Tested: Specialized S-Works Enduro 29/6Fattie

Read on for our full review, or watch the video below for a discussion about the S-Works Enduro.

 


The latest generation of the Specialized Enduro is an absolute stunner.
The latest generation of the Specialized Enduro is an absolute stunner.

The 2017 Specialized Enduro 29″ keeps on pushing too. Not only is it a 29er with 165mm of travel, but it has a hole in the downtube to store spares and suspension from a company that has only been producing mountain bike products for a handful of years.

If that’s not taking a leap in search of the next best thing, we don’t know what is. For a bit more a breakdown on new Enduro frame and the changes, check out our introductory piece.


Which wheels size are we testing?

The Enduro has been available in multiple wheel size options for years, but in 2017 you have the third option, with the 29er version also capable of running the 6Fattie format (27.5 x 3.0″ tyres). We only had a brief opportunity to run the Enduro with 6Fattie wheels, and so nearly all our testing was done in a 29er guise.

Is the Enduro fully enduro?

The Enduro 29″ is most definitely an Enduro race bike, you only have to look at Curtis Keene and Graves tearing it up on the  EWS to see that. But unlike some 160mm/170mm bikes, which can feel like pure descenders with climbing abilities barely salvaged by virtue of low gearing and suspension lockouts, the Enduro still aims to be a bike that caters to a wider variety of riding than just flirting with the limit on downhill tracks.

The Enduro still aims to be a bike that caters to a wider variety of riding than flirting with the limit

The Enduro wants to go FAST!
The Enduro wants to go FAST!

What are the Enduro’s strengths?

The Enduro’s biggest strength is its incredible versatility for a bike with 165mm of rear travel. Despite being well up there as an Enduro race bike, the Enduro is still a hoot to ride on relatively tame singletrack.

For one thing, the beast can climb. The steep 76-degree seat tube angle assists seated pedalling on more sedate trails, and even in a size large the Enduro doesn’t feel like a boat. The geometry doesn’t go to the same extremes as some new-school enduro bikes, which means a more versatile ride. For instance, the top tube in a size large of 600mm and 66 degree head angle is significantly less extreme than a large Whyte G-160, which has a 655.9mm top tube and a 65 degree head angle.

The Enduro's front centre is less extreme than other 160mm bikes out there.
The Enduro’s front centre is less extreme than other 160mm bikes out there.
The new Enduro climbs remarkably well for a 160mm bike.
The new Enduro climbs remarkably well for a 160mm bike.
Jumps? No worries aboard the Enduro 29".
Jumps? No worries aboard the Enduro 29″. All the myths about 29ers being bland to ride get smashed by this bike.

On the descents, the Enduro 29er crushes every 29” stereotype out there. If you’ve got a riding buddy who still insists on bagging 29ers as being boring, awful to corner, and afraid of jumps, then put them on this thing for a run down the hill.

Specialized worked hard to keep the rear end short (430mm stays with this much travel is pretty impressive) which brings the big wheeler to life. It feels more nimble than many 160mm 27.5” bikes out there, but never does it feel unstable or too short out back either. Even on some of Thredbo’s more rowdy offerings, where a lot of testing took place, we felt calm aboard the Enduro.

The Enduro 29" corners exceptionally well.
The Enduro 29″ corners exceptionally well.

Perhaps the only barrier to the Enduro 29’s descending abilities is its rubber. The front tyre is just too skinny in our opinion for a bike travelling at this pace, and bigger rubber would enhance both cornering confidence and forgiveness when ploughing the front end through rough terrain. We found the combination of the stiff Ohlins fork, Roval wheels and narrow Butcher 2.3” front tyre a bit harsh sometimes – bung on a 2.5″ tyre.

Some bigger rubber up front would make the Enduro even more confident in the corners.
Some bigger rubber up front would make the Enduro even more confident in the corners.
The Enduro's front end was a very stiff setup.
The Enduro’s front end was a very stiff setup.

It differs from the 29” model in that you almost can’t run out of traction

Speaking of rubber, the Enduro 6Fattie, with its 3.0″ tyres, is a very different ride. It differs from the 29” model in that you almost can’t run out of traction, but we did find ourselves riding it less aggressively than the 29er. With the lower pressures of the big tyres and a lower bottom bracket (the bottom bracket height drops by 5mm when you run 27.5×3.00” tyres), barrelling through rock gardens or any harsh impacts can lead to striking your rims, so we tended to select more gentle lines in these sections of trail.

The only other downside to the seemingly limitless traction and trail dampening is in high speed bermed corners, especially droppy ones, where there is potential to for the tyre to squirm and burp air.

High speed corners require smooth cornering technique aboard the Enduro 6Fattie, rather than the old spray and pray.
High speed corners require smooth cornering technique aboard the Enduro 6Fattie, rather than the old spray and pray.

What are the Enduro’s weaknesses?

Not a great deal. As mentioned above, when steamrolling through technical terrain in the 29” configuration, at times the narrow front tyre meant the front-end felt a bit harsh. However, we were reluctant to drop tyres pressure or soften up the fork, because the Enduro encourages you to ride so fast that we felt much safer coming into sections hot with a high, stable front end as opposed to the front-end diving or slamming the rims into rocks. We do think that a wider front tyre at lower pressure, and more fine tuning of the fork could address this issue.

We’d also like to see the bike come with a dropper post that has more travel. 125mm on a size large is ok, but 150mm drop would be much better, to get that centre of gravity lower when things get properly steep.

The Enduro bloody loves smashing into rocks.
The Enduro barrelling through rocky sections.
Charging through rock gardens was a highlight aboard the Enduro 29".
Charging through rock gardens in Thredbo.

Is the spec worth the money?

There’s no hiding from the fact that the S-Works Enduro 29/6Fattie costs $11000. With that in mind however, you’re getting the best of the best throughout.

The S-Works Enduro costs the big dollars, but comes with some premium kit.
The S-Works Enduro costs the big dollars, but comes with some premium kit.
The Enduro's cable routing is well thought out.
The 10-50 tooth range on Eagle puts the front derailleur argument at the bottom of the sea.

The full Eagle XX1 groupset is the perfect setup, not just for this style of bike, but for mountain biking in general. The range is massive, and it didn’t miss a trick. SRAM also provide the brakes, Guide RSCs, and whilst they come equipped with a 200mm rotor on the front and a 180mm rotor on the rear, we were finding they had some fade on the long runs down Thredbo, and so we’d suggest swapping the organic pads out for sintered pads. If you’re really keen, you could even modify the brakeset like we have on our Canyon Strive, by hooking up the RSC levers with the more powerful Avid Code Caliper.

The wheels are of course from Specialized’s wheel subsidiary, Roval. We found the carbon rims stiff and direct, and the 30mm internal rim width is ideal. Keep an eye on the spoke tension though, as after a few days of many runs at Thredbo, the rear spokes were getting loose. Despite the abuse, both wheels ran true after weeks of riding.

Finally, the Enduro is finished off with a lovely cockpit comprising of a stubby Syntace ‘MegaForce’ stem and an S-Works handlebar. Despite costing the big bucks, you’ll really struggle to get a more premium spec than the S-Works Enduro.

The moulded chainstay protection has been impressively sturdy.
The moulded chainstay protection has been impressively sturdy.
We found the limits of the Sram guide brakes on the long Thredbo descents.
We found the limits of the SRAM Guide brakes on the long Thredbo descents.

Is the Ohlins suspension really that good?

Specialized’s partnership with Ohlins suspension gives a certain gravitas to the brand – these Swedish suspension experts have an immense reputation – the Enduro S-Works gets Ohlins front and rear. We’ve had positive experiences with the RXF 34 in the past, so we were interested to see whether the beefier RXF 36 would step things up a notch.

The RXF 36 is an impressive unit.
The RXF 36 is an impressive unit.

It didn’t disappoint. With 36mm stanchions as well as the one-piece crown/steerer tube, it’s an incredibly stiff fork. In terms of damping performance, multiple testers reported the suspension feeling dead and dull when rolling around the carpark, but out on the trail the fork feels balanced and supportive. It really comes alive once you’re hammering.

We felt comfortable loading up the RXF 36 through corners.
We felt comfortable loading up the RXF 36 through corners.

The fork has dual air chamber adjustments. There’s a main chamber, for setting your overall spring rate, then a separate ‘ramp up’ chamber to adjust latter part of the spring curve. Another feature we appreciated that carried over from the RXF 34 was the compression adjustments on the top of the left fork leg, which can be used as a quasi-lockout for long climbs. Is the fork any better than a FOX 36 or RockShox Pike? It’s certainly at least on par, and the uniquely burly one-piece crown/steerer and tool-free ramp up adjustment do have real benefits.

The RXF 36 features compression adjustment on the left hand fork leg.
The RXF 36 features compression adjustment on the left hand fork leg.

The RXF 36 is paired with the Ohlins STX22 in the rear, which gets Specialized’s Auto Sag feature. Like all Ohlins shocks, there’s actually a very limited band of damping adjustment, with only a few clicks of compression and rebound to toy with, plus a ‘climb switch’ to firm things right up. The compression adjustment is very subtle too which, coupled with the absence of adjustment descriptions on the shock, made setup a bit tricky at first, so dialling in a base setting took longer than usual.

What does this knob do?
What happens if I twiddle this knob?

Once we had a base setting, however, the STX felt supportive and stable in the rear, and we didn’t feel any harsh bottoming out throughout the course of our testing, despite some casing action going down when our ambitions exceeded our abilities at Thredbo.

Despite some issues with reliability, we were pretty impressed with the STX 22.
Despite some issues with reliability, we were pretty impressed with the STX 22.

We’d like to say that everything was 100% peachy with the Ohlins gear, but we did have some problems with the rear shock. It lost air, and we had issues with air passing from the positive to the negative chamber, which caused the shock to become ‘stuck down’ and remain compressed!

To Specialized’s credit, a new shock was on its way to us immediately. Specialized told us that they haven’t seen the issues that we were having before, so here’s hoping they were genuine outliers and moving forwards Ohlins suspension is as good as we know it can be.

The Roval wheels were fast and effective, but the spokes come loose remarkably quickly.
The Roval wheels were fast and effective, but the spokes came loose on the rear wheel.
There's lots of room for bigger rubber on the Enduro 29"!
There’s lots of room for bigger rubber on the Enduro 29″
You won't be doing many upgrades to the S-Works Enduro!
You won’t be doing many upgrades to the S-Works Enduro!

Who is this bike for?

The Enduro 29/6Fattie is a bike that could service a far wider range of riders than just the Enduro race crowd. Specialized have refined long travel 29” geometry over the years with the Enduro models, and the 2017 edition does a remarkable job of hiding the big hoops in a geometry that feels lively, but also stable when the going is fast and rough.

In the 6Fattie configuration, one word that we found ourselves using continually was control. If you’re not the craziest rider out there, jumping into rock gardens and slapping turns with reckless abandon, and you’re looking for something that is predictable in just about every situation, then the S-Works Enduro 6Fattie is hard to look past.

Due to its hard-charging attitude and well-balanced angles, the Enduro 29″ is obviously a bike that fits the bill as an enduro race machine, but it could also be a great option for a rider looking for something confidence inspiring on the descents that doesn’t lose its zippiness on more sedate trails.

The Enduro is fun and lively out on the trail.
The Enduro is fun on lots of trails, not just EWS race courses.

We’re obviously testing the crème de la crème model here, so if you’re tossing up between a mid-range Enduro or perhaps a Stumpjumper, we would highly recommend going for a test ride.

There's not too much drifting through corners on the Enduro 6Fattie!
There’s not too much drifting or skidding through corners on the Enduro 6Fattie, it has so much traction.

We started the review by talking about how Specialized are a brand renowned for taking risks with their products and moving the sport in new directions. After spending some quality time on the new Enduro, it’s clear the future is only getting better for mountain bikers.

Specialized Gravity Announces 2017 Team Roster

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We expect we’ll be seeing the new bike on a few podiums this year.

Öhlins is regarded as the premier name in motorsports racing and has been conducting extensive R&D with Specialized since 2012.

Torkel Sintorn of Öhlins had this to say, “We are super excited to work together with Specialized Gravity—one of the world’s best MTB racing teams. Öhlins has a long and successful background in motorsport but this is the first time we are going into mountain bike racing.

We believe that together with Specialized and their top athletes we can supply and develop next-generation, race-winning products.”

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When asked about the newly deepened partnership, Brad Benedict from Specialized had this to say, “After years of developing suspension from the ground-up, this move will take our efforts to the next level.

Alignment between the athletes we support and the exact products we spec will only help further development of our bikes and suspension, as well. Öhlins has top-notch knowledge in the suspension business – I’m hopeful to see more podiums and wins this year.”

Finn Iles is coming into 2017 after a dominant 2016 season.
Finn Iles is coming into 2017 after a dominant 2016 season.

2015 World Champion, Loic Bruni is excited about the switch to Öhlins, “It’s great to see such a legendary brand enter into MTB, and being the chosen team to put the products on the top step is a big honor. They’ve been working hard and close with the guys at Specialized and we are all very confident about the products. I’m pumped about this relationship and I know we will be successful on it.”

We're very excited to see how the Ohlins fork will stack up against the competition.
We’re very excited to see how the Öhlins fork will stack up against the competition.

Öhlins is not the only exciting change for the team, Bruni and Iles will also make the switch to Fox Head apparel.

Finn Iles in the new team kit.
Finn Iles in the new team kit from Fox Head.

”FOX is proud to equip the Specialized Gravity team as gear partner. Loic Bruni and Finn Iles represent the future of the sport – they’re both driven by passion and in constant search for perfection. This partnership is the association of two premier brands in the MTB industry, driven by a common appetite for innovation and a constant will to bring premium products to market. After almost 20 years, and the first association between Fox and Specialized around Shaun Palmer, we are lined up to write a new chapter of MTB History.” -Matthieu Bazil – Fox Head, Inc.

“People at Fox are very innovative, like at Specialized, and the products are next-level. The fabrics and custom fits are going to make us look rad. They listen to us and our expectations so we are very excited about starting a long relationship with this huge name of the off-road industry.” – Loic Bruni, 2015 UCI DH World Champion.

Loic Bruni is excited about the new sponsors for 2017.
Loic Bruni is excited about the new sponsors for 2017.

Top bearing maker, CeramicSpeed has also come onboard with the team, providing their best-in-class bearings, rounding out the total performance package and leaving not a single detail overlooked.

“We’re excited to bring our expertise in performance optimization to Specialized Gravity for 2017. Our work with such a cutting-edge program will further advance our development of high-quality mountain bike products.” – Martin S. Banke, CeramicSpeed

The Specialized Gravity Team will be rolling on boutique CeramicSpeed bearings in 2017.
The Specialized Gravity Team will be rolling on boutique CeramicSpeed bearings in 2017.

It is an exciting evolution for Specialized and Ohlins to partner on a DH World Cup program, the first for Ohlins. So too we are thrilled to welcome Miranda Miller to the second year of the Specialized Gravity Team.

After a strong 2016 season, Miranda Miller has signed with Specialized Gravity for 2017.
After a strong 2016 season, Miranda Miller has signed with the Specialized Gravity Team for 2017.

We believe Laurent and his team are the best developers of talent in the sport, and believe Miranda will find her true potential with the team.

Miranda Miller will be racing the full World Cup with Team Specialized Gravity plus select Enduro World Series events. Miller had this to say about joining the team, “Thanks to the crew at Specialized and Pure Agency, I’m getting the opportunity to transition from a privateer to now racing a full season with the best support available.

Miranda Miller will compete in World Cup and EWS events.
Miranda Miller will compete in World Cup and EWS events.

This is a dream come true and I can’t wait to progress in a setting I’ve never experienced before, alongside a couple of World Champions and a killer staff.”

Flow’s First Bite: Specialized S-Works Enduro 29/6Fattie

The new Enduro is so hot it's melting the ice here in Thredbo.
The new Enduro is so hot it’s melting the snow here in Thredbo.

This bike comes with a legendary reputation, way back in mid-2013  it emerged as one of the first 29ers to challenge perceptions of what a big wheeler was capable of. It’s received a major overhaul for 2017, and as we discussed in our initial impressions piece back in August, we like the changes Specialized have implemented.

We're excited to give the Enduro a thrashing on the variety of awesome trails Thredbo has to offer.
We’re excited to give the Enduro a thrashing on the variety of awesome trails Thredbo has to offer.

So, what sort of changes are we talking about?

The new Enduro begs to be pushed hard, and Thredbo is the perfect place for that.
The new Enduro begs to be pushed hard, and Thredbo is the perfect place for that.

Heading to Thredbo? We’d suggest you give the Makin Trax Basecamp a try. They hosted us for our week in Thredbo, and it was the perfect setup for our crew of six riders. With five bedrooms, to sleep up to 12 riders, a huge kitchen, an open fire and plenty of space to store your bikes, it’s just bloody ideal. They’re doing some great accommodation and lift pass packages too. Take a look!  

Makin Trax Images-2372


Firstly, a glance at the geometry chart for the Enduro tells you that Specialized has given this bike the ‘long, low and slack’ treatment. In our large 29” Enduro, a roomy 604mm top tube is paired with a 66-degree head angle and 432mm chainstays. For a bike that can also accept 27.5×3.00 tyres, that’s a pretty short rear end!

The new Enduro utilises a longer top tube than its predecessor.
The new Enduro utilises a longer top tube than its predecessor.

Speaking of 27.5×3.00 tyres, for our test we’re going to be alternating between the stock 29” wheels and tyres and a set of 650B+ wheels, to see exactly how the bike changes with wheel and tyre size.

Getting the big wheels of the ground on a fresh section of the All-Mountain trail that is going to blow minds.
Getting the big wheels of the ground on a fresh section of the All-Mountain trail that is going to blow minds.

How much travel is the Enduro 29/6Fattie equipped with?

The Enduro 29/6Fattie comes equipped with a 160mm fork and 165mm of rear-end travel, which is a smidgen less than you’ll find on the 650B version of this bike, which is 170mm front and rear. Even still, 165mm on a 29er is a hefty amount of travel. Will it prove too much?

165mm of rear travel handled by the Swedish maestros of suspension, Öhlins.
165mm of rear travel handled by the Swedish maestros of suspension, Öhlins.

Is that Öhlins suspension front and rear?

It sure is! We’ve reviewed the RXF 34 fork in the past, and we rated it highly, so we’re excited to get some riding in on the RXF 36, which as the name suggests comes with 36mm stanchions, as opposed to 34mm. In this longer travel format, we think we’ll be able to get a better idea of the performance on offer, which was a little tricky to appreciate in the shorter travel version we previously tested.

We're excited to see how the RXF 36 stacks up.
We’re excited to see how the RXF 36 stacks up against the Pike and FOX 36.

What about the frame itself?

Another big tick from us is the inclusion of the SWAT box in the Enduro’s downtube. We love sneaking in rides without a backpack whenever possible, so keeping the SWAT compartment packed with essential spares and room for a snack means that you can pop a bottle on the bike and you’re ready to head out for at least a couple of hours. With the riding this bike is aimed at, you’re going to appreciate not having weight on your back and being able to move around the bike freely!

We're big fans of the SWAT box on the new Enduro.
We’re big fans of the SWAT box on the new Enduro.

Another change to the frame design is the cable routeing. All the internal routeing is guided by sleeves within the frame, which means fewer hassles when working on the bike. Adding to this, Specialized have moved the rear brake and derailleur cables from exiting underneath the bike to running through the chainstays, which eliminates the chance of them snagging and bashing into debris out on the trail.

Neat cable routing through the chainstays ensures that cables are out of the way from trail debris.
Neat cable routeing through the chainstays ensures that cables are out of the way from trail debris.

There seems to be a lot of 170mm ‘enduro specific’ bikes cropping up, do I need one of these bikes if I’m not racing? 

Whilst the emerging trend of 170mm ‘enduro’ bikes is perhaps overkill for a lot of riders, the bike still only weighs a hair over 13 kilograms, so if descending is your priority, then maybe this is the right bike for you, regardless of if you plan to race or not.

We're looking forward to seeing if the Enduro lives up to its 'do it all' reputation.
We’re looking forward to seeing if the Enduro lives up to its ‘do it all’ reputation.

Anyhow, we’re off to do a few laps of the hill here at Thredbo – stay tuned for our detailed review shortly!

Specialized Enduro 2017 – Even More Enduro

Long before the EWS, open-face helmets with goggles or matchy-matchy kit, there was the Specialized Enduro.  This was a bike that defined the category before there even was a category to define. The chicken and egg of the bike world, or something like that. And just like the sport of Enduro has been evolving, so to has the Specialized Enduro. Its latest incarnation is this stunning piece of work you see before you today.

S-Works Enduro FSR Carbon 29/6Fattie. 13.2kg of category blasting goodness.
Specialized Enduro 2017_LOW6756
The black on black S-Works Enduro FSR Carbon 650B. Only 13.1kg on the scales, whoa.

This bike’s reputation is superb, for many years it has exemplified the versatile mix of insane downhill speed and steady climbing efficiency that the sport of Enduro demands. With Jared Graves on board Specialized now, the brand’s commitment to the sport of Enduro racing is more apparent than ever, and we find it hard to imagine a better weapon for doing battle on the EWS than the new Enduro.

Very early on during our first ride, comfortable enough to push the boundaries just a little bit…

We were lucky enough to get some time on the Enduro on some of our local trails ahead of the official launch, and we’ll be following this initial report up with a full review ASAP. For now, let’s take a look at what the Big S have created!

The X-Wing frame design carries over similar shapes from the existing Enduro platflorm.
The X-Wing frame design carries over similar shapes from the existing Enduro platflorm.

Key points: 

Options in all wheel sizes

Boost hub spacing

More travel

More robust and sensible construction

Expansion of Öhlins suspension partnership


650B and 29er/6Fattie options: 

Time to delve into everyone’s favourite topic: wheel sizes! Specialized are covering all bases with the Enduro, so no matter what hoops you prefer, they have you sorted. For our test ride, we had a 650B with 2.6″ tyres, and 29er with 2.3″ tyres.

Specialized Enduro 2017_LOW6759
The Specialized S-Works 650B with 2.6″ tyres.
Specialized Enduro 2017_LOW6984
Chunky tread on the 650B Enduro will promote a bit of reckless shredding in anyone.

If you thought that 650B had won the day in the long-travel and Enduro racing world, that’s not the case. If anything, 29″ wheels are making a stronger push than ever into this realm. Take a look at the recent EWS Colorado podium if you want proof, where all three podium spots were taken out by 29ers! While we’re yet to see Plus sized wheels really blossom at the upper end of Enduro racing, it’s only a matter of time we feel.

Either way, Specialized have taken a very sensible approach with the new Enduro, offering the bike in a dedicated 650B version and a 29er version that can accommodate also accept 6Fattie (or 27.5+) wheels.

The new 650B Fattie specific treads, 2.6".
The new 2.6″ treads on 30mm wide Roval Traverse rims. These big tyres will fit the standard 650B Enduro, even though they’re verging on ‘Fatties’. Now we’re talking!

This approach makes a tonne of sense – why produce three different frames for the various wheel sizes, when you can produce two instead?  Having said that, Specialized aren’t actually speccing any Enduro models with 6Fattie wheels right out of the box. If you want 6Fatties then it’s a swap you’ll need to negotiate with your dealer, but at least it is a possibility.

Interestingly, unlike some other frames which are designed to run either 27.5+ or 29er wheels (for instance the Pivot Switchblade or Santa Cruz High Tower) the new Enduro doesn’t use any headset cups or other geometry adjustments if you’re switching between wheel sizes.

You do need to be aware that swapping wheels will have an impact on the bike’s bottom bracket height – a 29er wheel with 2.3″ tyres gives you a BB height of 352mm, swap this for a 27.5 x 3.0″ 6Fattie setup and you get a BB height of 345mm (or 339mm if you use 2.8″ tyres).Specialized Enduro 2017_LOW6795

Loads of travel, but the Enduro manages to hide it in a bike that never feels too much to manage.
Loads of travel, but the Enduro manages to hide it in a bike that never feels too much to manage.

Looking at wheel/tyre clearance, the 29er/6Fattie frame will accommodate 29×2.5″ tyres or up to 3.0″ with a 6Fattie setup. The 650B Enduro can accept up to a 2.6″ tyre without a worry, which is what we ran on our test bike.

 

Specialized Enduro 2017_LOW6611
432mm stays on the 29/6Fattie and a slacker 65.5 degree head angle.

Even more aggressive geometry:

The Enduro was already slacker than a fruit picking backpacker with a Bundy hangover, but things get more laid back once again.  On the 650B bike you’re looking at a 65.5-degree head angle, while the 29er frame is half a degree sharper at 66-degrees.

Those short chain stays that have always given the Enduro such a playful ride remain. On the 650B frame they’re just 425mm, while on the 29/6Fattie frame they’re are a tad longer at 432mm (which is super given it’ll take a 3.0″ tyre). The move to Boost rear hub spacing is key in getting the rear end so short with such big rubber.

 

Specialized Enduro 2017_LOW6632
165mm travel out the back on the 29er.

More bounce, more robust:

In both 650B and 29er formats, the Enduro gets a little more travel, pushing up into some truly downhill territory. There’s now 170mm at both ends on the 650B, while the 29er has 165mm rear and 160mm out front.

170mm RockShox Lyrik leads the way for the 650B Enduro.
170mm RockShox Lyrik leads the way for the 650B Enduro.

Specialized Enduro 2017_LOW6935

Practicality gets a couple of big wins: the Enduro has a regular 73mm threaded bottom bracket shell AND every single bearing in the suspension is now exactly the same size, making servicing at lot less complex.

Bridge-less seat stays and a robust linkage with 8mm allen key hardware. Tough!
Bridge-less seat stays and a robust linkage with 8mm allen key hardware. Tough!

The incredibly clean lines are enhanced by the move to internal cable routing. It’s done properly too, with carbon sleeves guiding the brake and gear lines through the frame, so you’re not left swearing and trying to coax a brake line through the guts of the bike. Both gear and brake lines are now routed over the top of the bottom bracket shell, which reduces the amount of movement in the lines as the suspension cycle, for less chance of cable rub or snagging on debris.

Specialized Enduro 2017_LOW6641
Without the need for front derailleur options, this area can be as stiff, compact and light as it can be.

Front derailleurs are banished:

You won’t find a front mech on any bike in the new Enduro range. Actually, you have to look damn hard to find a front derailleur just about anywhere in Specialized’s 2017 line up! All new Enduros are 1x specific, with no option to run a front derailleur. The top dog S-Works models we rode had the amazing SRAM Eagle drivetrain, which with a 500% range makes a front mech redundant anyhow.

SWAT Door:

When we first saw Specialised’s SWAT Door down tube storage, we cringed. But it took just one ride to realise that it makes a huge amount of sense, and we’re big fans now. It’s great to see the SWAT Door making its way onto the new Enduro, letting you stuff all your spares inside the frame where they’re secure, protected and never left behind.

SWAT Door.
SWAT Door.

Take one look at the trends in Enduro racing, and you’ll quickly see fewer and fewer backpacks as riders look to lighten the load. Having the SWAT Door makes this just a little easier, and means no more floppy pockets or taping crap to your bike.

Öhlins Suspension Partnership:

Swedish suspension gods, Öhlins are expanding their mountain bike range in conjunction with Specialized.
Specialized Enduro 2017_LOW6643
Öhlins STX22 rear shock built for the Enduro. Low and high speed compression adjustment, rebound and also Auto Sag from Specialized for simple setup.

Specialized’s association with those premium Swedish suspension gurus, Öhlins, continues. This prestigious partnership sees the Pro and S-Works models equipped with the amazing STX22 rear shock. We’re happy to see that Specialized has moved away from Cane Creek on their high-end Enduros – our experience with the Cane Creek was less than perfect. We’re very impressed by the simple but highly effective adjustability of the STX22. Because the shock is engineered for this bike specifically, it doesn’t need a huge range of rebound or compression adjustability as it’s valved appropriately from the get-go.

Hucking is the new Enduro.
#HuckingisthenewEnduro.
Yeah, we know. It’s hot.

On the S-Works 29er Enduro you’ll also find the Öhlins RXF 36 fork too. We reviewed the RXF 34 not long ago (check out the review here) and it’s damn impressive. We think the benefits of the Öhlins damping will be even more apparent in this longer travel scenario too. For now, the 650B version misses out on an Öhlins fork, but we’re sure there’s a 650B incarnation on the way.

Stay tuned for our full review of the Enduro when they begin to arrive in Australia. Yeehaa!
Stay tuned for our full review of the Enduro when they begin to arrive in Australia. Yeehaa!

Tested: Öhlins RXF 34 Fork

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Öhlins haven’t rushed into the market open slather though, instead they’ve strategically partnered up with Specialized; initially it was their TTX coil shock that found its way onto the Specialized Demo, then the STX22 air shock graced the S-Works Enduro. In terms of forks, they have released a cartridge damper for the FOX 40, but up until now they hadn’t produced a complete fork. But here comes the RXF34 fork, which a 29er only item (at this stage) and comes in three travel variants,  designed specifically for the Specialized Camber (120mm), Stumpjumper (140mm) and the Enduro (160mm).

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We had the Camber Expert Carbon 29 on test recently and by a stroke of luck the Öhlins fork became available, so on it went, allowing us a great opportunity to directly compare the stock FOX 34 fork and the Öhlins.

See our review of the bike here – Camber Expert Carbon 29 tested.


Chassis construction.

Before we even delve into its guts, the Öhlins  has some unique construction features. Most obviously, the Unicrown, which means the steerer tube and crown are all one piece of aluminium, rather than having the steerer pressed/bonded into the crown. This setup promises more stiffness than a British upper lip and should deliver creak-free performance. The steerer is machined to integrate perfectly with the lower bearing used in Specialized’s headset, so there’s no need for a crown race. This confused the hell out of us when installing the fork at first! If your bike uses a different headset, at worst you’ll need to source a new lower headset cup/bearing to run the Öhlins fork. One downside of this arrangement is the absence of any rubber sealing to keep the crud away from the bearing, so using plenty of grease on installation is a good idea.

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Öhlins  claim the Unicrown makes the RXF 34, with its 34mm legs, is as stiff as the competition’s 36mm-legged forks. It’s a trail fork, not an XC fork, so it’s more of a welterweight on the scales. We clocked it at 2.07kg with an uncut steerer, which makes it around 200g heavier than the FOX 34 Performance fork originally fitted to the Camber. Interestingly, it’s actually a pretty similar weight to a FOX 36 Factory 29er fork too, so even though the RXF uses 34mm legs there’s no real weight saving benefit in doing so._LOW0061

If you’re a fan of clean lines, you’ll appreciate the RXF’s 15mm axle system. It requires the use of a 5mm Allen key for removal/installation, but it sits flush with the fork legs, which looks great. The Camber has a similarly neat rear axle system too, and with the RXF fitted it all looked nicely matched front and rear. For now the RXF has standard 100mm dropout spacing, there’s no Boost 110mm version yet.
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We’re not opposed to having to use an Allen key to remove the axle, and we like the stiffness of this setup, but we did find it was a bit of a pain to remove as the pinch bolts don’t fully release the axle and there’s nothing to grip when you’re pulling the smooth and slippery axle out of the fork.


Internals and adjustments.

The guts of the Öhlins RXF34 borrow from the company’s motorcross technology, with a TTX twin tube damper. In this configuration, the damping oil is under less pressure than a standard single-tube damper, which Ohlins claims allows for better sensitivity amongst other things. External damping adjustments include a five position high-speed compression dial, and low-speed compression and rebound, both of which have a huge adjustment range. If we had any concerns about this fork’s build, it was the compression adjuster assembly, which felt pretty loose and rattly compared to the likes of FOX or DVO. The adjuster dials work well, but they don’t feel as high quality as the rest of the fork._LOW0045_LOW0044

We found the range of low-speed compression adjustment to be very subtle, there’s not a huge difference between either extreme of the range. Conversely, the high-speed adjuster has a marked effect. Turning the dial to its firmest setting dramatically stiffens the fork, making it almost usable as a quasi on-the-fly pedalling platform.

Like many high-end forks, the RXF gives you control over the spring curve. Other brands, like the RockShox Pike for example, achieve this with spacers or ‘tokens’, but the RXF uses a third Ramp Up Chamber to give you this control. The main air spring determines your positive and negative air pressure, but the second valve on the bottom of the fork leg determines the progressiveness of the fork’s spring curve. We followed the recommend pressures from Ohlins for the main chamber (95psi), then opted to run the pressure to Ramp Up Chamber a little higher than recommended setting for our weight (150psi) to give the fork a nice progressive feel under big hits. The Ramp Up Chamber system is a winner, it’s a much more user friendly system than the spacers or tokens in FOX or RockShox forks, and it makes a noticeable difference with only small adjustments.


On the trail.

What was most appreciable about this fork on the trail was how incredibly and immediately smooth it was. Even before we’d done enough riding to properly break in the bushings and seals, the suppleness and responsiveness was perfect, the slightest murmur on the trail was enough to get the fork moving. As we’ve noted above, the low-speed compression adjustment is fairly unobtrusive, so we ran the adjuster about two-thirds of the way in to better match the supportive feel of the Camber’s Brain equipped rear suspension.

We rode the Öhlins pretty hard, and certainly noticed how well it’d hold itself up in the travel, resisting diving and wallowing. Descended with the front brake on and ploughing the front wheel through braking ruts left us impressed with the fork’s damping.

The progressiveness of the fork’s travel is a real highlight, we were able to tune the fork to our liking using the Ramp Up Chamber, resulting in a very useable 120mm of travel without harsh bottom-outs.

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In a perfect world, we’d loved to have tested this fork in a longer travel version on a Stumpjumper or Enduro. At 120mm-travel it’s harder to get a real appreciation of what a fork’s capabilities truly are – travel and geometry start to hold you back a bit before you can really put the fork through its paces. Still, that said, if you only have 120mm of travel available, then you want it to be working for you to the highest possible standards, and the RXF certainly does so._LOW1539

As it stands, we’d have no issue with saying that the RXF 34 performs at the same level (or even higher) as the very best, perfectly maintained 120mm forks we’ve ever ridden (including the Pike RCT3 and the FOX 34 Factory FIT4), but with the added bonus of having a more easily tuneable air spring and crown assembly that should stay silent and stiff forever.


Verdict.

The RXF 34 is just what you’d expect from a company such as Öhlins; a true performer that places real performance benefits ahead of flashy stickers, acronyms or fads. It’s not going to revolutionise the world of mountain bike forks, but it does serve notice to the dominant brands that they’d better stay on their toes and keep agile, because the Swedes are coming, and what they do, they do right._LOW0049

Flow’s First Bite: Öhlins RXF34 Fork

Their distinctive gold and yellow rear shocks have been around for a while as stock items on big travel Specialized bikes, and for 2016 the collaboration between the Swedish suspension stars Öhlins and Specialized continues with the release of a new 29er trail fork – the RXF34 – soon to be available through Specialized dealers.

Öhlins are well-represented in the motorsport realm, famed for being the type of brand that don’t pay athletes to use their products but still see top Moto GP using their gear. Here’s a little more on the brand – Öhlins history.

There’s an air of ambiguity and respect around this brand due to their high reputation, hence we are floored to have one fork to review so let’s take a look at some of the unique features before fitting to our Specialized Camber 29er for a test run.

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Smart, understated and elegant, the RXF34 is an exquisite piece to look at.
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The subtle and smooth finish serves a refreshing take on a market dominated by RockShox and FOX.

From Specialized: “Partnering with a company like Öhlins – the world leader in motorsports suspension – means we get the pinnacle of shock design, tuned specifically for a Specialized bike, like a Demo or Enduro. These shocks have so much traction and control that they change the way you ride, while putting a bigger grin on your face – and a larger gap between you and your buddies. Over the past few years, Öhlins has been hard at work bringing their first trail fork to market, the RXF 34. The first trail fork to feature a twin-tube design, it has everything you love about their TTX rear shocks, only it now goes on the front of your bike.

We gave a helping hand to the development by testing and providing feedback on our Camber, Stumpjumper FSR, and Enduro platforms. The key to this amazing handling fork is having parallel and separated oil flow to control the pressure levels, ensuring initial smoothness while staying high in the travel with excellent bump absorption, traction, and stability – all hallmarks of the twin-tube design. The RXF also has three air chambers; two positive and one negative. This allows the shape of the spring force to be adjusted by the rider, such as increasing sensitivity without bottoming out.

Bringing it all together is a unique forged “unicrown” for the highest stiffness and tire control with less chassis flex. The result is a 34mm fork that’s more rigid than other brands’ 35mm forks, and it’s comparable with a 36mm fork.”


Features:

  • 120, 140 & 160mm travel options for 29-inch wheels
  • 34mm stanchion tubes
  • 15mm through axle
  • TTX Damping technology by Öhlins
  • Three air chamber system, two positive and one negative
  • External rebound adjustment
  • High and low speed external compression adjustment
  • Forged unicrown
  • Low friction seals and bushings

Highlights:

Chassis: The most striking feature of the chassis is the one-piece crown and steerer, not a common sight (X-Fusion are another MTB fork brand to do a similar one-piece assembly) and it’s said to offer comparable stiffness to a 36mm leg fork, even with its 34mm legs.

The RXF34 is 29er only at this stage but we bet a 27.5″ version won’t be too far off. The axle is 15mm with no quick release, rather it is secured via a 5mm allen key.

Fork weight is 2.07kg.

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The unicrown one piece aluminium crown and steerer.
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15mm axle fastened with a 5mm allen key.
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Batman would run these on his bike.
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Öhlins own sealing.

TTX Damping Technology: Since 2006 across all sorts of suspension products, Öhlins uses two individual tubes for each rebound and compression dampers to help reduce the oil pressure inside the fork. This is said to increase sensitivity whilst remaining supportive.

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Blue dial for low speed compression, black for high speed compression and on the bottom of the leg is the gold rebound dial.
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An air pressure guide located on the back of the fork leg.

Three air chamber spring control: The RXF34 uses three air chambers for a very tuneable ride feel. Two positive air chambers let you tune the progressiveness of the fork, similar to fitting a Bottomless Token into a RockShox fork.

Setup goes like this; start with inflating the main air chamber on top of the fork to your weight, and then inflate the third chamber on the bottom of the fork to your desired rate of progression and feel. Then you’re able to tune the two air chambers according to your bottom out preference and sensitivity.

High and low speed compression adjustments: There is external high and low speed compression adjustability, and rebound control.


We are yet to confirm Australian retail pricing, but if the USD $1150 is a guide they look to be in line with the top offerings from FOX, RockShox and DVO and available from Specialized dealers.

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The RXF34 is due to be fitted to our Specialized Camber 29 test bike soon.

 

Specialized Release the Radical New 2015 S-Works Demo Carbon

This weekend at Mont Sainte Anne, Canada, two-time UCI World Cup Series champion Aaron Gwin will compete on an all-new, 200mm travel bike: The 2015 Specialized S-Works Demo.

“I’ve been on the bike for about a month now,” says Gwin about the completely redesigned World Cup bike he and teammate Troy Brosnan will be debuting at Mont Sainte Anne this weekend. “We got on it right after the National Champs because we wanted to get on it right away for comparison to the old bike on the same track.”

Gwin and Brosnan first got a chance to throw a leg over the new 27.5″-wheeled bike immediately following the 2014 USA Cycling Gravity MTB National Championships in Angel Fire, New Mexico, and found it to be a familiar, but faster, Demo.

The asymmetrical shape of the top tub/seat mast junction. One sided!
The asymmetrical shape of the top tub/seat mast junction. One sided!

“The thing I noticed right away was just how fast it was,” says Gwin. “It’s a really playful bike, but it’s a race bike through and through.” Gwin believes this bike “reacts quicker than any bike he’s ridden before.”

Utilising an asymmetrical design — producing the visually-absent seat tube on the non-drive-side — the radically-new approach to carbon frame construction is intended to lower the center of gravity and keep the frame as stiff as it has always been.

“You can plant it and change directions really quick because of how your feet sit on the bike” Aaron Gwin

“It accelerates fast because of the [lack of] weight and the stiffness.” Gwin says. “You can plant it and change directions really quick because of how your feet sit on the bike… there are not a lot of pivots so when you put force into the bike it reacts straight away.”

One of the interesting points Gwin makes about the new Demo is how the single-sided seat tube allows for easy in-and-out access to the rear shock.

“The switch was really easy and setting up suspension was easy,” says Gwin.”It’s something non-racers might not have to deal with very often. But anyone who races seriously knows how often you need to service, set up and remove your shocks. The access on the Demo makes it so easy, plus I just think it looks rad.”

A floating seatstay keeps the pedalling and braking forces separate, while the standard size 12×135 millimeter axle has been engineered to stiffen the rear end with a square design. However, Gwin says any stiffness gained in the rear end has not added weight. “It’s really light in the rear end, which allows the bike to stay agile. I really like a stiff bike so it’s great to not have to sacrifice any rigidity for the added agility.”