Enduro Compare-O: Mtbr’s Best of Test Award Winners

27.5 29er Enduro Enduro Compare-O 2014

All photos by Tyler Frasca.

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

After much riding, debate and balloting, we’ve finally come to the point of revealing the Mtbr Enduro Compare-O award winners. To say the voting was close is an understatement. In almost every category the difference between the winner and runner-up came down to one or two votes, and in some cases tie-breakers.

And while on the one hand picking the winning bikes was challenging, it also serves as a reminder of how many good bikes are available these days. As we tried to address in the Who is this bike for? section of our Bottom Line reviews, it’s not about whether or not a bike is good, but whether a bike is good for YOU, and the way and place you ride it.

If you missed how we went about testing these bikes, you can take a look at our introductory article for a primer. For the end results, keep reading…

BEST OVERALL BIKE

Specialized S-Works Enduro 29

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. Read the Bottom Line review here.

Runner-up: BMC TrailFox TF01 XX-1 Trailcrew

Also getting votes: Ibis Ripley 29, Intense Carbine 29, Pivot Mach 6, Scott Genius 710, Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR Evo 29, Trek Remedy 9.8


BEST ENDURO RACE BIKE

Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon

While a large percentage of our high-dollar fleet inherently has podium potential, Santa Cruz’s much vaunted Bronson Carbon goes to the top step. Slack and stable, galloping fast and eager to attack, the Bronson has that extra je ne sais quoi to nip the field at the line. Undoubtedly the smart, high-zoot build helps, but at the heart of it, Bronson’s stiff, responsive and fun-to-ride chassis wins the day. The bike rockets out of corners and is punchy up short, steep inclines—just the kind of terrain that separates winners from losers on race day. What’s more, even on those in-between days when there is no timing and scoring, to throw your leg over a Bronson Carbon for a fun ride with friends is to notch a victory of another kind. Read the Bottom Line review here.

Runner-up: BMC TrailFox TF01 XX-1 Trailcrew

Also getting votes: Intense Carbine 29, Orbea Rallon, Pivot Mach 6, Rocky Mountain Altitude MSL 770 Rally Edition, Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR Evo 29


MOST VERSATILE

Pivot Mach 6

Clearly many of the bikes in our test can do a lot of things well. But the Pivot Mach 6 stood out as the one bike that covered the entire range with the fewest compromises. While you could swap out parts on several of the bikes and tune their capabilities towards one end of the spectrum or the other, the Mach 6 can dance one minute and brawl the next without changing a thing. If we had one basket to put all our eggs in, the Pivot Mach 6 would be it. Read the Bottom Line review here.

Runner-up: Giant Trance Advanced 27.5 0

Also getting votes: BMC TrailFox TF01 XX-1 Trailcrew, Ibis Ripley 29, Intense Carbine 29, Scott Genius 710, Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR Evo 29


BEST CLIMBER

Ibis Ripley 29

When bikes start to get an evangelistic following, our collective eyebrows raise with suspicion. Are these shout-it-from-the-rooftop types just drinking the Kool-Aid, or are they really on to something? In the case of the Ibis Ripley 29, probably a little of both. But heck, after taking another KOM they deserve drink! Though our capable group of test bikes produced many contenders, none could quite keep up with the Ripley’s throttling pace on fire roads and still claw its way like a rock crawler up techy steeps. Giant’s feathery Trance Advance 27.5 0 made a race of it, but in the end the Ripley 29 reached down into its stealthy bag of dw-link tricks and pulled out the win. Read the Bottom Line review here.

Runner-up: Giant Trance Advance 27.5 0

Also getting votes: BMC TrailFox TF01 XX-1 Trailcrew, Fezzari Timp Peak, Pivot Mach 6, Scott Genius 710


BEST DESCENDER

Specialized S-Works Enduro 29

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. Read the Bottom Line review here.

Runner-up: Orbea Rallon

Also getting votes: Intense Carbine 29, Niner WFO 9, Norco Range Alloy, Pivot Mach 6, Orbea Rallon, Rocky Mountain Altitude MSL 770 Rally Edition, Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR Evo 29


BEST VALUE

Niner WFO 9

When you mention the word “value,” expectations usually go towards the lowest price, but that’s not what we mean. A good value is getting the most bike for the fewest dollars, and by packaging some of the best componentry in the test—a RockShox Pike, SRAM 1×11 drivetrain and a frame that’s a functional work of art—Niner’s $5,000 WFO 9 takes the title. No, $5K is not chump change, but the WFO 9 delivers performance way in excess of its price point—as does our runner-up, the carbon-framed Fezzari Timp Peak. Read the Bottom Line review here.

Runner-up: Fezzari Timp Peak

Also getting votes: Intense Carbine 29, Norco Range Alloy


Trophies to be presented at Sea Otter
In honor of their accomplishments, we’ll be presenting each of the winning manufacturers with a physical reminder of their bike’s accomplishment—a trophy we call the Golden Pliny at the Sea Otter Classic next month. Named for the premier IPA of the local Russian River Brewing Company, the award is a tip of the helmet—and a tip of the glass—to the best of the best. Check our Sea Otter coverage in mid-April when we distribute this very special award to our winners.

James Brown Award Winners
There’s a bit of irony in James Brown’s nickname “Soul Brother No. 1.” He holds the record for the most top-10 hits (six) without ever achieving a no.1 hit. So in honor of the Godfather of Soul, we’re giving two oh-so-close bikes unofficial James Brown Awards.

The Intense Carbine 29 didn’t make the podium even once, but got votes in more categories than any other bike. Similarly, the Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper FSR EVO 29 was the subject of more enthusiastic post-ride conversation than any other bike, but ended up short of getting hardware as well. This just underscores both the fierceness of the competition, and how hard some of these decisions were to make. But worry not Carbine and Stumpy Evo supporters, as the award’s namesake proves, you don’t need a trophy to be a legend.

What about X, and what’s next?
We realize—and you reinforced—that our field of contenders is incomplete. Where is the Kona Process? Where is the Turner Burner? Where is the Trek Slash? Where is the Evil Undead? Where is the fill-in-the-blank? Though we tried to get some of these, for one reason or another we couldn’t obtain a sample bike for our test period. Also, once we got to around the 20 bike mark we stopped asking in order to keep things manageable.

That said, we’re always interested in giving our readers what they want, so use the comments to let us know what other bikes we should test this year. We may not be able to put them head-to-head with dozens of other bikes, but we can give ‘em a go and tell you what we think.

Finally, thanks for taking part in the Enduro Compare-O…we hope you have as much fun on your bike as we did on these.

To see all the stories and reviews from the 2014 Mtbr Enduro Compare-O click here.

Enduro Compare-O: Mtbr’s Best of Test Award Winners Gallery
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Mtbr Best Of Test

All photos by Tyler Frasca.
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Mtbr Best Bike - Enduro 29

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Mtbr Best Race - Bronson

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Mbr Most Versatile - Mach 6

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Mtbr Best Climb - Ripley 29

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Mtbr Best Descend - Enduro 29

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Mtbr Best Value - WFO 9

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Mtbr Best of Test Thumb

About the author: Don Palermini

Chicago-born editorial director Don Palermini became a cycling-based life-form in the sixth grade after completing a family road bike tour of his home state. Three years later he bought his first mountain bike to help mitigate the city's pothole-strewn streets, and began exploring the region's unpaved roads and trails. Those rides sparked a much larger journey which includes all manner of bike racing, commuting, on- and off-road bike advocacy, and a 20-plus-year marketing career in the cycling industry. Now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area and pedaling for Mtbr, his four favorite words in the English language are "breakfast served all day," together in that order.


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  • DaveG says:

    Kind of odd to see the Genius and TrailFox as runners up in multiple categories. Their reviews haven’t been that positive elsewhere.

    After riding one, I wouldn’t classify the Bronson as being “rocket out of corners” or “punchy up inclines.” Interesting to see it take the top racer boy spot.

  • Tommy says:

    I would love to see a shootout between the Enduro 26 and a comparable Enduro 29, with both objective observations and some hard data (i.e. times).

  • max says:

    Test the Norco Range Carbon 7.1. (The LE would also be a good test, but the 7.1 has better value).

  • Travis says:

    Would love to see the Kona Process 111, Trek Remedy 29, and Santa Cruz Tallboy LT aluminum all in the test!

  • Ken says:

    Please,I wish they would do bike tests all using the same wheelsets and tires ,just use Enve’s or something nice, this way the focuswill be more on the differences between the bike’s performance regarding different angles and suspension designs.

  • Grant says:

    Test the new Canfield Balance if possible.

  • Joe Millionare says:

    A 29er wins!!!! I can’t begin to explain how funny that is. All the back and forth about wheel size and a 29er takes the top award. Classic.

  • daverb says:

    idk… Overall/Most Versatile sounds very synonymous. And placing top on Overall/Most Versatile would also mean it’s the best bike for Enduro Race (do-all type of bike)

  • Edward Anderson says:

    Would love to see a review on the new trek slash! They are selling hugely I hear. Very interested in this bike and would love to see how It might compare to another all mountain rig!

  • Doctor says:

    I for one can’t figure out how “overall” “versatile” and “enduro” translates to judging a bike.

  • peter says:

    How does the overall “winner” of the comparo, which was also rated the best descender, not win the best racebike category? enduro racing, as i understand it, is for the most part all about descending… not that i have a dog in the fight, i’m just curious about the logic of the ratings.

    thanks.

  • Josh says:

    Kona Process 134 DL please:)!

  • ep says:

    in future comparos in would be more interesting and informative if the bikes had the same groupsets on them. a lot of apples/oranges going on here. maybe you should start by determining the best parts then hang them off the bikes for a straight up shootout. kudos for keeping us entertained though!

  • Patrick says:

    What about the Devinci Troy Carbon?

  • Peter Eibeck says:

    MTBR… look, everyone will have their ‘brand’ that they enjoy. You seriously are wasting the opportunity to provide a valuable service to your readers and your sponsors!!! NOW LISTEN UP!

    Create a table! Have each rider rank each bike for different attributes. Total the ‘score’. Don’t you think it would be interesting to know how close second place really was? Don’t you think it would be useful in which categories a bike excelled or lacked?

    You people have such an amazing opportunity. Please put it to better use.

  • Peter Eibeck says:

    I have a question about the method’s used, since it has never been spelled out. Did every rider ride every bike? Did some bikes have more riders than other bikes?

  • Russ says:

    I’m waiting for the Remedy review….and the final results are already posted! ????

  • FX says:

    Big Bike magazine in France does a much better job of leveling the playing field by using the same kind of tires for each category. A big Maxxis 2.4 for Enduro, a fast Hutchinson for XC…etc.
    Then each bike is review on the same set of data: position on bike, high speed grip, line precision, pedaling output, braking, drops etc… Then each bike has a tally chart with its score for each area being evaluated. Result: You can instantly see which bikes tick all the boxes and get max scores everywhere, and see where bikes have weaknesses.
    That’s how it’s done.
    Unfortunately, they can’t always test the very best models in all brands. So the aluminum Bronson at 2200 euros didn’t cut the mustard next to a carbon Rocky Altitude 770 at 5500 euros.
    In Mtbr’s defense, even the aluminum Spesh Enduro 29 did very well on the test and was “Big Bike Approved”… So the carbon version must be really sweet.

  • baumer says:

    Just curious, why not any KHS bikes? Considering they have several championships and several of the upper ranked riders are on KHS. Where were they in this comparo?

  • Shawn says:

    I concur with FX. What makes a bike a good descender to one person may be different than what makes it a good descender to another, for example. So it would be much better to rate the bikes on things like high/low speed cornering, high speed stability, jumping/in air stability, pedaling/acceleration, etc, etc. The categories of rating are way too vague and appear contradictory as pointed out by Peter. Neither the winner (Bronson) nor runner up (Trailfox) for ‘Best Racer’ even got a single vote for best descender, and Bronson in fact did not get one single vote in ANY of the other categories. This makes absolutely no sense at all.

  • Tom says:

    You really need to include the Subaru WRX and maybe even the new Porsche Macan in the next test to balance the field! :-)

  • xema molina says:

    tengo una duda imortante. ¿cambia el comportamiento de una bicicleta en función del amortiguador que lleve?.
    Es decir que teniendo un mismo cuadro con los mismos componentes y sólo cambiando el amortiguador, (no solo de modelo, sino también de marca). ¿cambiaría su funcionamiento?

    Gracias si respondeis

  • Kevin Woodward says:

    I think FX has a great point and attempting to add a little scientific methodology to the comparison process would really provide value, not to mention cut back on the “what were they thinking” commentary. It is crazy not to recognize the obvious difference and edge that one bike will have over another based on carbon vs. alum frame, wheelset (Enve or not) and tires, to mention a few. And not to include Tallboy LT in the mix is such a glaring gap (you could get the 5010 and Bronson but not the Tallboy?) that it suggests an effort by the manufacturer to push those designs over others. There’s a reason many Santa Cruz employees ride Tallboys.

  • dcarterdman says:

    I would have liked to see the Santa Cruz Tallboy LT included in the field. Is the Intense Carbine the same as the Tallboy LT since they use the same linkage design?

  • gonsorellie says:

    Where is love for the Yeti? The “gorgeous high-speed weapon” with the downhill “magic carpet ride” did not even get any (honorary) mention in any of the categories you tested! So did Spech supply your “test team” 3 cold kegs of Pliny and Yeti only got you a warm six-pack of Coors Light?

  • ron erez says:

    Yeti Sb95 carbon was forgotten … .. how possible …

  • ron erez says:

    You might not be first to the top on the Yeti SB95C, but you might just be the only one who cleans all the tech sections. And so long as your talents can keep up with the bike’s suspension, you’ll definitely be first to the bottom.” how after this words this bike Yeti SB95
    did not get any mention at any of categories .

  • ron erez says:

    When you test bikes really need to test the frame , since all other parts can be the same.
    That is only way to find which firm or company made the best bike.
    i hope you will do it on your next test.
    Really i believe it all about money ,all about money spend on adverting correct me if i am wrong.

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