Bike Test: Specialized S-Works Enduro 29

Skeptics said it couldn’t be done. They said you couldn’t build a long-travel 29er that didn’t handle like a school bus on tight, technical and challenging terrain. The engineers at Specialized begged to differ, and rather than simply modifying an existing bike from their lineup, they decided to start from the ground up and build a bike they hoped would revolutionize the iconic Enduro FSR platform. What they ended up with was the Enduro 29er, a bike that’s led the way for Specialized’s mountain bike development.

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WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The Enduro 29er is one of the most versatile bikes in Specialized’s lineup. It combines a relatively lightweight feel with a geometry and suspension design that’s capable of handling steep chutes, plenty of chunder and just about anything else the trail can throw at it. While the bike works just fine on buffed-out, smooth singletrack, it’s most at home when the trails get rough and technical.

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WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

The S-Works Enduro’s frame is built for 29-inch wheels from the ground up. The front triangle is made from Specialized’s FACT IS carbon fiber, which is then mated to an aluminum rear triangle. The frame also features a tapered head tube, PressFit 30 bottom bracket, ISCG ’05 mounts, internal Command Post routing, 142+ dropouts, full- cartridge-bearing pivots, a replaceable derailleur hanger, and 6.1 inches of travel.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

The S-Works logo isn’t just applied to any bike. These are the no-holds-barred, top-shelf offerings from Specialized. Every component on this bike is a standout. The top-end SRAM XX1 drivetrain provides crisp and smooth shifts. The RockShox Pike fork and Cane Creek Double Barrel CS shock provide ground-leveling suspension performance, and the carbon Roval wheels keep this bike feeling light, snappy and responsive.

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HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Moving out: The Enduro’s suspension is fairly simple to set up, thanks to the SoloAir RockShox Pike fork and Cane Creek DB Air shock. We simply set the air pressure so the bike had 30 percent sag front and rear and hit the trails. Out of the gate, we were impressed with the bike’s low standover height, balanced rider position and low- feeling center of gravity. These design elements make the rider feel as if he is riding “in the bike” rather than “on top of it.”

Suspension tuning tips: While the single air valves on both the fork and shock would have the rider believe the setup is a one-step process, it’s not. The Cane Creek shock has intricate suspension settings that require some time to dial in. Fortunately, the bike comes out of the box set to the “baseline” settings, which will work well for most riders. If you forget what these settings are, you can simply reference the Cane Creek website for the recommended settings and go from there.

Pedaling: The Enduro’s FSR suspension design is adequately efficient, although it lacks the built-in “anti-squat” characteristics of some other multi-link designs. That said, though, the steep seat angle puts the rider in a powerful and efficient position for pedaling, and the ultra-lightweight components, especially the carbon Roval Traverse wheels, make this bike feel even lighter than the scale would let on.

Climbing: Cane Creek’s CS shock works exceptionally well on technical climbs, where having a little suspension travel works better than a true lockout. Simply switch the CS lever to the Climb setting and charge the trails. You will be rewarded with control and confidence scaling even the steepest ascents. This bike is truly only limited by the fitness and determination of its pilot.

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Descending: The slack geometry and nimble feel of the Enduro make it a very versatile descender. Everything from aggressive, rocky terrain to smooth, flowy singletrack is no problem on the Enduro, thanks to the nice balance between capable suspension travel and a quick and nimble geometry. Unlike with most long-travel 29ers we’ve tested, pumping, jumping and manualing down the trail are a treat with this bike. It does not feel like a clumsy, oversized behemoth on the trail. Specialized has done an excellent job of “hiding the wheel size” by keeping key measurements in check. The relatively short chainstays, reasonably short wheelbase and low bottom bracket give the rider plenty of confidence, even on tight, technical terrain.

Cornering: Cornering has always been the Achilles heel for long-travel 29ers, but the Enduro comes fairly close to feeling agile in tight turns and switchbacks. Sure, 27.5- or 26-inch bikes require a little less body English to clean a hairpin turn; however, we never had to manhandle this bike through switchbacks—something we can’t claim with other bikes in this category.

Aggressive cornering: Typically, we would not even include this section for a long-travel 29er test, but the short chainstays on the Enduro make it possible to drift into corners and snap through quickly. The lively and fast feel begs the rider to push harder and harder. We tried to find this bike’s limit, but we simply couldn’t.

Suspension feel: The FSR suspension design delivers a smooth and supple feel at the top of the travel and a nicely progressive feel for control on big hits, jumps and drops. It’s predictable, consistent and plush when you need it to be.

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TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

While the stock Specialized bar is plenty wide for most riders, our crewers felt the slightly wider and taller Renthal Fatbar offered a better position on the bike. We swapped it after only a few rides and never went back. The Avid X0 Trail brakes provided ample stopping power, but lacked the refined and consistent feel of SRAM’s new Guide brakes. We hope to see a change in spec for the 2015 version of this bike.

BUYING ADVICE

As Specialized rider Matt Hunter put it: “Get ready for your confidence to get out of control.” The S-Works Enduro delivers big-bike confidence in a package that’s easy to pedal to the top of the hill—with or without the use of a shuttle. It’s one of the few bikes we’ve tested that can truly say it offers the benefits of the 29er’s rollover and traction without sacrificing much in slow-speed handling manners. After riding this bike, we’re not surprised that Specialized waited so long to develop a 27.5 version. When the 29er recipe is so good, why change it? ❏

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