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.

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!

Tested: Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B

You won’t need a rocket scientist to tell you that any S-Works is going to an absolute pleasure to ride, Specialized stop at nothing when dressing their flagship model bikes in the most ridiculously fine components money can buy. But when you wave the S-Works wand at a big travel Enduro, we found you end up with a bike that hides its brawn like magic, but knows exactly when to show its cards when you need it the most.

Click below to watch our video review.

The Enduro sits proudly in the increasingly competitive category of its namesake – enduro. That buzz word has grown rapidly in popularity all over the world, and  is responsible for the birth of a new and fashionable way of riding. In short, going enduro riding is what we’ve always done, hitting the descents as hard as you can and riding back up the other side again. But going enduro racing is about getting every possible inch of performance out of your body and bike, when both climbing and descending. It’s tough, so ideally you need a lightweight downhill bike with lots of gears and efficient pedalling performance. Simple, right?

As a side note, the Enduro is now available in both 29″ and 650B wheels (Specialized prefer the measurement 650B rather than 27.5″, as the exact measurement is not 27.5″), giving riders a choice that we don’t usually see in this long travel and high end category. Hopefully we can line up a review on the 29er version soon too.

Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 3


This Enduro uses a carbon front end mated with an aluminium rear end, and it’s Specialized’s finest FACT 11m carbon material that allows the impressive lack of mass. Sitting on the Enduro you look down at a very burly frame, all the tubing and shapes are huge, giving you the confidence that this bike ain’t mucking around. The cables run externally down the underside of the down tube in a remarkably neat and easily accessible way, Specialized know how to route cables that’s for sure. Another neat touch is at the chainstay with a tidy and effective rubberised guard to silence the ride from the slapping chain. No downtube protector though like we’ve seen a lot of lately on carbon mountain bikes, perhaps the three cables will provide the frame with enough protection from debris impacts.

In classic Specialized style, this is a boldly finished bike. Making no secret that it’s an S-Works there is big red lettering and a beautifully detailed matte and gloss hybrid paint job and all the colours match up to perfection, even the custom stickers on the RockShox fork look just so neat, it’s a real head turner.

Specialized’s suspension bikes use variants of the long-standing FSR design, it’s their own design and a very popular one indeed with anyone who appreciates a supple and grounded feeling suspension bike. The suspension pivot that sits just below and in front of the rear wheel axle allows the FSR system to benefit from a certain amount of vertical wheel travel as it compresses. The FSR is a suspension design that doesn’t give the rider too much feedback through the pedals, and also remains active enough when the rear brake is actuated.

An FSR suspension bike is a winner in just about every area, but in more recent times with the advent of bigger wheels used in longer travel bikes the compact configuration of the FSR has fortunately allowed Specialized bikes to keep the rear ends of their bikes super short in the name of enhancing the bike’s on-trail agility.

When the Enduro 29er was first announced there was a whole lot of hype around the promise of a big wheeled bike that would reap the benefits of a bigger wheel, but maintain quicker handling that a we’re used to with 26″ and 650B bikes.

In the case of this 650B Enduro, the chainstay length is an astounding 422mm (and 430mm in the 29er). We’ll elaborate on what a short chainstay does to a bike’s handling later.

Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 35
The Enduro’s impressively stiff frame with the distinctive X-Wing shape will confidently go wherever you point the front wheel.
Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 6
The top shock mount hides inside a wide and beefy section of carbon.
Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 41
The tight and compact FSR linkage is partly responsible for allowing the Enduro’s rear wheel to come so close to the centre of the bike without compromising on tyre clearance or lateral rigidity.


Yes, it’s a very high end bike. For $10500 you’d want to expect really, really #*%$*@! great parts, but don’t worry the S-Works Enduro won’t disappoint. Interestingly it’s only the fork, shock, shifter, cassette, chain, derailleur, brakes and stem that isn’t a Specialized branded component. Even the cranks and wheels are from Specialized’s catalogue and we stand by all their gear as some of the best available. Tyres are a particularly hard one to get right, and they succeed with flying colours with the tacky and lightweight combo of the Slaughter and Butcher.

The SRAM XX1 drivetrain is flawless in its operation, and we especially appreciate the small 32 tooth chainring giving the Enduro a nice and low gear range. Give us a lower range of gears any day! If you’re spinning out of a 32 tooth chainring, you’re probably on a road so just chill out and enjoy the fresh air. We never felt the gear range was too low, this test bike travelled with us to Roturoa, Mt Buller and all over Sydney’s Northern Beaches, it’s fair to say that it had a solid and varied amount of terrain to be tested against.

Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 25
Hard to beat, the SRAM XX1 drivetrain is the duck’s nuts.
Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 46
A rotor size that we’d typically see on downhill bikes, 200mm. Extra power!
Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 8
Specialized’s new Slaughter tyre, bite in the corners but low profile in the centre for speed.

A whopping 200mm rotor up the front gives the SRAM Guide RC brakes with its silky smooth carbon lever a powerful amount of braking bite, and keeping in theme of real enduro a RockShox Pike with 160mm of buttery smooth handles the ugliest of trails with its trademark composure.

Out the back the Cane Creek DB Inline shock has a lot more adjustability than a typical RockShox or FOX shock, and you’d hope the type of rider who’d be interested in buying such a high end bike to be at least a bit savvy with shock tuning. There’s lots to fiddle with: you have air pressure, high and low speed rebound, high and low speed compression and a Climb Switch. Cane Creek make it simple and clear to understand what adjustment does what and their website is excellent, and to simplify the setup even further Specialized supply their recommended ‘base setting’ to help get you in the right ball park to get started. Only the Climb Switch is adjustable on the fly, the other four adjustments require a small Allen key. Air volume is also adjustable via a simple process of fitting spacers inside the air can to achieve a more linear or progressive spring rate. It’s a highly tuneable shock, so to get the most out of  it the trial and error testing period is imperative.

Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 27
The Cane Creek DB Inline shock is new to the market, and offers a massive range of tuning options.

It’s the Cane Creek shock that we didn’t exactly get along with though. Our first ride became a frustrating one, with the shock losing all its rebound control making the bike ride like a noisy pogo stick. A replacement shock was swiftly sent and we headed out for round two, but disappointingly we never got to a point where we felt comfortable with the rebound control. Although better than the first shock, it still wasn’t right.

Specialized assured us this was only a teething issue with a batch of shocks on the early release pre-production bike that we had (previously used in the Test The Best demo fleet) but in truth we’d heard whisperings around the place that we were certainly not the only ones having issues with this new shock. Third time lucky and we were running a shock which seemed to function correctly, but it still failed to impress us like we’d hoped. It’s a shame, as we have certainly had good experiences with the Cane Creek shocks before.

Despite plenty of tuning, resetting the sag, and using the base settings that Specialized suggest, we still didn’t feel any benefit of this shock over say a RockShox Monarch Plus or a FOX Float X. We struggled to find a point where the spring rate was progressive enough to resist blowing through the travel – increasing compression damping just reduced the sensitivity and the disparity between the supple fork and shock was too great. The overall feeling was one of uncertainty, like we were never certain where we were in the rear travel .Maybe we’re just used to a FOX or RockShox shock?

On a more positive note, we appreciate the Climb Switch adjustment (gold lever) and how it puts the shock into a perfect climbing mode. We just wish the other adjustments could also be made so easily.

Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 9
The Specialized Henge saddle is nice to sit on, and the new slippery finish is great for pedalling in baggy shorts.
Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 20
30mm wide internal, (35mm wide external) rims are a move in the right direction. Try some, you’ll never go back.
Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 23
This is ergonomic perfection – the remote lever for the adjustable seatpost.

Whilst we love the new Slaughter tyre used on the rear of this bike (the low profile centre knobs do wonders in boosting the rolling and acceleration speed of the bike) we’d suggest keeping a meatier tyre in your possession for backup if the conditions get rougher or looser. And perhaps a set of tyres with stiffer sidewalls would let you make the most of the wide rims and drop tyre pressure further without squirming on extra heavy sections of trail.

The seatpost is also a Specialized number, with a cable actuated lever that connects to the post internally. The remote lever is absolute ergonomic perfection, and so simple! Hitting the seatpost with your left thumb is so very easy, and it controls the three-stage seatpost height without needing to move your hand position on the bar. It’s just at times we struggled to locate the desired height, even after a few rides we often took longer than we’d liked to lock it into place. A slight amount of knocking developed in the post too, and was noticeable when riding, not a deal breaker for us but still something you’d prefer not to have when with such a high price tag.

The Roval Traverse SL Fattie wheels are a seriously good addition to a bike like this. The mega 30mm wide carbon rims give the tyre a massive footing allowing you to run lower tyre pressures, which in turn boosts traction in every situation and there is none of that uncertain squirming that comes with low tyres. There is no foreseeable drawback in our minds with wide carbon rims, it’s the future and the Roval Fatties strike a perfect balance of width, weight and stiffness. Definitely our most favourite wheels in this category right now.


We took the Enduro everywhere and anywhere we could, which says a lot about a bike with such a big amount of travel. We found it to be the 160mm travel bike that we climbed as easily as we descended. That is not a easy task to get right, no matter how hard bike companies try as it requires a considered balance of key elements, and low weight doesn’t hurt the cause either.

A 12kg bike will never be a drag to climb hills on, but it’s really the combination of the geometry and suspension efficiency that make the Enduro such a snack when you’re settling into a long slog to the top. It’s a short bike overall mated with a slack head angle, so it favours a light steering input on the bars to help keep the front wheel pointing up the trail without wandering about. With the Climb Switch engaged the suspension was as firm as you’d want it, but still allowed the suspension to remain active enough to track up and over loose surfaces.

During our trip to Mt Buller in the big mountains of Victoria, we took the Enduro on The Australian Alpine Epic Trail, a monster of a ride only 40km in length but it’s a real undertaking. We relished in the way the Enduro had the firepower to really let the brakes off and hammer through the turns on the descents, but still never got in the way of climbing all the myriad of steep and tricky pinches and tight uphill corners you find there.

Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 4

And for a trip to Rotorua it was the biggest travel bike we’d taken over to NZ where the fairly smooth terrain typically favours a 120-150mm travel bike, but the Enduro lapped it up with its well-rounded capability. All day rides were comfortable, and on trips to the bike park with gondola-accessed runs the Enduro tackled all the features with the confidence of a bigger or downhill specific bike, jumping doubles, tall table tops and simply playing about with ease and confidence.

It’s the type of bike you can rely on to save your skin when a trail tries to bite, if you make an error or come too hot into a section of trail where you might reach the limits of traction and suspension capabilities, you’ll be sure not to get bucked off.

Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 1

Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B (1)

The short rear end comes into play in many aspects of the ride character, the most obvious is when the trails are tight. A bike with 160mm of travel should not normally be able to flick around a switchback turn, or make quick direction changes like this. Climbing up a tight corner in the trail requires much less effort than you’d expect, and winding through flatter singletrack is also remarkably easy with far less heavy handed effort to make such a long travel bike go where you want it to.

The reduced length out the back takes a fair bit of getting used to, especially for us when we are jumping around between so many test bikes all the time. In the big bermed corners of Rotorua we struggled to find a position where our weight was evenly distributed over both wheels, and our upper body was in a position to steer effectively. We’re sure a bit more time on the Enduro and experimenting with handlebar height we would find a position we are happy with.

Also the short rear end takes getting used to when climbing up ledges, where your timig to lift the rear wheel is quicker than normal, but again nothing we’d not become more comfortable with over time. You’ll want to be be careful the first few times you go to pull a big manual too, as you’ll may loop out onto your arse like we almost did a number of times!

Overall, the short rear end and shock do mean it’s a bike that will take a little bit of getting used to. But once you’ve got your head in the game, the Enduro lets you charge very hard, it’s stiff and solid beneath you, so you’ll naturally put a lot of confidence in it when you need it the most.

Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 2


Our misgivings over the rear shock couldn’t dampen our love of the Enduro, it’s a seriously capable bike that performs like its name implies, a real enduro bike. The rougher the terrain the better, and the more determined you are to ride everything in front of you, better still.

It’s a lot of dough, but there are models below it in the massive Specialized catalogue that have the same geometry and efficiency just without the super high end bits and a few added grams, but those who want this bike probably already know what they are in for as it says S-Works on it. Enough said.

Living the Enduro Dream: Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B First Impressions

We are bloody excited to have taken delivery of the S-Works Enduro 650B, their appropriately named big mountain gravity enduro bike. The Enduro is available in both 29″ and 650B wheel sizes (29″ with slightly less travel) and of course a few models at lower price points, plus there is also an EVO variant (a coil shock model with gravity focussed components). While we put some quality time in aboard the Enduro to establish our final review, we deliver some initial thoughts on this dreamy ride.

But first let’s just take a moment to recognise any Specialized with the badge ‘S-Works’ is going to be a dream ride by default; you’ll find a froth inducing S-Works badge in most of the high end frame offerings, from hardtails to women’s specific models, right up from cross country Epic to their downhill race bike, the Demo. An S-Works model is simply as good as it gets, Specialized spare nothing in speccing their flagship bikes with the best kit available to them, built onto the lightest frame configurations. Sure a $10499 bike is going to be amazing, but the potential buyer of a bike in this category is a tough crowd to please.

What really stood out about the Enduro, when it first came out in 29″ wheeled version, was the way Specialized focused on making a big travel 29er with a chain stay length of just 430mm, all in an aim to eliminate those preconceptions that big-travel, big-wheeedl bike couldn’t corner like a 26er. Read all about that here.  Specialized have long been quite hard nosed about the 29″ wheel being the optimum wheel for all bikes and all riders. But, in our experience, not everyone wants a 29er! When it comes to this category of bike, many riders prefer a smaller wheel, so we’re very happy that the Enduro know lets us enjoy all those things we love about Specialized bikes, but with 650B wheels. Bravo, Specialized this is the bike we’ve been waiting for.

Specialized Enduro S-Works 650b 31
Ahead of the game with that name, the Enduro has been around long before the word became a thing.

There are a few standout components on the Enduro that we really like. It’s easy to forget that aside from the brakes, suspension and gear set it’s a completely Specialized bike, their in-house components are seriously top notch and assimilate into the bike cleanly. The wheels are especially worth a note, the new super-wide 30mm carbon Roval Traverse SL Fattie wheels take our appreciation for fat carbon rims to the next level, more on those in the final review. The Command Post scores the SRL, a new incredibly neat and ergonomic lever found where a left hand shifter could be, and the new Slaughter tyre with its low profile centre flanked with aggressive side knobs is sure to aid in acceleration without detracting from cornering control.

From the new slippery finish on the Henge saddle, to the nifty top-mounted chain guard, to the ideal cable routing the whole bike is polished to perfection. The frame finish is gorgeous to see, and also quite resilient, not looking tatty at all despite the muddy riding it’s seen so far.

Specialized Enduro S-Works 650b 32

Our first assignment for the Enduro was to Rotorua for five days riding, while we expected it be a little too much bike for the buff and flowing singletrack there, we hoped that the low weight and fast wheels would help keep it rolling fast, and it sure did. Unfortunately for us the Cane Creek DB AIR Inline shock lost most of its rebound damping, and proceeded to get worse during our time in NZ. The replacement shock also seemed to have rebound problems, so it also had to go back to Specialized. We’re currently riding the third shock, and so far so good. Word from Specialized was that our bike was an early release from their Test The Best demo fleet, hence teething problems with the new Cane Creek shock.

First impressions of the bike are mighty positive, we’ve never found a 165mm bike to feel as capable in such a wide variety of trails as this. Usually in this big enduro/all-mountain category we find the bikes to be a real handful, especially to climb on, or to maintain good speed through flatter trails. The Enduro feels like it would happily mix it up with any 130-140mm trail bike but when it comes to higher speeds and steeper, rougher tracks the Enduro rides into its own with real flair.

We’ll delve into the full ride characteristics later, but for now one standout aspect is how the super short chain stays affect the ride:  pulling a manual in the carpark on our first ride we almost flipped right over on to our arses! Stay length is 422mm, compared to the Norco Range we’re currently testing at 426mm in the rear (medium size), or a Santa Cruz Nomad at 433mm.

Specialized Enduro S-Works 650b 35
What can be said that hasn’t already about the RockShox Pike? It’s the most welcome addition to any bike, especially at 160mm travel, it’s perfectly capable of tackling the roughest riding you can point it at. A 200mm rotor is a great sight too, burly!
Specialized Enduro S-Works 650b 2
Specialized bars, stem and grips. The rise in the bar helps set it apart from the 29er Enduro (with a flat bar) but maybe a bit tall for those who spend most time in flatter terrain, we’ve been running the stem as low as possible.
Specialized Enduro S-Works 650b 27
Specialized S-Works carbon cranks with a 34 tooth SRAM ring, we’d take a 32 or 30 tooth ring any day, gearing low makes more sense to us mortal beings. A neat upper guide adds chain security without drag, noise or fuss.
Specialized Enduro S-Works 650b 29
What took companies so long to do this? This must go down in the books for the best component of the year, the Command Post’s SRL (Single Ring Lever) remote is perfect.
Enduro 2
The Enduro knee deep in the amazing trail of Rotorua.
Enduro 3
Lapping up the shores of Lake Taupo.
Enduro 1
Tipping into a bowl in the Redwoods Forest, Rotorua.

So we’ll be back shortly with our final review of the Enduro, now we’ve been able to spend some quality time with the rear shock working perfectly. Stay tuned!



2015 Highlights from Specialized

Specialized are the boss. With their gap-free range of exemplary bikes, strong and visible marketing, thorough array of parts and accessories and their excellent in-house components, it’s no wonder these guys sit so high in the mountain bike food chain. What’s new for the next season? What can they improve on? For 2015 Specialized release a new Enduro, and do more than just dip a toe into the water with the 650b bikes.

The women’s range makes up for a huge portion of Specialized’s catalogue, with a new Era (29″ wheel race bike modelled around the Epic) and a Rumor EVO all-mountain bike. Our first impressions of the women’s range is here.

We snagged a few quick test rides around the Gold Coast’s fast and zippy singletrack of Nerang, and and in between dirt time we perused the halls of the 2015 dealer show, and picked out our fave new rigs for next year. Here are our thoughts on the new bits and bobs from the bold crew from Morgan Hill, California.

Click on the smaller images for captions and details.

Specialized Vintage FSR 8


Highlights from the 2015 mens mountain bike range:

  • New Enduro with 650b wheels.
  • New wide profile Roval Fattie wheels.
  • Stumpjumper EVO with 650b wheels (released a few months ago).
  • New 380g dropper post with a slight 35mm of drop, the SXP, on Epic and Stumpjumper HT.
  • Low-tread aggressive Slaughter tyre on Stumpjumper EVO, Demo and Enduro range.
  • The Camber remains unchanged for 2015, aside from a couple of spec changes.
  • You’ll have to look hard to find SRAM brakes, with more Shimano and Magura on the vast majority of models.
  • There are five fat bikes…jeeeez.


Specialized have had a bike named ‘Enduro’ in their lineup for many years, long before it became a trendy buzzword, and the sport blew up on the international scene in a big way. The Enduro comes in two flavours, 650b and 29″, with a couple of carbon models and one aluminium framed versions available in Oz.

The downhill World Cup superstars Aaron Gwin and Troy Brosnan both raced the Enduro 650b at the first two rounds of the 2014 World Cup in Pietermaritzburg and Cairns. If they can whack a dual crown fork on an Enduro and light it up at World Cup level, we have no doubts that it’s up to the hardest riding we can deliver.

When Specialized released the Enduro 29, they focused heavily on keeping the bike’s dimensions short in the rear end, with the chain stay measuring a paltry 430mm thanks to the development of a special front derailleur mount (or by ditching it completely for SRAM 1×11 models). 29″ wheels on a 155mm-travel bike is a tough one to get right, but the end result was amazing, the bike never felt too big or too long.

The two Enduro Expert Carbons. 650b and 29″.

Still, a bike with 29″ wheels still has its drawbacks, hence the smaller 650b option. Here at Flow, we ride medium size bikes, we love to jump, pump and let the bike hang out on the trails, slide a bit, pull manuals and hoon around. That’s where a smaller wheeled bike shines. What the 29″ Enduro gains over the 650b Enduro in traction and sheer rolling speed, it loses to its smaller brother in agility and playfulness. It’s your pick! To be completely honest, we often wish we didn’t have to think about wheel sizes so much. Will bikes like the Enduro all be 650b in the future? We hope so.

We took the 650b out for a razz, and holy moly did we love it! Our initial fears that on the fairly flat and buff trails of Nerang would not be enough to fully appreciate such a capable mountain bike, were banished when we let the brakes off and burned around the turns at reckless pace. So much suspension should really suck you of your pedalling energy, but we give this Enduro the thumb up.

Specialized Enduro S-Works 26
Mansfield’s Shannon Raddemaker feels at home going fast on a 29er, but loved the agility of the 650b in the fast turns. Foot out, flat out.
Specialized Enduro S-Works 22
The flagship Enduro S-Works is a total dream. You don’t get much better than this.

Specialized offer the Enduro in the up-for-it EVO format too, with slightly more travel (180mm) and Rockshox BoXXer and an Ohlins coil shock too. In fact, it’s pretty much the exact bike that Gwin and Brosnan raced early in the season!

One of for the bike parks or calmer downhill tracks - the Enduro Expert EVO 650b, $6999.
One of for the bike parks or calmer downhill tracks – the Enduro Expert EVO 650b, $6999.

[divider]Stumpjumper FSR[/divider]

Carrying the same name as the world’s first ever mass-produced mountain bike, the Stumpjumper FSR is a bike that suits the traditional mountain biker, one who favours all-day rides, up and down all types of terrain. The good old Stumpy is a well-loved, comfortable and capable classic.

Starting at $3199 for the Stumpjumper 29, the FSR range is an eight-strong offering of well-specced bikes. There are six 29ers (including two EVO models) and two 650b EVO models as well.

Check out our review of the 2014 Stumpjumper Carbon Expert here.

The Stumpjumper EVO 650b was the first bike that Specialized announced would be rolling on 650b wheels. The news was received with mixed feelings, as we all know how strongly Specialized professed that 29ers were the way forward, and they had 29″ wheels across the overwhelming majority of their mountain bike range. But, hey presto, we have an Enduro, Demo and a Stumpjumper in 650b now. Maybe Specialized didn’t do themselves any favours with their somewhat awkward  media release headlined “Bigger is better, except when its not”. But either way, we welcome 650b bikes to the catalogue.

Giving the purchaser the option of the same bike in two wheel sizes is both a blessing and a curse. Is there too much choice? Or is this the way the whole industry is going?

Specialized Stumpjumper 28
The $7699 Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon EVO 650b.

In the Stumpjumper 29er series, there are no real changes from 2014 aside from spec. The regular Stumpjumper 29 still has 135mm travel, and the two EVO versions (one carbon, one alloy) get a 5mm increase in suspension travel, a long fork, with a few key parts to boost its attitude, like meaty tyres and wider handlebars.

When it comes to the 650b bikes, there are again two options, in carbon or alloy. Instead of making expensive new moulds for the 650b, Specialized have actually added a spacer under the headset of a 29er Stumpy mainframe, to achieve the right geometry for 650b parts to be used, coupled with an entirely different aluminium rear end. Compared to most of the superbly refined range, especially the 650b Enduro, the approach of using a spacer to correct the frame geometry for 650b wheels feels a little underdone.  In Specialized’s defence, we’ve been told that through simply using the spacer, they were able to achieve the right geometry without the costs of constructing a completely new frame. So that’s got to be a good thing for the consumer, as they aren’t cheap in the first place.

Construction aside, how did the 650b Stumpjumper ride? We took out the bright yellow Expert Carbon 650b out for a solid few laps, and we liked it for the most part. The geometry is quite unique though, in classic Specialized form, the bottom bracket is low, but this one had us banging pedals on the ground when climbing up rocky terrain. Too low? We think so. Our cranks were scuffed up after one lap.

The handlebars are fairly tall too, we’d drop them down or swap for a flat bar unless your local terrain is steep. On paper, the tall bars, low bottom bracket and a fairly sharp 68 degree head angle seems like an odd combination, but it rides well. The smoothness off the FSR suspension was a real highlight, and cornering the bike was a blast, with oodles of traction and a very confident and centred position with wide bars holding your body in a good position for any unpredictable terrain ahead.

The trails of Nerang are hard packed, with loose gravel and sand patches to catch you out. A few jumps here and there, and many flat turns. The Stumpjumper really was a hoot to blast about on, we’d love to keep one in our quiver for the long all-day rides. Just watch your pedals on rocks.

Specialized Stumpjumper Expert 5
650b v 29″? You decide, we can’t tell you. Agility and playfulness or massive speed and confidence? Or, are you short, tall, experienced or a beginner? Confusing, isn’t it…

[divider]Stumpjumper HT[/divider]

HT = hardtail. No rear shocks on this one; it’s got an eye for the buffed cross country race tracks.

There are five models in this racy series this year, only one of which is alloy. For 2105, the Stumpy HTs get a SWAT kit (allen key set mounted to bottle cage) and we see a FOX Terralogic fork creep back into the range on the Marathon Carbon. FOX’s Terralogic damping system is not too different to the Specialized Brain damper which many Specialized riders will be familiar with, using an inertia valve to keep the fork firm until you hit a bump.

It’s funny to say, but it’s the seat post on one of the Stumpy HTs that really got us going! The XCP dropper post is found on the Stumpjumper HT and a couple Epics, and with a slight 35mm of drop, it allows the rider just that perfect bit of freedom to move about when the trails are rougher or steeper. It’s a part-carbon post, in 27.2mm diameter, with a neat internally routed cable. Mmm, chapeau Specialized on that one! We think this is just the ticket for cross country racers who don’t need a 100 or 125mm dropper post.

The back end of this bike is gorgeous, with an allen key bolt-up rear hub axle in place of a quick release skewer and a pair of very thin seat stays, offering a bit of give and compliance to the ride quality of the lightweight hardtail.

Specialized Stumpjumper HT 7
The Stumpjumper Marathon Carbon. A race hardtail with a dropper post? YES!


Specialized Australia bring in a whopping nine models of the Epic in three variations.  The three variants of the Epic differ slightly, but are based around the same FSR suspension with a FOX Brain rear shock. There is the mighty sharp angled and lean Epic 29 World Cup, the generously geared and SWAT equipped Epic 29 Marathon, and the regular Epic 29. It’s no wonder why the Epic is the only dual suspension bike to win a World Championship XCO race, these guys are bred for the race track.

There’s no 650b wheels on any Epic, they 100% lend themselves to the bigger 29″ wheel’s rolling efficiency and generous traction.

The World Cup model uses only 95mm of suspension travel front and back. In a world where 100mm of travel is as lean as you get from almost every other brand out there, the Epic World Cup doesn’t pretend to be anything but a pure cross country race bike. All World Cup models use a single-ring drivetrain, and without a front derailleur to worry about, Specialized can go to town in the name of stiffness, with a wide and remarkably fat chainstay. Behind the chainring the tolerances are tight, all in the name of achieving a stiff, and responsive pedalling bike.

Specialized Epic Expert WC 1
Best looking bike in the showroom? The Epic Expert Carbon World Cup 29. A very orange bike for $7199.

We snuck out on the Specialized S-Works Epic 29, the top of the pile, $12500 bike for a couple laps of the buff Nerang trails. What does a bike that costs this much ride like? Not too bad… Ok, it’s a real delight. The low weight, quick wheels and snappy handling made for a fast feel that you’d expect from the most premium of bikes available. It’s not hard to see what you’re spending these type of dollars on when you’re actually riding it, believe us. The new Shimano 11-speed XTR paired with the RockShox RS-1 fork makes for a jaw droopingly gorgeous parts kit and with a Brain damper in the fork matching the FOX Brain rear shock, you can make it as firm or plush as you like with a twiddle of the dials.

Twisting and winding our way through the open forest, we relished in the momentum and efficiency of the low-weight 29″ wheels. The Epic is a super sharp handling bike, with class-leading efficiency and pure speed.

This was also Flow’s first ride on the wild new inverted fork from RockShox. Sure, it twists when you hold the wheels between your knees and pull and push the handlebars, more than a SID would, but on the trail its another story. The carbon legged RS-1 is so incredibly smooth, supple and quiet on the dirt. The fork really takes a lot of the sting out of the trail with the combination of both a good suspension action, and a little bit of ‘give’ in the chassis, in a good way. We’re still worried about the price and exposed inner legs to trail damage, but we love its look and feel so far.

The Epic would have to be our pick for the cross country races or multi day stage races in the calendar.

Specialized Epic S-Works 12
Flow’s Mick Ross giving the $12500 Epic a little bit of a razz. Is this the first time this bike has seen baggy shorts?!
Specialized Epic S-Works 47
This is what a $12500 bike looks like. Holy sh*t.

[divider]Demo 8[/divider]

Now you can ride the bike that Troy Brosnan piloted to a World Cup win in Fort William this year. A 650b wheeled Demo 8.

Specialized have released a completely new S-Works Demo Carbon that is due early next year, but still honour the masses with two versions of the immensely popular aluminium Demo, tweaked to fit 650b wheels.

Aside from the upsize in wheels, the Demo is now available in a new sizing range called S3 Geometry. No longer are the bikes XS, S, M, L etc, where the length and height increases with each size. Instead, you you choose your length, and you choose your height. This has come about from riders going a size up on their downhill bikes for the stability of a longer wheelbase, and so now you can a long size without the seating position going higher if you don’t wish to.

Specialized Demo 3
The Demo 8 FSR II 650b, for $7499.


FIVE fat bikes in the Specialized range for 2015. Isn’t that nuts? Like a tumour, it’s growing, and this just proves it.

The Fatboy Expert with a RockShox Bluto fork is a bit of a winner, and with decent suspension, the bikes don’t bounce about uncontrollably anymore. We might even test one…

Specialized Fatboy Range 13
The top-tier Fatboy is dripping with carbon. All for a fat $4999.


[divider]Body Geometry and the Retül fit system[/divider]

Specialized bought the exclusive rights to the industry leading Retül Müve body fit system. If you see one of these at your local Specialized dealer, sign up for a proper fit. It’s a whole-body experience and will let you get the most out of your bike, in comfort.

Specialized Retul 6
This thing looks like it’s built to torture you. Or power a blender.
Au revior, for now.
Au revior, for now.


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.”

Flow Lounge – 20/11/13

Welcome to the Flow Lounge, brought to you this week from Atherton, Queensland.

Join us this week to learn more about the massive explosion of mountain biking in this tiny tropical town. We also chat about the very luscious Specialized S-Works Camber, some uncharacteristically problematic bugs with our Lapierre Zesty E:i test bike and we road test a few of the most juicy pineapples on the market.