Adjustable and adaptable, the 2022 Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Expert is at the very cutting edge of trail bike development
As winner of our 2022 Trail Bike of the Year test, the Stumpy Evo Comp has more than proved its worth. So what, if anything, does the more expensive Expert version bring? Obviously, the specification is improved; SRAM GX replaced by XO1, the Fox 36 Rhythm fork upgraded to Performance Elite and matched to a Fox Float X shock of the same standard. It even gets a 180mm OneUp V2 dropper.
All worthy improvements then, but do they justify the extra £1,550? Well of course they do. What we’re trying to get at is if they are worth it in terms of outright performance – does it still rank among the best mountain bikes on the market?
Need to know:
- 29in wheels front and rear, but a MX link is also available for £70
- Six different geometry configurations as standard, 12 with the MX link
- SWAT. The original and still the best internal frame storage, bar none.
- A 160mm Fox 36 Performance Elite fork boosts gives 10mm more travel up front
The full Fact 11m carbon construction is a thing of beauty.
Before we answer that question, let’s take a closer look at the one thing that has not changed, namely the frame. The full Fact 11m carbon construction is a thing of beauty. Yes, the asymmetric sidearm frame design splits option, but there is no disputing its benefits – the reinforcing bar allows Specialized to tailor the specific level of stiffness precisely for each frame size. Of which there are six, S1 to S6 where S-sizing introduces shorter seat tube across the range making it much easier for riders looking for increased stability to upsize.
And as if that weren’t enough choice, the latest Stumpy Evo has more geometry adjustment than ever before. By simply dropping in the asymmetric upper headset cup that’s supplied with the bike you can add or subtract 1.25º to the head angle. At the opposite end of the frame flip-chips integrated into the chainstay pivots give you 7mm of BB height adjustment while simultaneously changing the chainstay length by 5mm and the head angle by 0.5º.
All in there are six unique combinations, and if you want to see how each adjustment impacts other metrics like reach or seat angle, Specialized has a neat online geometry finder that works everything out for you.
Now let’s take a look at the storage. Specialized’s second generation SWAT offers a bigger opening the frame, where the neoprene tool wrap has been replaced by what looks like a waterproof pencil case. It has also added a 22oz bladder to make full use of the kink in the downtube just in front of the BB. Genius! Also having the SWAT door positioned towards the bottom of the downtube makes a lot of sense as anything that slides down as you ride is easily retrieved.
The rear suspension on the Stumpy Evo offers enough support and pedals so well that we ran the low-speed compression adjuster on the Float X Performance Elite shock wide open. The 150mm travel 4-bar linkage can also handle a wide range of sag settings, so combined with all the geometry adjustment you’ll definitely be able to find a balance set up to suit any terrain or riding style.
The shock ships with a 0.2in volume spacer fitted and we were surprised just how different the bike felt when we removed it. In a nutshell the rear suspension was plusher and more springy, but with noticeably less mid-stroke support. We still never bottomed the shock though, as the last 6mm of stroke is controlled by a big bottom out bumper that looks like two donuts stuck together.
Upgrading from the 160mm Fox 36 Rhythm to the 36 Performance Elite brings with it all of Fox’s latest chassis technology like the floating axle, bleed ports and lubrication channels on the back of the lowers. Taken together there’s a big reduction in friction. The key improvement with the GRIP 2 damper cartridge is the 4-way adjustable damping and increased support that stops the fork diving as much when hammering down steep terrain.
Get on the gas, and it feels like you have to do half a pedal turn of the cranks before the Stumpy Evo reacts. And that’s because the rear hub on the Roval wheelset uses the 18t DT Swiss Star Ratchet, which equates to a sluggish 20º engagement angle. Thankfully, it’s easy to cut engagement time in half by upgrading to the 36t Star Ratchet for about £70. Best of all you can pull the cassette and freehub off with your hands and install the new Star Ratchet in seconds.
Getting stopped with the SRAM Guide RS brakes can feel somewhat delayed too. Not that the brakes lack power, it’s just that there’s a lot of dead lever travel before the pads contact the 200mm rotors when compared to the top end Code RSCs or the XT brakes on the Trek Slash. Shifting with the SRAM XO1 drivetrain is on point though, rapid, precise and with an effortless lever action. The contact points on the Stumpy are great too, the Deity grips and the Bridge saddle providing all day comfort.
From the get go, the Stumpy Evo Expert had an annoying rattle when riding light over chatter. Initially we thought it could be a loose headset, as we’d been playing around with the angle set, but we quickly eliminated that. Truth be told, we couldn’t tell if it was the chain taping the frame, the clutch in the derailleur releasing as the suspension compressed, or some of the internal cables rattling. But before systematically dismantling the bike we decided to swap the shock as we had a sneaky suspicion that the noise was coming directly from the suspension.
ACE Bicycles in Guildford was kind enough to lend us a Fox DPX2 with the same eye-to-eye length and stroke. In just one run it was cleared that the rattle had vanished. In fact, it made it instantly apparent just how silent and calm the Stumpy Evo is.
In a word, damped is probably the best way to describe the ride quality of the full carbon frame. On off camber roots the Stumpy makes it easy to stick to the high-line as there are no sharp or unexpected deflections.
If there’s a downside to the softness in the frame, it’s that the Stumpy can feel a little sluggish to get going, so it needs rowdy trails and ideally some gradient to really get the party started. Which is somewhat at odds with how the bike climbs, as there’s very little in the way of shock movement when you sit and spin. Now we just need to finger out if it’s the Float X internals or an oversize shock eye-let that’s causing the incessant rattle.
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Adjustable and adaptable, the 2022 Stumpy Evo Expert is at the very cutting edge of trail bike development. The full carbon frame offers an incredibly resilient ride, so the bike feels more capable than it’s 150mm travel suggests. Factor in the ability to tweak the geometry with six unique combinations and six frame sizes, and the Stumpy Evo is as close as you’ll get to a custom frame from a mainstream manufacturer. Yes, the freehub engagement is sluggish but it was actually the rattle emanating from the rear suspension that robbed the Stumpy Evo of its second perfect 10 rating.