Writing & Photos: Steven Sadler, HIGHLINERS MTB Team Member
I first rode the Stumpy on the Big Mountain Trail at Snowbird. The first thing I noticed was how nimble the bike was. With a chain stay length of 437mm I could easily pick the front tire up to manual over bumps or take drops at very low speeds if needed. The larger wheels also made rock gardens and rough trail a breeze. A Butcher up front and a Slaughter in the rear, both 2.3”, gripped the dry Utah dirt without sacrificing rolling resistance. Maybe not the best tire combination for wetter, slicker conditions, though.
Since I took the tram up at Snowbird and didn’t get a good test of how well the bike could pedal uphill I headed to a short 2 mile loop I’ve done a hundred times. 8 min and 35 sec later I had beaten my best time by over a minute. The Race Face Aeffect transferred power to the ground efficiently and the bike didn’t noticeably bob even in the open position. I was also surprised how much I enjoyed not having a pack on my back since the SWAT system held everything I needed. A tube, some plugs, a CO2, and the integrated tool above the shock takes away any need to carry anything on your back.
These first two rides had some technical terrain but were mostly buffed out dirt without any real hard hits on the suspension. So I headed down to Moab with the HIGHLINERSmtb team to give the bike a go at some fast, hard hitting sandstone. Day one was Porcupine Rim from Kokopelli. Even though the bike held up to everything we threw at it it definitely hit its limit. Repeated drops at speed overpowered the rear shock but in its defense I blindly trusted the auto sag when I should’ve added some pressure. The steeper 67 degree head angle also made it a little less comfortable than a more raked out bike at higher speeds. However, this didn’t stop me from being able to ride as fast as I wanted, hitting any of the drops I wanted, or being able to find the back side of every rock or feature that came my way. As much as I loved having all my tools and spare parts in the downtube it does get a little noisy rattling around in there.
Day two of the Moab trip was Mag 7 to Portal. This is where I was really glad to have the 29” wheel. Lots of bumps and ledges to roll up and down. This is also where I could feel the weight of the rear aluminum triangle. The front tire comes up so easily it was surprising how hard I had to pull to get the rear end up. I was always able to get over every ledge I went for, there was just a little more effort involved.
In the end, this is an extremely capable bike that can handle almost every style of riding. Incredibly efficient pedaller on the up and the 29” wheels carry so much speed down. I didn’t feel that this bike was any less nimble than a 27.5” with the exception of slow, steep, tight switchbacks. If I had the bike longer I would’ve replaced the 750mm bar with a 780mm, added a few air tokens to the shock, and put some foam in the downtube to stop the rattling.