The new Camber has been given an improved geometry and spec, which now gives an even more exhilarating ride
The Camber is the latest platform in the Specialized range to receive the Evo treatment. As such, it gets a wider handlebar, shorter stem, bigger tyres and a neat chain tensioner called the Dangler. But Specialized hasn’t simply taken the regular Camber and put some burlier parts on it. No, it’s gone much further and completely changed the DNA of the bike. By upping the travel front and rear by 10mm to 120mm, slackening the head angle by over a degree and lowering the BB by a whisker, it’s a way more capable bike than the standard Camber Comp we tested last year.
Another small but significant improvement is that the Reba fork now has 15mm Maxle lowers to increase stiffness and steering precision. This switch is long overdue and definitely matches the bike’s new attitude better than the old quick release set-up. Once again, the RockShox fork proved best in test thanks to its smooth, controlled action, but it’s worth pointing out that
the slightly different damper on the Reba fitted to the Whyte wasn’t anything like as plush on the roughest trails.
It’s all change on the rear suspension too. Out goes the RockShox Monarch RL; in comes the Fox Float CTD rear shock. With the switch comes three, rather than two, suspension modes, but more importantly, the Camber retains the liveliness to the suspension that’s key to its playful character. The new shock also retains Specialized’s neat AutoSag feature, so getting a good ballpark suspension set-up really couldn’t be easier.
Excluding the fork and seatpost, the build kit on the Camber Comp Evo is identical to the longer-travel Stumpy Comp Evo that we tested back in October. As such, everything on the Camber is first rate. The double and bash SRAM chainset is rock solid and gets smaller 33/22t chainrings to correct the gearing for the bigger 29in wheels. The wheels themselves are light and strong, with rims that are easily wide enough to accommodate the ace 2.3in Specialized tyres without them rolling around or folding under when cornering hard. And boy, you can really get this bike cranked over!
Our only real complaint with the components on last year’s Camber was the inconsistent feel of the Avid Elixir brakes. They are now gone, replaced by the new Formula C1s. Braking power is impressive, especially with bigger rotors that come on the L and XL sizes, and the lever feel has proved consistent in all conditions. We should also point out that we’ve had none of the reverberation issues that Jason has experienced with the same brakes on his Stumpy Evo longtermer.
We loved how last year’s Camber Comp rode, and with all of the improvements to the geometry and spec the Evo version simply takes that love affair to the next level. The low BB means that you can still slam corners as hard as ever, but combined with the slacker head angle, the bike gives you way more confidence to push hard on steep, techy descents. That’s aided by the stout build kit and a frame with the stiffness and suspension response to match the new Evo attitude. So much so, we were simply blown away by how much faster we could hammer down the final descent of the Wall trail at Afan compared to the other bikes on test. It just felt like the Camber was from another category and on another level entirely — one with way more travel.
Flick the CTD lever on the rear shock to the firmer Trail or Climb modes, however, and the ups or draggy fire roads that link the best trails are dispensed with equal ease. OK, so it’s doesn’t roll along quite as easily as the Whyte, but that’s purely down to your tyre choice. Up or down, one thing’s clear — the Camber Evo simply rocks.
In three short years, Specialized has taken the Camber 29 on a swift upward journey that’s transformed it from being a good trail bike that was brimming with potential, to easily the best short-travel shredder we’ve ridden. First, frame stiffness was improved, now Specialized has given it the Evo treatment, upping the travel to 120mm and slapping on most of the components you get on the amazing Stumpy Evo. And therein lies the only ‘problem’ we can see with the Camber Comp Evo. It’s £300 cheaper than the Stumpy, but you don’t get the dropper post or the superior Revelation fork. Oh well… decisions, decisions, decisions.