Stumpjumper Comp 29 test: Valmont Bike Park
It’s becoming clear to me (apparently everyone else has known this for a while) that a mountain bike with 29-inch wheels rolls over rough terrain way easier than a bike with 26-inch wheels. So, OK, maybe a 29er is a good idea for passive trail riding. But the question is, can a 29er be ripped?
Yes. This 29er can be ripped.
And now the long answer …
This morning with the clock ticking on my loaner and snow rolling in, I took the Stumpjumper Comp 29 to Valmont Bike Park for an hour of testing.
While this bike is clearly designed for trail riding, I think the cornering, pumping, dropping and jumping you find at a bike park gives you a great idea for how a bike handles aggressive riding. I mean, I seldom use full travel in the rocks, but I often use it on the pump track.
The goal was to ride my normal stuff, just like I always do, and see how the bike feels.
Stumpjumper Comp 29 with Roval wheels, my 70 mm stem, flat pedals and adjustable seatpost. 40 psi in the 2.2 Purgatory Grid tires. Fork and shock set per manufacturer specs.
Specialized Stumpjumper Comp 29, with upgraded wheels and cranks, and my seatpost, pedals and stem.
Graffiti by my 2-year-old Fiona. She and her twin sister Finley are geniuses.
I hopped on, started the timer and did 10 laps of the dual slalom. I raised the seat for the climb, lowered the seat at the top, ripped the slalom course, repeated. Overall effort bounced around threshold.
When I started doing this adventure, 10 laps took 20 minutes. About a month ago, I rolled Captain America (my experimental Stumpjumper HT EVO trail/park hardtail) in 18:30.
Today I rolled the Stumpy 29 in … drum roll please … 17:07. Yes, more than a minute faster than the light DJ/XC hardtail … on a bike with a plush 130 mm of travel … and 29-inch wheels.
OK, I’m not gonna claim that the 29er is faster than a raced out hardtail on a smooth slalom course, but those numbers are dramatic. Even if you discount the main variables — today’s hero dirt, a taller gear ratio for the climb, insanely great fitness, rugged good looks — the Stumpy 29 is not exactly slow.
• My Maverick Speedball seatpost only drops three inches, and that is not enough. The seat was all up in my business.
• I made all of my usual manual and jump options.
• The manuals were working, but they felt biiiiiig and, if they weren’t spot-on, awwwwkward. A lot of that that was the rear travel getting crushed.
• Jumping felt smooth, easy, stable.
• The corners were incredible. I realize today’s post-snowmelt dirt was good, but this was ridiculous. Before today, I’ve never hit the last inside turn full-on at full speed. Something about the way the tires grip, or the wheels turn, I dunno, it works.
Pump track test
After a short recovery, I hit the main pump track.
I know from many timed sets that 10 laps on the Captain takes between 5:30 and 5:45. 5:30 would be pretty pinned; 5:45 would be an average when I do five sets of 10.
On the Stumpy 29 I pushed hard for a 5:41. Not as fast as the 26 hardtail, but not terrible.
• On the first few laps, I veered too wide out of the tightest turns. Leaning more fixed that.
• There is a definite loss of pump, and I really felt it on the uphill, extra tacky final straight. I was getting the job done, but smaller wheels are clearly quicker.
• Things are flexing in the high-G turns. Tires, wheels, fork, frame, bars? I don’t know exactly what was giving, but the whole system seemed to flex as a whole, and it felt fine.
Dirt jump test
The L dirt jump line was a total go. I had to pop a bit harder than usual, but the bike sailed right through the low-trajectory tables, step-ups and step-down. I was even throwing my linear version of a whip.
The XL dirt jump line was a partial go. I was getting the first two jumps cleanly, but I didn’t have speed for the third one. You can generate more speed on the backs of big dirt jumps by leaning back farther — like pumping a swingset — but my big butt hit that big tire. Stiffer suspension would have helped, but I couldn’t feel myself dialing the third jump, so I moved on.
• Again, jumping the big bike feels smooth, easy and stable.
• On a fast, low-trajectory line you can rally the 29s.
• On a steep DJ line, you really notice the decreased pump of the big wheels. I’m sure a stiffer suspension can offset that effect, but I didn’t take the time.
• With the decreased pump effect comes a greater need to work the back of the bike — but that big wheel gets in the way.
• 130 mm travel 29ers are not ideal for dirt jumping (duh).
And finally on to the L slopestyle line. Diving board drop to left berm to left table/hip to right table/hip to hippy step-down to lippy gap to step-down to wooden booter. It’s a fun line.
• Have I said this? Jumping the Stumpy 29 feels smooth, easy and stable.
• When you clip a landing, it’s barely an issue. That’s an advantage of the big wheels. Lower angle of incidence.
• Two of the jumps on this line are way lippier than the others, and I always feel a bit sketched on the Captain. Something about the Stumpy 29 — big wheels, long wheelbase? — smoothed them right out. This is the easiest and mellowest I’ve ever hit this line.
• And: I freaking railed the berm at the end!
• The Stumpjumper Comp 29 handles, basically, like my other Specialized bikes. This is a good thing.
• A trail bike like the Stumpjumper Comp 29 is not the most optimal weapon for bike parks (duh), but you can have fun on the pump track, slalom, dirt jumps and slopestyle. Heck, you can ride them pretty well.
• If you’re a trail rider who brings the braaap, this bike can do the job. Wanna rail corners, pump transitions and jump whatevers? Go for it.
The way I’m seeing it, 29ers have clear advantages for most riders on most trails. If you can also rip ’em — which you can — I see no downside to riding them.
Hmm. This might change things.
Stumpjumper Comp 29 test: neighborhood gnar
The 29er experiment begins in earnest
Know more. Have more fun!
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Wondering about 40 psi in 29 inch tires. It seems like 20 is more appropriate, are you running tubes (if not high for everything but the jumps)?
Thanks lee, really good test. Would be great if someone could give you some 29 hardtail for a test. However most “private” industry unbiassed tests I read say 29er HT is not like a short travel 26″ fully… it’s faster.
The only issue I had with niners was oh – I don’t want to make stuff easy, I like challenges. But now I’m more like, maybe hanks to niner I can find bigger challenges? hm… 😀 You know it’s like you just made that sketchy steep rocky descent on 26er, you’re so proud of yourself, and then you realize someone just made a bigger wheel so it won’t be that epic with a niner… technology will kill my baby.
Or like when we and my wife go for holiday, I take proudly my huge DSLR with 3 lens and she shoots with small compact… and that feeling, when realizing, I might nailed two pics, but in overall – her pics are better..
This set of posts has been great. It’s interesting watching you go through the entire progression of the 29 development in a week. So, what’s your first 29er gonna be?
Michael: This bike has tubeless 2.2 Purgatory Grid tires. I ran 30/33 on my trail ride. I run more air at the bike park (usually 40 to 50 psi) to hold up to the cornering and pumping forces.
On the main pump track, I’ve seen people tear low-pressure tires right off the bead.
Jon: Hmm … hopefully a Camber or Stumpjumper of some sort? The Stumpy 29 EVO looks pretty crazy.
Waki: Thanks for the kind words. I did ride a Stumpy HT 29 ..
29ers are tools like any other bike. Ultimately it’s about the rider. If the big wheels help you ride over rocks more smoothly, you can focus on going faster, being smoother, going longer, pumping more, keeping up with someone stronger than you, preserving your imploding shoulder joints (that’s me) etc.
The goal isn’t just to ride the section; it’s to ride it to the best of your ability. Bigger wheels, more suspension, clip-in pedals, better geometry, great tires (name your technological advancement) reduce punishment and increase confidence so we can all find better flow and more braaap.
As my old photo teacher used to say: A camera is a box that holds film and has a hole that lets in some light. It’s all about the photographer. A great photographer knows which tool to choose for each situation, and he knows how to make the most of that tool.
no he drank the kool aid! haha
ok lee so the real bottom line question is what is a better all around bike? in your opinion 26 or 29? and is the 29er going to take over? you can hardly find 26inch bikes on the sales floor anymore? is it going to be the death of the 26inch bike for everything but pure gravity MTB? :'(
Lee, very interesting…
What bike would you prefer for trail like Porcupine Rim (starting from LaSal 🙂 or Downieville? Enduro was silly fun on PR…
And second question – do you think short chainstays hardtail 29er will work as “natural terrain” dirtjumper or some rear suspension would still be useful?
In my opinion 29″ wheels are great for hardtails and all around bikes with 4-5″ of travel. Longer travel 29ers are a bit more problematic from a design/geometry perspective, and to me the wheels don’t lend themselves well to bigger hit bikes, at least not yet.
Fork stiffness has been an issue for me in the past, but with the FOX 34 fork that might not be an issue anymore. Carbon wheels on a 29er would be a game changer.
Maybe a full suspension 29er is in my future….Lee, my bank account hates you.
A completely unbiased comparison from someone I trust…
I tested them many years ago and they made me stick with 26″ but apparently the current generation of 29ers are completely different.
I better go test one.
It sure looks like 29ers are taking over. When I asked for Captain America, the Stumpjumper HT, he had to be brought in from Europe; Specialized didn’t have a high-end 26 hardtail in the U.S.
The bigger wheels have clear advantages on rough and loose surfaces, and I swear they make any rider instantly more capable with less effort. If 29ers can also be made light and sweet-handling, which it appears they can, the transition to 29 — for most trail riders — seems inevitable.
Right now, 26es seem like the ticket for pump track, dirt jump, freestyle and longer-travel uses. I don’t see big wheels getting any more pump, but I can totally see the industry figuring out how to make sweet-riding 6+-inch 29er bikes. I mean, it wasn’t long ago when a 130 mm 29er like the Stumpy I’ve been riding seemed preposterous.
From the beginning, I thought a 29-inch DH bike would be awesome. Some small builders are doing it. Just wait.
You know I love my Enduro. It’s exactly the bike I’d take to Porcupine Rim or Downieville.
Would, say, a Stumpy 29 EVO replace the Mighty Enduro for such rides? The bigger wheels would roll really well, and the shorter travel might make the bike feel quicker and more responsive — but the Enduro’s smaller wheels will yield more pump, and the slacker geometry might feel better at speed.
??? This whole 29er thing is new to me.
I think the right 29 hardtail would make a fine DJ bike for low trajectory and gravity-aided jumps — especially for a taller rider. Plus, it would feel great on natural terrain. My friend Paul is way over 6 feet, and he rocks a 29 hardtail everywhere, including Valmont when he was in town.
Check out the Stumpjumper HT SS 29 at the BMX track. It was super fun:
A Stumpy HT 29 built for DJ would be just like Captain America, but with bigger wheels. That bike would rip!
Like I said, this is all new to me. But I’m having fun learning it!
And then there’s this:
Matt Hunter on a 2012 Enduro. Check the pump at 2:19. Can you rock that on a 29er?
Specialized has carbon wheels on their high end 29ers. The Roval alloys I’ve been riding are nice; I wonder how the carbon hoops feel.
And heck yeah on that Fox 34. Slap one of those on a Stumpy EVO 29?
(I did some clinic/riding with Chris when he was in CO.)
Hey man, yes, the bikes have changed. When I rode a Lenz Sport like 6 years ago I was like whatever. Now I’m like how many bikes must I sell to buy in?
Give the big wheels a try. I’m sure you can RIP on ’em. Take your crazy XC fitness, add your powerful pump and let the braaap ensue.
Lee, it’s very inspiring video… There is something deep, primordial in wilderness riding that no park trickery can approach. Though I would take Valmont now – melt, snow, melt!
Say it isnt so. Lee on a 29er? What would Lopes say if he caught you riding one of those things? Can’t wait to hear more once you have had more time with it. Looks like Banshee is making an enduro like 29er with the Prime.
I like the Niner WFO….pretty bada$$ AM rig!
what appeals to me in 29ers is the stated ability to just roll/bash right over “stuff”…and this Niner frame just look stout as hell.
Coach T, don’t tell me you’re on 29s ?!?
Mike, Lopes would say Wait Lee, wait up! 🙂