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Bike Test: Specialized S-Works Enduro Carbon 26er

December 16, 2013
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When Curtis Keene stopped by our offices with his S-Works Enduro for our “Inside the Pros’ Bikes” segment in our January 2013 issue, we were completely enamored with the bike. As one of the fastest riders on the enduro scene, Curtis deserves to be taken at his word when he says it’s one of the fastest bikes he’s ever been on. It sure looked like it…just sitting in our photo studio. This month we finally had the chance to get it dirty. 

Despite the name, this bike isn’t built for enduro racers only, and even though Specialized’s website lists it under the “Gravity” tab, it doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into that narrow category, either. The “Enduro” name signifies that  it can endure any type of riding, but it is light enough that it could be pressed into everyday trail riding or used for downhill racing by a skilled pilot. 

The Enduro sports a full-carbon front triangle and a welded aluminum rear triangle. The frame boasts 6.5 inches of travel, using Specialized’s patented FSR suspension design controlled by a custom Cane Creek Double Barrel Air shock. The frame also uses a PressFit 30 bottom bracket with ISCG tabs, a tapered head tube and a 12×142-millimeter rear axle. 

All of them. The S-Works version of the Enduro represents a no-holds-barred approach to building a bike. SRAM’s XX1 drivetrain is perfect for enduro riding, with razor-sharp shifts and best-in-class chain management, and the Cane Creek Double Barrel Air shock features a wide range of adjustability that will adapt to any rider weight and riding style with ease.

Moving out: Specialized took all the guesswork out of setting suspension earlier this year with Autosag, and the Cane Creek shock comes with the compression and rebound knobs set to the recommended starting positions right out of the box. Simply set the sag to 30?35 percent and you’re ready to ride. But, don’t forget that the Enduro isn’t really a set-it-and-forget-it kind of bike; it’s more adjustable so that you can set it up for different types of riding.

Pedaling: The FSR suspension design has a very open feel that helps with small-bump compliance, but it left us longing for a little more resistance to bobbing under hard pedaling. Fortunately, Cane Creek has custom-designed a small machined lever just for Specialized bikes that mounts to the low-speed compression adjustment on the shock. Just flip the lever and the shock firms up.

Climbing: This is a long-travel bike, no question about it; however, enduro riding isn’t just a gravity sport, and this bike rises to the challenge on the climbs. The low overall weight of the bike helps, but what really makes it float up hills is the low rotational weight. The carbon hoops are mated to very lightweight, albeit high-volume, tires, which means the bike feels even lighter than the 27.8 pounds the scale says. This bike is proof that 26ers aren’t dead yet, because it accelerates like a scalded cat.

Descending: This bike likes to go fast. It’s not a full-on gravity bike, but we found ourselves slashing corners on our steepest test tracks, which we normally reserve for gravity bikes. The Enduro’s stable handling is made possible by the sub-67-degree head angle. And while the 13.8-inch bottom bracket might seem high on paper, it doesn’t need to be any lower. The center of gravity on this bike feels remarkably low as it is. This bike has enough suspension travel to plow through rough sections and is nimble enough to pick lines like a surgeon with a scalpel. Whether you’re the “ride fast and apologize later” type or the “choose a precise line” type, the Enduro will make you ride better.

Cornering: Let us reiterate that 26-inch wheels aren’t dead yet. This bike rails high-speed corners with stability and has the short wheelbase and snappy chainstays to make it through the tightest of switchbacks. On low-speed, technical corners, the front end is a bit of a handful, thanks to the slack head angle, but this is the only situation in which we turn to the Fox fork’s TALAS feature to lower the front end to keep it from wandering. 

A dropper post is mandatory on a bike like this, and the Specialized Blacklight post works just fine; however,  the cable attaches to the head of the post, so the cable bows out when it’s in the low setting. On a bike in this price range, we would much prefer to see the hose or cable routed through the seat tube with a RockShox Reverb Stealth or KS LEV Integra post.

The Avid X0 World Cup brakes provided plenty of stopping power, but delivered a very inconsistent feel at the lever. In fact, when the brakes heated up on long descents, we didn’t know if the lever was going to respond like a hair trigger or need to be pulled almost to the bar. While the rest of SRAM’s components deliver top-notch performance, this brake design needs to go back to the drawing board.

The Specialized carbon handlebar works well on the smaller-sized Enduros, but taller and more aggressive riders will prefer something wider than the 28-inch stocker. We swapped it for Renthal’s 30.5-inch-wide Fatbar for the latter portion of our test and never looked back. 

Ferris Bueller once said about a Ferrari, “If you have the means, I highly suggest picking one up.” That’s how we feel about the S-Works Enduro. It’s a great bike that will make you a better rider. It’s capable of hitting every trail, from smooth cross-country tracks to rock-strewn downhill chutes. While it’s intended for enduro riding and racing, we’re convinced that it will be a quiver-killer for most riders, because the Specialized S-Works Enduro will be the bike they will want to ride every day. 





Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun. You can start a subscription by clicking here or calling (800) 767-0345. Also available from the Apple Newsstand for reading on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

Contact us via email at mbaction@hi-torque.com


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