First Impressions: Stumpjumper S-Works Carbon 29er and Epic Marathon 29er

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Just before Sea Otter I was sent an email from a buddy that has friends in low places in the bike biz. It was a sneak peek at the soon to be released Carbon Stumpy S Works hardtail and the Epic Marathon 29er. Then, I was informed that the bikes would be on display at the Specialized trailer at Sea Otter with an invite to take a ride. I was on my way.

Stumpjumper S-Works Carbon 29er

At Sea Otter, Nic from Specialized took me through the details. The custom Reba fork with the carbon crown/steerer, the Roval wheels, it was all pretty smooth. It is a very good looking bike, sharing in the arched top tube form of the road bikes from the big S. It looks fast. Is it? Am I?

With a weight of just past 20 lbs, this is a light bike. The first few pedal strokes tell you that. It rolls out easily and feels rock steady. I was riding a 19” frame and the stem was set low and forward from my normal position. The stretched out result complimented the overall feel of the bike. Race bike, ya know.

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Climbing up a paved road toward the singletracks of Sea Otter, I clicked up two gears, stood, and hammered as only I can do. Not impressive. Not the bike…it is impressive, I on the other hand? I am less than impressive but this bike felt more like a good road bike than any mountain bike I have ever ridden. Fast bike.

It was shod with the Fasttrak tires in the 2.0 size and the wheels were very light as well, so that was a nice package. Diving onto the singletrack, I was impressed with how well the bike steered. I was concerned it would be a bit scary handling, but it was not at all that way. It did respond to, and actually nearly demanded, an aggressive posture. It also showed another trait in that the stiffness in the pedaling response of the frame carried over into the ride of the bike. It is not plush. I have not ridden a Fisher carbon 29er, but they have a reputation for riding very smoothly. I think this frame may be tuned more to the aggressive side of things.

Turning to climb back up the singletrack, the bike was just as agile and steady as on the way down. It does what a 20lb, full carbon hardtail with light wheels does…it goes up as fast as you can pedal it. And if you are the kind of rider that can do that well, then you will love this bike.

Epic Marathon 29er FS:

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Coming off of the Stumpy hardtail, I was looking forward to a bit of bump relief with the full suspension Epic. Now as much as I love driving…I mean riding…Ferrari bikes like the S Works, the aluminum framed Epic 29er had my interest. I like long rides and endurance events, but I am a bit old for hardtails and the punishment involved. The Epic will be the natural contender for the podium that is now shared by the Niner JET-9 and the Racer X 29er.

I found the Epic to feel slow and heavy at first, which was an understandable feeling having just ridden the uber-light Stumpy hardtail, but that initial impression faded and it showed itself to get up the road nicely, especially with the Brain shock keeping things composed. The Epic and the Brain response brought back memories of the time I rode the Stumpjumper 29er FSR. The platform shock does a great job of keeping things tight and tied down till you hit a bump, then it goes to work. This Epic is tuned more to the aggressive side as far as Brain settings compared to an FSR. Once on the trail, the Epic felt very good, pedaled well, and steered a bit slower than I remember with the JET-9. I really need to spend an extended time on the Epic to get a good feel for it as I bet it will be a serious choice for those who are looking for a faster, less travel trail bike or 24 hour/Endurance bike.dscn4402dscn4399dscn4400

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