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