At The Corner Of Cross Country And Aggressive
It’s easy to see how the Specialized Camber EVO could be overlooked. Nestled in between the ever-popular Specialized Epic cross-country racers and Specialized Stumpjumper FSR trail bikes, the Camber EVO is a blend of both. Designed to be quick like a cross-country rig yet rugged like a trail bike, can the Camber split the difference or does it get lost in the shuffle?
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Camber EVO is designed for riders who like to push the pace on climbs while still being able to have something to hoot and holler about when descending. For riders who like to push the pace on trails that don’t call for 6-inches of travel, the Camber can be the perfect weapon.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
While the standard Camber is aimed primarily at all-day, cross-country style riding, the “EVO” moniker means that Specialized kicked it up a notch. In the Camber’s case, the EVO gets an extra .4-inches of suspension travel, matched with slightly slacker geometry thanks to a longer-travel fork and a different link in the rear suspension setup.
The front triangle is constructed of Specialized’s FACT 9m carbon, while the rear triangle is M5 aluminum. The bike features a tapered headtube, full-carbon PF30 bottom-bracket shell, internal cable routing, and 142-millimeter rear dropouts. The rear suspension is Specialized’s FSR design featuring sealed cartridge bearings.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Along with more aggressive geometry, the Camber EVO comes equipped with components to push it harder on the trail. Up front is a RockShox Pike fork. This is an especially unique spec because RockShox doesn’t offer the Pike in a 4.7-inch travel length but builds the fork specifically for this model. SRAM’s X01 drivetrain offers everything we’ve come to expect from the top-tier XX1 group: precise shifting, dead-quiet chain damping and clean aesthetics. Specialized also contributed to the mix with a cockpit spec that fits the aggressive personality of the bike perfectly. Specialized’s new Command Post IR features internal cable routing and lighter lever actuation than we’ve experienced with previous iterations. Additionally, the 2.3-inch Butcher and Purgatory tires add a bit of extra confidence.
Specialized introduced the SWAT (Storage, Water, Air, Tools) system for their 2014 models, and it materializes in different ways across its line of bikes. Essentially, SWAT aims to allow riders to ride without hydration packs by integrating ride essentials into the bike design. The Camber Expert EVO is equipped with a bottle cage, downtube-mounted multi-tool, a hidden chain-tool and spare link hidden in the top cap of the headset.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Setup: While Specialized’s Autosag technology will make setup that much quicker for most riders, we found ourselves wanting slightly more sag—about 30-percent—than what the shock defaults to. We set the Pike fork to match. Autosag is a great starting point for most, but don’t be afraid to experiment.
Ergonomics: The Camber EVO’s blend of cross-country and trail-ready traits means that the cockpit feel strikes a balance between a full-fledged race bike like the Epic and the more upright feel of a Stumpjumper FSR. While the top-tube feels fairly compact for a size-large frame, the 29.5-inch bars helped give us plenty of room.
Pedaling: Specialized’s FSR rear suspension benefits from Fox’s three-position, platform CTD shock. In the open Descend mode, the suspension is fairly active, but flip the lever to Climb and the Camber EVO does a great hardtail impression, perfect for turning the pedals up long fire road climbs. The middle Trail setting was perfect for technical climbs where we looked to the rear suspension to keep the back tire hooking up and to keep our bodies from aching.
Climbing: Since the bike is designed for all-day adventures, that’s exactly the type of riding we did—up and down the mountain. Compared to a cross-country race bike, the Camber EVO doesn’t necessarily leap out from underneath you; however, on long and steady climbs, we had no problem settling into a rhythm and staying glued to buddies who opted for lighter rigs.
Cornering: A precise fork, meaty tires, dialed suspension and more aggressive geometry imply that the Camber EVO likes to be pushed hard into rough and fast corners. The EVO’s relatively long wheelbase keeps it from being as flickable as we’d like through tight switchbacks, but with a bit of extra rider input, the rear wheel is happy to oblige.
Descending: Though on paper the Camber EVO has less than an inch more suspension travel than most cross-country bikes, you’d never know it from the way it handles rough sections of trail. The Camber EVO is truly a sum of its parts, which allows it to be ridden as aggressively as any 4.7-inch travel bike we’ve tested. Drop the saddle, point, and shoot.
Braking: While we do like the tool-free lever and pad contact adjustments, from a lever-ergonomics standpoint, the Formula T1 brakes didn’t win any awards from us. When it comes to getting the bike stopped, however, the T1s and the massive 8-inch front brake rotor got the job done without breaking a sweat.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
The first thing we did was ditch the tubes. The last thing you want to be thinking about when pounding through a rock garden is a pinch flat.
The spec’ed, 32-tooth chainring is a good option for stronger riders or those not dealing with very steep climbs; however, for the rest of us, a 30-tooth would offer a more useable range of gears.
The SWAT group allowed us to ditch the hydration pack on rides under 2 hours. Using the SWAT feature, a rider only needs a jersey pocket or two for some food and that ever-important cell phone. Losing the hydration pack is a big benefit on shorter rides.
Most riders would be hard pressed to find a trail where the Camber doesn’t feel at home. Thanks to its balanced geometry with a slight bent toward downhill aggression and a parts package that is good to go right out of the box, the Camber EVO simply rips—up or down the trail.