How far can you push a trail bike?

Me & Stumpy

Its all well and good having a playful trail bike that encourages you to push it more and more. It lures you into this sense of invincibility to huck and hustle every trail centre you visit.  So rather than head to a typical trail bike destination to see its true potential, I called the new Stumpy’s bluff, and took it straight to Antur Stiniog. Where you ask? It’s a downhill mountain bike park, in the Snowdonia national park, on the side of a slate quarry. What this results in, is super aggressive, hard core, no joking about trails, that frequently break 200mm downhill rigs. It’s the only place I’ve been too where you regular hear “oh yeah last time I was here, I punctured by kidney”. Its that kind of trail centre. So come on then Stumpy, if I am to believe the marketing hype and messages out of Specalized, you should just about manage this by the skin of your inner tubes. The question is, did it, and did the 27.5 or 29er version fair best? It’s time to read on…

My old school mate Gareth joined me for the trip. Having bought a Stumpy recently and been singing its praises, he was the ideal riding buddy to go thoroughly test the Stumpy with. Though concerns were already being raised over the lack of travel and thick casing tyres, before we had even left home! So, we had a 4-hour drive ahead of us to Antur and having packed the bikes up inside the M135i, we left early, keen to get mile munching, and quickly. As ever with Snowdonia, we left the blue skies of Cambridgeshire and arrived in the foggy, misty, rainy conditions of Antur. It doesn’t matter what time of year you go, this place always feels like Lord of the Rings!

Gareth’s concerns were soon backed up as soon as we started getting the bikes out the car and building them up; we were looking seriously out biked. As if by magic our aggressive full suspension trail bikes looked like thin, delicate steeds compared to their burley car park stable mates. However fear not, with our lift passes in hand and full face helmets on, we made our way over to the uplift and up the mountain. We arrived on top of the mountain, wind and rain in our eyes with two options. Red or Black. Knowing we only had trail bikes and with it being the start of the day, we opted for Red.  Before barely getting started we found ourselves in two wheel drifts down the mountain as we discover the Speacliazed Tyres aren’t fans of wet slate! 

Knarly Red

Feel tired and still waiting for the Macky D’s Double Sausage and Egg McMuffin to kick in, we took off down one of the many knarly red trails to find that the Stumpy’s were already up for the fight. After one run down, we were just about clued in, with the brakes now developing a decent level of bite, we opted for the same route down with a little more pace this time. Again the Stumpy’s took it within their stride and our confidence grew. The 1pm shut down for lunch came quickly with both Gareth and I chuckling at how no one all morning had come close to catching us, let alone overtaking us on their downhill rigs. Perhaps the Stumpy is the ultimate trail bike, it certainly feels like one of the best bikes we had ridden.

So as we finished lunch and head up for the afternoon, with the now drying trails and growing confidence we decided to hit the blacks. Trails that I remember back in 2015 felt harsh on my then 210mm downhill rig. First thoughts then on the Stumpy on Blacks? Mechanical sympathy!! The trails build on the already ridiculously rough reds that will happily shake your bike to bits, but now with essentially a permanent jagged rock garden from top to bottom. Except this time, unlike a typical trail centre rock garden you’re doing 20mph + and landing from height on these triangular rocks. Enthusiasm waned slightly on the first run, but with the morning gone the fear of punctures left us and was quickly replaced with excitement. We put hammer to tong, pointed the bikes down and let go of those brakes. It’s now here where the Stumpy feels like its having a proper face off, with it bottoming out front & rear on occasions and rims going ping. Welcome to downhill country!

The challenge with Downhill is ensuring you ride the hill and the hill doesn’t ride you. You’d think with 25% less travel, smaller less aggressive tyres and a steeper head angles we might be getting schooled by Antur. In reality, the Stumpy had us covered. The harder we rode the better, more impressive the Stumpy became. Where previously you didn’t bother pedalling your DH due to its inefficiency, this time you pedal, gain more speed, ride obstacles how you wanted to. And even with just 150mm travel, both bikes are light and providing you know how to ride, give you enough travel to get you through. All in all, the Stumpy left both Gareth and I with the conclusion; what can’t a trail bike do? And if you could only get just the one bike, you really can’t go wrong with the 2019 Specailzed Stumpy. Though I did end the day with a puncture...

Gaz & Stumpy

Which Stumpy faired best?

29in vs 27.5in is becoming an age old argument/discussion now between mountain bikers. Putting aside all the XC rubbish around 29ers, Antur illustrated quite obviously the difference. In short, the 27.5 has a smaller rolling radius and therefore when hitting a hole falls deeper within it, knocking momentum and unsettling the rider. With the 29er, this effect is somewhat reduced. What this meant in practise, across the slate ridden rock gardens of Antur Stiniog, the bigger wheeled Stumpy skated across the rocks better than the 27.5 and remained more stable at speed, resulting in gains of about 4 – 5 bike lengths on what you could sort of call, the straights. Granted when it came to the super techy and tight switchbacks the 29er wasn’t as nimble and agile, so choose your wheel size according to your trails you ride on and how you want to ride. But for us, the 29er Stumpy came out on top at Antur.

Gaz wheelie

How did it ride?

There are three things you need to know about how the Stumpy feels to ride. 1. Well balanced between axels. 2. Super plush and predictable with its Fox sus and finally 3. Capable with a capital C! To come away from Antur Stiniog and not end up in an ambulance when really trying to go as fast as possible downhill underlines the Stumpy’s credentials. In fact, there’s little point rabbiting on. Let me leave those three points with you, in the context of Antur. If you need further colour to the context, YouTube Antur and you’ll soon start to understand just how good this bike is.  

For more details on the Stumpy, see my previous stumpy article here

For more details on Antur, see their website here. I guaranteed you they’re some of the loveliest guys you’ll meet in North Wales and compel you to book your day.