No trip to Winter Park, Colorado would be complete without a bike test. Luckily the people from Specialized were on hand doing demos of the 2013 line and they were kind enough to lend me a helmet as I took out a 2013 Stumpjumper FSR EVO. Since I already used my lift ticket for some downhill fun the day before then I would have start at the bottom of the mountain to do a little exploring.
Right from the start I was amazed by how light this bike was. You could curl it with one hand. I'm assuming it was the carbon version but I do know that it had been modified from its original set-up. Instead of the 2 by 10 gearing it had a single sprocket and the forks had the black coating now becoming popular with Enduro cyclists.
I took off down a dirt road and decided to kick this off with a technical climb into the woods. Right off the bat I was impressed. I had come down this two way trail the day before and found it to be challenging on the descent but now I was raging up it with barely a sweat. It seemed like a magic trick, it was just too easy.
Reaching the top I stopped and turned around. I had previously ridden a Specialized Demo 8 on this trail and wanted see how the Stumpjumper compared. Dropping the adjustable seat post (Which takes some getting used to) I started charging the rocks. Maybe it was because I was already comfortable on this particular section or maybe I had lowered by expectations because I was unfairly comparing 200mm to 150mm but the ride was quick, smooth and fast all the way back to the dirt road.
Clearly I needed a tougher challenge. After spending a couple miles on the roads I found a steep, unmarked trail. Progressively shifting down to the lowest gear I made it up the first section but had to give my Florida lungs a break as I had not yet acclimated to the altitude. The second even steeper part of the trail forced me to get off and push. If anything was going to limit this test it would be my breathing, not the bike.
At the top another trail crossed over so I picked the outward direction and started riding. It reached a peak soon after and what laid out ahead of me was a very long, smooth descent with mild twists, small wooden bridges and light rock gardens. I decided to shred. The beefy Specialized tires (Butcher and Purgatory) worked flawlessly with the Fox Float and Talas suspension system to absorb anything in my path without losing momentum. If not for a time limit on my test, I would have rode all the way to Fraser.
The most interesting part came on the way back. Instead of short steep climbs I had a long, slow incline. This is where the weird hits the dirt. The best climbing MTB that I have ever test ridden was the 2011 Scott Spark 20, it was a marvel for its time. I'm happy to report that the Stumpjumper EVO despite its intended geometry with a slacker head tube and lower bottom bracket, is my new favorite climbing machine.
I started pedaling up and shifting down but I never needed to reach that bottom gear. It ate up rocks and roots like before but each time I thought I might have to stop, there was a little more movement available that allowed me to keep going. It almost felt like someone was pushing me, as if a heavy tailwind snuck between the trees for a light assist.
Granted the EVO has all of the most expensive gizmos and gadgets but so do other bikes. What matters here is that it was all working together to provide a superior ride. Every bike company likes to use the term "All around" but Specialized actually got it right. I would be comfortable taking this down any DH beginner trail as well as some intermediates. I would be equally comfortable entering it into a cross country race.
The Stumpjumpers start at $3,000. which is understandably a sticking point for buyers and the Expert Carbon EVO goes for more than $6,000.. I probably won't ever be able to buy one but technology trickles down. In five years this brilliant configuration of geometry, suspension and parts will drop in price and you never know where you might find one.