Spesh’s spicy new Camber EVO 29er sets the fun to maximum
Specialized’s flagship Camber EVO is a difficult bike to pigeonhole. Its 120mm of travel and weight-saving carbon front-end hint that it’s intended for more traditional XC and marathon riders, where getting from A to B with minimum effort is the priority.
The EVO build-kit suggests that this bike has a much wider remit. Fat tyres, a dropper post and a burly RockShox Pike fork chopped down to 120mm travel mean that you no longer need to compromise on handling to have a fast, light, efficient bike. Descents can be attacked with the same vigour as the climbs, and thanks to the stout front-end, the Camber is never going to feel like a flimsy, short-travel 29er.
So what better place for the Camber’s first ride than Britain’s Best Singletrack in the Quantocks, a physically challenging loop followed by some fun downhill runs at Triscombe?
Before I dish the dirt, however, I have an admission to make — this isn’t actually my “first ride” on a carbon Camber EVO. I spent two glorious days riding one in Santa Cruz, California a little less than a year ago. The bike in question belonged to Joe Buckley, the guy responsible for developing the Camber range, who was using the carbon Camber EVO frame to test an array of custom parts in development for the new Epic XC race bike. As such, his Camber weighed under 10kg and it still felt reassuringly solid. So, I was slightly disappointment when I unboxed the production version and it weighed 12.24kg!
“you quickly forget the pain of climbs as you shred every turn and pump the terrain for speed”
What went wrong? Nothing… that’s simply what happens when you put together a £4,500 bike instead of a custom S-Works build that would be in the region of £8,000. Still, it highlights the potential build weight of the Camber if money is no object.
Grinding up the muddy climbs on our Quantocks loop I found myself frequently pressing on the SRAM X01 shifter in search of an easier gear. Maybe my fitness isn’t what it should be, but the 32T chainring simply didn’t offer me a low enough gear for the long, damp, grassy climbs, even with the massive 10-42T range of the cassette.
Point the nose of the Camber down, however, and you quickly forget the pain of climbs as you shred every turn and pump the terrain for speed. Everything about this bike feels solid and purposeful; even the Fox CTD rear shock is tuned on the firmer side for fast, aggressive riding. It’s easily one of the most inspiring 29ers I’ve ever ridden, and along with the Kona Process 111, it’s changing the perceived wisdom that 29ers aren’t as much fun to ride as little-wheelers.
While not as good an all-rounder as a Stumpy EVO, the Camber lets you focus on long-distance rides without losing out on fun descents.
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Spotlight on SWAT kit:
If you hate riding with a pack, but don’t like the idea of getting caught short in the wilds without the necessary tools for minor repairs, the new SWAT kit that comes as standard on the Camber is just the ticket. Short for storage, water, air and tools, the SWAT kit includes a special bottle cage with an integrated multi-tool and a chain-breaker stowed under the headset top-cap. Combined with SWAT bibshorts or any XC jersey with integrated pockets, you should find you’re equipped with everything you need for shorter rides.