By Zach White
Specialized listened to feedback from riders about both the 27.5 and 29 Enduros and made some small geometry adjustments for 2018. Tired of hearing “lower, longer, slacker”? Too bad, because that’s a big part of what changed. Stack heights see a slight reduction, reaches stretch 5-15 mm, and the head tube angle can be slackened a half degree by using a new Flip Chip that lives inside the shock extension. Bottom bracket height toggles between 350mm in “high”, and 342mm in “low” settings on the 27.5, and between 354mm and 346mm on the 29er.
Shock rate is also tweaked in the 2018 models by way of a new shock mount on the link, resulting in what’s said to be more progressive from last year’s model. The good news for owners of last year’s model that would like to update their Enduros is that Specialized will offer the new links through dealers that are compatible.
A very interesting spec on the new Enduro S-Works, Pro and Coil models is the Wu dropper post, which is currently proprietary to the updated frame by way of it being a 34.9mm diameter. As it drops into one of 4 keyed heights (including max extension), the saddle tilts back 14-degrees for a saddle position akin to a downhill or bmx bike. Shaft travel is only 115mm, but drop in the post is measured from the back of the saddle, it adds up to 150mm.
In addition to the SWAT downtube compartment, Specialized added a cool little SWAT CC to the S-Works, Pro and Coil models that’s housed in the steerer tube and features a pop-up multi-tool with the usual sized allen and torx bits, and a chain breaker with a spare link that’s less accessible, but still there for emergencies. Also new for 2018 are 800mm wide bars for all models, carbon rims on the Pro model, Ohlins TTX Boost forks on the S-Works, and the new Ohlins STX Boost forks on Pro models.
First Ride Impressions
Literally fresh out of the bike box, the S-Works Enduro I was loaned for a couple of hours needed everything from cockpit to suspension adjustments, as well as to simply be broken in a bit – nothing like grabbing a handful of brake on a steep Whistler rock slab, only to find out the brakes haven’t been burned in yet! Per usual, size large was the closest available to my size XL preference, but the added length in the 27.5’s reach made the bike feel closer to correct than expected. Ohlin’s suspension offers plenty of adjustment options, and after a couple of parking lot laps to get a feel for the suspension, it was a “best guess” set up for sure.
We climbed up a blown out, dusty logging road so steep that a half-joking conversation started about whether or not Canadian truck transmissions and and brakes were different than those found in the US. With the shock in its middle setting, the Enduro was happy to chug along underneath me while seated, and transferred power nicely to the rear wheel when standing, but it did bob around a bit. Switching into the most damped shock setting provided a noticeable improvement in climbing up such a steep and featureless ascent.
Once to the top, there was only a short section of relatively flat singletrack to get used to the bike before dropping into a notoriously steep and rocky double-black trail. The Enduro is an easy bike to adapt to for a reviewer as almost everything about it is in the realm of safe when compared to industry benchmarks. There aren’t any surprises or learning curves in the geometry, the Horst Link suspension platform doesn’t throw any wacky spikes or dips into the suspension curve, and all of the components are pretty straightforward – save the new Wu dropper, but more on that in a bit.
Once things got a little bumpy, I stopped to let a touch of air out of the fork, which helped reduce the otherwise slightly harsh feel coming from the front. It was obvious that both the front and rear Ohlins suspension would need more trail time underneath me to get it properly sorted, if not simply to break in their notoriously tight seals. While the Enduro felt comfortable and capable enough to blindly drop into just about everything on the challenging trail, it was hard not to wonder if the slightly less than lively rear suspension was in part due to Specialized’s effort to make the new Enduro more progressive. Again, with such a hasty setup on a relatively complicated shock, anything more than theories would be unfounded during the bike’s maiden voyage.
The new Wu dropper was a mixed bag out on the trail. On one end, the tilted saddle position felt fantastic when dropped down, and really did feel more like a 150mm dropper than the 115mm shaft drop that I’d focused on at the Specialized launch the day before. On the other end, actuation felt a bit rough, and adding more moving parts to a dropper post design is enough to give me a quick shiver. And, while admittedly coming from a 175mm dropper post on my personal bike, and factoring in that we were riding a legitimately steep and puckering trail, I definitely reached for more drop a couple of times. But, just like the amount of drop it’s currently available in, my guess is that the Wu will see some variations and improvements in the future, and that this first rendition is simply that – a new product that’ll need to be put out in the market for a while in order to be improved and dialed in.
Overall, Specialized has taken an already easily rideable and predictable bike, fine tuned it just a hair, and added some cool and interesting components. There’s no new “game changing” suspension platform or anything like that, and there really doesn’t need to be. It’s a bike that works well, and has some features that’ll definitely appeal to many riders.