Specialized Camber 29 Review
I recently had the opportunity to put a Specialized Camber 29 through the ringer for an entire week of Western North Carolina trails. The weather treated us with everything from 60 degrees and sunny, light and fluffy snow, peanut-butter mud, to frozen tundra. The dismal weather gave us the opportunity push the Camber into all conditions and on all trail types. In our week of testing, we rode everything from speed-demon berms on Ridgeline, relentless root and rock drops on Bennett’s gap, steep packed flow trail on Black Mountain, to seemingly endless gravel road climbs to reach the goods. Pisgah and DuPont gave us the perfect testing grounds to evaluate the bike, and what we found was an exceedingly capable short travel trail bike that hit several levels above it’s class
Frame: Specialized Camber 29 Pro 11M carbon with SWAT Door Integration
Fork: Fox 34 Performance 29
Shock: Fox Float Factory Series with Autosag
Wheelset: Industry Nine Trail 245 24h: 12x142 rear 15mm front
Crankset: RaceFace Aeffect, 6000-series alloy, 24mm spindle 28t
Shift Lever: SRAM GX 11 Speed
Rear Derailleur: SRAM X1 11 Speed
Brakes: Shimano SLX M7000 180F/160R Rotor
Handlebars: Specialized Trail, 25mm rise, 750mm width
Stem: Specialized Trail 6 degree rise, 60mm
Seatpost: Specialized Command Post IRcc 125mm with 12 microadjust positions
My first impression on this bike was the seemingly endless gravel road climb to reach Middle Black Mountain, and I thought “Man, this bike climbs better than my road bike!” Even with the Factory shock ran wide open (which is where I spent 90% of my time), the FACT 11M Carbon Frame would scoot up anything it was pointed at with minimal pedal bob. Flip the switch to the right, and I wouldn’t be hesitant enter a gravel race on this bike. The Camber ate the gravel road climb for breakfast, and still left me plenty of gas for the descent. Technical climbing was no challenge for the Camber either. When pointed upwards on Daniel Ridge in Pisgah, the 29in wheels rolled through root gardens and rock jumbles with ease, and on steep terrain the 75° seat-tube angle kept the front end planted and easy to control. Under the right pilot, this bike will clean any technical climb it is pointed at with the combo of the large wheels, super stiff frame, and active, but efficient suspension.
After pedaling your way to the top, its time to drop the saddle and reap the benefits., and the Camber truly came alive on the descents. It is equally at home on the rocky, rooty washouts of Middle Black Mountain as it is on the speedy berms of Ridgeline. The combination of the 120mm travel, slack 68.5° headtube angle, and 29in wheels pick up the slack when things get steep, and inspires the confidence of a much larger bike. The Camber is in its element on fast and tight trails, where carrying speed is the goal. On Pisgah’s Lower Black Mountain, the Camber carried its speed through the rollers, doubles, and berms. Only when the drops get larger and the terrain get steeper is when you truly see the limits of this bike. On the steep washouts of Buckhorn Gap, the Camber had just enough travel to slice and dice it’s way through, but it is not a point and shoot machine by any stretch. It favors an active rider, who is willing to pick through techy lines on steep terrain.
The Camber 29 represents the bike that most of us should be riding. Unless you live in the heart of Mountain Bike Mecca, it’s perfect for your everyday trails, but it has enough travel to take on all your adventures. It’s got the responsiveness that is normally found on cross-country whippets, with the chops to handle much steeper downhill terrain. It’s a speed demon, pumping and railing every little bit of speed out of each corner and roller. Most of all, its fun; the Camber makes everyday rides a blast and powers through any terrain you point it at.
· Fox Performance 34 with GRIP Damper- This stiff little fork is the backbone of the Camber. Silky smooth on the top of the stroke with a steady ramp-up provided the perfect combo for trail riding. The new GRIP damper is a huge upgrade over the previous CTD system, bringing it much closer to the FIT4 found on it’s Kashima Coated siblings (without the scary price tag!).
· Fox Float Factory Series Shock with Autosag- This shock kept its composure throughout rough and rowdy drops, root gardens, and technical climbs. It’s progressive curve keeps the bike riding high in it’s travel and keeps the ride stiff and efficient. The AutoSag feature set the shock up too stiff for me, but it is a good feature to get a novice rider in the ballpark of correct suspension setup.
· Shimano SLX M7000 brakes- Despite lacking the adjustability of it’s XT counterparts, these brakes are every bit as powerful. Power, modulation, and reliability were on par with XT’s and Guides with a much more reasonable price. Plus, the new blacked out treatment looks great.
· Specialized Command Post- Dropper posts are an absolute must on any modern Trail Bike, and the Command Post is a great addition to any bike. Reliability is key with dropper posts, and the Command Post’s mechanical locking system and air spring kept the post rock solid for the entirety of my test (even through sub 20 degree temps, snow, and ice). The front derailleur style remote is top notch, and easy to reach even when things get rowdy.
Throughout my time on the Camber, I only noticed a few things I would change.
· Press-Fit Bottom Bracket
o With the new Enduro turning back to the quieter, more reliable threaded BB, why is the Camber still stocked with a Press Fit? I didn’t have any issues throughout my test, but a threaded BB offers peace of mind
· Fork Spec on Lower-End Models
o While I had the privilege of testing a high-end model with a 34mm fork, the majority of Specialized more reasonably priced models ship with a 32mm fork. This bike deserves the stiffness of a 34 or greater, and the first model to receive that treatment is the $5000 Expert Model
· Chain Noise
o When pushed hard on rough descents, the chain-slap noise on my Camber became excessive. Better chainstay protection is needed for a bike that begs to be pushed this hard
The Camber is the perfect bike for most riders. It’s a trail bike that begs to be ridden hard and fast, and can handle anything you throw at it without making easy trails boring or climbs a struggle.