For our first review of 2017 we chose the Specialized S-Works Camber – a pretty serious piece of kit. New editor, Frans le Roux spent of couple of weeks with ‘Black Beauty’
“GOING FROM DESIGNATED SWEEPER TO SURPRISING MY FRIENDS WITH MY NEW-FOUND SPEED AND CONFIDENCE.”
When your first ever test-bike for Full Sus involves a R132 000 machine, you quickly realize that it won’t be just ‘another’ ride. During December, Full Sus closed its doors to enjoy a well-earned break. The friendly folk at Specialized Stellenbosch gave me a black carbon S-Works Camber to test.
I first laid eyes on the 2017 Camber during Specialized’s annual media test day held at their company store in Stellenbosch. Having never been on one, I was however unsure whether it would suit my riding style better than my regular cross country-rig.
Let’s get down to the specs of the beauty: in S-Works trim, one obviously expects the best and the Camber certainly doesn’t disappoint. Starting at the front, the fork is a FOX 34 Factory (120mm travel) with Kashima coating. The rear shock is a Fox Float Factory with 120mm of travel too. Specialized has dropped the Brain on the Camber and in my opinion the bike is better for it. The shock has a neat AutoSag function where you jump on, press a valve and your suspension is dialled making it hassle free to get going. The S-Works further features SRAM’s new XX1 1×12 Eagle groupset which made even the steepest climb a breeze. Shimano joined the party too and their XTR-brakes finish off a high-end machine. The handlebar is a wide 750mm carbon riser which improves confidence and your overall seating position.
Being a trail-bike, the Camber slots in between the Stumpjumper (150mm trail) and Epic (100mm cross country). The fitment of the Specialized Command dropper post made blasting down tricky singletrack a more relaxed affair. The ride was further improved by some stiff Roval Traverse carbon hoops which were matched with 2.3” sticky tyres. Three geeky features I have to mention are the nifty integrated SWAT-door, the ‘hidden’ multitool and the chain tool stowed below the stem cap. Mountain bikers have the knack of forgetting stuff at home but thanks to SWAT (Storage Water Air and Tools) this won’t happen again. The SWAT-door is located below the bottlecage and is ideal for storing all kinds of goodies.
I made a point of riding the Camber on different surfaces and tracks throughout the Western Cape. I managed to spend a couple of days in Ladismith where I rode the picturesque Seweweekspoort. Those familiar with this gravel mountain pass, will know that ‘sinkplaat’ is not uncommon. With the fork and shock in their open-setting combined with the bike suspension I barely felt a thing – no sore hands and minimum bob.
While in Yzerfontein, friends and I went on a ride at the Wolwefontein trails near Darling with about 20km of singletrack, drops, bridges and the usual sandy berms. I really put the Camber to the test – not only was I pleasantly surprised by the bike’s performance but ecstatic about how my riding improved! Going from designated sweeper to surprising my friends with my new-found speed and confidence. There’s a particular steep section with some large rocks conveniently placed in the middle of the trail and some impressive drops and if I were on my hardtail I probably would have walked – the geometry and setup just allows for confidence and this to me is what the Camber is about.
Luckily for us, the global mountain biking fraternity seems to be moving more towards trail orientated bikes and manufacturers are starting to listen. Most of us will never be able to win a race or become a pro rider. That is where the Camber and its trail abilities comes into its own. Not only was I riding further, I was riding considerably harder and faster. I won’t be taking much credit here as the Camber, in my opinion, is one of the most comfortable trail bikes you can buy. It climbs so well that I kept thinking they gave me the Epic, it would be comfortable on a stage race, enduro track or even cross country racing. If the eye-watering price tag seems to steep, better value down the line can be had when you opt for the Camber Comp (R37 600) or the Comp Carbon (R56 600).