LONG TERM REVIEW: SPECIALIZED STUMPJUMPER EVO ELITE ALLOY
When metal really rocks
LONG TERM REVIEW: SPECIALIZED STUMPJUMPER EVO ELITE ALLOY
Specialized has taken all of the performance, adjustability and features of its carbon Stumpjumper EVO and offered them in a more affordable M5 aluminum package for 2022. Specialized didn’t hold back on any of the features that make the carbon version great. This one is just as adjustable and capable, and even includes the SWAT downtube storage compartment.
This bike flips the traditional carbon bike script by pairing a lower-cost frame with high-end suspension, tires and wheels. Although it’s still a trail bike like its standard Stumpjumper little brother, the Stumpjumper EVO Alloy’s geometry, adjustability and 20mm of extra suspension travel push it into more gravity-friendly territory.
According to Specialized, the 150mm-travel M5 aluminum frame of the EVO Alloy is 2.6 pounds heavier than the carbon version. Otherwise, they are identical in every way, including geometry, and this bike has geometry that’s on the aggressive side for the trail category with a 64.5-degree head angle, 475mm reach (S4 size) and 76.9-degree seat angle in its standard settings.
With its chainstay-mounted flip chip and optional head cup, the EVO has six completely different geometry options available to the rider in minutes to suit just about any type of riding preference. The bottom-bracket height can be fine-tuned up or down by 7mm, and it steepens or slackens the seat and head angle at the same time. There is a 5mm change in chainstay length with this adjustment as well.
The head angle has three available positions: Standard (in line with the head tube), -1 degree and +1 degree. The headset is a lot like the aftermarket adjustable head-angle offerings with a conical lower bearing that can rotate within its bore as the upper cup sets the angle. There is one key difference, however; the upper cup is keyed into the head tube, so proper alignment is guaranteed. It’s not a press fit, so you can make these changes trailside.
With the two cup options and chainstay flip chip, the head angle can be adjusted between 63 and 65.5 degrees in .5-degree increments.
This bike is also easily convertible to a mullet setup, as well via an aftermarket shock link that’s made and sold by Specialized, allowing the standard 29-inch rear wheel to be swapped out for a 27.5-inch. Specialized’s S-Sizing is based on reach with similar head tube and standover heights and allows riders to choose between playfulness and stability by sizing up or down. Specialized offers a page on its website that shows the exact geometry with each of the six available options and with a mullet setup. It also recommends geometry settings by terrain for those who don’t know what they want or where to start.
Just like the carbon model, the aluminum Stumpjumper EVO has an integrated SWAT storage box inside its hydroformed downtube. This is the first appearance of a SWAT door in a Specialized aluminum frame. Inside, you can stash spare parts, tools or even water with Specialized’s 22-ounce SWAT bladder. Getting that weight off your body and neatly stored inside the frame is a wonderful thing. This is a well-executed, proven system.
Stumpjumper EVO Alloys are offered in two different models. There is not a single carbon component on any of these Alloy models, and it seems completely appropriate. The Elite version tested costs $5600 and is built with a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain and Code RS brakes. It rolls on Roval Traverse wheels with DT Swiss ratchet internals and 30mm-wide aluminum rims that are mounted with Specialized Butcher and Eliminator 2.3-inch-wide tires. Other nice touches include a Deity stem and OneUp dropper post.
The Stumpjumper Alloy Evo Comp comes in at $3800 with a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain, Fox 36 Rhythm fork, performance-level Float X shock and SRAM Code R brakes. If you are a rider who wants to build from the ground up, a frame with shocks runs just $1900.
It would be shocking to see a Specialized use anything other than a Horst Link-type four-bar FSR suspension, so it should come as no surprise to see it on this 150mm-travel bike. It’s a highly evolved and mature design. In this case, Specialized designed it to be pedal-friendly with high levels of anti-squat (resistance to bob and movement under pedaling), because it is still a trail bike at heart. It’s paired with Fox’s highest-end, factory-level Kashima-coated suspension. The Float X shock features a six-position, low-speed compression adjuster and a two-position, firming pedal platform switch.
A 160mm-travel Fox Factory 36 fork with Kashima-coated stanchions handles suspension duties up front. This was considered Fox’s enduro fork before the introduction of the 38. It’s an impressive fork with a broad range of high- and low-speed rebound and compression adjustments from the GRIP2 damper.
Even though this bike carries a couple more pounds than its carbon cousins, it scoots up hills with a sense of urgency considering its gravity friendly intent. Even in the low-bottom-bracket and slack-seat-angle flip-chip setting, the rider is in a powerful position on steep climbs. The high levels of anti-squat can be felt through the pedals, even under big efforts. This is an exceptionally efficient climber for a trail bike. It remains active, too, so traction is plentiful.
Naturally, we played with all six of the geometry settings and all climbed well, even the super-slack ones. Steering ranged from slow and sluggish at climbing speeds with the head angle at 63 degrees to responsive at 65.5. The biggest difference was in the steering response. We had to plan our turns ahead of time in slacker settings, while you could make mid-turn line adjustments easier in the steeper angles. The bike comes in the high-chip/middle-head-angle setting, and we can see why. It offers the best all-around ride going up or down on most trails.
The wrecking crew could really feel this bike’s appetite for gravity. Between the stout-feeling chassis and dialed geometry (in the standard setting), there was little short of an EWS-level enduro descent that fazed it. The rear suspension has a firm feel to it instead of a plush, squishy one. Since it’s frugal with its travel, there seems to be plenty in reserve for high speeds and big hits. It’s a deceptively fast and capable bike. We know it sounds cliché, because, well, it is, but this is one of those bikes that feels lighter in motion than it actually is.
Descending is where the geometry adjustments really come into play—and we tried them all. Although the entire range is usable, the farther you get away from the standard setting, the less neutral it feels. In the low chip setting with the standard or slack head angle, we had to really watch our weighting of the front end carefully. With the 50mm stem, we felt like we were chasing front-end traction and predictability with a slight tendency for understeer mid corner. A swap to a 35mm stem changed the steering and front-end weight bias for the better and made us feel comfortable again. Then it was game on in really steep and bike-park-style terrain.
The steeper head-angle settings were still good while descending, but the front end wanted to climb out of ruts instead of tracking and following them when the going got steep. On flatter, flowing trails, the quicker steering meant less effort and less body English were required to make direction changes.
MODS AND UPGRADES
This bike is so dialed that there is nothing that needs to be changed or updated. Even the Code brakes that we like to complain about on bigger-travel bikes and eMTBs performed perfectly on this bike, thanks in part to the 200mm rotors front and rear.
If you’re looking for a high-value pedal-friendly bike that can adapt to and tackle some really challenging terrain, the Stumpjumper EVO Elite Alloy should absolutely be on your short list. It’s not a slam dunk, though. The carbon-framed Stumpjumper EVO Expert costs just $500 more and comes with X0 drivetrain parts over the Alloy’s GX. It sees a downgrade in suspension to the Performance Elite level, but we’d challenge all but the most sensitive riders to feel any difference. It would be tough choosing between the two. The great news is that you can’t really go wrong with either one.
WHEEL SIZE: 29″
SUSPENSION: 160mm (front), 150mm (rear)