dropper post cables to deliver a clean look; this is the rear derailleur cable entering the frame. The massive front end ensures that there won’t be any flex whatsoever in this part of the frame.
A close-up of the rear stays, and the integrated post mounts for the rear brake. I swapped out the stock Formula brakes for Avids, but kept the very blingy Formula rotors.
SRAM’s own 32T narrow wide ring is mated to the 175mm Specialized S-Works carbon cranks. When that’s paired to the 11-speed, 10-42T cassette, there’s not much you can’t climb – even if you’ve got dead legs. I haven’t found myself spinning out with the 32-10 combination on sections of road between singletrack, either. I usually prefer to run a bashguard on my cranks, regardless of whether it’s a single or double ring up front, so we’ll see how the unprotected single ring works over time.
The 32-hole Roval Control Trail SL 29 carbon disc front wheel has a 28mm external width and 21mm internal width, and comes tubeless ready. The alloy hub body is compatible with either 15- or 20mm thru axles. As mentioned, the stock Specialized Ground Control tires were swapped for the slightly more grippy Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires to help winter riding conditions.
The Roval Control Trail SL 29 rear wheel also has the same 28 / 21mm profile. It has a CNC machined alloy body for a 142mm rear end, with DT Swiss 240 internals that are compatible with SRAM’s XD driver. Total weight for the wheelset, according to Specialized’s website, is 1570g.
The Specialized Command Post IR height-adjustable post offers 100mm of travel, with three different positions (all down, middle and all up). A bar-mounted remote activates this mechanical post, and an air spring controls the return speed. Internal routing keeps the cable out of the way and protected from the elements. The Body Geometry Henge Expert is a minimalist saddle, but not so bare bones that it’s uncomfortable for long XC rides.
Specialized has added a couple of really trick accessories on the bike, including this handy multi-tool carrier that’s integrated into the bottom of the water bottle cage. There is also a chain tool and spare chain links hidden in the stem top cap.
A close-up of the SWAT multi-tool that comes with the bike. You get 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm Allen keys, a T25 Torx and #1 flathead screwdriver in this little package. It’s handy if you don’t feel like throwing a bigger tool in your pack.
So there you have it – the highlights for the S-Works Camber. I’ve been having a lot of fun on the bike so far, and am just starting to get into a groove with it. Stay tuned for the full review in a couple of months.
The new Camber platform has dropped over a pound out of the frame…