After 10 months of tearing up the trails, Danny's Camber Evo gets its final appraisal

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Score 10

Specialized Camber Evo 29

Pros:

  • The perfect blend of handling prowess and mile-munching efficiency
  • Improved Spec and better looks for less money than last year
  • Still some of the best rear suspension in the business

Cons:

  • Fork can become overwhelmed when you start to push
  • Stock stem is too long
  • Badly needs full internal dropper post routing

Product:

Specialized Camber Evo 29 (2015) longterm review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£2,000.00
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Why it’s here

Bike of the year contender that’s better value than ever before

Need to know

  • 120mm travel 29er with aggressive spec and geometry
  • Evo model is slacker, lower, longer travel and gets wider bars and fatter tyres
  • £200 cheaper for 2015

What attracted you to the Specialized Camber Evo 29?

What didn’t attract me to the Camber Evo?! It’s a bike that missed our illustrious Trail Bike of the Year award in 2014 by a whisker, but bounced back for 2015 with a better spec, a flashy new paint job and a generous discount. After spending most of last year aboard Kona’s Process 111, I also wanted to see how it stacked up against its nearest rival.

Danny Longtermer Camber Evo 29er riding

The Evo effortlessly adapted to any terrain

Did you change anything straightaway?

After teetering around on tip-toes for the first ride, I hacked a good portion off the 400mm seatpost and swapped the standard 70mm stem for a 30mm stubby. Specialized fits size-specific grips on its bikes, and I downsized to the slimmer versions of the stock Sip Grip.

Specialized’s Command dropper post was added and the front derailleur, front shifter, chainring and Dangler chain tensioner was subtracted. This saved 350g and simplified the drivetrain.

Gear shift: various componentry was jettisoned

Gear shift: various componentry was jettisoned

The rims on the Camber Evo are tubeless-ready as standard, and it comes with tubeless valves, so making the switch was easy. Finally, a couple of volume spacers added to the RockShox Reba fork allowed me to run slightly lower pressures — for improved grip — without bottoming out excessively.

Was the bike easy to set up?

Specialized’s Autosag system made getting started a doddle. I ran the compression damping in the open setting 99.9 per cent of the time — the other 0.1 per cent I had knocked the blue lever by accident when removing my water bottle.

How did it ride?

If you have any preconceptions of short- travel 29ers being nervous, uninspiring and purely aimed at the Lycra set, I implore you to have a ride on the Camber Evo. It got me into, and more importantly out of, situations that should be well above its pay grade.

Frame desperately needs stealth dropper post routing

Frame desperately needs stealth dropper post routing

With a dinky stem, a low bottom bracket and meaty Butcher front tyre, it corners brilliantly and changes direction with total immediacy. And while it’s short on travel, there’s no shortage of grip from the rear suspension.

In fact it’s one of the most active systems on the market. Yes, it’s pretty easy to bottom out, but it still puts the power down without too much bobbing and the long chainstays give great traction on steep climbs.

Did anything break or wear out?

On a particularly cold day at BikePark Wales, air leaked from the spring leg into the lowers, rendering the RockShox Reba fork all but unrideable until it blew the left dust seal out.

Leaky air spring blew out the dust seal

Leaky air spring blew out the dust seal

Elsewhere, the headset and bottom bracket bearings are now due replacement. But, with 455 miles on the clock, everything else is still going strong.

If you could change one thing about your longtermer what would it be?

I’d like to see Specialized fit shorter stems as standard; something like a 40mm would really suit this bike and unlock its potential from the get-go.

Would you buy this bike and why?

Short-travel 29ers are hugely underrated. Done well, they are some of the most stimulating and rewarding bikes on the market. Riding the Kona Process 111 last year confirmed that to me and,
in terms of suspension performance and rider engagement, Specialized’s Camber Evo raises that bar even further. Would I buy one? You bet I would.

>>> Click here to find out more about geometry with our handy guide

CamberEvoStay tuned for further updates, or follow the progress of our longterm fleet every month in the magazine.

Details

Frame:M5 alloy, 120mm travel
Shock:Fox Float CTD Evolution w/AutoSag

Fork:RockShox Reba RC, 120mm travel
Wheels:Specialized Hi Lo hubs, Roval Fattie rims, 650b, Specialized Butcher Control, Ground Control 29 x 2.3in

Drivetrain:SRAM S1250 chainset, SRAM X9 rear mech and X7 shifters
Brakes:Shimano Deore, 203mm/180mm

Components:Specialized
Sizes:S, M, L, XL

Weight:29.07lb (13.18kg)
Size ridden:L

Head angle:68.6°
Seat angle:69.2°

BB height:330mm
Chainstay:455mm

Front Centre:712mm
Wheelbase:1,167mm

Down tube:706mm
Top tube:619mm

Reach:434mm

  • Thomas Alexander Young

    I’ve just another set of 120 Reba pop the seal out last week. Any ideas? Scottish summers aren’t that cold really!

  • Danny Milner

    Hi Stan, I’ll update this after the final instalment goes in the mag, which will be the August issue. And I’ll try and ride the stumpy this week and see how it compares.

  • Stan

    When are you going to do a follow up on this? How would this bike compare to the new 2016 Stumpy?

  • Danny Milner

    Glad to hear it’s running sweet now!

  • Kenny

    Hi Folks, Fork update. I let the bike shop have a look at it and they sent it back to the Rockshox, just got it back and what a difference. It’s now supportive, plush, progressive, supple – all those things you read about and it wasn’t any of them before. They couldn’t find a definite fault, but they’re going to replace it when stock becomes available mid-June. I needed it back for the EWS Xtra on Monday. Thanks to Rockshox and Leslie Bike Shop

  • Kenny

    Thanks Danny, it looks like I’ve got a different issue. I’ll let the shop have a look at it and see where I go from there. Cheers

  • ride_whenever

    I thought SRAM tested everything over wide range of temperatures after their road hydraulic disaster?

  • Danny Milner

    Hi Kenny, I got the fork back from SRAM. Apparently it was a seal problem. It only happened the once, and seemed to be temperature related. It’s back on the bike now, and so far, so good.

  • Kenny

    Thanks, ride_whenever. I was thinking along those lines anyway, I was just wondering whether the importers had come up with some info on Danny’s longtermer.

  • ride_whenever

    Kenny, that really isn’t right. There shouldn’t be air pressure behind the wipers. Get wherever you got the bike from to send the forks back you can probably get the token cap and tokens fitted at the same time

  • Kenny

    Hi Danny, any news back on your misbehaving Reba fork ? My fork has lost pressure a few times, but it seems to be getting more of a regular thing. It only happens on fastish bumpy runs and occasionally it blows the left leg top seal out as well. Does this sound similar to your issue or did it only happen to you the once on an extremely cold ride ?

  • Danny Milner

    Hi Kenny, yes I’m running two tokens.

  • Kenny

    It’s ok, I got some from the very helpful Simon at Loco Tuning. Was it 2 that you used ?

  • Kenny

    Danny, Where did you get your Bottomless Tokens from ? Can’t seem to find them in stock anywhere in the UK, and nobody seems willing to ship such a low cost part from the States.

  • Rob Lodge

    Had a Camber Evo on test weekend just passed and the order is placed. Being 6′ 4″, this is the first bike I’ve found to actually fit, that is without having to have the seat post so high I got altitude sickness

  • Danny Milner

    Sorry Mike, not sure what you’re on about there?

  • Mike in Cave Creek

    650b wheels on a 29er, interesting.