It remains a superbly fun bike to ride
Such is the pace of development with Plus bikes, that although the Stumpjumper 6Fattie was only launched two years ago, it’s already the oldest bike here.
Even so, with sharp lines and clean internal cable routing, the FACT 9M carbon front end still manages to look fresh off the CAD screen.
Watch: Trail Bike of the Year 2017
Specialized Stumpjumper Carbon 6fattie
Unfortunately the rear brake hose isn’t so well resolved, and hangs mighty close to the spokes if it’s not accurately tethered to the M5 alloy stays.
Specialized takes a subtly different approach to Plus than the other brands, plumping for bigger volume 3.0in tyres on relatively narrow 29mm internal section rims.
Our experience, and general consensus, points to the narrower 2.8in tyres on broader 35-40mm rims as being the sweet spot, so after one ride on the stock Purgatory rubber, we swapped them out for our Maxxis Rekon control tyres.
It’s not something that we’d recommend, but you could probably ride a Stumpjumper 6Fattie blindfolded and instantly know it was a Specialized.
Characterised by impressive sensitivity and liveliness and little in the way of progression, the 6Fattie’s FSR suspension and RockShox Monarch RT3 shock offer amazing grip and the bike never feels lethargic, but quickly surrenders its 135mm of travel when things start getting rowdy.
Most suspension tuners would be able add progression to the shock relatively cheaply, so we’d recommend taking it to one from the get go, otherwise you’ll be stubbing toes and clipping pedals left, right and centre.
As much as the Autosag system makes initial suspension set-up a doddle, we think it has less of a place on a high-end model like this.
A sag indicator, or simply a measurement in the manual, would suffice and make space for a Monarch shock with a twin sleeve air can so you could fine tune the progressivity with volume tokens.
With varying degrees of success, Specialized turns to its own extensive catalogue of parts to kit out the 6Fattie.
The action of the Command Post IRCC – its serrated steps giving a selection of intermediate positions – is excellent and the underbar remote is always to hand. But with only 125mm of drop, it’s never fully out of the way on descents.
Last year’s bike had a much flatter, 10mm-rise bar that far better suited the geometry, and we wish that were still the case.
Specialized has nailed it with the SWAT system though, and the combination of a generous compartment in the down tube and a multi-tool recessed into the top tube, is pure genius.
As such, you never need to remember your tools and spares, as they’re always on the bike.
The miniscule 28t front ring looks puny, but increases anti-squat on the 6Fattie, improving the pedalling efficiency. If you want to tame the energetic rear suspension further, a benefit of the shock position is that the compression lever is always within easy reach.
Some shock tuning and shorter 170mm cranks would probably solve the issue of pedal strikes, but there’s not much you can do about the lack of length in the frame.
Not only does it feel upright when sat down, the short wheelbase and steep head angle make for a more hectic ride on descents than the other bikes, as everything is happening directly beneath you, giving little time to react. As a result, your upper body has to work much harder to keep the Stumpy on track.
Fortunately there’s some flex in the sparsely-spoked Roval Traverse wheels, and the rounded profile of the tyre when mounted to those 29mm rims, that lets the bike find the path of least resistance through rocks and roots.
The simple solution to the Stumpjumper’s lack of frame length would be to upsize, but the 20mm jumps between the 6Fattie’s already tall head tube means the front end quickly gets too high.
That said, it remains a superbly fun bike to ride; we just wish it was about 30-40mm longer!
Last year’s cheaper Stumpjumper Comp 6Fattie won our Plus bike test, but it was up against weaker competition. Next to the more contemporary Scott Spark and Trek Fuel Ex it feels its age. The geometry and sizing is behind the times and there’s no way to get around that by upsizing. And even if you could, we don’t think a rider of average height should require an XL frame. The familiar lack of suspension progression can be improved, but for £4.5K it should be sorted out of the box. There’s still a magic to the ride of the Specialized though, and a few updates would transform the performance and bring the 6Fattie right back in the game.