What Is a Trail Bike? | First Look At Specialized Stumpjumper Expert

by | Jun 14, 2023 | Bike Reviews, Bike, Gear, Reviews & First Looks, Sports

What is a trail bike? Or rather, what should a trail bike be? 

Balanced is probably the word that comes to mind when describing a trail bike. It isn’t a gravity focussed bruiser, nor does it only talk in watts and intervals. 

“Balance” should speak to the handling as well. A bike that can be fun on a cruisy flow trail but not out of its depth on the rough stuff.

Specialized’s stumpjumper was born in 1981 and is regarded as the first production mountain bike. The Stumpjumper platform has since kept the essence of mountain biking at its core, and it’s arguable that trail riding is the essence of mountain biking. You could say it’s the best way to enjoy the mountains on two wheels.

The Stumpjumper in overview

We are going to have a look at the Stumpjumper in detail and see how it sizes up to the South African terrain and our riding scene but let’s first take a look at the basics of this bike.

The core of the Stumpjumper is the FACT 11 Carbon frame that has 130mm of rear wheel travel paired with a 140mm fork. That makes for a mid-travel trail bike with a lightweight frame and specced with componentry relevant to the intentions of the bike.

The Carbon bikes hang in the 13 – 14 kg weight range placing them very much on the light side of the trail bike spectrum.

The overall spec of the bike, which we will touch on in more detail later, is in the sweet spot between aggressive descender and marathon cruiser. Just what you need on a frameset like the Stumpie. And speaking of, let’s take a closer look at the design of the stumpjumper.

Stumpjumper design

Specialized Stumpjumper Trail Bike
The Stumpjumper cuts a fine form!

Well.. it is quite exquisite. Specialized asked a bunch of computers, probably an early form of chat GPT now that I think of it, to remove the excess carbon from the frame construction and what it left behind are some very tantalising curves!

The suspension system employs flexible seat-stays to generate the 130 mm of rear travel in what is essentially a linkage driven single pivot design (no links between the main pivot and the rear axle).

There is room for a large water bottle inside the frame and underneath it, the famous SWAT hatch! Specialized popularised the in-frame storage system and their hatch is one of the easiest to use. What can you fit inside it? Spare tube, hand pump, tools, a jacket, a sausage roll, some speckled eggs, even your toothbrush if you want to! It is one of the most generously sized hatches on the market and very easy to use.

Specialized Stumpjumper Trail Bike
Specialized win the hatch wars. A generous opening, easy to use lid, and plenty of room inside.

The overall geometry is suitably progressive but not crazy, and that’s a good thing. This is not a category of bike that needs to be too concerned with extremes but rather delivering the happy medium. You can tweak the bottom bracket height and headtube angle by a few mm and half a degree with the flip chip in the lower shock mount if you so desire. We were very happy with it in the low setting and had no unreasonable pedal strikes. You can find the full geo chart below.

Stumpjumper Geometry Chart

So far, if we’re asking the question of how suitable the Stumpjumper platform is for the South African scene, things are looking well in its favour. Trail parks are on the rise around the country and particularly those with an emphasis on flow trails. The mid-travel lightweight package of the Stumpjumper with its precisely balanced geometry goes together with flow trails like salt and slap chips. It’s just made for the stuff!

Where does the Stumpjumper fit into the Specialized range?

The 130mm travel Stumpie is up in travel from the Epic EVO that pairs a marathon and XCO race ready frame with some longer travel 120mm legs to up the traction comfort, and control when things get a little wild. So you’ll find “racier” geometry and a bit less compliance on the Epic EVO.

Compared to the big bruiser brother Stumpjumper EVO though, the Stumpjumper is a nimble flyweight. The Stumpie EVO is a firm step in the gravity direction as the Specialized range goes. Going up to 150mm of travel at the rear and 160mm up front and adding headset angle adjustment into the mix along with BB height adjustment (independent of head angle). 

Specialized has a strong range of EMTBs as well, of which the stumpjumper you could say is mirrored by the Turbo Levo SL, their 150mm travel light EMTB

Where does the Stumpjumer Expert fit into the Stumpjumper range?

There are 3 tiers to the Carbon models and one Alloy model. 

Specialized Stumpjumper Trail Bike
Linkage is nicely visible from the non-drive side. Flexible seat stays act as a pivot point to fine tune the kinematics along with the rocker link. This isn’t possible on the Alloy model.

Stumpjumper S-works LTD

The top dog is the S-Works LTD model retailing for R199 000. It is a stunning bike with every bell and whistle you could possibly desire! Carbon wheels, electronic shifting and dropper post, factory suspension, the most powerful brakes, the lot.

Specialized Stumpjumper S-Works
S-Works Stumpjumper

Stumpjumper Expert

Next up is the Stumpjumper Expert that we have here, retailing at R115 000, and to be honest, there isn’t much you’d necessarily be rushing to change on this bike either. The Grip2 damper in the Fox 34 fork is the best you can get, the SRAM G2 brakes are adequately powerful, and the XO1 mechanical drivetrain is certainly premium. The most notable performance difference from the S-Works would be the alloy wheelset compared to the carbon being a little heavier to accelerate and corner but I wouldn’t peg that as a deal breaker.

Stumpjumper Comp

The third Carbon model, and I would argue the best value for the everyday rider, is the Stumpjumper Comp. Retailing for R79 000 you have mostly the same spec as the Expert model though the drivetrain and brakes are swapped out for Shimano SLX.

Brakes are usually a matter of preference but there won’t be a significant performance difference between these and the G2s. Shifting with the XO1 drive feels a touch more premium and the system is lighter than SLX by about 200g. The suspension damper on the Comp is Fox’s Grip damper. It is less adjustable than the Grip 2, but for the majority of riders, it will be simpler to use and feel just as good.

Stumpjumper Alloy

The alloy bikes that retail for R42 000 are actually a different prospect entirely. The rear suspension system uses traditional pivots instead of flex stays and the chainstays are longer at 444mm. Due to this, the bike trades some of the poppy nature of the Carbon stumpie for oodles of traction. The spec on these bikes is a step below that of the most affordable Carbon option with SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain, Rockshox 35 RL fork, X Fusion Shock, and Tektro Gemini brakes.

What Is A Trail Bike? | First Look At Specialized Stumpjumper Expert
The Alloy model trades flexible seat stays for traditional pivots but in the chain-stays rather than seat-stays. The ride feel is very traction focussed.

Each bike adds plenty of value in the component spec for their price tag and they are well chosen to enhance the ride experience where it counts. You can’t judge a bike by its geo and spec sheet and so it’s time to share some of our experiences from the time we spent on the Stumpjumper Expert! 

Our take on the Stumpie Expert

What Is A Trail Bike? | First Look At Specialized Stumpjumper Expert
We had some good times out in the mountains aboard this bike!


Tires: Great all round! The Purgatory is a fast rolling hardpack specialist and the butcher a super dependable front tire. Specialized recently gave their tire compounds an overhaul and they really are great. The T9 is all about traction (on the front) and the T7 is a little harder for better rolling (good on the rear). It is reassuring to know that your Specialized bike will come with some of the best rubber around out the box but they could also be a tire that’s worth trying on your current setup too!

Contact Points: The Bridge Comp saddle has an ergonomic design that should suit many bums. 143mm width on our bike but that varies for different sizes. The deity grips specced on this bike are splendid too!

Brakes: SRAM’s G2s are solid brakes, offering classic SRAM modulation. The power you get from the G2’s should be plenty reasonable unless you’re a heavy rider smashing out 10+ minute descents on the regular, and doing lots of hard braking.

Suspension: Top of the range from Fox! The Grip2 damper in the fork is hard to fault and the special Ride Experience (Rx) tune on the shock from Specialized feels bang on and is easy to set up. The shock has a 3 position climb switch but the fork trades that for maximum tunability.

Wheels: The Roval Traverse alloy wheels feel sturdy but definitely not sluggish. Spending quite a bit of time on Carbon wheels myself, I can’t say that these felt much heavier. They blend into the ride experience without asking for any attention and that’s the mark of a good wheel, I’d say.

Specialized Stumpjumper Trail Bike
We got on well with the alloy Roval Traverse wheels.

Bars: The alloy handlebars are on the stiffer end of the spectrum and come at a standard 780m.. The 30mm rise lends itself to a comfortable riding position and the 50mm stem is suitable for many riders and, of course, easy to change if you’d like to. The smaller S1 and 2 sizes come with a 40mm stem.

Seat post: One Up’s One Fifty Dropper post is great. The lever is the best I’ve ever felt and the actuation is nice and light.

Those components and features are all part of the system and play their parts well, but how does it all come together on the trail?


Overall, the stumpjumper is a fun bike to ride. The short chainstays mean that it is very happy on the back wheel and quick to snap around tight corners. Sizes S5 and 6 get 10mm more on the chainstays which will keep things proportional to the longer reach but should still offer a similar experience for taller riders (I was on the S3 and stand 178cm tall). The bike is very light on its toes and responsive to inputs, not least due to its lightweight construction. If you were coming from a marathon bike platform it would obviously feel much more stable and sturdy but as trail bikes go, it is a snappy package!

What Is A Trail Bike? | First Look At Specialized Stumpjumper Expert
Fun. The Stumpjumper is just plain old fun!


In regard to climbing, you will notice that the bike is light off the start. It accelerates eagerly for a trail bike which makes sense given the frame weight is under 2300g with the shock included. The seat tube angle is quite neutral, suitable for flatter terrain and areas with significant gradient. If you’re doing a lot of very steep climbing, bringing the saddle forward on the rails will help dial in the seating position. The cockpit of the bike feels reasonably tall which makes for a relaxed and comfortable climbing position.


Pointing the bike downhill I noticed that tall front end again which both inspires confidence and makes for a relaxed riding position. The components all work well together and let you just get on with the job of riding your bike. The weight of the bike makes for a very enjoyable ride, accelerations, decelerations, and directional changes are easy to carry out.

What Is A Trail Bike? | First Look At Specialized Stumpjumper Expert
As happy pointed downhill as up!

The Stumpie rides like a short travel trail bike, just how you would hope a 130/140mm package would perform, and it does it with class. The alloy wheels give the bike a bit more stability and security but the overall system is pretty effortless to move around on the trail as you desire.

Who is the Stumpjumper for?

It’s not a niche bike. In fact it is an excellent all rounder, as a trail bike should be, and thus will suit a fairly wide range of users. Being such a versatile platform, the Stumpjumper will be up for stage races as well as weekend rides at your local trail park.

If you’re going stage racing, pop some fast rolling tires on and an extra 10 psi in the suspension (if you’re wanting a firmer platform). If you’re looking for more gravity, keep the stock tires on and run the sag closer to 30% and it’s happy days!

If the Stumpjumer platform sounds a little too tame for your liking and you’re more about going steep and deep than anything else, the Stumpjumper EVO is likely the trail eating monster you’re looking for.

If you’re actually more of a marathon rider at heart but you’re looking for a more forgiving platform than the traditional 100mm travel options, I’d say check out that 120mm Epic EVO. 

So there you have it, the Stumpjumper remains a benchmark in the broad trail bike category. Light on its feet and comfortable in a wide variety of situations, easy to live with and very easy to look at!

For more info on the bike and Specialized’s range, head over here and we’ll see you out on the trails.

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