20150611_sTrail-2954

Photo c. Carson Blume/Specialized

One of the raddest things about mountain biking is how the sport can be so many things to just as many different people. However, even with all of the different styles of riding most of us have the same end goal – to get out on the trail. Usually it doesn’t matter what or where that trail is, just that we get out there with enough free time to relax and take it all in.

That spirit is exactly what Specialized is hoping to capture with their new mountain bike launches. Tagging them as #destinationtrail, to Specialized this is why mountain bikes exist. Graeagle, CA was chosen to not only highlight their newest model, but also tell the story of the sport. Basically, if you think of mountain biking in an idyllic setting – this would be it.

After pedaling straight from the Gray Eagle lodge onto the trails (if you need a bike you can rent a Specialized from Howling Dogs Bike and Ski), the reasoning behind the choice of venue was instantly apparent. Just a short drive from the world famous Downieville downhill, Graeagle and the Lakes Basin area is home to a rapidly growing trail network that was a perfect backdrop to introduce the new Specialized Camber…

Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (2)

Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (7) Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (8)

Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (14) Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (11)

Just recently at the first #destinationtrail event, Specialized launched the new Stumpjumper FSR. Built to be as capable and as versatile as possible, when push comes to shove, the Stumpjumper FSR is still a big bike for most riders. Seeing the Camber as the most appropriate bike for many trail riders, Specialized opted to combine some of the new features from the Stumpy FSR with features of the Epic to create their version of the ultimate trail bike.

Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (1)

Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (3) Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (13)

To Specialized, that meant the inclusion of the Brain for the rear suspension but this isn’t just a plug and play from the Epic. Instead, the Camber uses the first position-sensitive Micro Brain from specialized which doesn’t actually engage until you hit the bike’s sag point. Essentially that leaves the first 25% of the travel open for absorbing small chatter, but still provides a firm platform when pedaling hard. Calling it the first Trail Brain, the design also aids in climbing since your weight is shifted back on the bike and the inertia valve is activated. To obtain a better trail feel out of the original Brain the unit has new tuning plus a new Spike valve that is found from here on out on all Brains and even the custom RockShox RS1 for the Camber. If the shim stack can’t keep up with the oil flow during a fast hit, the Spike valve allows oil to dump at a higher speed to prevent hydraulic lock and allows faster cycling of the Brain.

Still a firm believer in active independent suspension and the FSR platform, the Brain equipped suspension package is attached to a Horst Link rear end with a new concentric linkage similar to that found on the Epic. The concentric linkage is said to create a stiffer and lighter rear end with a more connected feeling to the trail. Other similarities to the Epic include the smaller Micro Air can, Auto Sag feature, and the Inertia Valve mounted to the rear of the frame at a 16 degree angle to the trail. On the Inertia Valve itself is a dial that you can use to decrease or increase the effect of the Brain though you can’t completely shut it off.

Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (5) Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (4)

Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (6)

Specialized Stumpjumper 6fatty 275 plus full suspension fsr  (25)

If the front triangle looks familiar, that’s because it probably is. Calling it their FACT Carbon Trail Chassis, the front triangle is the same as that used on the Stumpjumper FSR. The fact that it was originally meant to be used for more than one bike was part of the reason Specailzied says they were able to pursue the idea of SWAT. Because of the challenges of building a frame that was just as strong and stiff with a giant hole in it, the project started with tooling they knew would likely have to be scrapped – which isn’t cheap. After starting the SWAT project in late 2011, it was finally ready for the launch of the new Stumpjumper FSR and now expands to the Camber as well.

Offering identical storage space to the Stumpy FSR, the Camber has room for the included tool wraps with a spare tube and pump, plus whatever else you can fit in side. Combined with the storage cradle for the included EMT multi tool above the shock mount, and the chain tool in the steerer, you have almost a complete flat kit hidden inside the bike. Is SWAT something you should dump your current bike for immediately? No, probably not. But I will say that once you use it, you won’t be disappointed. Over the course of three days with quite a few flats we had plenty of chances to break into the SWAT box, yet on all three of the bikes I rode not one exhibited any rattles or problems from the SWAT system. For those unfamiliar with SWAT, the water bottle cage mounts to a door that can be removed without tools. That opens up the inside of the down tube for storage which keeps the weight low and off your body.

Notable frame details include a PF30 BB shell, 142×12 rear axle, Campy Style 1.5-1.125″ tapered headset, and 30.9 seatpost. Inside the Trail Chassis you’ll find internal cable routing with molded carbon tubes to keep the cables in place with provisions for stealth dropper posts. The Camber is also front derailleur compatible across the board using the optional Taco Blade mounting plate. Not shown here, Specialized will soon have a new S-Works crank with a removable spider as well. In a nod to the trail intentions of the build, all Cambers ship with 750mm bars and 2.3″ tires with either 29mm wide Traverse aluminum or 30mm wide Roval Traverse Carbon rims.

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Photo c. Carson Blume/Specialized

Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (10) Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (9)

Specialized Camber brain mountain bike destination trail 29 275 650b (15)

Due to the shorter travel of the Camber compared to the Stumpjumper FSR, the seatstays include a bridge between each stay for added stiffness. Sold in both 29″ (120mm travel) and 650b (130mm travel) form, the two bikes have zero shared parts with separate builds and geometries. Following the trends in geometry for both wheel sizes, the 650b Camber is a bit slacker with a 68º HTA vs the 29er’s 68.5º, 420mm vs 437mm chainstays, and a 330mm BB height for both. Designed with a short rear end, low BB, and roomy top tube the Camber fits into what is becoming common trail geometry which results in a fun, fast bike. Of note to Specialized geometry as a whole is the absence of Evo and standard geometry – going forward everything is essentially the old Evo geometry.

Camber 650b specialized 2016 brain geometry Specialized camber 29 2016 brain geometry

Available in four sizes and in carbon or aluminum, all of the carbon models including the Carbon S-Works, Expert Carbon Elite Carbon, and Comp Carbon will ship 1x with either a 28 or 32t ring. The Comp Alloy and Camber will use aluminum frames without SWAT and ship 2×9 or 2×10. All of the carbon models will also include the new Specialized Command Post IRcc with Cruiser Control which is still a pre-set height seat post, but one that offers 10 different middle positions to make it easier to find the right height. The Camber Comp Carbon also serves as the cut off point for the new Trail Brain with all other bikes receiving a custom rear shock with a different yoke.

Pricing:

  • SW Camber FSR Carbon 29 – $9800
  • SW Camber FSR Carbon 29 Module – $7300 (frame, fork & wheels)
  • SW Camber FSR Carbon 650b – $9800
  • SW Carbon  FSR 650b Module – $7300 (frame, fork & wheels)
  • Camber FSR Expert Carbon 29 – $6200
  • Camber FSR Expert Carbon 650b – $6200
  • Camber FSR Comp Carbon 29 – $3800
  • Camber FSR Comp Carbon 650b – $3800
  • Camber FSR Comp 29 – $2500
  • Camber FSR Comp 650b – $2500
  • Camber FSR 29 – $1850
  • Camber FSR 650b – $1850
  • Camber FSR GROM – $2200

 

Bikerumor Specialized Destination trail photo camber 2fo cliplite (6)

Bikerumor Specialized Destination trail photo camber 2fo cliplite (5)

Bikerumor Specialized Destination trail photo camber 2fo cliplite (3) Bikerumor Specialized Destination trail photo camber 2fo cliplite (4)

Mt. Elwell Group

Photo c. Specialized

First Impressions:

Due to a limited number of bikes, I was only able to ride the Camber for a single ride but it just so happened to be the longest ride of the week so I came away with a solid test for a first impression. Riding a medium Camber 29 for the Mt. Elwell ride, I’ll admit I was happy to have one of the lightest bikes there for the brutal climbs and hike a bike sections.

If you’re looking for the Cliff’s Notes version, to me the Camber seems like the perfect trail bike for the rider coming off an Epic. Anyone looking for a bike that is close the the razor’s edge pedal efficiency of the Epic with a bit more all around performance, the Camber is almost exactly that. While the Brain seems to work as advertised, the point that the Inertia Valve engages is noticeable and to riders that aren’t used to the Brain, it may be a bit unsettling. After awhile you start to get used to the feeling though and you forget everything as you crack the throttle for some wide open downhill fun. While I was happy to be on a Stumpjumper FSR for Downieville, the Camber isn’t far behind in terms of grin-factor.

One of the parts that deserves the most praise is the Specialized Command Post IRcc. I’ve never been a fan of pre-set position dropper posts, but the Command Post manages to hide the fact with so many positions in the middle of the travel. Combine that with the perfect SRL lever (as long as you’re running 1x), and you have a dropper that is supremely easy to use.

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Photo c. Carson Blume/Specialized

While I think it had more to do with the trail than the bike, the only time I flatted the entire trip was on the ripping downhill from Mt. Elwell on the Camber. With a Grid casing out back, it was the Control casing front tire that suffered a cruel death at the hands of a sharp rock with a big slash on the sidewall. The trail was pretty rugged with lots of sharp rocks though, so I can’t really blame the tires. It was at that point that the tube and pump in my bike’s downtube (as well as a packet of GU) came in handy, and kept me rolling.

Compared to the previous generation, the new Camber is a completely different animal. It’s faster, it climbs like a rocket, it seems to be more capable, and with SWAT it’s certainly more versatile. Ultimately, I think the deciding factor for most riders will come down to the Brain. In terms of making a bike that climbs and pedals as well as many XC bikes, the Trail Brain does exactly what it’s supposed to – and it still rips down with the best of ’em. If you’re looking for a super efficient ride that is still able to be rallied down your local trails, the Camber is worth a spin.

35 comments

  1. Dan on

    Need to mention Brain service requirements.

    If you ride 3-4 hours/week, you’ll hit the 100 hour maintenance interval that requires the suspension to be sent back to Specialized for service. That means for every 4-5 months of riding, take 2-3 weeks off…nice concept, poor serviceability.

    Reply
  2. TheKoolManFL on

    If you Specialized shop is good and Specialized is not backed up it should not take more the. 5-7 business days to get your shock back.

    Reply
  3. Jugi on

    @Dan: How exactly that service interval differs from a standard rear shock? I mean for a standard shock almost anybody can do a basic service, but a complete overhaul has to be done by a professional. And that’s what Specialized does for the Brains.

    At least over here a Specialized store can order a serviced shock for you in advance. So when you feel like there is some need for some service, call them up a week in advance and they’ll have the shock ready for you. Bolt the old shock off, get to the store, change the old for the already serviced shock, bolt it on an ride. A couple off hours ride time lost. From my experience – nice concept, good serviceability, very good service.

    Reply
  4. andres on

    Nice bike, but they had to ruin it by putting that dumb SWAT box and sausage in the downtube….no thanks…can you please make a version with out SWAT..

    Reply
  5. chasejj on

    I just want to say how totally ridiculous the prices of these bikes are. I know progress, tech advancements, bla,bla bla. But when I can go an purchase a top of the line race winning KTM /Husqvarna motorcycle which has more engineering and technical advancements than these bikes (aside from the carbon fiber frame- which I don’t care for anyway) makes me question the long term viability of this hobby.
    I used to think that my motorcycle racing was too expensive, but it clearly is comparable. Given the funnest option, I’d rather be on the moto.

    Reply
  6. saddlesniffer on

    This thing has a brain and that’s exactly what I would do to get on this. Plus a place to store the good good. #schwinning

    Reply
  7. J N H on

    @Forrest, that’s nice for America, wish it was the same story for us in Europe! The brain shocks have always been a big obstacle to pleasant riding over here. The SWAT storage is very neat however, tube and tool on the bike at all times in the down tube where they won’t get snagged off.

    Reply
  8. mountainrider on

    @Andres: What exactly do you find ‘dumb’ about the SWAT box concept?

    And they already do make a Camber (and Stumpy for that matter) without the SWAT box concept – they are the Alloy versions of those models.

    For every person that doesn’t like ‘some aspect’ of the new bikes, there will be someone that does and your not liking it just means that it will be easier to find one to buy.

    Reply
  9. DerekBraines on

    Chasejj, comparing your mass-produced, machine welded and forged motorcycle to a boutique luxury good (let’s not kid ourselves) that is hand laid in to a one-of-a-kind mold in very small numbers is right along with comparing a Toyota Corolla to a 360 Modena. Sure, they both have 4 wheels and an engine, but what similarities exist beyond that? If you’re not a fan of carbon, snag the base model metal version for less than what a fairly priced set of wheels goes for these days.

    Reply
  10. isaac on

    Grumble Grumble grumble. Everything new sucks, and costs too much money, and I hate it even though I’ve never used it. Grumble Grumble.
    Just go buy a rigid singlespeed 29er and never go on the internet again, because you’re terrible.

    Reply
  11. G on

    Everyone’s busy complaining.

    No one has yet to mention the fact that this uses the same front triangle as the new Stumpy. Just like using Stumpy frames for women’s (Rhyme) bikes. This is such an odd turn for Specialized — which had an individualized bike option for literally every point on the MTB spectrum.

    Reply
  12. xc-fr on

    brain shocks suck.
    not just the service intervalls, moreover the performance. i ride a monarch rt3 in my epic and its a way better bike as with the stock bad performing brain. and a friend tried it too after i did it and he also will never go back to the underperforming brain shock.
    i wonder if speci ever understand this.

    Reply
  13. Antoine on

    Camber aren’t race oriented bike. And for this kind of bike brain is nonsense. I mean for a racer that is not factory backed brain is already nonsense. But even waiting 1 week avery 2 months your ride is ridiculous. How much time would a brain shock make you win on a ride versus a 3 position shock (locked in middle position if you don’t like tuning it midride) ? You would “win” about 1 or minutes max. It would never justify the hassle of going to the shock thrwing money etc…

    Reply
  14. maz-o on

    @Antoine that’s the whole point with the brain, you get the lockout without having to fiddle with locking positions manually. It’s not just “race” oriented, but a pretty great concept for any mountainbike. And for service..All shocks need that, brain or not.

    Reply
  15. xc-fr on

    @maz-o
    the downside is, that the shock is always too late open when ground turns into rough. in steep uphills with roots you cannot benefit from the suspension, cause it’s locked automatically. is that also pretty for any mountainbike? don’t think so. imo brain is completely outdated by modern damping technology (may you oversihgt it: my epic works much better with a monarch rt3 for marathon and xc race).

    Reply
  16. JBikes on

    I like me this SWAT and integrated tool holders. Really, really smart stuff.
    And yes, I don’t like the price nor do I think they are grounded to manufacturing costs, but that solves itself right? So really what’s the point of talking about it. Companies should sell at what the market will bear, not what this miser wants…

    Reply
  17. Padrote on

    motorcycles have been globally mass produced for 50 years and all the companies are owned by huge industrial/automotive conglomerates. but somehow mountain bike companies are supposed to be handmade out of some guy’s basement, privately owned by one person, and at the same time be top notch and cost nothing. you can’t have it both ways.

    Reply
  18. Antoine on

    If i want to race XC i’ll take epic if i want to race Enduro then it’s enduro. What would you race with a camber ? Cape Epic, Transveusbienne ? Both can be done on an epic no prob. And in the end i would take a lapierre ei shock shock because it’s so much more efficient than the brain.

    Reply
  19. Groghunter on

    addressing the moto argument: aside from the huge difference in economies of scale, pro-level moto riders aren’t riding bikes of the showroom floor. $10,000 for a race ready moto? Think again, more like $150,000, & some of those parts trade longevity for performance, to the tune of being garbage after each race.

    Contrasted with bikes, where other than a few handmade parts for certain racers (Gwin has a custom linkage to add more progressive action to his suspension, for example,) you can actually get pretty much a full pro bike from a shop.

    Moto guys would be complaining about the prices of bikes too, if Kawasaki was offering several models over $100,000, with tiny service intervals.

    On the subject of the brain: I’ve never ridden one I liked, give me a hardtail over a shock that doesn’t open for bumps when it needs to.

    Reply
  20. internet stoke on

    brain sucks.

    motorcycles are such a better deal its mind blowing.

    Keep blathering that it isn’t.

    Outside the top 20 in pro ama, no one has $150,000 bikes. Someone got top 20 recently in the 450 class on a 250 2 stroke with revalved suspension. Sounds like about $9000 investment.

    Reply
  21. JBikes on

    Who cares about relative pricing. Hey, I can buy a new Nissan Versa for $13k. It has tons more engineering, testing, liability and manufacturing costs behind it. Then, I can turn around and buy a $13k S-Works Epic that was made with cheap labor, by a company with economy of scale (like Specialized and Shimano)
    Specialized can and will sell “x” bike for “y” if the buyers come and it makes business sense. Production cost don’t matter unless you need to increase profit or need to undercut your competitor (competition).
    If Specialized products, or mountain biking in general is too expensive, quit buying stuff. The price will come down. That is how markets work. Pricing of one commodity needs not reflect on another. I don’t complain about the cost of fava beans, citing how potatoes are dirt cheap.

    Reply
  22. morehardcore on

    Been a fan of S for decades, and owned more than I can remember.

    Brain shocks (and unsprung weight) suck, had a new 2006 Sworks stumpy fsr frameset and wanted to remove the brain and when told I could not, I sold it.

    As for cost of bicycles and motos, I say show me someone who buys a $6000+ bicycle and I will show you someone who does not own a motorcycle.

    Reply
  23. muf on

    i used the brain on the 2015 epic a while ago and i found it surprisingly good (specially as i thought its be total sh*t after reading forums)

    not sure how good it’d be on longer travel and with the special setup here. on the epic it was fine. are you racing xc or doing trail riding on your epics?

    for me the suspension is about getting proper grip and brain about having the maximum stiffness when i hit the pedals. it works, faster than i can hit the switch. its not about my comfort its about the performance. and it goes up/down a lot.

    for trail riding i suspect it gets in the way… its long downs/long ups.. with more aggressive downs… might has well flip the switch there.

    in fact, not sure the camber makes sense next to the stumpy or the epic. ive always found it to be too much of a niche in the middle.

    Reply

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