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Review: Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Expert

A refined brawler and adjustable adventurer

2021 Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Expert review

Sometimes it is what isn’t obvious at first sight that makes a bike stand out. For Specialized’s Stumpjumper EVO Expert, multiple frame adjustment options and an excellent suspension design set it apart from the competition. Working together, those subtle features squeeze a refined brawler and an all-day adventurer together into one bike. There’s even stealthy storage hiding inside the frame.

Specialized has thoroughly reworked the Stumpjumper EVO for 2021, making it a beast apart from the standard Stumpy. While the distinctive single-strut profile may look familiar, the devil is, as they say, in the details. The EVO Expert’s raw carbon-fibre finish is hiding a small arsenal of sharp design details.

Stumpjumper Fox Float DPX2 EVOL
The classic Stumpjumper silhouette

2021 Specialized Stumpjumper EVO – Frame and features

At the core of the Stumpjumper EVO is a carbon fibre frame constructed of Specialized Fact 11M material, complete with that distinctive asymmetrical strut alongside the rear shock. That delivers 150-mm rear wheel travel. Up front, a Fox Float 36 Performance Elite fork adds another 160-mm. (For the S1 size, travel is a balanced 150-mm, front and rear).

The key to Specialized’s complete redesign of the EVO is its two, independent frame adjustments. Other, often boutique brands have attempted frame adjustments in the past. Specialized takes a different tact. One sits in the headtube, with head tube angle adjustable up to 2-degrees, between 63 and 65.5, via supplied headset cups. A second adjustment sits in the rear Horst link, changing the bottom bracket height by 10 mm and chainstay length.

A third major adjustment – switching the 29″ rear wheel for a 27.5″ mullet set-up – is possible via a replacement suspension link, sold separately.

All of this gives the Stumpjumper EVO an incredible flexibility. It’s not a “one bike,” as at 150mm/160mm travel, the EVO is made for more aggressive travel. But, within that range the EVO sure does cover a lot ground. With an updated suspension kinematic that gives the Stumpy a better pedalling platform, it also covers that ground efficiently.

Specialized’s move to “Style sizing” is intended to add even more range. Instead of traditional sizing – which ties stand-over height to reach – the EVO keeps stand over height more consistent. Sizing refers more to changes in length and reach, giving riders more freedom to move between sizes and choose a more “traditional” reach or more modern, longer reach.

Stumpjumper Fox 36 Performance Elite

Stumpjumper EVO Expert

The Expert is a solid mix of quality, durability and cost-saving parts. Specialized delivers the bike with everything you need to push the EVO platform’s potential, while keeping the price in check wherever possible.

The Expert rolls on Roval Traverse 29 Alloy wheels and 29×2.3″ Eliminator and Butcher tires. Drivetrain is a SRAM mix of  XO1 shifter and derailleur with a GX 10-52t cassette and Descendant 7K cranks. Fox provides a 160 mm Float 36 Performance Elite fork and the rear wheel’s 150-mm travel comes from a DPX2 Performance Elite shock. SRAM Code RS, 4-piston caliper brakes squeeze large 200 mm rotors for plenty of stopping power. An X-Fusion Manic 34.9 mm dropper post props up Specialized’s own saddle, with post-travel increasing according to frame size up to 190 mm for the largest S6.

Like all Stumpjumper EVO’s, the Expert uses a carbon fibre frame. The minimalist black frame hides more key details, like fully enclosed (and quiet) internal cable routing and a threaded BB.

Specialized Stumpjumper raw carbon

Riding the Stumpy EVO

How much of a difference can the frame adjustments make? Quite a bit, actually. In one setting, the Stumpjumper EVO thrives while descending tight, technical singletrack. Drop the BB into the  low setting and the Stumpy charges, plowing through features and popping out of corners. Specialized is able to keep the fit largely consistent while totally changing the Stumpjumper EVO’s personality.

While I stayed mostly in the middle range of the settings, there’s room on either side to push the Stumpjumper EVO to extremes. Make it a long, low, slack and shuttle-worthy rig by moving the headset and BB settings to one extreme. Or make the bike more snappy and playful for long days in the saddle at the other end of the settings. All in, with 2.5 degrees of head tube angle, from 63.0 to 65.5 degrees, and 10 mm of bottom bracket adjustment to play around with, the EVO will cover any kind of riding you’d like to do with a bike this size, and cover it well.

While the EVO is primarily interested in maximizing your fun on the way down, it’s no slouch climbing, either. Specialized does a good job making this latest Stumpjumper pedal efficiently, even when you are standing on the pedals, while keeping it active enough over roots and rocks to maintain traction. In the low setting, you do have to watch the pedals more, but it’s not so low that you’ll be constantly concerned about pedal strikes. If pedalling through that sort of tech is your primary game, the high setting should have you covered.

2021 Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Expert review

Conclusions: Stumpjumper EVO Expert

Specialized has done an impressive job of the Stumjumper EVO overhaul. The bike is fun in any of its settings, and there are many of them. The option to run a Mullet 27.5″ rear gives even more room to experiment, and tailor the EVO to your whims and needs.

Where the larger sibling Enduro is unabashedly, race focused, the EVO is all about enjoying every moment. It pedals well, making technical climbs a breeze for a bike its size. Set up as a slack brawler, the EVO charges through trail features and dives through corners. In a more all-mountain configuration, the EVO is happy to play on more mellow trails, but with the ability to have your back should you encounter the unexpected.

Riders wanting one bike for all kinds of riding, from all-mountain to the occasional race or bike-park day, will be well served by the Stumpjumper EVO. Especially if you find yourself testing the limits of “trail” bikes, or if you really like playing around with bike set-up.

In the Expert build, Specialized delivers this all in a well-thought-out, shred-ready parts kit and understated, raw carbon finish.

Specialized Stumpjumper EVO Expert build retails for $7,800 in Canada. Sizes run from S1 – S6 in Specialized “Style Sizing”

A version of this review originally appeared in Canadian Cycling Magazine’s February / March 2021 issue.