Specialized 2012 StumpJumper FSR Comp 29, Carbon Versus Aluminium Review

by FatBob on March 6, 2012

The 2010 Specialized StumpJumper received high praise from 29erOnline. We loved its 130 mm rear travel and its all around trail versatility – wrapped up in a moderate weight package. Since we first tested it, the StumpJumper has undergone some refinements. In addition, a carbon version has been added to the lineup. In truth, any excuse to get more time on a StumpJumper is a good excuse to me. Add some refinements and a carbon frame and I had all the excuse I needed to put in a request for a test bike.

We received not just one, but two 2012 StumpJumpers with the Comp trim. One Specialized Comp Carbon 29, which lists for $4,100 and a Comp 29, which lists for $3,000. The goal here is, not only to report on the changes made and the package that is the Comp, but also the difference between the carbon StumpJumper and the alloy version. It was very important to get the same parts on both bikes to make sure the comparison was as fair as possible.

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Dueling StumpJumpers

Carbon has been one of the materials synonymous with high end in the bike industry for some time now. Early efforts at carbon fiber gave the material a reputation for great riding but also for being unreliable. Our experience from last year’s carbon Specialized Epic and various carbon parts has shown that carbon fiber has come a long way. So, why spend the extra $1,000 for carbon fiber? Is there a real benefit? Or, are we just victims of an industry trend, latching on to the next, latest and greatest? I am sure the answer is, partly yes to both questions. Our goal is to be able, not only decide what, if any, the benefits are, but also if the so-called benefits of carbon fiber are $1,000 dollars better or not.

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alloy model with 400 gram pedals

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weight with 500 gram flat pedals

To introduce the bikes I would like to go through the parts that are exactly alike first. Bars, stem and seat post are all Specialized branded parts. The setback seat post is a single bolt fastened to a curved square edged mount. Get the tilt on the saddles nose you like then adjust the forward or backward orientation by sliding the seat further or closer on the saddle rails. Pinch down the bolt with a number 5 allen key and proceed. The saddle is a Specialized  Henge saddle in a 143mm width. This is Specialized’s medium width saddle. Overall, it is a well liked saddle by a variety of rider types who come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The Henge has a good amount of padding and a flatter profile with a relief channel to add comfort and minimize the chance of erectile dysfunction. It is easy to move around on and it doesn’t get snagged on your shorts very easily – most likely due to its rounded profile. If you are a women and looking at this bike, I would recommend switching to one of the women’s specific models Specialized makes. Our ladies love the Ariel model and it comes in three widths toaccommodate different sit bones and shapes.

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Both our StumpJumper Comps are size Large. Realistically, we can squeak a 5’9″ rider on at one end and up to a 6’2″ rider on at the other end. Outside this range, we would need a different size. Related to fit, the stem is interesting. You can change the angle of it by adjusting a shim that goes between the stem and the steer tube. You can also run it positive or negative rise to get the fit you like. The only downside is that it is a bit heavy and the angles to work with are a bit extreme at + or – 8 to 16 degrees. It would be easier to use a tighter and less dramatic angle range. Still, by combining headset spacers, and riser or flat bar varieties, we can get most people to fit the bike to their comfort.

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adjustable angle stem

The shock on the Comp model is a variation of the Fox/Specialized collaboration Triad shock. It does not have a Kashima Coating, but does have pro-pedal, open, and a lock-out setting that can be accessed from the saddle. I keep knocking it out of position when I reach to remove my water bottle on the Carbon Comp version. It will be interesting to see if the alloy version has more clearance. That bike was photographed, weighed and whisked off to Calvin so this test could get under way quickly. More later…

The big news about this shock is the proprietary feature called “auto sag”. All StumpJumper 29er models come with the Auto Sag feature. This “auto sag” feature takes much of the guess work out of setting up these StumpJumpers. Just fill the shock up to 300 psi, hit the auto sag air release valve, (also known as “the red one”) and cycle through the suspension. Then, press it again and your sag should be set. Just dial in the rebound, which can even be done while you are pedaling. Proceed at your own risk – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should! My observation, so far, is that it puts me at about 20% sag. So, I view the auto sag as a reliable starting point. I am presently riding at 25% sag and I may get down a little further – closer to 30%. At 20% the ride is very firm and progressive through it’s entire stroke. So, my recommendation is to start with the auto sag determined setting, ride the StumpJumper for a while, and adjust from there. Overall, I don’t feel it is as completely dummy proof as some of the bigger magazines make it sound but it is a massive step in the right direction.

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Triad feature

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Another notable feature for 2012 is the switch from the 2011 model Rock Shox fork to the Fox 32 series 130 mm fork. Both are excellent forks, but the overall preference of the 29erOnline crew is Fox Forks. While talking with Eric Shuda from Specialized Bikes, I asked why Specialized went with the 32 series fork that had to be custom spec’ed to achieve a 130 mm travel range in the Evolution series instead of going with Fox’s  34 series. The simple answer seems to be weight. Remember that Specialized doesn’t classify the StumpJumper line up as All-Mountain. It is a trail bike and, therefore, a bit more weight conscious. Specialized puts a high emphasis on keeping the StumpJumper as light as possible within it’s intended purpose. This is a Trail bike that is extremely capable in the hands of an experienced rider. It was never intended to bash through obstacles and be ridden with reckless abandon. While certainly a sturdy bike, think finesse not brawn compared to the All Mountain designation.

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The handle bars really stand out to me because they are wide and low. This is not uncommon. What sets them apart is that they bend backwards and flair upwards as well. In my mind, this is what makes a true riser bar. If you don’t like the width (730mm), you can always cut them down.

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The drive train is mostly SRAM X7. As is common in the bike industry, the rear gets an upgrade to a SRAM X9 unit. The crank set is interesting. It is a SRAM crank with a 104 Bolt Circle Diameter that is set up for a 2×10 with a light duty bash guard. Take “bash guard” as more of a part classification than an actual mow-stuff-over endorsement. If you mow anything over, you will be disappointed with your bashed, bent up guard. Think of it more as a tidy guide ring. Again, think light weight, not brawn.

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The wheels are Specialized Stout hubs with Specialized end caps that extend the surface area where it interfaces with the fork legs. Combined with the 15mm axle, the fork lowers promise to be plenty stiff. Rims are a Roval variety. To convert to tubeless, you will need to purchase tubeless tape, valve cores, and sealant. We have experience with these wheels on a few other test bikes, and have had zero issues with them in the 2 seasons we have run them. No, they are not the lightest or tightest but they are reliable and very good for the price point. The Purgatory 2.2 front and Ground Control 2.1 rear have been flawless in our wet winter conditions except for wet roots. Nothing works on them though. This is my go-to tire set up and we are working on making it our standard control tire set-up for the test bikes. In addition, the Control casings are durable, and set up tubeless better then any tire to date and with greater consistency, even as they get older. Specialized rubber gets a huge thumbs up!

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Purgatory 2.25 front

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Ground Control 2.1

Stopping comes from Avids Elixer brakes. The rotors are 200 millimeter front with 180 millimeter rear. They are very powerful. More on these in our final review. It’s hard to go without pedals and neither StumpJumper includes pedals, so make sure to budget in a set, or transfer your pedals over.

There are a number of notable, less obvious changes to the previous year’s models. The rear derailleur hanger has been changed and for the better. Instead of a hanger that bolts to the undersie of the frame where the 142×12 axle intersects the frame, the newer design bolts from the side – more similar to the traditional style of hanger. The newer system is much more refined and a welcome change. On the frame, the top tube shaping has been changed subtly, with the result being greater stand over clearance. The frame has internal cable routing for dropper seat posts. I did not take it on it’s first ride without the Command Post Black Light seat post that is a must have for bikes I ride. We have 2 years service from the first version of the Command Post and have done no maintenance other than changing cables. For the bottom bracket, Specialized now uses a PF30 Bottom bracket shell. The PF30 bottom bracket uses press in bearings with plastic cups. This allows companies to make all carbon bottom bracket shells. To run GXP or Shimano, cranks you will need an adaptor.  Two companies (there are others these are two that seem readily available), Enduro and Wheels Manufacturing make adaptors for most varieties of cranks. It will be interesting to see if we can see benefits to this system over time. Lastly there is a chain device simply called the dangler.

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Last among new features of the 2012 StumpJumper, is the 142×12 rear through axle. The 142×12 axle adds stiffness, and peace of mind, knowing the axle is threaded into the frame with a closed drop out. The phasing out of the old-style quick release axles is a welcome change and Specialized committed to it on all the high end mountain bikes they make.

Our goals over the test series include not only to seeing how all these changes make the bike compare to the 2010 StumpJumper we loved, but also we want to determine the differences between carbon and alloy frames. Please direct questions to the comments section. We will do our best to answer them all during out testing process.

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

bikefred March 7, 2012 at 6:04 am

Nice, comprehensive review – I must be a vocabulary d-bag however and point out that handlebars don’t “flair”, they “flare”. I know – get a life. Pet peeve though. Also esp. like when a bike review raves about how a bike “peddles”…

Tjaard March 7, 2012 at 7:25 am

My Stumpy Comp’s wheels came with the tubeless tape installed, all I had to do was pull the tubes and put in some valve cores and Stans.

Also nice to note is that the rims are a bit wider internally.

Christian March 7, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Ok…can I borrow an extra $1000 to upgrade to Carbon? All the talk about how wonderful Carbon is isn’t getting us mere mortals closer to having more money to buy one. It’s like trying to tell me that a Ferrari is SO worth the extra money…great, but I still can’t afford it.

FatBob March 13, 2012 at 6:50 am

Bike Fred, your writing has flair, thanks for, and duly noted, that the handlebars have flare.

Go pedal your bike around, so you have less time to correct our spelling ! :) Kidding of course, sometimes we just miss some stuff. Sorry.

FatBob March 13, 2012 at 6:55 am

Hi Christian, thus far we are n0t saying either is, or is not “worth” the money. $1000 is alot of money. So far we are enjoying both bikes but are striving to decide if there is a noticeable difference(there of course is). We are also going to strive to give you enough detail in the differences so that the person who has the money, can decide if it is worth it to them.

Now if you don’t have an extra $1000 is floating around with no home to go to, I will tell you right now, the Stumpy Aluminium is an awesome bike. I would be happy with either…or both.

Guy March 14, 2012 at 4:38 am

If you not have the money to add a good wheels to carbon model, is a better choice to buy FSR aluminum with quality wheels. That is my opinion

Guy March 14, 2012 at 9:24 am

Just got my 2912, 29 stumpy aluminum. The craftsmanship is fenominal. Very happy with my choise.

Sloewy March 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm

I was planning on buying the stumpjumper carbon 29 comp, but after demoing the expert carbon 29 I decided to shell out more cash because I liked how the bike climbed with the brain and I really liked the command seat post that allows you to drop your seat without getting off your bike. Now that I’ve put a few rides in I can say, I LOVE this bike. Obstacles that seemed technical to me in the past on my 26.5 single pivot XC bike are now just part of the trail. I’m a big fan of the 2×20 drivetrain, and I really like the way the wheels and tires role (I’m riding the stock rims tubeless), but I credit that to my first 29, not the carbon. I feel the effects of the carbon are somewhat muted on a plush full suspension bike versus the drastic difference between aluminum and carbon on road bikes. I’m happy with my purchase; however based on my experience I’d suggest putting money towards a higher end aluminum version versus a carbon bike with lesser components.

Greg March 17, 2012 at 6:38 pm

It was good to meet you guys at the SanLee trails last weekend. I purchased my stumpy 29er a few weeks before you published this review. Your review is spot on and matches my experience with the bike closely. I’ve been extremely happy with the bike and just keep getting faster on it. I rode a lap at SanLee and Governors Creek today and I can’t wipe the smile off my face.

Tjaard March 19, 2012 at 6:26 am

I agree with Guy. It would be great if you guys could throw on a wheelset upgrade on the alloy, to see if that is a better use of the $1000 than the carbon mainframe.

FatBob March 19, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Tjaard and Guy. This is noted and we will work on an experiment to try to test this. $1000 gets you alot of wheel. Is this the better place to spend your grand ? Good question. We will definitely run some tests to find out.

FatBob March 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Hey Guy 1, I understood what you were saying. Its a good question and we will work on answering it. Calvin still has the StumpJumper Comp alloy model. When I see him next we will be swapping. The control group may be smaller in this test as there are alot of different combinations we need to run to decide the value part of this test.

So Guy, thanks for asking, you speaking 2 languages puts you ahead of most of us. I don’t know what is going on here with “other guy” If he was purposely misspelling to poke fun of you, I apologize for allowing the comment to be posted. I am hoping the “other Guy” is just a poor speller and not poking fun as your English is good enough to understand and it seems that others are curios for the answer as well.

Thanks for posting a question.

Bill March 22, 2012 at 4:24 am

Thanks for the information, I look forward to the ride reports. I’m deciding which 29er trail bike to buy to replace/complement the 5-inch 26er I now ride. I’m focusing on Camber and the Stumpjumper (also the Tall Boy, but I digress)and your reviews provide lots of valuable information. My question is, what is the “Camber 29er Evo?” Is it between the Camber and the Stumpjumper on the X-C to A-M continuum?

FatBob March 26, 2012 at 11:31 am

Hi Bill, sorry to reply late. I don’t see a Camber EVO model on the Specialized USA website. I looked in the article and cant find where I referred to one. So if I said there is a Camber EVO model Sorry about that. If you do see one please send me a link I know they do offer different models in different countries.
If you are referring to the StumpJumper 29 EVO model, this has slightly more rear travel. It is run with a 140 mm fork. The headtube angle is more relaxed and the bottom bracket height is lower. Plus it comes with a Fox Kashima coated shock. It is more aggressive geometry wise but doesn’t feel bulky. So far we have not met a StumpJumper we have not liked.

ConsumerSam April 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I’m ready to buy one of these two Stumpys, but which one? I can’t find a dealer near me who has both the carbon and the aluminum bikes in stock for a side-by-side test ride. I’ve ridden the carbon one, and while I quite liked it, I could find other things to do with an extra $1000. Could you guys please come in from the trail and write up your findings? :-)

e90ja April 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Were the bikes weighed with tubes or tubeless?

FatBob April 17, 2012 at 9:36 am

They were weighed with tubes. As it would come out of the box.

Rick April 21, 2012 at 8:50 am

I second what ConsumerSam said…I’m ready to pull the trigger, how much longer before you post up your conclusion? :)

FatBob April 23, 2012 at 9:25 am

Sorry to delay response. I had a death in the family and needed time to attend to that.

This week we should be meeting for back to back rides between Paul and Calvin. So they can A/B the bikes. each rider has a month on the bikes and from my understanding have a pretty good idea which they like better. After that i will be A/B riding these bikes. same trail same day so i can finalize my thoughts. This time of year it seems all our reviews are bottle necking. We will try not to take too long but also don’t want to rush and not say what we really want to say.

Thanks for being enthusiastic ! its greatly appreciated.

Scott May 24, 2012 at 11:22 am

You’re killing me here…
I recently had the Specialized truck come through town and have been going back and forth between the Epic and Stumpy in my mind ever since.
Although it is fun to ride super expensive bikes, the fact that the bikes I rode were S-Works leaves me wondering about the real world.
I have been wondering if the carbon is worth the money and anxiously await your opinion(s).
Also, I live in MN. Everyone here says that bikes like the Stumpy have way too much travel to be necessary here. My issue is that the S-Worls Stumpy handled way better through the fast, tight turns than the Epic. Maybe it was the fork or the set-up, but I did enjoy that planted feeling.
Do you think the Comp versions of the Epic and Stumpjumper will handle lmost as well as the carbon-wheel shod S-Works varieties?

FatBob May 24, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Scott, the S-Works bikes are really incredible. In reality, no the alloy comp versions will not handle as well. However the comp models at the heart are born and bread with the same objectives in mind. The Epic is a race bike. I am surprised you felt it didn’t handle tight and twisty as well as the StumpJumper. The StumpJumper is very comfortable, stable and confident. Compared to the S-Works Stumpjumper add 4 pounds, a good portion of that in rotational weight and you can see how the Comp models ride.

Calvin and Paul are so far split down the middle between alloy and carbon. One of the reasons that we are taking so long! So we will have to go to a second phase of testing to prove that the $1000 is spent better either way upgrading the alloy or keeping a stock carbon.

In your case this would be a time that I would recommend the Camber. While we will stick to our Camber review that the StumpJumper is as good of a climber for the most part, the handling of the Camber is a bit tighter then the StumpJumper but not as tight as the Epic. If your trails are not particularly rough and rooty the Camber may work well for you. If you have tons of roots and rocks the Stumpy rules.

Khai June 5, 2012 at 3:29 am

Thanks for the dedication to being so thorough. Any word on a release date for the final article? I’m looking at the FSR Comp Carbon 29 vs the FSR Expert Evo 29 (priced very similarly, so effectively trading the carbon frame for better kit, more travel, and slightly more aggressive geometry) vs the FSR Carbon Expert 29 (probably a bit of a stretch but we’ll see if I can make it happen) – so the “is Carbon worth is?” question is very much at the forefront of my purchase decision.

Thanks,

FatBob June 5, 2012 at 9:04 am

Hi Kai, I took the last interview last night. So we are close. However your choice adds more then just material comparison. The EVO has more travel front and rear, slacker geometry, and a lower Bottom Bracket. While still a StumpJumper, the EVO separates itself with more authoritative downhill manners. If you ride rugged terrain and are looking for the most tech trails you can find, or are more inclined to spin uphill to enjoy the fastest descent you can, forget frame material and buy the EVO. If you want a slightly more capable ascending bike with a little less descending ability, go for the comp. As far as head to head comparison, the difference is more subtle.

Khai June 7, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Thanks FatBob, I’m strongly leaning toward the (alu) Expert Evo 29. I’ve just learned that I have worlds of time to decide however, as Specialized is sold out and there’s no stock available for order anywhere in the UK – so now I’m waiting for the 2013s to come in…

rupert3k June 23, 2012 at 3:03 am

Thanks for the great article.
May I suggest editing the title to include FSR to avoid confusion as I believe Stumpjumper Comp 29/ Carbon actually refers to hard tails.

FatBob June 24, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Done ! Thank you, good call

Guy June 30, 2012 at 4:50 pm

I hope you’ll come out this test before the end of the world…

Friendly

FatBob July 3, 2012 at 6:40 am

Guy, Me Too !

We were deadlocked until recently. I am not going to put something up until I have enough informed opinions. Good news is carbon fiber isn’t changing its properties for next season. In addition the StumpJumper remains largely unchanged from what I have seen leaked on the internet. Notice this is not info directly from Specialized, just from what is floating around the internet.

When the article comes out, it will be relevant information for a long time to come.

mike August 27, 2012 at 9:51 pm

what? no comment on what a complete piece of crap the rear hub is? horrid engagement, plus mine was effed from day 1. made a knocking sound, and felt like my axle was loose. turns out the freehub had to be replaced, which my LBS was happy to take care of. them guys are good folks!

FatBob August 29, 2012 at 5:02 am

Mike, glad your LBS took care of you. I have read reports that the hubs were not good. We however are still riding the stock hubs and they are as good as the day we got the bikes. Our experience is that, while not as nice as a high end hub, they are reliable. We didn’t comment because we have 3 bikes with these hubs. In addition we had last years Camber and Epic Comp carbon. All total 5 bikes with these hubs. Not a single one has failed.

Your experience is obviously not good. This is why we have a comments section. Your experience can help riders see at a minimum that quality may be inconsistent.

At the end of the day all we can comment on is our experience. Thanks for sharing yours.

Bryan October 9, 2012 at 11:43 am

Six months later and the ’13′s are out now, just wondering where this review went.

Skywalker November 24, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Thanks for the info. I have had my Al comp for a year now and love it. Can you please address the issue with the rear shock eyelet oval-ing out / deforming, leading to knocking? Specialized is aware of the flaw, and in my opinion offers a weak solution. They say to install a washer under the bolt head (that goes thru the eyelet) so you can tighten it down more and squeeze the sides of the eyelet. This in no way eliminates the slop. This is an incredibly poor solution. It’s a band aid, not a fix. If you can, please ask specialized directly about it.

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