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:
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.
The Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO 29 is brought to you by the letter S and the colour black.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
The frame has provisions for a direct mount front derailleur on the chainstay…
… 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.
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.
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.
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.
I can’t decide whether lacing the non-brake side spokes on the front wheel radially is cheeky, obsessive or smart.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.