Hardtail eh? Wait… 29er hardtail? Carbon 29er hardtail? Now we’re talkin’! The 2010 Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29er is definitely one stoke-worthy machine. This carbon fiber beauty comes out of the box ready to destroy local singletrack and roll over everything in sight. I have had an absolute blast on this bike… no question. So, lets get on with the review already.

Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29er Features:

  • FACT 8M carbon frame
  • Tapered head tube for stiffness
  • Fox F29 RL suspension fork with 90mm travel
  • Specialized cockpit (stem, bars, grips, seatpost)
  • Avid Elixir CR SL brakes (160mm rotors)
  • Custom DT Swiss X450SL Wheelset (Specialized front hub, DT Swiss rear & DT Swiss spokes)
  • SRAM X.0/X.9 and Shimano Drivetrain
  • Weight: 25.2 lbs (as tested)
  • MSRP: $3300

Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29er Review

When the Expert Carbon arrived, I was very anxious to get it out on the trails. I’m a huge proponent in carbon fiber frames, but had yet to ride a carbon fiber 29er hardtail. The much-delayed (but well worth the wait, I’m sure) Niner AIR 9 Carbon continues to be slow to appear, while at the same time, The Big S is pumping out two killer carbon-fiber race-ready hardtails that are already hitting dirt all around the world.

This year has seen amazing interest and growth in 29ers. Nearly every manufacturer underestimated the demand and local bike shops are having a hard time keeping some of the hottest bikes on the shelf. That said, I feel lucky enough to have the Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29er at my disposal.

Sometimes demo bikes come to me brand new, unridden while other times they are broken-in already. This one had been used a bit in the desert, but was in great shape. With some minor adjustments in the brake pad contact point on the Avid Elixir CR (simple twist of the barrel) and a quick swap from the stock stem to a shorter, 70mm Easton EA50 and I was in business.

Rocking the singletrack in Corner Canyon, Utah.

If you have yet to ride a carbon fiber frame, boy are you missing out. No other material reacts quicker, feels as snappy or absorbs chatter better than carbon. There’s just something about the makeup of carbon bikes that gives them superhero-like qualities. This bike is just that — a superhero maker. While pedaling the Expert Carbon 29er, I felt like I could climb for miles and miles with every pedal stroke efficiently propelling me forward. The front wheel tracks straight and the rear wheel stays firmly-planted in terra firma while my legs and lungs press forward with traction aplenty.

Without question, this bike is the best climber of any hardtail I’ve ridden. Oftentimes, I felt as if I was being shot out of a cannon as every pedal stroke was met with lightning-fast acceleration.

When it comes to snaky singletrack, the Stumpy absolutely shines and begs for more. I dropped the saddle for my favorite 1600 vert of joy down Jacob’s Ladder and Ghost Falls Trails in Draper, UT and proceeded to fly. Big wheels maintain so much momentum, that I would often come into a corner a bit hot. No worries though as I’d brake and lean into the corner only to find the bike digging in and begging to be pushed harder. I can pump this bike hard and fly through winding singletrack — every pedal stroke and every angulation is met with confidence-inspiring traction and spring-like rebound into the next turn.

I’ve felt like the shorter stem has put me in a better riding position for me and offered more comfortable handling. The long-ish 24.2-inch top tube on this frame is tamed with the shorter stem and I’m now completely satisfied with the fit.

Fun on the flow trails in Corner Canyon, Utah.

The only major negative I’ve found is at extremely slow speeds where I felt like the bike could easily tip over. Maintaining momentum is key with the big hoops and this one seems to get a little wonky when it loses all its steam. The only other gripe I can say is the arched top tube does reduce standover height — lets just hope I don’t put that to the test.

The entire package leaves nothing to be desired, really. Yeah, you could carbon-out the cockpit or cranks, but I’ve been completely-satisfied with every part of this fun-filled package. The crisp SRAM shifting is outstanding and the DT Swiss wheelset has rolled smoothly and tracked straight. The Fox F29 90mm fork has been smooth and consistent (set at 80 psi – 170 lb. rider weight). As always, I missed having a quick-release seatpost collar (hello… nobody wants to pull out the allen wrench).

The Good

  • So quick it nearly climbs itself to the top
  • This bike likes to be pushed hard and railed in/out of corners
  • Carbon fiber makes this bike accelerate like a rocket
  • Small bumps just disappeared
  • Very lightweight package that can still be lightened further, if desired
  • Tapered steerer provides pinpoint handling
  • SRAM X.9/X.0 offers the best quality shifting on the market
  • Solid, capable DT Swiss wheelset (bling pewter color too!)
  • Specialized S-Works Fast Trak LK tires hooked up very well
  • Fox F29 provides smooth performance in classic Fox-style

The Bad

  • What’s with the SRAMano component mix? Just go with SRAM top-to-bottom
  • Seems like a few parts could be higher-end (cranks, RLC fork)
  • No quick-release seatpost clamp
  • Can feel top-heavy at very slow speeds on technical turns
  • Curved top tube limits standover

Bottom Line: Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29

I can confidently say that 2010 is the breakout year for 29ers and you’d really be very hard-pressed to find another race-worthy and trail-friendly hardtail 29er on the market today. This is the complete package from top-to-bottom. Now, good luck finding one at your local bike shop because I hear they are going quite fast.

Buy Now: Find a Local Specialized Dealer

About Author

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jason quickly developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 -- sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.


  1. Not Available on

    Too bad there are none of these frames or bikes left available in the Specialized inventory. There haven’t been any S-works bikes available since Jan 2010. There are no more Specialized Carbon mtb cranks available either. Thanks Speci, for limiting my choices. I was willing to spend the $$$$ on the S-works and high end Speci parts, but had to settle for a less costly Speci bike. I don’t like to settle for less.

  2. Hey man… yup. Nearly everyone underestimated the demand of 29ers and this one happens to be one of those that was snapped up all over the place. I can’t say I blame anyone because this bike is stellar. There’s a 21″ at my LBS still, but that’s all I’ve seen around (haven’t looked all that hard though).

    Sorry man, but there’s always next year, right?

    • Jason, how tall are you ? I wan’t to purchase the Stumpjumper Carbon 29er. Don’t know if I should get the small or medium. 5’6″ tall. Can’t find 1 to test. Seem to fall in between ?????? Thanks

      • I’m 5’11” and typically fall between a Medium and Large in all Specialized bikes. I like a 23.5-24″ top tube and I can’t get that with any of their sizes, so I have to compromise either way.

        Sizing is always hard, but at your size, I’d be surprised if a Small wasn’t the better fit. With 29ers, sizing up can be problematic as the bike will feel wonky. That’s what I’d say. Good luck!

      • Bill Andrews on

        I am 5’6 and just got the 15.5 (small) love the bike! I got the Evo r model. Lightning fast and a joy to ride. The larger tires give a bit of suspension especially going tubeless.

  3. I am riding 26″ expert carbon 2010. I will definitely try 29″, wondering if the difference is realy so big. Too bad they both are in stock a bit heavy for serious podium racing, especialy wheelset sucks a lot.

  4. Blacky… since I haven’t ridden the 26er equivalent, I can’t say for sure, but 29er hard tails are considerably smoother than their 26-inch counterparts.

    About the wheels; you’re starting to split hairs there, but you’re right. You could potentially shave some weight there. I’d go tubeless for sure and lighten up the various other components first, but rolling weight is something you want to reduce for racing — just depends on how serious you really are, I guess. Out of the box, this build is stellar, IMO.

  5. I like Specialized bikes, the new Stumpjumper FSR is sweet, but IMO they are overpriced coming with “cheap” parts. A lot of parts are called custom and in my experienced worse than regular and for example: Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon for USD 4400 and it comes with FOX RL fork? not RLC? on an almost 5 thousand dollars bike?

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  7. These bikes are available now. We just got quite a few in last week, both the Expert an Comp Stumpy’s!

  8. Eric Keahey on

    Jason- ‘SRAMano’, depending on the where what components are used, can be the best available… particularly Shimano F der with SRAM shifters and R der… also Shimano cassettes are superior (and lighter) in my opinion. Now with XX out… who knows, I haven’t had the pleasure yet.

  9. Wookiewrench on

    Hhhmmmm, I’m looking for a race-able 29er hardtail. Thanks for the great review Jason, this just went on my short list. Haveyou had a chance to ride a Banshee Paradox yet?

  10. I have the 2010 Stumpjumper Comp 29- the aluminum version of this bike. It’s my first 29er, and ohmylord is it sweet. Set up at 24lbs it flies up hills, and is suprisingly nimble over techy sections. I can only imagine the carbon version. I did have to flip the stem up since I was taking a a few too many trips over the bars, and after reading your other post re: stems, I just ordered a 50mm stem. One complaint- it has a low BB- I’m constantly striking the pedals when churning through rough stuff. Specialized actaully emphasises its low BB height in its ad with Todd Wells. Did you notice this issue on the carbon version? I have the medium, 17.5- don’t know if that makes a difference.

  11. Hey Jay!

    Glad you’re digging yours man! Carbon makes it that much smoother (but also more expensive).

    As far as BB height, I didn’t notice it being particularly low, but the terrain I rode wasn’t the most rocky/technical. However, I don’t recall thinking it felt low by any means. Looking at Specialized’s Web site reveals the BB height is 304mm for both bikes.

  12. I’m racing the 26 SJ carbon expert and love it. I changed the wheelset for racing to CrossMax SLR’s tubeless and the bike explodes more than accelerates at the start. I’ve raced 12 hr’s at oleta (very rooty in FL) and the bike performs great. I already have an order for next years 29er version at LBS, Spec hit it outta the park with these bikes.

  13. Hi Jason,
    Sorry if this is a really dumb question…but WHY does Specialized make the top tube curved? IMO it gets in the way, and is not pretty…so I hope there’s some essential engineering reason going on!

    • Well, I did bring that up in my review and the response I got from Specialized was that the standover is still ample. However, I’m with you and apparently the 2011 engineers are also on your side as the new frame design lacks that upwards-curving top-tube:

      2011 Specialized Stumpjumper Expert 29 Carbon

  14. Hi Jason,

    thanks for the good review. Im highly considering the 2011 model pictured above as my next bike. I’ve been debating over a 26″ or a 29″ bike and from what I have seen the 29″ seems to be superior. I did have the chance to test ride one at the start of 2009 and remember liking it a lot over the very short duration of trails I tested. Would you recommend this bike over a 26″ carbon HT for windy, moderately hilly singletrack?

    My BMX background has me leary that a 29″ wheel will feel ‘too big’

    Overll the 201 model Spec is the best I have seen and am willing to drop the extra cash for the carbon frame. thanks.

  15. It’s always hard to say definitively 26 or 29 for all conditions. I will say this… 29ers will inevitably feel more floppy on low-speed, tight terrain. At least all the 29er’s I’ve ridden. Some are better than others and most are pretty darn good, but they are at a physical disadvantage being taller, so that floppy-ness may always be a slight compromise.

    In the end, my preference for 29ers stems from their superior rolling, improved traction and overall smoothness. I’ll take a little bit of slow-speed wonkyness because they do roll so much faster and smoother.

  16. I was hesitant about getting a 29er because of “slow handling” but after demoing one(Specialized Carbon Expert) I’d have to say my fears were unfounded. Perhaps a teensy bit slow on twisty singletrack but they more than make up for it with the momentum they carry when you start cranking once the trail straightens out. I did notice my pedals hitting a lot also. Looking down at that big 29″ hoop inspires a lot of confidence as your riding over obstacles as well. Fabulous bike. Mine is replacing a 26″ FS that cost nearly twice as much.

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