Compare-O Bottom Line: Specialized S-Works Enduro 29 is the king of descent and more

29er Enduro Enduro Compare-O 2014

This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–http://reviews.mtbr.com/category/enduro-compare-o-2014

BEST OF TEST WINNER: BEST OVERALL BIKE

Specialized has been called “off the back” because of their apparent reluctance to bring 27.5-inch wheeled bikes to market amidst the avalanche of hype. But after spending some quality time on their S-Works Enduro 29, we understand their reasoning—it’s hard to imagine the new wheel size would improve anything. In fact the Enduro 29 is so good as-is, we’ve named it the Best Overall Bike in our Enduro Compare-O, wheel size be damned. Silky smooth on descents, surprisingly capable on climbs and just plain fun to ride, the Enduro 29 dominated our voting. When Spech’ inevitably rolls out their 27.5ers—soon we expect—some will say they’re just playing catch-up. With the Enduro 29, we say they’re already way out ahead.

BEST OF TEST WINNER: BEST DESCENDER

The Enduro 29’s win in this category is not only remarkable because it makes the Specialized the only two-award-winner in our test, but because it beat a strong field of gravity-focused designs like the Orbea Rallon, Rocky Mountain Altitude MSL 770 Rally Edition, and Norco Range Alloy to do it. Through some magic matrix of its big, 29-inch wheels, 155mm of rear travel and ridiculously short chainstays, the Enduro 29 set the standard anytime the trail pointed downward. We’d be remiss not to mention the suspension here—RockShox’s über-buttery Pike RCT3 fork and Cane Creek’s Double Barrel Air CS rear shock which Specialized balanced to perfection on the E29.

See the rest of the award winners here.

Before the Specialized S-Works Enduro 29 even rolled out of the parking lot, we knew this bike was something very special. Since launching in early 2013, the Enduro 29 has been an award-winning, podium-dominating machine thanks to a groundbreaking short-chainstay design that mixes the nimble handling of a 26-inch bike with the benefits of bigger 29-inch wheels and 155mm of rear suspension travel.

As we stated in our First Look at this bike, the Enduro 29 is an understated yet eye-catching looker. Its matte black and white paint scheme compliments the bike’s signature X-Wing front triangle which not only adds to the aesthetics but strengthens and stiffens the front end.

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

Onward and upward

Given its reputation, there was no doubt the Enduro 29 was going to slay downhill, but what about uphill? When we threw it on the scale we were stunned to find this long-travel 29er weighed in at only 27.3 pounds. Of course, our test bike was outfitted with all the fixins including SRAM XX1, Roval Traverse SL 29 carbon wheels and a heart-stopping $9,250 price tag. Yeah, a lot bit pricey for most people, but then again, a bike like this is not made for most people.

On fire road climbs, riders said the Enduro 29 ascended like a really efficient 140mm bike, with solid traction out of the saddle and an overall eagerness often lacking in other long-travel 29ers. A new lockout feature on the Cane Creek Double Barrel Air CS shock helped pedaling efficiency on longer, steeper climbs. On the technical uphills, the Enduro 29 continued to impress.

“The short chainstay positions the rear wheel directly under the rider for great rear wheel traction while in the saddle and on steeper climbs,” said one rider. “The flip side is that if you applied too much power, it would lift the front wheel a bit. Once you get used to the short rear end, you’ll find you can climb technical stuff very well.”

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

Quick and nimble

The extremely short 16.9 inch chainstays on the Enduro 29 are part of what makes this bike such a standout. Not only does it help the bike climb better, but cornering, lifting and rolling terrain performance are also enhanced. One of the test riders compared the Enduro 29 to his personal bike—a Specialized Stumpjumper EVO—which has both longer chainstays and less rear travel.

“On rolling terrain, the Enduro 29 feels like a shorter-travel bike—if I didn’t look down at the bike I couldn’t tell the difference between my Stumpy EVO and the Enduro,” he explained. “The one thing that stands out, again, is the short chainstays.

“You can lift the front to manual obstacles with ease—substantially easier than with any other 29er I’ve ridden,” he continued. “This doesn’t equate to a faster bike, but it certainly makes it a more fun one.”

Other test riders were equally smitten with the Enduro 29’s short stays—along with the primo wheelset—and resultant handling.

“The exceptionally short chainstays, and stiff Roval carbon wheels made the Enduro 29 handle with the sharpness and agility of a 26-inch wheel bike,” concurred another rider. “I couldn’t believe this bike was a 29er—it has uncanny handling prowess.”

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

The undisputed king of descent

Despite the cheers for its handling and climbing abilities, the real pleasure and praise for the Enduro 29 came once the bike was pointed downhill.

“Hands down the best descender in the test,” said one rider. “Simply amazing and effortless. So smooth at warp speed. This bike doesn’t come alive until most riders are at their absolute limits.

“The Rock Shox Pike up front and 155mm out back made Braille Trail like a kiddie pump track,” he continued. “Even the most stutter-bumped sections of trail were smoothed out like a sheet of glass. Such a treat to ride downhill.”

The M5 welded aluminum FSR rear triangle with a 12×142 rear thru-axle delivered burly performance while the Cane Creek Double Barrel Air CS shock delivered rear end plushness that seemed to have no limits. The RockShox Pike up front—despite a couple issues detailed below—was an absolute standout performer, upping the bike’s overall plushness.

Continue to Page 2 for more on the Specialized S-Works Enduro 29 and full photo gallery »
About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.


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  • DaveG says:

    “A new lockout feature on the Cane Creek Double Barrel Air CS shock…”

    It’s not a lockout.

  • stuart English says:

    I built one recently and am on my first week or two riding trip of the year. I came to Tuscon to start and after 3 days of riding 5 different trails in the area I csn say it works great in this rocky terrain. There are no huge climbs but many that are rocky and ledgy and I don’t notice any wallowing or squatting as you tackle the climb. On the downhills its just amazing how it stays so composed.

    • david says:

      Go take it for a ride down Goat camp in the white tank mountains
      or geronimo and corona de loma at south mountain

  • mr.habanero says:

    The 29er all other 29ers wish they were.

  • Sean says:

    Is nobody going to comment of the chrome short-shorts, tank top, and helmet?

    • TJ says:

      Sean – I’m pretty sure that is just a standard issue kit that comes with all Specialized 29ers now – this explains a significant portion of the $10K price tag

    • rydeordie says:

      Thats just the ASS bro, hes trying to be more lowkey and left the cape at home.

  • Jw says:

    Props to Specialized for getting the build kit right, but it’s hard to see much useful comparison between a $10K bike and a $5-7K bike. Climbing would be noticeably improved if all the bikes had carbon fiber wheels, and descending would be way better if they all had a RS Pike and Cane Creek DB Air (or similar) shock. This comparison would be more helpful of the build kits had been similar between bikes (and preferably not completely out financial reach for the normal reader). Obviously you run what you get for a test and some manufacturers don’t give the same value for money as others, but at least get the bikes within a couple of thousand dollars of each other so that readers can see real value comparisons.

  • PJMacatac says:

    So it rides like a 26er eh? But as you read the comments, many don’t agree. I took both versions (26er, 29er) of this bike out for a ride, and decided to get the real thing. That’s right, the 26er that the 29er is attempting to behave like. It has more travel, is far more playful and flickable than its wagon-wheeled sibling and…guess what? Everybody is buying into this wheel size BS so they can’t give the 26ers away. So I got a screaming deal on the superior sibling. Take advantage of this situation like I did and get yourself a bargain on one of the best bikes ever built.

    • pb says:

      I just picked up a new 2013 carbon expert enduro 26″ that a shop was almost trying to give away at this point. Never ridden, just been sitting on their floor waiting for someone to look through all the 29er hype and see this beauty. I love this 26″ bike. And now that it seems like a 27.5 enduro is inevitable, I’ll most likely never ride a 29er and I’m sure I won’t miss a thing.

  • Doctor says:

    “turns Braille into a kiddie pump track”! wow! but it raises a question. Why not just go ride a kiddie pump track in the first place?

  • Horse says:

    No mention of the massive problem this bike has with braking and wheel flex?!

    did you ride it down on anything steep?

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