Blister Brand Guide: Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup, 2020

Intro

When considering a new mountain bike, there are so many similar-looking bikes on the market being made by so many different companies, it is virtually impossible to (1) know where to begin; (2) quickly figure out which one or two products from a given brand might work well for you; and (3) determine what products from other brands might be the most similar and also worth considering.

So in our new “Blister Brand Guide” series, we provide an overview of the entire product lineup of a brand; highlight how each product stands out from the rest of that brand’s lineup; and help you figure out quickly and easily which bike might work best for you. 

In our individual product reviews, we go very deep into the details of particular products. With these Brand Guides, the goal is not Depth, but Breadth. Our Brand Guides and full reviews are designed to complement each other — provide a broad overview of entire company lineups, and then also very detailed reviews of individual products. First up on the MTB side is Specialized, and stay tuned as we roll out a ton of other Brand Guides over the coming weeks.

Our mountain bike Brand Guides are presented by CBGTrails. Learn more and start planning your trip today at cbgtrails.com, then download the CBG Trails app for info on the 750+ miles of singletrack and 150+ trails in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley, Colorado.

See our other MTB Brand Guides

About Specialized

Started in 1974, Specialized was heavily involved in early mountain-bike development. As one of the largest bicycle manufacturers, they’ve had a massive influence on the whole industry. They make mountain bikes on the entire price spectrum, so people looking to try out mountain biking for the first time and the fastest racers in the world can all consider Specialized.

They are currently based in Morgan Hill, California, USA.

Current Warranty

  • Lifetime warranty to the original owner against structural defects in material or workmanship on ALL models of Specialized-branded frames, forks, and Roval wheels (Specialized’s wheel brand).
  • Five-year warranty on suspension attachment points and related equipment (pivot points, bushings, chain stays, seat stays, shock links, fasteners) on bikes sold after 2008.
  • If you’re the second, or later, owner of a Specialized or Roval product, you are eligible for a two-year warranty from the date of the original retail purchase.
    • This policy applies to all Specialized products sold after July 1st, 2018.
  • For more information, visit this website.

Specialized’s Suspension Design: FSR (originally stood for Future shock Rear)

(For more on different suspension designs, see our Suspension 101 article)

Before we get into their specific models and build options, here are some things to keep in mind when deciding on which build level to go with, and why.

First, when looking at complete bikes, suspension and wheels are going to make the biggest difference in how a bike really rides. Spend money on those before other things like higher-end drivetrain parts, cockpit parts (e.g., stem, handlebars, etc.), cranks, etc.

Tires make an enormous difference in performance, but are cheaper and easier to upgrade, especially since they tend to wear down quicker than other components. Upgrading a lower-end front tire to something better — and saving the original for rear-tire use — can be a good way to improve a bike while still making use of the originals, since front tires are generally a lot more important than rear tires when it comes to traction.

Drivetrain parts can be upgraded piecemeal as they wear out, or if you just want to upgrade down the line. Higher-end cassettes are mostly just lighter, while higher-end shifters and derailleurs get lighter, smoother, and sometimes last a bit longer as you go up in price.

We’ll outline here the different models in Specialized’s MTB lineup, organized from most cross-country-oriented (XC) to downhill-oriented (DH). In other words, the bikes at the top of the list are optimized to pedal and climb uphill very well, while the bikes at the bottom are optimized to handle very rough, steep, and challenging descents very well.

We’ve included some notable information for each model:

Available build kits & their MSRP

  • Best Budget Build: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people trying to spend the least amount without ending up with a build that’s going to immediately break or need to be upgraded.
  • Most Performance for the Price: These are the build kits that we think make the most sense for people seeking the best balance of performance and cost. I.e., if you don’t need to get the cheapest bike, but you also don’t need the absolute lightest bike or all the newest bling, this is the build we think makes sense for you.
  • Suspension travel (e.g., 100 mm of travel, 130 mm of travel, etc.)
  • Wheel size (e.g., 27.5”, 27.5+, 29”)
  • Frame material options (e.g., alloy vs. carbon)
  • A brief description of what the bike was designed for and any notable design details.
  • Some of the bike’s most direct competitors from other brands
  • Which Specialized bike it’s most similar to
  • Reasons why you should buy it
  • Reasons why you should not buy it

Specialized Mountain Bikes

(Most Cross-Country-Oriented to Most Downhill-Oriented)

Blister Brand Guide: 2020 Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 80/90/100 mm (XS, S, M-XL)
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 29"
  • Alloy

One of Specialized’s budget-oriented hardtails, with 1x drivetrains on all models. Note: Specialized also makes the Rockhopper and Pitch, two other budget-oriented hardtails, but we think the Chisel is the best of the three for people who are looking for a dedicated mountain bike, rather than a gravel or commuter bike.

Consider If:

  • You are a beginner looking to get into the sport
  • You race XC and are looking for a good entry-level bike
  • You are on a budget

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride or race steep, technical, and bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is forgiving on descents
  • You are willing to spend some more money for more performance (uphill & downhill)
  • Chisel: $1,375
  • Comp: $1,620 – Best Budget Build
  • Expert: $2,020 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Trek X-Caliber
  • Giant Fathom 29
  • Kona Kahuna
  • Scott Aspect
Blister Brand Guide: 2020 Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 100 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 29"
  • Carbon

Specialized’s XC Race Hardtail has been redone for model year 2020 to be lighter, faster, and more forgiving.

More like the Epic than the Chisel.

Consider If:

  • You appreciate a lightweight hardtail that climbs well
  • You ride or race XC-style for long distances on smoother trails

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride or race steep, technical, and bumpy trails
  • You often ride or race steep, technical, and bumpy trails
  • Epic Hardtail: $2,120 – Best Budget Build
  • Comp: $2,620 
  • Expert: $4,320 
  • Pro: $5,520 – Most Performance for the Price
  • S-Works XTR: $8,520
  • S-Works Ultralight: $9,020
  • S-Works AXS: $9,520
  • S-Works Frameset: $2,500
  • Trek Procaliber
  • Scott Scale
  • Giant XTC
  • Pivot Les
  • Santa Cruz Highball
  • Canyon Exceed
Blister Brand Guide: 2020 Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 100 mm
  • Rear: 100 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon

Specialized’s general full-suspension XC bike. Fits 2 water bottles in the front triangle.

More like the Epic Evo than the Epic Hardtail

Consider If:

  • You appreciate a full-suspension bike that climbs well
  • You ride or race XC-style for long distances on trails that are more bumpy and / or technical

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • Comp Carbon: $4,220
  • Women’s Comp Carbon: $4,220
  • Expert: $5,520 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Pro: $6,850
  • S-Works: $10,020
  • Women’s S-Works: $10,020
  • S-Works AXS: $11,000
  • S-Works Frameset: $3,750
  • Scott Spark RC
  • Giant Anthem 29
  • Cannondale Scalpel-Si
  • Pivot Mach 4 SL (World Cup Builds)
  • Santa Cruz Blur
  • Intense Sniper XC
  • Norco Revolver FS 100
  • Canyon Lux
Blister Brand Guide: 2020 Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 120 mm
  • Rear: 100 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon or Aluminum

Same frame as Epic, but with longer 120 mm fork, burlier front tire, and a dropper post. This bike was born out of squeezing a bit more downhill fun out of the standard Epic.

More like the Epic than the Fuse

Consider If:

  • You are looking for a bit more fun out of a full-suspension cross country bike
  • You appreciate a dropper post
  • You race or ride cross-country style on slightly bumpy, steep, and technical trails

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • Comp: $3,220 – Best Budget Build
  • Comp Carbon: $4,420
  • Expert: $5,850 – Most Performance for the Price
  • S-Works: $10,400
  • Trek Top Fuel
  • Santa Cruz Blur (TR Builds)
  • Scott Spark
  • Yeti SB100
  • Pivot Mach 4 SL
  • Kona Hei Hei
  • Rocky Mountain Element
  • Cannondale Scalpel-Si SE
Blister Brand Guide: 2020 Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 130 mm
  • Rear: Hardtail
  • 27.5" or 29"
  • Aluminum

Specialized’s most downhill-capable hardtail.

More like the Epic Evo than the Stumpjumper ST

Consider If:

  • You appreciate hardtails, but want one that has slightly more aggressive geometry
  • You often ride trails that are slightly steep, bumpy, and technical
  • You are looking for a bike with plus-sized tires

Don’t Bother If:

  • You often ride very steep, fast, technical, bumpy trails
  • You like a bike that is more forgiving on descents than it is a good climber
  • You are looking for a lightweight, XC race-style hardtail
  • Fuse 27.5: $1,250
  • Comp 29: $1,675 – Best Budget Build
  • Expert 29: $2,150 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Frameset: $800
  • Trek Stache
  • Santa Cruz Chameleon
  • Kona Honzo
  • Transition Vanquish
  • Nukeproof Scout 290
Blister Brand Guide: 2020 Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 130 mm
  • Rear: 120 mm
  • 27.5" or 29"
  • Carbon or Aluminum

This bike took over the Camber line; take the classic Stumpjumper FSR and add some climbing capability in a lighter package. SWAT integrated downtube storage (carbon models only).

More like the Stumpjumper than the Fuse

Consider If:

  • You appreciate a bike that climbs well, but want a bit more downhill capability than a pure XC bike
  • You want a bike that is relatively well-rounded
  • You ride a mix of terrain and styles

Don’t Bother If:

  • The trails you ride are mostly smooth and flat
  • You’re looking for a bike that is very capable and forgiving in steep, technical, fast, bumpy descents
  • Stumpjumper ST 29: $1,870
  • Stumpjumper ST 27.5: $1,870
  • Comp Alloy 29: $3,020 – Best Budget Build
  • Women’s Comp Alloy 29: $3,320
  • Comp Carbon 27.5: $4,520
  • Comp Carbon 29: $4,520
  • Women’s Comp Carbon 29: $4,520
  • Expert 27.5: $5,000 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Expert 29: $5,000 – Most Performance for the Price
  • S-Works 27.5: $9,520
  • S-Works 29: $9,520
  • Trek Fuel EX
  • Pivot Trail 429
  • Giant Anthem
  • Santa Cruz Tallboy / Juliana Joplin
  • Transition Smuggler
  • Intense Sniper Trail
  • Ibis Ripley
  • Norco Optic
  • Devinci Django 29
  • Evil The Following MB
  • Cannondale Habit & Bad Habit
  • Canyon Neuron
Blister Brand Guide: 2020 Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 150 mm
  • Rear: 140 mm
  • 27.5" or 29"
  • Carbon or Aluminum

Specialized’s best Quiver Killer. The Stumpjumper is Specialized’s classic do-it-all Trail bike. It was redone for the 2019 lineup with more aggressive geometry and travel. SWAT integrated downtube storage (carbon models only).

More like the Stumpjumper EVO than the Stumpjumper ST

Consider If:

  • You’re looking for a do-it-all Trail bike
  • You appreciate a good, fast, technical, and / or steep descent, and are willing to climb for it
  • You occasionally race Enduro and / or enjoy riding lift-served bike parks or shuttling to the top of descents

Don’t Bother If:

  • You want a bike that is a very quick, lightweight climber
  • The trails you ride are mostly smooth and flat
  • You want a very capable and forgiving bike that crushes descents and are willing to sacrifice some climbing ability
  • Comp Alloy 29: $3,320 – Best Budget Build
  • Comp Alloy 27.5: $3,320 – Best Budget Build
  • Women’s Comp 27.5: $3,320
  • Women’s Comp Carbon 27.5: $4,220
  • Comp Carbon 29: $4,520
  • Comp Carbon 27.5: $4,520
  • Women’s Comp Carbon 27.5 – 12 Speed: $4,520
  • Expert 27.5: $5,000 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Expert 29: $5,000 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Pro 29: $6,300
  • S-Works 27.5: $9,520
  • S-Works 29: $9,520
  • S-Works AXS 29: $10,520
  • S-Works Frameset 29: $3,200
  • S-Works Frameset 27.5: $3,200
  • Santa Cruz Hightower / Juliana Maverick
  • Yeti SB130
  • Trek Fuel EX & Remedy
  • Pivot Switchblade
  • Giant Trance Advanced
  • Kona Process 153 & Process 153 29
  • Rocky Mountain Instinct & Thunderbolt
  • Intense Primer 29
  • Ibis Mojo 3 & Ripmo
  • Norco Sight
  • Devinci Troy 27 & Troy 29
  • Evil The Calling & The Offering
  • Cannondale Trigger & Jekyll 29
  • Scott Genius
  • Canyon Spectral
Blister Brand Guide: 2020 Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 150 mm
  • Rear: 140 mm
  • 27.5" or 29"
  • Carbon or Aluminum

Somewhat “radical” geometry — this bike is longer, lower, and more slack than the Stumpjumper. Although it shares the same travel as the Stumpjumper, the EVO version is more downhill oriented. SWAT integrated downtube storage (carbon models only).

More like the Stumpjumper than the Enduro

Consider If:

  • You get along with bikes that have long, low, and slack geometry
  • You appreciate a good, fast, technical, and / or steep descent, and are willing to climb for it
  • You occasionally race Enduro and / or enjoy riding lift-served bike parks or shuttling to the top of descents

Don’t Bother If:

  • You want a bike that is a quick, lightweight climber
  • The trails you ride are mostly smooth and flat
  • You don’t like the idea of relatively long, low, and slack geometry
  • Comp Alloy 29: $3,620 – Best Budget Build
  • Comp Alloy 27.5: $3,620 – Best Budget Build
  • Comp Carbon 29: $4,520
  • Comp Carbon 27.5: $4,520
  • Pro 29: $6,620 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Pro 27.5: $6,620 -Most Performance for the Price
  • Alloy 29 Frameset: $1,700
  • Alloy 27.5 Frameset: $1,700
  • Carbon 29 Frameset: $3,000
  • Carbon 27.5 Frameset: $3,000
  • Santa Cruz Megatower & Bronson / Juliana Roubion
  • Pivot Mach 5.5 & Switchblade
  • Yeti SB130
  • Commencal Meta TR 29
  • Transition Sentinel & Scout
  • Rocky Mountain Altitude
  • Intense Primer 27.5
  • YT Jeffsy 27 & 29
  • Ibis Mojo HD4 & Ripmo AF
Blister Brand Guide: 2020 Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 170/160 mm
  • Rear: 170/160 mm
  • 27.5" / 29"
  • Carbon or Aluminum

29/6Fattie models can fit 27.5”+ wheels and tires. SWAT integrated downtube storage (carbon models only). This bike was overhauled for 2020 (see next bike).

More like the 2020 Enduro than the Stumpjumper EVO

Consider If:

  • You want a bike that is capable and forgiving on the descents
  • You race Enduro, like to shuttle to the top of descents, and / or ride lift-served terrain
  • You enjoy pushing your limits on fast, steep, chunky, and technical terrain
  • You’re looking to buy a used bike or a bike on sale

Don’t Bother If:

  • You ride mostly smooth and flat trails
  • You are looking for an XC-style bike that climbs very well
  • You are looking for the latest-and-greatest from Specialized
  • Comp 29/6Fattie: $3,200 – Best Budget Build
  • Elite 29/6Fattie: $4,500
  • Elite 27.5: $4,820
  • Elite 29: $4,820
  • Coil 29/6Fattie: $5,800 – Most Performance for the Price
  • Pro 650b (27.5”): $6,500
  • 27.5 Frameset: $3,500

 

  • Trek Remedy & Slash
  • Santa Cruz Megatower & Nomad
  • Yeti SB150 & SB165
  • Giant Reign
  • Pivot Firebird & Firebird 29
  • Canyon Strive
Blister Brand Guide: 2020 Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 170 mm
  • Rear: 170 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon

New for model year 2020, the updated Enduro only comes with 29” wheels, features a linkage design inspired by the Specialized Demo, more travel, a slacker head angle, longer reach, and steeper seat tube angle compared to the previous version of the Enduro. SWAT integrated downtube storage.

More like the 2018 / 2019 Enduro than the Demo

Consider If:

  • You want a bike that is capable and forgiving on the descents
  • You race Enduro, like to shuttle to the top of descents, and / or ride lift-served terrain
  • You want the benefits of fast-rolling 29” wheels
  • You enjoy pushing your limits on fast, steep, chunky, and technical terrain
  • You want the latest-and-greatest from Specialized

Don’t Bother If:

  • You ride mostly smooth and flat trails
  • You are looking for an XC-style bike that climbs very well
  • You want a more freeride style long-travel bike, rather than a race-oriented bike.
  • Comp: $4,510 (Fall arrival) – Best Budget Build
  • Elite: $5,310 (Fall arrival) 
  • Expert: $6,550 – Most Performance for the Price 
  • S-Works: $9,750
  • S-Works Frameset: $3,310 (Coming soon)

 

  • Santa Cruz Megatower
  • Yeti SB150
  • Pivot Firebird 29
  • Commencal Meta AM 29
  • YT Capra 29
  • Devinci Spartan 29
  • Evil The Wreckoning
  • Scott Ransom
Blister Brand Guide: 2020 Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 200 mm
  • Rear: 200 mm
  • 27.5"
  • Carbon or Aluminum

Specialized’s 27.5” dedicated Downhill bike.

More like the Demo 29 than the Enduro

Consider If:

  • You often ride lift-served bike parks or like to shuttle to the top of descents
  • The trails you ride are fast, steep, technical, rocky, rooty, and / or have large jumps
  • You like the advantage of agile 27.5” wheels
  • You race downhill and prefer 27.5” wheels

Don’t Bother If:

  • You plan on climbing to the top of descents
  • You want the advantage of fast-rolling 29” wheels
  • The trails you ride aren’t very fast, steep, technical, and bumpy
  • Alloy 27.5: $3,400
  • S-Works Carbon Frameset: $4,000
  • Trek Session 27.5
  • Santa Cruz V10 27.5”
  • YT Tues 27
  • Giant Glory 
  • Pivot Phoenix
  • Devinci Wilson 27
  • Commencal Supreme DH
  • Canyon Sender
Blister Brand Guide: 2020 Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup
  • Front: 200 mm
  • Rear: 200 mm
  • 29"
  • Carbon

Very successful World Cup DH race bike with 29” wheels, finally brought into production for 2020.

Consider If:

  • You race downhill and prefer 29” wheels
  • You want the advantages of fast-rolling 29” wheels
  • You often ride lift-served bike parks or like to shuttle to the top of descents
  • The trails you ride are fast, steep, technical, rocky, rooty, and / or have large jumps

Don’t Bother If:

  • You plan on climbing to the top of descents
  • You want the advantage of nimble 27.5” wheels
  • The trails you ride aren’t very fast, steep, technical, and bumpy
  • Demo Expert: $5,000.00 – Best Budget Build & Most Performance for the Price
  • Demo Race: $6,500.00
  • Demo Race Frame: $2,500.00
  • Trek Session 29
  • Santa Cruz V10 29”
  • YT Tues 29
  • Commencal Supreme DH 29
  • Pivot Phoenix 29
  • Devinci Wilson 29
  • Scott Gambler

10 comments on “Blister Brand Guide: Specialized Mountain Bike Lineup, 2020”

  1. Awesome format, guys!

    Have been waiting for this and you exceeded expectations!

    Would also love a Blister „best of“ for mountain bikes at some point.

  2. I was able to demo the new enduro. I don’t know whether it’s my biomechanics or inherent in the bike, but I felt centered between the axles unlike any other bike I’ve demoed (SC, Ibis, Mondraker, Intense). Pedals pretty well for an enduro. Uphills… well it’s an enduro bike :)

  3. I’m interested why you tagged Stumpjumper EVO Comp Carbon as best budget build, while the only difference with lower model – Comp Alloy – is a frame material? Also it’s strange to exclude Ibis Ripmo and Ripmo AF as similar bikes for SJ and SJ EVO.

    • Alex,
      The Comp Alloy should have been Best Budget Build, that was an error on my end. As for the Ripmo AF, it was released a day before this guide and I was unable to add it before we published; but now, it is under SJ Evo as I agree it should be. Thanks for catching those.

  4. You’re welcome guys. Sorry if my initial comment sounded rude.

    BTW thanx for such awesome guide!

    Also one question for SJ EVO 29 sizing. I want to buy 2 new bikes for me (178cm / 5’10”) and my wife (165cm / 5’5”)
    Both bikes are going to be do-it-all bikes for local trails, bike parks and dedicated downhill runs. I like to catch a lot of air and prefer loose riding style instead of plowing as fast as possible down. And my wife hasn’t decided yet what her preferences are.
    So SJ evo in high setting is almost similar in geometry numbers to Transition sentinel. If I apply transition’s size chart to SJ EVO, I’m between sizes and my for my wife S2 is a going to be a huge bike.

    Also SJ EVO somehow similar to Ripmo AF but their numbers vary – Ripmo has longer reach, shorter chainstay and wheelbase. After applying their size chart to EVO I should look only on S3 and S2 is good enough for my wife.

    What do you s think of that? Is SJ EVO in size S2 going to be good for someone who is 165cm/5’5”? Is S3 is good for chill rides for someone who is 178cm / 5’10”?

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