The not-so-minor details
Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B
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Category leading performance.
Unheard of weight - stability - agility ratio.
Progressive spec choices.
Cane Creek DB Inline Air shock issues.
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.
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.
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.
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!