Part 1: Specialized stumpjumper FSR vs Niner RIP9 vs Pivot Mach 429 by Donn O

by FatBob on August 3, 2009

First, I will say that I am partial to Specialized because of my first two mountain bikes, a Hardrock and a Stumpjumper which got me hooked on the sport years ago.

The Specialized Comp 29 does have impressive styling, fit, and finish, it looks so good, and I could not wait to blast down the trail on it. That feeling lasted for almost 100 yards, then I jammed a pedal hard into the ground on the very first turn and I did it again a couple hundred feet later, two places I have never hit before. This bike is such a big disappointment I expected much more from the big S. The Comp 29 has a real serious ground clearance problem! We tried fixing it by using a longer 120 fork on the front but that destroyed the handling.

donn spec 1024x768 Part 1: Specialized stumpjumper FSR vs Niner RIP9 vs Pivot Mach 429 by Donn O

Donn on "Ronny's Rock" Named after the first person to take a header on the rock.

The best thing Specialized could do is license some modern suspension technology and start over with this bike.

We did extensive video analysis of the Specialized rear suspension in action while climbing our steep test hill and I believe you could use the rear suspension for a pogo stick. Surprisingly the video showed that Front Reba fork had noticeably less bob than the plush Fox forks.

The Comp 29 rear suspension seemed to suck the strength right out of my legs; I had to turn ProPedal on just to keep up with the test group. I did manage to get some speed out of it with ProPedal on and by using special riding techniques I.E. coasting through the corners with the pedals level to prevent pedal hits but why bother. Bike testing sometimes is a hard job I really had to force myself to complete the 7-mile test lap hating the power-sucking, pedal hitting spongy ride all the way.

Fat Bob the boss said I had to ride it some more so I thought I would pull a fast one and trick my sixer hardtail-riding friend into riding the Comp 29 for a fast lap on our local test trail with me setting the pace on my sixer. Do not let anyone tell you niners are slow they are not. I tried to drop him and he stuck right with me all the while he was telling me how much he liked the bike (compared to his hardtail sixer).

I was intrigued by the change in performance and decided I needed to ride another test lap to see for myself. The spongy feel was gone and the bike rode more like the Pivot I was quite surprised. I stopped to examine the bike and found that Fat Bob had over pressurized the rear shock so that it had hardly any sag – less that 1/8”. I believe I found the secret to make this bike perform, just set a tiny amount of sag, this gives you maximum ride height which helps to improve badly needed ground clearance. I also think having your sag set near the top of the shock travel can help limit bob because the shock can basically only compress I.E. travel in one direction instead of both directions which a properly sagged shock can travel. If you are stuck with one of these bikes this non-factory setup tip might help you to maximize your ground clearance and cut the bob to a more reasonable level.

This trail was relativity smooth but with the pumped up rear shock my friend still had two pedal hits and I left a bunch of big ring metal on one of our play boulders in a place I have never hit before.

Next, we took the bike over to San Lee Park’s – Jonesboro Fault Trail our favorite rocky torture trail. Ground clearance was still a big issue here even with the shock pumped up. I practiced pedal timing and tried to keep the cranks horizontal in the turns but I still had ten crank arm / pedal hits and three chain ring hits in six miles, oh; by the way, the R.I.P. 9 had zero hits on this same trail!

donn spec warrior 1024x768 Part 1: Specialized stumpjumper FSR vs Niner RIP9 vs Pivot Mach 429 by Donn O

The slack head angle and low bottom bracket of the Specialized seems to work really well on steep bermed out single track like warriors creek in Wilkesborough NC

I then set the rear shock up for 3/8” sag and ran another lap I managed only eight pedal hits this time thru careful crank timing but two of these were very hard body jarring hits. Besides having to time your pedal for rocks and roots we have a couple sections of trail that are sloped side to side and you had to be very careful of your uphill side pedal. On this lap I was more aggressive thru the boulder garden and smacked the chain rings four times.

Fat Bob lets me test his bikes but he does get upset when I destroy SLX crank sets.

Overall, the Comp 29 was the lightest bike in the test group and it felt fast and handled good at high speed but it felt awkward in the slow tight turny stuff. The big negative is the rear suspension, which when set for the proper amount of sag it is soft, and mushy with lots of bob. This bike definitely needs ProPedal to tame the bob but the rear shock location puts the control lever out of reach while riding.

The deal killer in my opinion is the ground clearance issue / unanticipated pedal hits can put you down hard so why take the risk when there are better bikes out there.

The Specialized finished last in my shootout test and believe me I tested it a lot because no one else wanted to ride it. The Comp 29 grew on me after extensive use mainly because I figured out how to cheat the suspension and by modifying my riding techniques.

I did find one trail The Specialized really worked on – Warriors Creek Wilkesboro NC. This trail is a rollercoaster in the woods; it was cut with a mini Ditch Witch bulldozer and it incorporates tons of high speed banked turns. The slack head angle on this bike allowed you to carve these turns and the smooth trail surface helped to minimize pedal hits.

Suspension bob hurt me on the big climbs even though I had the Fox set to the dampened position. I eventually had to turn on the rear shock lockout to reel in my fast riding partner which of course defeats the purpose of having a full suspension bike in the first place. So if you ride really smooth trails the Specialized might work for you but it is going to need a suspension redesign to compete with the other brands in this test.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe August 24, 2009 at 7:31 am

I have just read this after buying the Stumpjumper. the ground clearance is TERRIBLE i am awaiting a response from Specialized.

FatBob August 25, 2009 at 10:55 am

Sorry to hear you are having problems. Fill us in on the companies response please.

I am getting ready to let 2 other testers ride it. We will be adding quite a bit of content including my thoughts on it. Realistically though they are not making this frame style anymore. So far the more we ride the bike the more we are positive we reviewed this bike correctly.

There are some things the Specialized does well so I hope you find them since you already own this bike. They have redesigned this model and now have a much more trail friendly Bottom Bracket height. We will be trying to find one of the new ones and are optomistic about it but the bottom bracket height is a deal breaker for us on the older model. Remember also Donn O likes Specialized as a company and Simon the beginner has no opinion about them as a company. We really try to be fair and look for something good to write about. I talk alot of junk about the company, but if they put out a killer product I would give them a good review.

Thanks for your coment

Thomas September 20, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Joe and FatBob,

Have had the same pedal hit problems on Specialized Stumpjumper Pro w/Brainshock in 26″. Weighing 195 lb I have rear shock up to 250+ psig and still rides low in suspension travel. Shock has already been sent back to Fox for when air spring failed. Not what I expected on a $3500 bike.

Rick October 1, 2009 at 6:25 am

Specialzed Stump. Comp BBH =1 3.3″
Niner RIP BBH = 13.4″
Pivot Mach 429 BBH = 12.8

So why does the Stumpjumper have the low ground clearance issues? Are you sure you had the rear shock set up correctly?

FatBob October 2, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Hey dirtboyrick. The bottom bracket height is just how Specialized designed the bike. We set the rear shock up at 20% sag. We quickly found out that this was to much. The suspension felt fine at this setting, in fact it was a decent feeling rear suspension in my opinion. At 20% sag the pedal strikes were out of control. We ended up setting the suspension at 10% and it helped but did not solve the issue.

The suspension at this sag rides to harsh for a duel suspension bike. It defeats the purpose if you over inflate the rear shock. It doesn’t react properly to the terrain under you. Still it was the lesser of the evils as the pedal strikes were so bad I would rather ride a hard tail. We messed with multiple sags, so yes I am sure it was set up right.

The BB heights you listed look like the 2010 measurements. The 2009 was not that high.

Hope this helps.

Skinny Brutus January 30, 2010 at 9:22 am

FatBob,

Thanks for the review. I am considering a 2010 FSR 29er. I have read everything I can in regards to 29ers and am quit concerned about the ground clearance issue. Looks like the 2010 SJ FSR 29er has the 120mm fork and increased the BB by 10mm to 338 mm. In your opinion is this worth another test ride and do you think Specialized is on thheir way to resolving the ground clearance issue. I have only been able to test ride in parking lots and need to get the bike out on the trail. I did love the ride though and am making the jump from HT to FS. I would appreciate your input on the ground clearance issue, this could be the difference in my second bike purchase. I am 39 and have only been riding for 6 years, wish I had found MTB earlier…but want to buy the right bike.

FatBob February 1, 2010 at 8:24 pm

buckeyebeard, Thanks for your comment. I have recently taken a Doctor out who at 56 years old decided he wanted to do a Xterra triatholon. He had never done any real mountain biking. You are only 39! I hear you though about starting earlier. It doesn’t hurt nearly as much learning how to ride when you are a rubber boned 12 year old.

The 2010 Stumpjumper FSR looks to be very promising. First things first. The little experience with the brain I have had has been very positive. The BB height on the 2010 model is infact higher. My only reservation is that Specialized has also added 30mm of suspension. My concern is the extra sag will lower the BB negating the BB height increase. I guess the thing we can do is find out if the BB measure is sagged or not.

I have attempted to contact specialized to either buy or get a demo. I am very interested in following up last years review.

I can not really make a good recommendation yet. I have tried to contact Specialized but just missed them. They closed 4 minuets before I called. I will try again in a day or two.

Tell us more about what you are looking for? What are your trails like? How do you like to ride? Are you heavy/light? tall/short/mid? All these variables have some bearing on what bike will serve you best.

Check out our new reviews coming up on Rocky Mountain Bikes new Altitude 29er. I’ll be posting pictures and a introductory review as soon as I can weigh it in. This may be in the style of bike you are looking at. Mid travel trail bike.

I wish I could be more helpful. Anyone else interested in us testing the 2010 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR?

Skinny Brutus February 2, 2010 at 8:44 pm

FatBob,

Thanks for your quick response. I probably should have given you more information. I’m 5 10″ and 160lbs. I ride mainly XC…spend 75% of my time going uphill. I do like the downhill and try to be as aggressive as possible, but I have been on a hardtail.

I ride about twice a week, usually 2 hours longer on weekends. I’m not sure why but like the burn and challenge of getting up the hill as fast as possible. I considered an Enduro for a while but figured the XC bike (mid suspension 140mm or so) would make more sense.

I ride in Eastern Washington, the Spokane County Park trail is in my backyard. It elevates to Mica Peak from 2200 ft (lake level) to 5200 ft. Mostly flowing single track, some technical areas, water breaks and a nice switchback. The shorter loop is about 10 miles but going to the peak and exploring could take all day. There are some rocky areas, rock gardens, but most of the trail is fairly easy.

I went to Whistler this summer and plan on heading to Bend in 2010. Let me tell you Whistler on a hardtail is dangerous. Did the black diamond and came close to learning about socialized medicine. I am interested in checking out the Rocky Mountain Altitude 29er and plan on finding one to test ride.

Now to address the 30mm suspension increase that you mentioned on the Specialized SJ FSR 29er, I am not sure what it was last year but the 2010 only has 120mm. The 26″ comp has 130mm and Elite has 140mm. How much suspension is too much for a 29er. Do you have any reservations about doing drops on 29″ wheels in regards to wheel damage?

I hope all this information is helpful and again appreciate all your input. I may not buy another bike for 6 years or so, so I want to make the correct purchase now. I have heard a lot about 29ers some good some bad. My biggest concern is how much of an advantage or disagvantage are the 29″ wheels going to be to me going uphill for most of my riding time. I have heard the rolling resistance is not worth it and have heard that the difference is hardly noticed but the advantage of rolling over rocks is well worth it.

It will obviously come down to what feels best to me but it is very hard to spend $60.00 to test ride all these bikes. I know there is a demo coming up this spring in Spokane, WA so I may just need to be there. But not sure if I can wait that long. Doing a 24 hour round the clock race in May and wanted to get my new FS no later than early April.

FatBob February 5, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Buckeyebeard good news it looks as though the follow up review is happening. Specialized has actually been super cool about letting this happen(heaping fiery coals on my head…biblical reference) Look for an announcement or build post coming soon. 29eronline will bump the build up as fast as possible to help you out if everything goes through.

Lot’s of cool stuff in the pipeline.

Skinny Brutus February 7, 2010 at 11:43 am

FatBob,

That’s great I will be standing by. BTW I looked into the Altutde 29er….nice bike but out of my price range. My wife mentioned something about college funds…I guess those are important too!

Carson Engleson November 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm

It?s laborious to search out educated folks on this subject, however you sound like you understand what you?re talking about! Thanks

FatBob November 27, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Thanks Carson, we try. Being that these are two of my personal favorites, I have alot of time all of these models. Please keep in mind the year models being compared as the year after significant changes were made to the StumpJumper.

Luciana April 23, 2013 at 7:18 pm

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