The Camber is the newest name in the Specialized stable and when launched in 2011 was offered with a choice of wheel size.
For 2013, however, they’ve chopped the 26in Camber from the range: sales of 26in short-travel bikes have been on the decline in the US for a good few years so it was only a matter of time.
That leaves us with just the Camber 29, which becomes a four-bike range with two alloy and two carbon models. The Camber is best described as filling the slim gap between the Epic and Stumpjumper, and uses the same tried-and-tested FSR suspension design with 110mm of travel front and rear.
Setting the rear suspension up couldn’t be any easier. The clever AutoSag technology carries over from last year, and features on every bike in the Camber range. The procedure requires inflating the shock to 300psi, sitting on the bike and releasing the excess air by activating the red AutoSag valve. Bingo, perfect shock pressure.
The Camber range start at £1,500 and we have our hands on the priciest £3,500 Camber Expert Carbon. It gets a custom tuned Fox Float CTD Evolution shock and Fox Float Performance Series 29 fork; both have Fox’s new CTD (climb, trail, descend) compression damping settings which replace the old numerical system for easier suspension tuning.
The frame is constructed from Specialized’s own FACT 9m carbon fibre with all the modern touches, including a tapered headtube, PressFit 30mm bottom bracket, direct mount front mech and internal dropper cable routing. The M5 alloy rear triangle has a 142mm bolt-thru axle, post disc mounts and replaceable mech hanger.
The groupset is a mix of SRAM X7 and X9, with a custom carbon SRAM S-2200 crankset, complete with a neat carbon bashguard and 36/22 chainrings. Brakes are Formula T1 S with MatchMaker mounts saving space on the bars and 180/160mm rotors. The rear mech is a Type 2 with a roller bearing clutch to eliminate the chain slapping about over rough terrain.
Roval Contrail Trail 29 wheels with 32 spokes front and rear are wrapped in Ground Control 2Bliss tyres: a 2.3in up front and 2.1in out back. Specialized haven’t given the Camber a 15mm bolt-thru front hub, instead opting for a traditional 9mm quick release but with oversized 28mm end caps on the front help helping to stiffen up the interface between hub and fork.
A dropper post is mandatory on this type of bike and a Specialized Command Post Blacklite is fitted. It’s operated by a cable actuated remote handlebar lever and offers three positions with 125mm of total drop available.
Finishing kit all carries the Specialized logo. A 720mm-wide handlebar with 10mm rise and 10 degree backsweep combines with a 75mm 3D forged alloy stem to give a short and wide cockpit. The stem length is size specific, so there’s a 60mm stem on the small Camber and a 105mm on the XL and XXL. Saddle is a BodyGeometry Henge Comp.
Geometry is leaning towards the slacker end of the spectrum compared to the likes of the Epic but a 70° head angle on our medium still sounds quite steep. The other important numbers are a 71° seat angle, 447mm chainstays, a 1147mm wheelbase and a 336mm bottom bracket.
The big wheels and supple suspension roll up and over roots and rocks with effortless ease, making even the trickiest climbs a veritable walk in the park. On paper the geometry data suggests a steep bike but once out on the trail it just feels good. Precise handling and noticeably stable at high speeds and over rough ground, the Camber is plain good fun to ride.
Traction and bump absorption belies the relatively short travel. Out on the trail it doesn’t feel short changed compared to traditional long travel trail bikes. Specialized have been championing 29ers for a few years now and they really have dialled in the geometry to near perfection. Mountain bikes don’t get much better than this.
The Camber appears to occupy a very small gap, travel-wise, between the excellent Epic and Stumpjumper, but based on our first ride it appears to be a very well sorted bike with fun at the fore of its offering. We’ll report back with a full review once we’ve really got under the skin of the Camber.