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  1. #1
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    2011 Camber Expert Review and why I sold my 29er...

    This is a little long, scroll down to cliff notes if you get bored...

    The following is both a long and rambling review of a 2011 Camber Expert and musings on why I sold my 29er and bought a 26Ē wheel bike. It was bought about a week and a half ago and these are my observations and ride feedback as well as some detail on build items Iíve already changed out and what I will do in the immediate future. But first off a little background on my riding and how I came to the Camber.

    I started riding mountain bikes last July, Iím not quite 1 year into it. So far I have only ridden hardtail 29ers, my first ride was a 2011 Hardrock disc 29er which I cut my teeth on, literally and figuratively, and replaced every part on it before replacing the frame with a Niner EMD9 this spring. I ride north Texas trails, nothing crazy, flowing single track with creek crossings, some short technical ďburstĒ climbs and descents, and I normally ride about 50-60 miles a week split between a couple of trails near my house. I have been a ďhaterĒ on full suspension bikes since I bought my first ride, I saw them as unnecessary for where I live/ride and enjoyed the simplicity of a lightweight, mildly aggressive, hardtail chassis with a 1x9 drivetrain and larger wheels. I had admired the full squish bikes but thought it was overkill for me and I never considered riding one, even though my brother loves his Pivot Mach 4 and is always commenting on how the wagon wheels and overly wide bars were slowing me down in the twisty tree trails.

    This all changed after a ride on a Camber test bike with 26Ē wheels a couple weeks ago that was the fastest and most fun ride Iíve had yet. That 15 mile ride on a trail I ride every week made me rethink everything I had come to love about the riding experience and what fast really was all about. There is a big difference in mountain biking between ďfastĒ and ďtrail-fastĒ, itís one thing to go fast in a straight line or with easy turns and roll outs and another thing entirely to go blowing through technical sections and narrow tree lined single track. After that ride, as my brother and I downloaded what had happened in the parking lot he summed it up in a few words between drinks of water, ďMan, you were flying, like a mad man.Ē. I rode like a man possessed on this Camber, easily several minutes off my best time, my brother normally leads the whole ride but now found himself watching me throw the bike around like a kids dirt bike on sections I would have at least paused on before, it was like a religious experience, crazy.

    A week and some negotiating phone calls later and I sold the EMD9 and now owned the super cool gray/red test bike colorway Camber Expert I had test ridden, I then took it out for a ride and started swapping parts out. The stock DT Swiss rims were sold to a guy that really needed new rollers for his Rockhopper and I threw on some Mavic Crosstrails we already had, my brother and I have allot of parts between us. Converting to tubeless was next as well as swapping out the Henge Comp for my new Phenom Expert and plotting my 1x10 conversion of the drivetrain with a 34t chainring. If I had bought the Comp or Elite model I would have been doing allot more but the Expert and Pro models are pretty awesome right out of the box with its higher end drivetrains and components, for the money itís pretty hard to beat them without buying a brand only sold online that youvíe never seen before and canít get a fit on before buying.

    The 120mm Reba TK on the Expert is a dual air fork, not the single air as listed on the Specialized site, and is more than adequate for 95% of your trail riders, the ďset it and forget itĒ ease of an air fork is nice for us hack mechanics doing set-up in our garage. The rear canister is a slightly different affair as you still set the sag the same but you have more options on getting the ride you want, I am still playing with the Fox Triad II Pro-Pedal features but it feels great immediately on this frame. Any pedal bob that happens is minimal and really not even noticeable on the 5% of your ride where it would be a bother for me where I ride. Plus, for a larger rider like myself whoís weight can fluctuate 10-20 pounds due to riding allot, or not enough, the ability to adjust sag on the air shocks is key for occasionally fine tuning the bike handling. The fork and rear shock work well with the frame geometry for great handling, and the differing items between the Expert and Pro model are nice, I believe you get a thru-axle on the Pro along with the X0 2x10 drivetrain, next level brakes, and a Fox on the front.

    As for the drivetrain I really wasnít expecting to like it as much as I do, I have used varying level of SRAM components on my last 2 bikes, the Niner was running all X9, and I always felt that the 1:1 actuation and direct/mechanical feel of SRAM was perfect for me but I got to admit I REALLY like the Shimano DynaSys set-up. The SLX shifters work great and the XT rear derailleur and cassette package are smoother than what Iím used to with SRAM, I find myself more inclined to shift gears to increase speed on sections of the trail I would have just spun the legs faster before. Shimano was nice enough to make the gear indicators removable so those will be going when I install the 34t ring and remove the front der and shifter for the 1x10 as they are useless to all but the most novice riders, not sure why they are there in the first place honestly. As Iím now happy with the SLX shifters Iím also compelled to throw on an XT rear shifter to see how much more I like it so thatís a possible upgrade down the road. The XT Deore Shadow rear derailleur is easy to adjust and works brilliantly, but again, I would like to try the next model up in the Shimano line with a shorter cage if possible.

    The brakes are the same lovable and familiar Elixir 5ís that come stock on almost any big brand bike between $1k-2k, they work competently and paired with the really large 203mm/185mm rotor package on my frame they have tremendous stopping power, but they lack in the modulation and feedback. I had Formula RXís with smaller rotors on the Niner and feel like they were better brakes in all categories. If I get a deal on some new Formula stoppers, or simply start to hate the Elixir 5 SLís on the bike, Iíll sell the stock brakes and replace them with another set of RXís, for the money the RX is a great brake package, and they are easy on the eyes as well

    The DT Swiss wheels are nice looking, the front RWS skewer and OS28 endcaps are a nice addition to firm up the front end, BUT, I already had nicer, lighter, tubeless rims so I sold the stockers with skewers for $225 and mounted the Crosstrails. The S-works front tire was so stretched out from running a large tube in it at high pressure that the shop was not able to get it to seal to the rim and mount tubeless so I bought another captain control to match the rear, mounted up tubeless with Stanís and never looked back. I am looking into knocking the endcaps off the front and either fitting a 9mm skewer or drilling out the endcaps for a 9mm semi-axle type set up and putting OS28 type endcaps on it for testing purposes. If I didnít like the fork so much I would forego all this and sell it as a new take off and buy a Maxle version and get a convertible front wheel or hub on there.

    So how does all this work? Great for me and the type of trails I ride and my riding style. The bike is very nimble, feels lighter on its feet with the new running gear and tubes removed but, most importantly, it feels lighter than the Niner EMD that is 2-3 pounds lighter than it. Iím still playing with pressures but the tires grip like mad on loose over hard and on short 20í techy climbs I hit on my normal route. I absolutely love this bike and its very fast for me. The closest thing I can do to compare to going from the hardtail 29er to this Camber with 26Ē wheels is its as if I spent 6 months driving a jeep around a race track, getting faster as I go, sure it rolls over everything easily but is a little cumbersome on the fast parts, then I climb into a Porsche. All the skills I learned in bike handling with the previous bike makes me feel 10í tall and bulletproof on the 26Ē full suspension bike. The Camber allows me to focus a little less on the bike and more on the riding, I find myself setting up for turns/sections earlier because I am looking farther down trail and Iím spending less time focusing on exactly where my front tire is in a rock garden and more of controlling my speed as I cruise over it and set up or the next section. Sometimes I donít even feel the bike really, Iím just manipulating the bars and pumping my legs, I never feel like Iím forcing or fighting the bike through anything as I did on my 29er, it just is going with me, along for the ride. Itís easier to get the front end up over stuff, easier to hop over roots, just plain easier to get around a crowded trail on this bike. The only thing I miss from the 29Ē wheels, other than street cred with the cool kids, is it is a little bit more effort going up short technical climbs trying to carry speed. But as long as I get the right gear I donít really lose much speed and its immediately made up on the other side of the hill as I go raining down on rocks, roots, and ruts like a screaming freakiní banshee compared to the more cautious lines of my previous ride.

    All this said, I still love the 29er hardtail, and when finances permit I will buy another one, as itís the reason I am so fast on the camber. For a new rider developing skills, getting balance, and having presence of mind on the trail to look ahead there is no better training tool than a 29er hardtail or rigid, period. Having spent a year on those and moving to the full squish 26er is a tremendous amount of fun but the simplicity of the hardtail and the high cornering speed in flowing sections on the 29er are loads of fun as well. I thought about testing a Camber 29er as well before pulling the trigger on the Expert but allot of the speed and fun I was experiencing were solely due to the smaller wheels ability to steer quicker and more easily manipulate myself and the bike at higher speeds, my balance skills are substantially higher now. I was hesitant to go clipless on the 29er but after a couple rides on the Camber and I know I can handle it and will be doing that next, the level of confidence and balance allow me to put more trust in the bike and tires and focus more on my riding. And, if you are still reading this, I know some will say they are faster on a 29er and I believe them, but for me and the type of riding I do on the type of trails I ride Iím just faster on this bike.

    Cliff notesÖ.
    Camber is great
    If you only ride 29er go for a spin on a 26Ē for kicks
    Both wheel platforms are great in their own way
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 2011 Camber Expert Review and why I sold my 29er...-camber.jpg  

    Last edited by madsedan; 06-28-2011 at 05:27 PM.
    Hardrock 29er, Niner EMD9, Cannondale F29, Camber Expert, 650b Nickel all gone.
    2014 Giant Anthem 27.5 here.

  2. #2
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    Good review...once I switched out my heavy rolling stock to light weight stuff my 29er pro is just flat out stupid fast, it gets me in trouble sometimes....

  3. #3
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    I love my Camber as well. Coming from a Hardrock, the Camber was confidence inspiring to the point that riding twice or three times as fast wasn't terrifying, just loose, as I wasn't bracing for impact like I was on the Hardrock. I'm in Northeast Texas and blasting through tree lined trails is an absolute blast on the Camber. I've ridden motocross bikes for the better part of 30 years and blasting on the FS Camber made me feel immediately comfortable. Those tree lined twisty trails is the reason I'll stick with a 26" wheel, just feels more nimble to me.

    Currently trying to figure out how to talk the wife into letting me get a SB-66 =]
    '11 Specialized Camber Elite

  4. #4
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    love the review. I have the expert as well and love the bike. I live in So Cal and will hard pack with lose over top as well i swapped out the front tire to a 2.2 purgatoy and it works great. You should be able to swap out your tires with the lbs to try a different specialized tire that is in the same price range. I also put a short caged xtr on the rear with a 2x10 drive with slx crank. The shorter cage is great. Just like Specialized_Camber I come form a motorcross back ground and the 26" just feel more nimble and fun to me.

  5. #5
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    Nice review. Funny, I did the complete opposite. I gave up my 26 hardtail and got me a Camber 29er. Yin Yang.
    --If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried before.

  6. #6
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    Great write-up mate. Well done!

    Thanks, J

  7. #7
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    I got rid of my stumjumper 29er for a 2011 stumjumper comp 26er. Absolutely love it. Much more fun throwing bike around in the tight stuff. Although on the climbs i do miss the 29er. Not enough fun factor to go back though.

  8. #8
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    Wow! Some riders are actually switching from 29ers back to 26ers? Is this a new trend developing before my dedicated 26er eyes???
    ...and proud member of the anti-sock puppet desolation

  9. #9
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    We'll start a new support group for guys that have gone from 29 to 26, clearly there is something wrong with us.
    Hardrock 29er, Niner EMD9, Cannondale F29, Camber Expert, 650b Nickel all gone.
    2014 Giant Anthem 27.5 here.

  10. #10
    "2 Wycked"
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    Quote Originally Posted by ds33gt View Post
    Good review...once I switched out my heavy rolling stock to light weight stuff my 29er pro is just flat out stupid fast, it gets me in trouble sometimes....
    What did you switch too? I have the camber elite 29er and been thinking about a lighter wheel upgrade.
    Ahhhh...Ahhhh....it's the hammy, it's the hammy!!

  11. #11
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    Crests laced to AC hubs, 1525 grams for the wheelset, compared to about 2100 for my stock dt520 wheelset. That alone is almost 1.5 pounds, 1.3 to be exact.

    Tires were the specialized s works 2.2 front and control rear 2.0. They weighed 665, and 670 respectively. Went to maxxis icon exo's in 2.2 at 580 each, so another 180 grams or .4 pounds.

    XX cassette is 210 grams, stock hg81 is 425. Double the weight!!! saving of 215 grams or 1/2 pound.

    Rotors were avid g3's at 125/each, went to knnc at 73 grams each, 100 grams save, .25 pounds

    Prolly arounder 100 grams between the qr's(stock ones are boat anchors) and titanium bolts.

    Looking at real close to 3 pounds in savings. 28lbs stock to now at 24.5. Also have carbon bar, post, and most bolts switched to titanium/aluminum.

  12. #12
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    I would say this is pretty typical as the huge drawback of the 29" wheel is its weight, in order to make the 29" feel nimble it gets real expensive.

  13. #13
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    This is funny. I bought the Camber Expert, then had buyers remorse thinking I should have gotten an Epic 29er FSR. Never mind the fact that I couldn't afford the Epic! Grass is always greener on the other side. But I rode my Camber yesterday and had the best time. I think sometimes there is SO much out there and it is SO heavily marketed, we all buy into things and question evrything else. Truth is this: The grass is greener WHERE YOU WATER IT! I think I'll go for a spin today, forget the details, and ride like I did when I was 10 years old. THAT is when I fell in love with bikes... 27 years ago!

  14. #14
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    ahhh, the more im read the more i am convinced to buy a camber pro over a pitch pro!

  15. #15
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    party crasher: this review is more about switching from a HT to a FS ... period.

    dude, no offense, but you said yourself, your new to mtn biking, and you thought a HT was best suited to your trails....and then BAAM, test rode a FS and you went WAY FASTER....well guess what, you just got your eyes opened to the FS world, and how you can just sit and pedal over stuff and its like your on a cloud.

    2cents spent....cheers

  16. #16
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    Camber pro is a great bike, hopefully you can still get one, my lbs said they were very low on stock last time I was there a few weeks back.

    There was one on eBay a few weeks back, only a few rides on it for, it went for $1500. There is a comp or elite on their now for cheap as well...

  17. #17
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    For my taste, I prefer the quicker acceleration of the 26" wheel. I've got my 2011 Cannondale Scalpel 2 down to 21.4lbs with pedals, so that may be part of the reason. I tested a few 29ers and it wasn't for me.

    Someone mentioned a support group for 26" riders...let me know where the next meeting takes place.

  18. #18
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    I actually went from a full suspension 2012 Camper( that I was never satisfied with) with full XT to a hard tail Carve 29er with Full XTR and the Roval Controls/DT swiss 350 hubs with the ratchet system. I built the carve and I ended up putting the Brain front fork on it. That bike was amazing and completely fast.

    After some time, I realized that there were some benefits to having full suspension. So after I decided that I would keep the carve, I started looking for another full suspension bike. However, after getting accustomed to the Front Brain, it was hard to go back to standard from fork config.

    After some thought, I went with an S-works Epic 29er and dressed it out with Ritchey carbon bar and stem, I9's, Magura brakes, and full XTR with pedals. That bike is unreal. It is straight speed. Anyway, long story short, I will never ride 26er again.

    Great write up though.

  19. #19
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    I actually went from 2011 to 2013 in about 35 seconds.... I wonder if the OP is back on a 29er now that he has had time to mature? #zombiethreadbump
    Fat guys need bikes too.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knight511 View Post
    I actually went from 2011 to 2013 in about 35 seconds.... I wonder if the OP is back on a 29er now that he has had time to mature? #zombiethreadbump
    LOL.... I would not be shocked if he did.

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