The 2021 Specialized Stumpjumper is the Ultimate Trail Weapon
Stumpjumper is almost a household name these days. The Stumpjumper has been a part of Specialized’s lineup since 1981 and sees continual improvements year on year, the original model being a fully rigid bike. It rolled on 26″ wheels, rocked cantilever brakes and a triple chainset and to the youth of today is barely even recognisable as a mountain bike when compared to the current crop.
For those of us that are old enough to remember the original however, that was the first mass-produced mountain bike that inspired a whole generation of riders. It was designed to be a true all-terrain bike, capable of going anywhere and everywhere.
The 2021 Stumpjumper has very similar intentions to the original. It’s designed to climb and descend well. To be a well-rounded every day trail tool capable of taking you out and back, up and down and everywhere in between. A true jack of all trades then. But does a jack of all trades mean that it’s by definition a master of none? Well, the Stumpjumper is no purebred race machine on either end of the spectrum, but from my weekend aboard the stumpy I am sure of one thing. That is that the new Stumpjumper descends WAY better than any bike that climbs this well has any right to.
So what’s changed for 2021? I hear you asking. The new Stumpy certainly bears a resemblance to the previous model with its sleek lines and asymmetric shock brace, but the similarities end there. The 2021 is a complete ground-up redesign with zero shared frame parts. The biggest change here is the move away from a Horst Link (also known as FSR) rear suspension layout. Horst Link is known for its forgiving active feeling and can be found on every full suspension Stumpjumper ever made, except this one.
The new Stumpjumper moves that rear-most pivot up from below the rear axle into the seatstays in the form of a flex-stay. This means the new Stumpjumper is technically a linkage driven single pivot bike. This significantly changes the suspension kinematics (you can read more in-depth about that here) and overall ride of the bike, as well as helping drop some weight (about 100g off the old frame). The new linkage adds a lot more progression to the leverage ratio, which means better resistance to bottom out and a more supportive platform to push into, as well as being super pedal efficient, if a little less plush.
Worth noting is that the 2 alloy models at the bottom of the range retain a Horst Link platform as it’s much harder to produce a reliable flex-stay on an alloy bike.
The second notable change for 2021 is that all Stumpjumpers now run on 29″ wheels. Specialized are confident that they’ve gotten the sizing and geometry dialled for all sizes of riders. And speaking of sizing, Specialized have now moved to their s-based sizing (S1, S2, S3, S4, S5) instead of traditional sizing (XS, S, M, L, XL) meaning that size is no longer dictated by seat tube length and riders can now pick a bike based on their reach requirements.
Other changes include the longer, lower, slacker treatment, dropping 1.5º off the head angle, adding almost 2º to the seat angle, adding 30mm to the reach (S4 vs L) and dropping the BB by 9mm. All of those numbers are good, but what do they actually mean in the real world? I came to the new Stumpjumper expecting a fun trail bike. What I found totally surprised me. The new Stumpy absolutely rips, and I mean that.
Let’s quickly talk about spec while we’re here. All bikes in the range come with a Fox 34 fork and Fox Float DPS shock aside from the base model alloy (which comes with a Rockshox 35 and X-fusion shock). All bikes come with 4-piston hydraulic brakes with 200/180m rotors (again barring the base model which uses Tektro). All bikes have a dropper post and a wide-range 12-speed drivetrain. So it’s a fully modern bike, ready to hit the trails at any spec level.
Let’s start with climbing, because that’s where most of us usually start. Previous generations of Stumpjumper could feel a little lazy on the climb thanks to the plush Horst Link design. They sit into their suspension a lot and as a result while they were grippy, they weren’t exactly sporty.
The new Stumpy with its dropped weight and new linkage certainly is more of a mountain goat on the climbs. Thanks to the stiffness in the frame and lack of sag when pedalling, it’s a bike that’s eager to climb. You can either sit back and spin or stand up and attack – the Stumpy is happy and willing to do either. Putting power down, the Stumpy spurs you on to hit those PRs.
While it’s certainly not as plush as some bikes out there, it’s still grippy enough and the light weight and sporty feel make it easy to power up difficult climbs. One of my favourite things about this bike too is that the shock tune is just right, so that you never need to hit the climb switch. It pedals so well fully open that I never felt it necessary.
The descent is where I was surprised with this bike. A sub-30lb 130mm travel 29er is obviously going to climb well, at least compared to a lot of bigger bikes out there. However, I certainly didn’t expect the new Stumpjumper to descend anywhere near as well as it does.
The new progressive rear end really gives the bike a new lease of life, and it’s almost as though it has a dual personality. Thanks to the progressive leverage curve, the bike is super supportive in the mid stroke, meaning it’s a lot of fun on easier and flatter trails. It never feels like too much bike and is as happy on flow as it is on tech. The extra length and slack head tube angle mean that it’s really stable at speed, but the low weight and supportive platform mean that it’s also amazingly nimble and easy to move around.
Speaking of tech, once you point the Stumpy down something technical, that progressive back end does a great job of staying on track. The extra progression means that you can go bigger and harder than before without fear of bottoming out right away.
Don’t get me wrong, this is no enduro weapon, you will feel the bumps and have to work a little more to keep on line. But a skilled rider that likes to pop off features and pump into backsides and finesse the bike down technical trails rather than charge right through the middle will find a lot to like in this bike. I found myself hitting some surprisingly gnarly lines and feeling right at home on them. The only caveat is that there is less margin for error than on a bigger bike. It rewards lighter riders with speed and stability, but doesn’t have as much forgiveness when you mess things up.
So is this bike all things to all people then? Not quite, but it’s certainly the closest thing I’ve found to my perfect trail bike. Something that should be able to not only just handle pretty much anything you can throw at it, but relish it. It’s the sort of bike you could happily ride all day on some of the most technical trails around and still have some gas left in the tank.
For riders that want to push bigger and harder there’s the new Stumpjumper Evo (stay tuned for a write-up on that) or the Enduro. For riders that need something super lightweight for big days in the saddle or XC racing there’s the Epic and Epic Evo.
The new Stumpjumper comes in two alloy models at $2999 and $3699. Carbon models with the flex stay layout start at $5299 for the comp and finish at $13,999 for the top of the range S-works with the Pro and Expert models sitting nicely in between. With bikes on the floor now, come down and take a look or contact us for availability.
Words by Sam James
Photography by Geoff Livingston