2016 Specialized Trail Bikes
When I daydream about mountain biking, it looks a lot like this. I am riding through the forest but it feels more like a jungle. It is fall when it should be spring, but it seems that in this place summer might last forever anyway. Lush, green ferns overflow onto the trail. The singletrack is dark, wet, and fast. We duck in and out of the shade of the trees, finding shelter from the southern hemisphere sun that seems to bore into your skin when you stand beneath it for too long. Towering trees, covered in a soft, fuzzy red bark, are a blur in my peripheral vision. They a familiar fixture from my childhood in Northern California; but I on the other side of the world. What are redwood trees doing in New Zealand? It feels like a dream.
Only, I awake. The burning in my quads tells me so. I in a familiar situation: Past my personal red line, trying to keep up with much faster riders. Yet not wanting to be anywhere but here. And the new bike beneath me is egging me on. These droppy, poppy, and twisty trails of Rotorua, New Zealand, are ideal for showcasing its capabilities.
The 2016 Stumpjumper trail bike, and its women equivalent, the Rhyme, are two new Specialized mountain bikes intended for riding like this fun, and aggressive. The company did away with its EVO distinction (which previously designated the most capable versions of its models) and made the entire Stumpy line more trail ready: 29er versions come with 140mm forks and 135mm of rear travel; 27.5 versions get 150mm of front and rear travel. The models also get slacker angles 67 degree head angle on the 27.5, and 68 degrees on the 29er.
When creating these trail oriented mountain bikes, Specialized focused on improved handling. To do that, they lowered the BB to 13.2 inches and shortened the rear end 27.5 version has 16.5 inch chainstays and teh 29er has 17.1 inch stays. The company also beefed up the top and down tubes.
The FSR suspension system got a new tune to improve pedaling efficiency without sacrificing the system ability to stay active under pedaling and braking.
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Parts got a refresh, too. All versions of the Stumpjumper and the Rhyme come with Specialized new Command Post, released last month. The new version of the dropper is still cable actuated, but it features 12 position settings over the previous version three. Also, all versions of the 27.5 and 29er bikes will get Specialized wide Roval Traverse rims: The alloy versions feature a 29mm inner width and the carbon options have a 30mm inner width. All brakes are from Shimano for top of the line models, SLX on the Comp builds. The Elite alloy version and up gets a 1x drivetrain.
Finally, for the seemingly growing faction of hydration pack haters, the company further integrated its SWAT (Storage, Water, Air, Tools) system onto the bikes. New carbon Stumpy models have a storage compartment on the down tube that is accessed via a plastic door where the water bottle mounts. The door opens to reveal two cloth wraps: One holds two CO2 cartridges or a hand pump, the other holds an inner tube. You can also store items like food, a rain jacket, and other supplies within the down tube. A bulkhead above the BB keeps stored items from getting stuck.
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The Stumpjumper will be sold in alloy and carbon models, ranging from $2,900 for the Stumpjumper FSR Comp up to $8,900 for the S Works FSR Stumpjumper.
What New: 2016 Rhyme Women Trail Bike
Alongside the new Stumpy is its women equivalent, the 150mm travel, 27.5 inch wheel Rhyme. In designing the Rhyme, Specialized departed from the approach it taken with its past models, which is to build toward a women specific geometry Rhyme shares the same frame, geometry, and carbon layup as the men 27.5 Stumpjumper. Amy Nelson, Specialized women mountain bike product manager, said the company polled more than 1,000 women to better understand what they they wanted in an aggressive, trail riding bike. we heard was that women wanted the same, proven trail geometry that Specialized offered to men, Nelson said.
There are some small differences between the Rhyme and Stumpjumper besides paint scheme: The FSR suspension is tuned to accommodate a lighter rider. Touchpoints are also different: The Rhyme gets Specialized Body Geometry Women Myth saddle, and a narrower handlebar at 720mm, compared to the Stumpy 750mm bar. The Rhyme also gets an XS size entire size range is made to accommodate riders from 4 to 6 size specific crankarms: 170mm on XS and S; 175mm on M and L.
Overwhelmingly, Nelson says that women request the 27.5 inch wheel size for aggressive trail riding, so the Rhyme is not available as a 29er for now. And it sold in three builds with the Comp alloy at $2,900 and going up to the Expert Carbon at $5,900.
What New: Stumpy / Rhyme 6Fattie
Many brands are experimenting with hardtails built around 27.5+ wheels the new Fuze and Ruze models released by Specialized last month the 6Fattie versions of the Stumpjumper and Rhyme represent one of the few full suspension bikes designed around the tire size, which sits between a typical tire and super fat ones. Both models come with a 3 inch wide Specialized 6Fattie tire.
Joe Buckley, the company mountain bike product manager, said that the wider tire enabled him to run lower tire pressure for a 69 percent increase in contact patch, with just seven watts of increased rolling resistance. Those stats are going to vary depending on the specific pressure, but the idea is the same traction for a minimized increase in rolling resistance.
The 6Fattie versions of the Rhyme and Stumpy get a custom, wider rear end that incorporates the Boost 148 rear hub 148mm spacing for the bigger tires, with a Boost 110mm wide hub in the front. Both come with a 1x drivetrain.
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We a little curious as to the company choice to build the 6Fattie versions on 29mm wide rims. Our testers have been riding 27.5+ and 29+ tires, and so far, and we had a better experience when we mounted those tires on rim closer to 40mm rims. However, we also tried the Stumpy 6Fattie and enjoyed it. Specialized says it tested the 6Fattie on 38mm rims, but the wider rims didn deliver enough benefit to justify the weight penalty. Buckley added that they still assessing what the appropriate rim width may be.
How it Rides: Stumpjumper / Rhyme 27.5
On the second descent of the first day ride, which included countless twisty, bermed turns on tight, narrow singletrack that had trees on either side, the medium 27.5 Rhyme I rode (remember, same frame as the 27.5 Stumpy) was quick and agile through every tight switchback and fast, swoopy turn. Coming down one of the technical descents toward the end of the day, an exposed and sometimes very steep segment of singletrack bench cut into the side of a mountain, the 27.5 wheels tracked through fast, 180 degree switchback turns with speed and ease. And when we hit some very steep, nearly vertical sections, the Rhyme lapped it all up.
This is one of those bikes that makes me think about how the stereotype about long travel bikes not being good climbers is so outdated. We ascended more than 3,000 feet that day, and the updated FSR suspension pedaled so efficiently that on some fire road climbs (and descents over small bumps), I sometimes thought I had forgotten to open my Fox CTD shock from to (Nope, fully open I soon figured out that I could just leave it that way for the entire ride.) And the bike felt light as I ascended, too (claimed weight on a small Rhyme Expert Carbon is 27 pounds).
However, when I needed it, the suspension was there. When the pace picked up in the woods, the Rhyme proved to be happy to fly, soaking up the hits from larger root drops and smoothing the landings. The bike was springy and poppy, begging to catch air over medium sized rollers and undulations in the trail.
I finally become a dropper post devotee, and I glad to see it on the most affordable versions of these bikes. The new Command Post worked mostly smoothly only time it did get stuck was on the third day, when heavy rainfall created sandy, gritty mud that gunked up the seatpost and it was stuck in the down position for half a lap. (I was able to push it back up and it worked fine after that.) I found the rebound on the previous version to be a bit, er, violent, but the post is smoother. However, from my initial experience, I think having 12 positions is overkill. On the trail, I sometimes found it distracting trying to dial in the exact position I wanted.
I do have one concern with the 27.5 version of the bike: While I love how it is, for some reason I found myself striking my pedal numerous times, and I think it has something to do with the BB height (though the 175mm cranks are also longer than I usually ride). These weren pedal strikes in normal places, like sections with larger rocks; they were in
facebook besthairbuy flatter, off camber sections or tights turns where I had to pedal to maintain momentum. If I leaned the bike over, I graze the ground, which rattled me enough that I was constantly mindful of it. A few other journalists on the trip, men and women, had the same experience. When I rode the 29er on day three, though, I didn notice this issue, but the wet conditions led to less aggressive cornering.
I hopped on the S Works Stumpjumper 29er on the third day of the trip. It was raining heavily, yet the Stumpy was stable in the tight, greasy turns, tracked predictably over wet roots, and floated down the puddled, steppy sections with nary a hair raising moment. In very tight switchback turns, I was conscious of the bigger wheels, but just the slightest extra attention got the bike through on the right line every time. I wouldn go as far as to say I forgot I was on a 29er, but I almost forgot one is very nimble for the wheel size.
And for some, the speed you can carry on a straightaway will make up for the extra finesse you have to put into tighter turns. Our second run of the day, a trail called Split Enz, spat us out on a long, steep, and rutted descent. Those big wheels picked up all that momentum, and I was going scary fast over the bumps. As I squinted to keep the flecks of rock and dirt from flying into my eyes, this 29er held its line faithfully and absorbed all the high speed juddering. It felt like the fastest I gone on a bike in a while.