Specialized’s Camber 29er has always been a top-rated bike among our testers and the new carbon mainframe takes it up another notch, taking it into the top five bikes in our sister mag What Mountain Bike's recent Trail Bike of the Year 2016 shootout.
There are two unique standout innovations. The first is the extra Auto Sag balancing valve on the Fox Float shock, which makes setting the correct pressure a push button piece of pssssst.
Specialized's Camber Comp Carbon 29 blends mile-munching speed with surprising rough-stuff strengths
But that's only one facet of the Camber's outstandingly user-friendly personality. The carbon-framed bike also gets Specialized’s unique SWAT internal storage compartment, accessed through a sealed door under the bottle cage.
As befits the mega-brand it is, the Big S and its minions also supply much of the gear. You get alloy Roval wheels with a 29mm internal width, which provide an incredible profile to the Specialized rubber combo. You also get one of our favourite droppers, Specialized's Command Post IRcc, and a host of quality finishing kit.
The 130mm-travel Revelation fork can get flexy under heavy loading
Elsewhere there's the welcome sight of a 1x11 SRAM GX drivetrain, while Shimano's Deore brakes are a budget but trusty option. A 130mm-travel RockShox Revelation fork rounds out the package and helps impart the Camber with a light, flickable feel.
Surprising aggro capabilities
While the 68.5-degree head angle makes for steering that feels steep and twitchy at first jump, it also keeps the 29er wheels agile and manageable and that hint of nervousness soon melts into the broader experience of what's an impressively chaos-capable machine. In fact, several of our testers didn’t even realise it was a 29er at all and if you’d rather have smaller wheels there’s a 650b version for the same price.
The SWAT compartment under the bottle cage is one of a series of thoughtful details
The FSR rear suspension is similarly ‘invisible’ from a ride point of view, tracking impeccably over rough trails for consistent traction and comfort. It’s easily firmed up with a flick of the compression lever if you want to push hard on the pedals or drive hard through corners or off hips and lips.
While the Revelation fork flexes noticeably if you’re carving or leaning on the 200mm rotor Deore front brake hard, the low BB and dependable Specialized own brand tyres on broad Roval rims keep the Camber surefooted.
Efficient long-distance ride
Lighter kit choices such as the fork contribute to an impressively low overall weight that makes the Camber an efficient distance machine. Epic rides give you the chance to appreciate details like the size-specific grip diameters, spin-friendly 28t chainring and the shifter-style remote lever on the Specialized Command Post dropper.
In fact, the whole bike reduces fatigue so well it stands a good chance of taking sprint finish wins from under the noses of dedicated XC bikes, but it’ll still buzz the back wheels of longer travel, more aggro bikes on fast, rough descents.
Considering its relatively steep and twitchy front end, the Camber shines on the downhills