With the Specialized Camber Expert, Specialized has wanted to produce a complete trail bike, a rear all-mountain machine that can get up to speed and maintain it over difficult terrain like an XC bike would, but at the same time perform more like an enduro bike on technical and difficult downhill sections, with agility and the ability to swallow bumps and thumps on rocky terrain. The geometry has to fit both climbing and descending. That is quite a lot to ask of a bike. Particularly because climbing and descending poses different, seemingly opposite demands on a bike.
In terms of geometry, when you climbing you want a compact sit, a bit straight up with your body position and weight forwards; when you descend you want a mora spacious and lower position, your body weight a bit further back. For climbing, you want a headtube that is steep, when you go down, you want it to be slacker. Larger wheels retain their speed better, but can steer and stop a bit more difficult than smaller wheels. So, seemingly incompatible demands for just one bike. Where do you end up if you want to bring that together? With a bike that will look rather like the Specialized Camber Expert.
First of all the specs and components of the bike: Carbon Frame WITH M5 aluminium Camber FSR rear end, 29inch Roval Traverse Carbon wheels with a Specialized standard combination of the Purgatory tire on the front and Ground Control on the rear wheel. SRAM GX Eagle drive train, SRAM Level TL brakes, 120mm suspension for the Fox 34 and Fox Float behind. Finally the dropper post the Command Post IRcc, which did not work well on our test bike; I find a dropper post to be essential for a trail bike so that you can make the necessary adjustments to your riding position from climbing to descending (climbing: seat high, descending: seat low). A light, very well-finished bike.
I rode the Specialized Camber on various trails in the Netherlands, with forest and sandy soils, very steep climbs against duds, rock garden and some jumps done as well as a number of stairs in different places (always fun).
A few years ago my own bike was the Specialized Camber 26 inch. That bike already fit well with me, it was comfortable, the fit was right, and I could really power the bike. With this 26″ version I also did rides in the Alps, Dolomites, Pyrenees and mountains of southern Spain. When I got the opportunity to ride on the latest version of the Camber, with 3 more inches on the wheels, a Carbon frame, and great componentry, my heart started to beat faster.
And the bike has not disappointed. The geometry of the bike fits me really well, not too upright, enough space between saddle and handlebar with a top tube length of 613 mm for a frame size Large. I liked the travel on the suspension, it felt like more than 120. It has a soft, light but powerful feel to it. But did it combine those XC and Enduro elements?
First, we take a look at the XC-like side of the bike. The bike is nice and light, especially for a full suspension, and is therefore very fast to get up to speed, and with those 29-inch wheels, you keep that speed well. They roll easily over tree roots and the stones of the rock garden, but also helped navigate over softer sandy segments where you need to keep that speed up. Because of the Concentric Pivot system near the rear suspension, the bounce you can get is removed from the rear suspension when you start pounding on the power. When climbing, I usually slide slightly towards the front of my saddle, so that my hips are as positioned straight above the bottom bracket as much as possible. That also gives extra power to the Camber.
As far as the enduro aspect of the bicycle is concerned, the Camber is well up to par. The 120mm suspension does its job well on the irregularities we have been able to ride, roots, rocks of the rock garden, and stairs. It handled the jumps that I took, with a maximum height of about 80 cm, easily. On the faster winding stretches downhill, with the dropper post lowered, the bike responds super fast to steering actions and you can throw your bike back and forth beneath you.
Combining XC and enduro traits, looking for that all-mountain character; in my opinion, the Camber has succeeded at that. Of course it is not as efficient as a really hardcore XC bike, and not as greedy for irregular terrain as a full-fledged deep travel enduro bike, but if you have a few thousand euros in your bank account and you want to buy a bike that really brings value and versatility for money, then the Camber is a very good choice. It will bang your buck a long way.
The Specialized has a SRAM GX Eagle 1×12 group that shifts sharply and smoothly. The cassette has a wide range of 10-50 to help you on steep climbs. To be honest I simply like a set-up without a front derailleur nowadays. Without it is simpler, “cleaner”, means less maintenance and saves weight. The rest of the bike is just as clean, with internal cable routing and a free minimalistic cockpit.
The SWAT ™ Door is a nice functionality, where there is a compartment in the down tube. The “door” is hidden behind the bottle cage. You can easily open it and then there is space for an extra tube and a little toolset for example.
In addition to that, I like to play a bit on the street with the bikes I ride, not that I’m a technical miracle, but I’m mucking about with wheelies, endos, stoppies, track stands, bunnyhops and the like. It’s a different way to get a feeling for the balance and behavior of a bike. Does it respond well, become a bit passive-aggressive, or does it smile and join the fun? The Camber smiled and we had a lot of fun. It’s easy to push it into a stable wheelie, an endo turn is a breeze, the lightness of the frame helps with swinging the bike around. Bouncing off the ground using the compression in the suspension has earned me applause from many a bunny.
The Specialized Camber is a very good, all-mountain bike. For technical flow trails and enduro tracks in the mountains, the bike will perform very well. I enjoyed the lightness and balance of the bike, but also the strength, stability and general badassery of the bike. It is not a cheap bike, but because of its versatility, you still have a lot of value for your money.
Specialized Camber Expert 29
Retail price: € 5299,-