By Justin Steiner. Photos by Justin Steiner and Jon Pratt.
Given the amount of buzz this year surrounding 27.5-inch bikes, Specialized sure surprised a lot of folks when it pulled to wrapper off the Enduro 29 last week. Many of us around the office were skeptical of a 155mm-travel 29er, but the overall geometry package looked rather promising, in particular the 16.9-inch chainstays.
The Comp’s aluminum frame is paired to a very impressive parts package for the $3,500 retail price. Everything from tire choice to the roller-type chain guide seems very well thought out. Of course the star of this show is the new mid-mount SRAM front derailleur and Specialized’s “Taco Plate” mounting system (yum, tacos).
We’ve already seen some readers complaining about this “proprietary” front derailleur system, so I’d like to point out this new front derailleur mountain system was co-developed by Specialized and SRAM and is available to the public. Progress is not proprietary. I’d wager we will see quick acceptance of the mid-mount front derailleur as it has shown to facilitate some very short chainstays on the Enduro 29.
Fortunately for me, this black and blue beauty arrived just two days before we headed south to Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. In the rough, mountainous terrain, the 29-inch wheels rolled over roots and rocks at slow speed like we’ve come to expect, but really came into their own when pointed down hill. Sure, it offers the traction of a 29er, but the short chainstays allow you to ride it like a 26-inch wheeled bike, manualing, wheelying, and j-hopping your way down the trail in a way you never would have expected from a 29er. Though it sounds like a back-handed compliment, this bike doesn’t feel like a 29er, it simply rides like a very cohesive and competent bicycle.
After riding a bunch of bikes with lots of anti-squat built into the suspension design, the FSR suspension does feel somewhat sluggish. It rewards a sit-and-spin approach to climbing. The Fox CTD rear shock is effective, however, and I used the Trail setting quite a lot. Fortunately, the trade-off is a suppleness and small bump sensitivity that’s second to none in Descend mode.
Climb mode does offer a firm and supportive platform, but the ride feels somewhat dead and the additional damping decreases traction. Hauling this bike’s 30.3 lbs. (33.2 lbs. with pedals and a dropper post) up the trail wasn’t awful, either. Stiffness and durability are far more important characteristics to this test rider.
Heading down the trail, the Enduro surely lives up to its name, and surpassed my expectations by a large margin. Given the big wheels and 155mm of travel, I found myself riding the Enduro much like I’d ride a DH bike—pop and transition, rumble across the rough sections. This bike is scary fast. It’s truly terrifying how fast you can roll through gnarly terrain.
Overall first impression? This bike is a game changer. Seriously. For a company that was staunchly anti-29er, Specialized has come full circle to deliver what might just be the most rally-able 29er on the market today. Every design choice simply works. The 67.5-degree head tube angle is slack enough to be stable, but not so slack as to wander drastically when climbing. The bottom bracket is low, but you’re able to carry so much momentum on this bike it simply isn’t a problem.
The stays are short, half an inch shorter than my 26-inch wheeled all mountain bike, in fact. Those short stays keep the rider’s weight over the rear wheel in a way that’s familiar to gravity-oriented riders. The long front center is stable at speed and on steep sections, too. In short, this bike is a complete package for mountain riding. I’ll need more saddle time to weigh in with a final verdict, but things certainly look extremely promising.
Look for the long-term review of this bike in an upcoming issue of Dirt Rag. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss it. And click here to read more from our Tech Editor about why the Enduro 29er is a potentially revolutionary design.