On Monday October 31st a nice big box showed up here from Specialized . We have a 2012 Specialized Camber Comp Carbon 29 for review. 2012 is officially on us. Here we go!
The Camber Comp Carbon 29 is a bike designed for the majority of riders out there. It is designed to do everything well, but not specialize on one avenue of riding. It is light, but not so light it sacrifices durability. It also comes in at competitive price points, in multiple packages, to fit a variety of budgets. The Comp Carbon is $3,800. Remember, this is the Carbon version. For about $1,000 dollars less you can get the Aluminium version spec’ed identically to this bike.
That said, there are some significant differences between the basic Camber 29 model and the rest of the line. The Comp models and up all have 110mm of travel (up from 100mm in base model), 110 mm fork, tapered steer tube, 142x 12 rear axle, and carbon fiber frame options. If you are looking at the Camber 29 model at $2,200, see our review of last year’s model Camber Comp. The lower priced offering shares the same platform as the 2011 model.
All the Specialized Camber models have a Horst Link suspension. With this setup, a pivot is slightly forward and below the bike’s rear axle. The Horst Link is a very active suspension design that is especially noted for its ability to act freely, even while braking. This design definitely benefits from a shock with a platform to help filter out pedaling forces. The Camber does not disappoint; it comes stock with the Specialized collaborated, Fox built, Triad shock that comes with three settings. Open, pro pedal/firm and locked out. All are available at your fingertips just by flipping the blue lever on the shock body.
Let’s look at what the Camber Comp Carbon 29 comes with (same for non carbon frame Camber Comp 29). The cockpit is complete with Specialized branded parts; handle bars, seat post, stem, seat clamp, clamp-on grips and Henge 143mm saddle.
The handlebars really stand out, as they are 720mm wide, 10mm rise, 10 degree sweep, and a 6 degree flair upwards. These are very wide, very low, riser bars. I rode them in France and am getting a set for my personal bike in carbon. I find them very comfortable. If you are concerned about the width, the philosophy behind this is that you can always cut them narrower based on your preference, but you can’t add width to them if they are too narrow. Start with them wide, being careful till you learn how well they fit between trees on your trails, and gradually cut them back until you find the sweet spot. You never know, you may like them stock and not want to cut them.
Another note is that the Specialized grips are some of the only bolt on grips that will clamp onto the smaller diameter carbon bars we have. They are a single bolt with a 3mm allen head bolt as opposed to a 2.5mm allen head on other popular grips. The three millimeter bolts are less likely to strip out. Because I switch grips often for various testers, this is another part that will be ending up in our test kits for all our bikes.
Braking is handled by Avid Elixer 7 hydraulic brakes. They use an 8 inch front rotor and 7 inch rear rotor, which is a good call for 29ers to help stop those big wheels. Attached to the brake lever by Avid’s MatchMaker, is the X7 shifter. The X7/X9 parts kit is excellent for the money. It's hard to justify changing this. If you read our Diminishing Returns Articles, this is the kind of kit we recommend, as it provides the best performance for your dollar. This kit will remain on the bike for the duration of the test and will not be swapped for higher end offerings.
The Camber frame is built with a press fit 30 bottom bracket shell. The Camber has a 2 by 10 drive train. Specialized spec'ed a 36 tooth high 24 low double chain ring set up. There is a guard on the crank set but it acts more as a guide for the chain so it doesn't drop off the big ring, and is aesthetically pleasing. It is too light to be a true bash guard. With a 104 outer bolt circle diameter (bcd) you can upgrade to a stronger unit if you are inclined. I would say the Camber is more of a finesse bike then a bike used to plow through things.
The wheels are Specialized Roval rims with their house branded Hi-Lo hubs with sealed bearings. The rear wheel has a ratcheting skewer, and is the 12x142plus variety. Specialized uses a wider hub from flange to flange to create a stronger and stiffer rear wheel. The Specialized frames using this system can accept a standard 142x12 axle but other frames cannot use the Specialized 142 plus system.
The front fork is a Fox f29 series, but is dubbed Evolution. This is a name Fox uses to label their least expensive offerings. The fork is a f29 rl . It has a rebound dial and a lock-out lever along with air pre-load. My initial feeling of this fork is that it is lively and plush. It feels excellent out of the box. Lastly, it is a tapered steer tube version with 9 mm open drop outs. Specialized uses its OS 28 end caps along with an over-size front qr with a ratcheting quick release for a system similar to DT Swiss’ rws approach. Combined with the OS 28 end caps, which spread more surface area on the fork’s drop out, this creates a stiffer system than a standard Tullio style quick release. Specialized claims that this is stiffer than a 15 qr system, and is lighter, which is a theme you see on all Specialized bikes. Weight seems to be a big priority in their design philosophy. I am split on the design. I like 15qr because of the fact the axle screws into the fork on a system like Fox's and the drop out loops completely around the axle. However, this open drop out with the OS 28 end caps is very stiff and I have not had this system fail on the Epic test bike we have had for about 7 months. Both systems are reliable, I'll let the testers decide whether they prefer it to a 15 qr system, but, in truth, I expect most people will not notice a negative in performance.
If you are researching this bike you may also be considering the aluminum version. The two bikes, Camber Comp and Camber Comp Carbon, share the same kits and technological features. So why Carbon? Why spend the extra money, slightly over $1,000 dollars, for the Carbon front end? True, it is somewhat lighter, but more importantly, it can be designed stiffer, and, at the same time, is better at absorbing shock. You can notice a muffled feeling riding carbon, while at the same time retaining a stiff, responsive quality. Comfort and control, what's not to like?
Really, there are three down sides. First, it is more expensive, second it isn't recyclable. Third if/ when it fails, the failure is typically complete. Carbon cracks, it does not bend. What we have seen is that, if it wrecks quality carbon, it would have probably wrecked aluminum as well. Carbon is becoming more and more reliable, and the added comfort and stiffness are a different ride quality many riders will appreciate. With all this being said, the aluminum frames have their own strengths and unique ride feel. If you can't afford the carbon version, you won't be unhappy with the aluminum version.
Last thing I will mention is the tires. The front is a Specialized Purgatory 29x2.2 and the rear is a Ground Control 29x2.1. This tire set up, with the faster tire in the rear, and traction tire up front puts an emphasis on traction not pure speed. Remember what the Camber is made for, all purpose riding, so this is a perfect tire set up for this style of bike. The tires are tubeless ready but you will need to purchase an after market kit to convert them. They have Control casings, which are Specialized’s medium durability casings. This is our choice for most trails in our area. They are light enough but offer enough protection at the same time.
Let the riding begin! Please post any additional questions in our comments section, if I missed anything.