Before we begin let me give you a little background about who I am and how I found myself writing this review. I grew up in Bishop, CA. I raced mountain bikes there as a kid. Then I stopped, the reason is a tired story, and one that you have most likely heard before, it has to do with hormones, cars, beers, and girls. When I moved to Santa Barbara, CA to attend college and I started working at a shop called Velo Pro. This is where I started riding downhill bikes. Then I stopped, did some rock climbing, school, babe chasing, etc. A decade ago I moved to Portland, OR and once again I found myself at a shop, working at the Fat Tire Farm and riding downhill bikes. This is where it gets interesting. First came seat droppers and with it a yearn to explore more trails. I started riding trail bikes, then picked up riding road bikes and cross bikes. For the past three years I worked for Chris King, and my job gave me the chance to ride a wide variety of bikes. Through mutual friends and shared adventures John and I became friends and I have been lucky to post a couple rides and adventurers all the while sharing with him some of my favorite MTB videos and articles from around the web. It turned out that John needed a bike reviewed, so here I am. Lets get started.
None of the above gives me standout credentials, but I do have heaps of ride time under my belt, and I have been around long enough to have experienced the dramatic change in bicycle technology and performance. My first real bike was a fully rigid Giant Rincon that destroyed my forearms on the hiking-yet-to-be-biking trails of Mammoth Mountain. My have we come a long way! So let’s set that as a baseline, and let’s agree that bikes today, in general, are pretty damn great. Technology continues to march forward, and not just for the sake of conspicuous consumption. Dramatic improvements are still happening. Seats that drop, brakes that work, forks that shock, tires that grip, yes my friends the future is now, and we are riding it!
Well at least I am riding it. This Enduro Expert Carbon 29 is about as futuristic as you can get. It weighs less than my hardtail and is stiffer. It has 6 inches of travel front and back. 6 INCHES! Sniggers aside, remember those Santa Barbara days I was talking about? Like those decade ago days? At that time a bike with 6” of travel was a full blown world cup race bike, and it also weighed around 60 pounds, peddled like the drivetrain was made of rubber bands, and had brakes that fell into the “kinda” category of functionality. Right, enough history. So what did I think about this bike?
Where to start, hmmm. Ok lets start with riding up hill, the boring part of the ride if you are on a bike like this, because let’s face it, a bike like this isn’t designed for the uphills. Uphilling is just part of the of course and the Enduro accomplishes the task, it does the job, and only on steep, slow, technical ascents did I notice some difficulty. Agreed slow technical ascents are difficult, but I felt like I was really having to move around and work the bike more than normal in these situations. I would chalk this up to the height of the bike more than anything, 29er wheels and 6 BIG inches of travel are going to create a higher center of gravity, fact. You are up there. Outside of rockcrawling, the bike worked fine. Did I mention the bike was light? It is, so as you can imagine, that helps.
YES! Folks we have made it. We are at the top. The good part, the cream, the payoff. So remember that kinda high center of gravity feeling I was talking about in the climbing section? Well you don’t notice it here, not at all. The bike feels so comfortable, so easy to ride, roots, off camber, drops, or jumps the thing is a beast. Let’s get specific shall we? The Pike is a phenomenal fork, I know it made the Radavist’s top products of the year and I agree, it is so stiff, functional, and dependable. I found myself pushing harder and harder in corners and hitting rock and root sections faster and faster trying to overwhelm the thing and I couldn’t (note to the forum guys and gals, if you have, congrats).
Assisting the Enduro with its prodigious ground devouring capabilities are 29” wheels capably shod with a Butcher tire up front and a Slaughter tire on the rear. I have to say the Slaughter has been an extremely pleasant surprise, I was convinced before riding that it would have to be the first thing to go, I was convinced that its shallow hard pack design wouldn’t work in the deep loam of the PNW. I was wrong, mostly. The Slaughter can hold its own, the side knobs caught when I needed them and only in the deep loam or the slick mud found after a rain was the tire’s hard pack pedigree particularly detrimental.
The rear suspension is managed by the newly minted Cane Creek DB Air Inline. After some initial issues I was able to get the shock working well, in full disclosure I had to send the first model back due to suck down. I am happy to report that the replacement has had no such issues. Specialized pre-sets the damping settings of the shock to create a baseline for the way that they think you will want to ride the bike, and Cane Creek includes a nice little notebook, pencil, hex wrench, and their version of air volume adjustment system to help with adjustability and allow riders to tune the bike to their preference. Remember that with a large degree of tunability, comes a large degree of responsibility. To get the most out of this shock you will need to pay attention to it and experiment with the settings. In the end it’s worth it, and I was able to dial the shock in to suit my riding style.
Lets talk about terrain, what was I riding this bike on? We don’t have a ton of exposure in and around Portland. Most of the riding is hidden beneath the canopy and ranges from your family fun trail system to your don’t-ask don’t-tell local’s spots. Somehow I was able to meet a number of these fine locals and ingratiate myself into their community so I spend a good amount of my ride time on their trails. They build them steep, fast, and technical. Perfect for this bike. Looking back on the review it appears that I have been gushing, “come on Kyle,” you might be thinking, “it’s not all lollipops and ice cream.”
Let’s Clear the Air:
This bike has been fantastic and has been a great fit for the type of riding that I prefer, that being said there are some things to consider. It is big. The big travel and big wheels definitely gobble up terrain, but this combination can take some of the playfulness out of my riding. Its a lot of bike to move around in the air and on the ground, if flat out speed is your goal then by all means, but flicking this bike around takes a bit of effort. Still though the thing just eats terrain and only in the tightest, steepest switchbacks did I notice that the combination of travel and wheel size was jamming me up.
My only notable equipment issue with the bike were the brakes, the new SRAM Guide RS’s lacked a free stroke or contact point adjustment, I have small hands and the reach was noticeable in steep and wet conditions. SRAM’s Guide RSC features a contact point adjustment feature and I would be interested to compare the two. Considering the quality of this bike it was a bit of a surprise to find this adjustment lacking.
If you are looking for a trail monster that will eat big technical terrain then look no further. The Enduro is built to go downhill very fast, and comes equipped with climbing and singletrack trail manners befitting a less capable descender. It is not a panacea and if you’re not into riding fast, technical, and challenging descents the Enduro 29 might not be the best fit for you. It offers a lot of travel and a lot of traction for the rider who puts the effort into using it, but for those looking for a more agreeable ride you might want to consider a lighter duty ride.
Retail on the Enduro Expert Carbon begins at $ 6,600.00
See more information at Specialized.