With the 2021 reboot of its classic 1981 Stumpjumper, Specialized is ushering in a new era of all-action mountain biking adventure.
We’re living in a golden age of mountain biking, thanks to advanced bike technology, epic ride locations and red-hot grassroots interest.
But with its renewed focus on innovation, wild adventures and all-action versatility, the sport is rekindling its original ethos for a new generation.
Back in the 1970s, mountain biking was a quirky sport, enjoyed by a few hardcore bike fans in Colorado and California on the hunt for freedom and adventure. These hippy riders modified old cruiser bicycles by adding fatter tyres and BMX handlebars so they could enjoy off-road adventures.
But Mike Sinyard, the California-based founder of bike brand Specialized, wanted to go further. Following a life-changing European bike tour in his 20s, Sinyard had started his business by importing bike parts to America.
And when he launched the iconic Specialized Stumpjumper in 1981, it was the first mass-produced mountain bike in the world. In doing so, he helped turn a machine into a movement, which is now enjoyed by millions of riders around the world.
“At that moment, everything was about road cycling, so there wasn’t mountain biking, downhill or cyclocross,” explains Richard ‘Neon’ Salaman, merchandising and product manager at Specialized UK.
“Then these Californian riders found this new way of riding, by taking bikes out of dumpsters and garages, welding bits onto them and adding motorbike brakes so they could bomb downhill at 30mph. It was all about adventure.
But because Mike could source the best parts from Europe, he could create a bike specific to mountain biking. Before the Stumpjumper, people had to build their own bike. Now you could go into a shop and buy one.
The old advert said: ‘It’s not just a new bicycle, it’s a whole new sport.’ The Stumpjumper changed everything. Mountain biking got people off the road and allowed them to explore the great unknown.”
Back to the future
Today, with the whole world enjoying a 1980s revival, the new 2021 reboot of Specialized’s 1981 Stumpjumper feels bang on trend.
From 1980s- themed TV shows like Stranger Things to the retro music videos of Dua Lipa, 1980s culture is being reimagined for a new generation. Now the 2021 edition of Specialized’s famous Stumpjumper is taking mountain bikers back to the future, too.
Part high-tech innovation, part cultural treasure, the original ‘Stumpy’ was such a classic design there’s
even a model in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. But the latest upgrade blends this vintage heritage with advanced technology to deliver the ultimate modern trail bike.
“The philosophy of the new Stumpjumper is 100 per cent the same as the original,” explains Salaman. “This is a bike that is built to excite the rider and unlock their full potential. It adds new technology but its core values remain the same: to inspire you and give you freedom to explore.”
The all-new Stumpjumper is as ripped as a pair of 1980s jeans and leaves riders as pumped up as a retro perm. Sculpted by Finite Element Analysis (FEA), Computer Aided Design (CAD) and high-tech manufacturing processes usually reserved for space exploration, the bike’s 2,420g carbon frame is Specialized’s lightest yet.
The brand has eliminated ‘lazy’ material lurking in unoptimised corners of the bike to deliver a light and nimble ride, while upgrading the frame’s stiffness to provide telepathic handling, rail-sharp cornering and extreme durability. The lower bottom bracket adds extra stability, while the advanced, fine-tuned suspension delivers big terrain capability.
“This bike can handle bigger jumps and sketchier descents, but it’s also a light bike that can traverse different terrains,” says Salaman. “It performs if you’re riding cross-country, climbing hills or doing serious downhill.”
Ready for anything
With this versatility, the Stumpjumper perfectly captures the zeitgeist of today’s mountain bike scene. From Netflix to Spotify, we all want on-demand variety, and modern mountain bikers crave the same kind of options and adaptability. Thanks to its lightest-in-class frame, this bike climbs like it has a motor, but it can shred hair-raising downhills just as well.
“Mountain biking today means different things to different people, so we wanted to capture that variety,” says Salaman. “If you don’t know where you’re riding, your bike needs to be ready for anything. Whether you’re in Scotland, Cornwall, or London, this bike can handle it.”
Mountain biking is also the perfect socially distanced sport for a world in chaos. “We’ve all been through a peculiar year but with a mountain bike you can just get out and ride,” says Salaman. “It’s an escape. Whether you’re exploring towpaths, forests or bike parks, you can just go out your front door, find a trail and start exploring. It’s a genuine adventure.”
It’s play time
By empowering you to explore the great outdoors and test your limits, mountain biking also packs a powerful psychological punch. Nothing awakens the mind like the jolt of adrenaline after a wild descent. Nothing restores perspective like a view from a mountain summit. And nothing pumps up your confidence like cornering at speed.
Some bikers even liken the intense focus required to an act of meditation. “You engage your brain far more than you do on the road because you can’t sit and spin,” says Salaman. “Mountain biking switches on your synapses for the ultimate exhilaration.”
In many ways, today’s golden age of mountain biking represents a return to the original values of the 1981 Stumpjumper era.
“Back in the ‘80s, the Californian bikers wanted to be in touch with the environment and the changing seasons,” says Salaman.
“Bikers are rediscovering the same ethos today. The Stumpjumper is there to inspire you. This bike wants you to go out and play – and that’s something we all need a bit more of right now.”
Words: Mark Bailey