The Specialized Stumpjumper is the most famous mountain bike in the world. But that doesn't mean it's stuck in the mud. This year, the rear suspension on the full suspension FSR goes from a vertical shock to a more horizontal one, and its “Brain” rear shock technology (available on the Expert version) finally works.
The Brain AFR rear shock locks out the back end when you're riding over relatively bump-free ground – avoiding leg-sapping bounce when you don't need it. But hit something big, the smart shock activates, and gives you the rear travel you need. The Brain, this year, finally, really does what it's meant to.
Loading the suspension before a jump, or hitting a rock or root, turns the bike from hardtail whippet to downhill rock-eater instantly. But while Specialized have been beavering on the Brain, rear suspension designs and shocks have got good enough that most don't wallow enough to worry about anyway.
So while the benefits are noticeable on road sections or long flat gravel tracks, most modern shocks let you flick on “Pro-Pedal” mode in those situations anyway, and you won't get a much worse experience.
Plus the Brain adds extra cables and complexity where you need it least – where mud splatter and rocks will hit the bike.
Brain or brawn?
Despite the less-than-smart Brain, the Stumpjumper's a star. The 140mm of suspension make for a superbly supple ride. The Stumpjumper isn't personality-heavy – it doesn't demand riding in a particular way. But it's always quietly brilliant.
It's light, carries excellent kit for each of its price points (courtesy of Specialized's huge buying power) and is at much at home on techy rock sections as all-day up-and-down epics. It's a great do-it-all bike. Just buy it for its brawn, not its brains.