Bike Review: 2014 Specialized Camber 29

According to Specialized, the Camber is the perfect bike for everything from weekend trail rides to all-day epic excursions. The 29-inch-specific, 110mm-travel Camber offers a trail-specific build for confident riding at speed, and ultimately the ideal balance of efficiency and plush suspension performance for every rider.

Let’s see how it stacks up…

camber-29Logan here, and I’ve had a number of rides on the Camber now, finding it to be a very versatile bike. The traction of the big wheels and range of the 3×9 gearing is great for climbing hills and cranking along gravel roads, but it also handles tight, twisty singletrack well, and the geometry gives a very stable feel on fast descents.

I even tested the bike (and myself) down a local downhill track and while I have to admit I by-passed the gnarliest bits and took chicken lines around the massive jumps, I found the Specialized Ground Control 2.3” front and 2.1” rear tyres gripped the damp clay surface well, the suspension soaked up the rough stuff that I did ride over, and the Tektro Draco 2 hydraulic disc brakes slowed me up when things got a little too fast for my liking (quite often).

A lot of mountain bikes are coming specced with 2×10, 1×10 and even 1×11 drivetrains these days.

While all this new-fangled technology is great and certainly serves a purpose, I’ve found that the 9-speed Shimano Deore Shadow rear derailleur on the Camber 29 offers reliable, precise shifting and the 11-34 tooth cassette combined with triple chain rings up front gives a wide range of gears for a variety of riding, from Rotorua singletrack to epic South Island back country adventures.

I rode a 45km event recently, which consisted of gravel roads and farm paddocks, and was able to fly along in the big chain ring on the flatter and downhill gravel road sections, and also grovel up grass hills in the granny gear. On my own bike I have a 1×10 setup as it suits the majority of riding I do, however it does limit my top speed and also makes steep climbs hard work.

The rear X Fusion air shock on the Camber performs well, has rebound adjust, and is nice and easy to set up for different rider’s preferences or weight.

The fork is a coil sprung Suntour XCR with 110mm of travel. Specialized have specced different-sized bikes with different firmness springs – small: soft; medium: standard; large and XL: hard. This makes sense, as a light woman on a small won’t be able to use much of the travel with a standard spring, and vice versa for a big guy on an XL. However, not all tall people are heavy.

I’ve been riding medium and large Camber 29s from our fleet and at 180cm and around 89kgs, I’ve found the large frame fits me best but the forks are way too firm. The large bike I rode was pretty fresh out the box, so the forks may have just needed some more riding, but the fork on the medium with the standard spring was plusher and suited me better.

Rebound adjust and lockout on the forks are great features.

The ultimate would be an air fork that could be dialled in for individuals. While handlebars, stems, seats etc can be quite a personal preference, Specialized have done well to spec the Camber 29 for the riding it is designed for. There are different length seatposts and stems on different frame sizes which work well, and the 720mm wide bars give good control without getting too wide. It’s a good thing seats are easy to change. I found the standard Specialized Rival seat okay on shorter rides, maybe up to two hours, but anything longer than that and I had to keep standing up on the pedals for some relief.

In conclusion…

…for someone who still isn’t completely sold on the 29er craze, I found the Camber 29 to be a fun trail bike to ride. On singletrack it rolls over trail features better than a 26” wheeled bike, but still gets around tight corners with ease. And I could pedal up steep pinch climbs that I’d usually have to push up on my own bike with 1×10 gearing and 26” wheels. It also gets along efficiently on long XC type rides. While I would definitely change a few items in the component spec if I owned one, I think Specialized has nailed it with the frame geometry and suspension travel to provide a stable, confidence-inspiring ride.

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