With its short stays and very low bb height, the bike frame is really quite compact. Unlike the Tallboy LTc, this medium bike actually fit my 5’8” stature really well. So I started rolling it and riding it with little drama. It initially felt like the Specialized Camber I’ve been riding for a year except the travel felt bottomless. The rear of this bike felt stiffer as well. The massively supported short stays had no discernable lateral play at all.
This bike can rail and corner! That is probably the greatest revelation of this bike as cornering on any surface was such a delight. Smooth corners, rough ones, flat, off camber were all tackled with poise and confidence. Initially, we would run wide on a few fast, tight corners, but we learned to adjust and muscle this bike through the turn. Then, a magical thing happened as the rear of the bike started to drift wide and helped the bike turn in. It wasn’t a braking skid, but rather a cornering drift that was actually easy to control. Once we got the hang of it, it was rally time!
Then we started hitting rougher and rougher terrain. This bike just laughed at all the rough stuff that the Santa Cruz trails could offer. Clearly this bike was meant for bigger challenges. This bike was actually difficult to unsettle, as it just ate up terrain. We started jumping the bike, overshooting landings and jumping to flat. Everything was a bit easier on this bike compared to most. The only thing that could unsettle it though was hitting the pedals on rocks or roots, as the bike sank deep into its travel.
A bonus is that this bike had a Talas 120/150mm up front. So on the super twisty singletrack, we put it in 120mm mode and were rewarded with a bike that handled all the tight terrain with ease.
It would be interesting to put a 160mm travel fork on this bike as those become available. That would unleash the true descending potential of this steed.
Trickle Down Design?
One of the things I asked the Specialized engineers is if this design and short stays will carry over to their other 29ers. They said ‘probably yes’ for the Stumpjumper and Camber, but maybe not the 100mm Epic. Though the benefits for the Camber and Stumpjumper are there for handling and quickness, they said for the Specialized Epic stability for cross-country racing is a concern and the owners love the current geometry.
Perhaps the only downside of the Enduro 29er aside from its current low availability, is that the bottom bracket is really low at 13.1 inches. With 155mm (6.1 inches) of travel, the pedals will almost hit the ground when the travel is fully compressed. Sean Estes from Specialized makes a good point by saying, you’re never going to bottom out this travel on this kind of bike. But then we believe that the bike really has to handle getting full travel safely. In the Santa Cruz mountains of the Bay Area, the low 13.1 inch bottom bracket is perfect so we have no issue with it. But in other parts of the country where it’s more rocky and a lot more rugged, this could be a real issue, so keep that in mind.
Shocks Bottomed out
The other downside is that this bike is hardly available in 2013. Even though announced in the Spring of 2013, the quantities produced are ridiculously low compared to demand. Sources tell me that only 12 S-Works bikes were made available in the US. There were more of the Comps and the Experts but they were all sold out by week one. So for all practical purposes, the entire inventory was gobbled up by pre-orders and industry insiders.
This strategy clearly does not make sense to us. If the bike is good, make a ton of them, back up the money truck and reap the rewards. Make the forecast, take the risk and don’t turn away customers until next year or to other brands or wheel sizes. In the week that we had this bike, we counted close to ten folks that said they’ve been trying to purchase this bike, but simply cannot find it.
The Cane Creek Rear Shock
The S-Works model comes with the Cane Creek DB Air. The word that comes to mind when describing this shock is ‘gnarly’. It is daunting to set up, but its performance is just incredible. With only seven days to ride this bike, we had to refer to our Brian Mullin’s in depth Review of the DB Air.
Cane Creek DB Air Rear Shock
Here is an excerpt from Brian Mullin as he summarized the DB Air:
Let’s get to the point, I liked this rear shock a lot, as it has many great attributes and characteristics, including a massive amount of tuning capabilities, superb small to medium bump compliance, and excellent composure and plushness. This baby likes to slice, and dice down the gnarliest trails you can toss it at, yet it’s still happy to motor around on milder terrain.
I have been using the Double Barrel Air or DBair for quite a long time on my Ibis Mojo HD, and it is one of the best rear shocks I have used, especially in regard to All Trail and All Mountain riding. It has a vast range of tuning settings, with separate adjustments for air, low and high speed compression, and low and high speed rebound. The DBair is an air sprung rear shock, with four-way independent adjustability, an auto-adjust negative air spring, tunable air volume, and Twin Tube damping technology. It comes in eight different lengths and strokes from 190 x 50mm (7.5” x 2.0”) to 267 x 90mm (10.5” x 3.5”) and three XV (extra volume) sizes, and weighs in at 530 grams, and retails for $650.
My 12-year old son Miguel (who is very curious about biking at the moment) asked, “What’s the best new mountain bike this year?” Well, I thought long and hard about it, as I have difficulty with the ‘best’ questions. I thought of the Norco Sight 27.5 and Trek Remedy 29, and then finally I said, “You know, it’s got to be the S-Works Enduro 29er” since it is such a fun bike and an amazing achievement.
We can’t wait until we see this bike widely available and we see these design innovations in more Specialized 29ers.
What happened after my seven days with the Enduro 29er expired? I asked for an extension of course!