Enduro Compare-O: The Mtbr test crew picks their favorite Dream Bike Spec components

Components Enduro Compare-O 2014

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

Pretend for a minute that your bike shop shopping decisions have no consequences. You can literally buy whatever you want. Then ask yourself what would you do with this newfound financial freedom? What fork would you select? Which wheels would you roll? What drivetrain would propel you down the trail?

It’s a fun—if not somewhat silly—hypothetical that almost every true blood bike geek has had at one time or another. And it’s a conversation we initiated among our test group in an effort to find out what the ultimate Enduro Dream Bike Spec would be.

Obviously there is no single absolute right answer. But after tabulating votes from our testers, some obvious trends emerged. Shimano makes great brakes. SRAM XX1 is a hit. RockShox’s Pike fork is perfectly plush. Carbon wheels are the accepted top-shelf norm.

Here then is a part-by-part breakdown of the components that would adorn our ultimate Dream Bike. As for the frame all this goodness would get draped on, check back soon to find out which bikes won the coveted Mtbr Golden Pliny Award.

Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 ($1449)

It wasn’t a total whitewash, but the drivetrain of choice is SRAM’s XX1 1×11 system, which testers praised for its light weight and efficiency. Plus not having a front derailleur means you’re always in the right chainring, said one tester. Chainring of choice was a 32t, though a few said they’d prefer a 30t, especially on 29ers.

Second place went to Shimano XTR, which was lauded for proven durability, smooth shifting action, and set-it-and-forget-it set-up. Clearly things will get interesting when/if Shimano releases its own 1×11 system, which most observers feel will happen sometime in the first half of this year.

Fork: RockShox Pike ($1000)

No contest here. The 35mm RockShox Pike was the runaway victor, snaring all but three votes. Our testers love its stiffness. But the real hallmark is its plush feel. “Holy dirt mother of all creation, that fork is good,” bellowed one tester. “It has the smoothest stroke of any fork in the test.”

The Fox 34 came in a distant second, confirming that when it comes to enduro bigger stanchions are the preferred weapon of choice. There wasn’t a single vote for a 32mm fork. “The 34 series is the perfect balance between the Fox 36 in strength and the 32 in weight savings,” noted one tester.

The only lack of meaningful consensus was in fork travel length, which ranged from 120mm on a 29er to 160mm on a 27.5, with 150mm being the most popular choice.

Shock: Fox Float X CTD ($575)

Another landslide, this time in favor of the Fox Float X CTD, which was touted for its ease of set-up, solid mid-stroke support, and predictable mannerisms. Travel preference was 150mm, though a few testers prefer the 140mm version.

The lone outlier of note was a vote for Fox’s 150mm iCD electronic lockout shock. Though its yet to show up as OEM spec on many bikes, the concept of effortless changes between modes with out the need for lever force or taking hands off bars is certainly interesting. We fully expect this type of technology to become more mainstream in the years to come, just as it has with shifting for road bikes.

Wheels: ENVE 27.5 AM ($2520)

No other component can improve your ride like a nice set of wheels, nor can any other component do the same amount of bank account damage. While by no means unanimous, the majority vote among our test group went to ENVE’s credit card crushing 27.5 AM carbon wheels, MSRP $2520. “It’s hard to beat the looks and reputation of ENVE,” explained one tester. “And the fact that Steve Peat reportedly raced a full season on one set of these wheels is quite a statement.”

Also receiving votes: the Easton Haven, Bontrager’s Rhythm Pros, and the Mavic Crossmax Enduro, which one tester called the best because “it’s light, stiff and affordable.” Fair points, but he clearly missed the memo about money being no object.

Brakes: Shimano XTR Trail ($720)

No contest here. Right now no one, according to our test group, is doing mountain bike brakes better than Shimano. In fact, they’re so good several people voted for Shimano XT, claiming that even the Japanese giant’s No. 2 stoppers were better than what anyone else is currently offering. Consistent, reliable, easy to modulate, said one tester. No squeal, long pad and rotor life, and endless power, added another. Rotor size preference was also fairly uniform, with the 180mm front, 160mm rear configuration the most popular.

The only other set-up to receive votes (or a vote in this case) was Magura’s MT8 with 200mm Storm SL rotors.

Dropper Post: RockShox Reverb Stealth ($455)

Tightest battle yet, with the RockShox’s Reverb Stealth just edging the KS LEV. Both posts got high marks for smooth operation and infinite adjustment,.

Other receiving votes included the Fox DOSS, Specialized Command Post, and the Thomson Dropper.

Tires: Maxxis High Roller II ($71)

As you’d expect, this vote was all over the place, with our testers reverting back to the tire that performs best on the trails where they most often ride. Maxxis’ High Roller II barely eked out a majority, but safe to say the best tire for your Dream Bike has a lot more to do with personal preference than dollars spent.

Others receiving votes included the Continental MountainKing, Schwalbe Hans Dampf, Maxxis Minion, Michelin Rockr2 Advanced, Bontrager XR4, Specialized Butcher, and the Specialized Purgatory. Our advice: Since money is no object (in this dream scenario), load up on a variety of rubber so you always have the right tread for the conditions at hand. Just don’t buy anything under 2.35.

Bars: Easton Havoc Carbon ($160)

No. 1 takeaway here: If your bars aren’t at least 750mm wide, you’re doing something wrong. That steered our test group to the more downhill oriented Easton Havoc Carbon, a 235-gram bar with 20mm of rise. Also receiving votes were Easton’s narrower 711mm Haven Carbon, the 740mm Syntace Vector Carbon High5, ENVE’s Minnaarbar, the Race Face SIXC 800mm, and 3T’s 750mm flat bar, which one rider likes because “a flat bar is great for keeping the front end low on a long travel 29er.”

Stem: Easton Haven ($100)

Here again Easton comes out on top with the all-mountain Haven and DH-oriented Havoc splitting more than half the vote. As for length, 50mm was the most popular choice, with a few testers opting for something slightly longer, and a few leaning to the ultra-stubby 35mm.

Grips ODI Lock-On ($30)

Another highly personal choice, but there was a slight lean to ODI’s popular line-up of lock-on grips, with one tester specifically tabbing the slick Troy Lee Design signature series model.

Others receiving votes included the Specialized Sip Grip, OURY, Lizard Skins, ESI, Raceface, and Prologo.

The bill please…

Add it all up, and we’ve ripped through a tidy $7151 sans frame. Figure we’ll opt for something along the lines of Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon ($2900), Pivot Mach 6 ($3000), or a Specialized S-Works Enduro ($4000), and burn another $350 on a saddle and pedals, and well you get the idea. Dream bikes don’t come cheap…

So now that you’ve seen how we’d break the bank, tell us what your dream spec would be in the comments section below.

This story is part of Mtbr’s 2014 Enduro Compare-O. Check out our intro story here for all the ground rules and goings ons.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Olympics, Tour de France, MTB world champs, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and kids Cora and Tommy in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.

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  • scott says:

    Flats or clipless???

  • Seric says:

    Anyone of you tested the Syntace W35 wheels? Should be on your list, as I think they would beat any of the non-carbon wheels you mentioned. For bling, Enve is the thing, but for best performance on alu wheels, Syntace is one of or if not the best.

    • Mtbr says:

      Scott, our riders were about 80% clipless and 10% flats. Seric, we’ve not ridden the W35’s as they weren’t OEM spec on any of our bikes. If we do a wheel shootout, we’ll try to include them. We’re currently looking for objective ways to test wheels–weight and width are easy…real stiffness vs. the perception of it–is not. We need to drop some real science on that part.

      • Moshe says:

        How about trying them with the same tires bikes and air pressures and seeing how they hold up to the ride.
        For example 4 bikes, 4 tires:
        SC Bronson, Trek Remedy, Intense Carbine, and one other.
        Maxxis High Roller II, Continental MountainKing, Bontrager X4, and one other.
        Try it!!

    • Andy B. says:

      I looked closely at the Syntace wheels recently but when comparing the weight and price the American classic Wide Lightning wheels won me over

  • Motivated says:

    I’m surprised none of the bikes came with an X-Fusion fork. Especially the Riley, since I believe Lopes raced with one.

    • Mtbr says:

      Lopes’ suspension sponsorship is separate from his bike sponsor, so that’s explainable. To our knowledge X-Fusion has a spec on a few OEM bikes at relatively low price points. That said, they make some killer forks and shocks worthy of further consideration on bikes of any price, but they’re primarily aftermarket at this point.

  • Dave says:

    I have a Mach6 xt/xtr build with a 160mm Pike. Pretty close to my dream bike! I opted for Nox carbon wheels with CKing hubs (1K less than Enve). If you’re thinking carbon I would checkout this bike/fork/wheel combo!!!

  • Mike says:

    one question – are there any enduro worthy trails in the bay area? there are some nice bikes & components featured but seems overkill imo

    • Mtbr says:

      Enduro race venues feature a pretty broad spectrum of gnar and we tested these bikes on the same trails used for the Santa Cruz Super Enduro…which we would call medium-intensity.

  • Mr. P says:

    You forgot the #1 component that most riders seem to favor;

    Stoked to be on a bike and rocking the trail.


  • me says:

    Hmmmm if you look at this article it’s giving us a clear heads up on the overall winner. Which bike comes with the majority of all these components standard? Plus they even mentioned it as their top frame. Santa Cruz Bronson wins…

    Ok MTBR stop making us wait, post the rest of the articles and agree with me.

  • MotoLoco says:

    I did two dream builds. Trying components from smaller companies. Santa Cruz Solo C XL 5,5 pounds. Chris King InSet pewter. Magura TS8R 120 with eLect 3 pounds eleven ounces with axle, star nut, and t25 tool. Race Face Next SL, 484 grams with 36t ring is impressive. MRP carbon AMG for 32-36t very light frame protection. Magura MT6 brakes with MT8 levers, front brake w/o rotor weighs 175 grams with pads. Custom wheels using a robust build featuring carbon rims 30mm wide at 375 grams. Spokes are Sapim strong with polyax brass nipples laced to DT swiss 240 hubs, front being the OS with 20mm capability. Stiff. 815 grams front, 865 rear. Schwalbe Nobby Nic front, Rocket Ron rear tubeless, and they seat with a floor pump. Shimano XT GS-s rear derailleur, XTR cassette 11-36, XTR chain sil tec 981. Race Face Next SL green carbon bar, with Loaded precision green pistol grips. Thomson seatpost, and binder topped with Selle Italia Flite Kit Carbonio green saddle. Pedals are either Loaded Precision AMx Signature with green alloy traction pins or Look s-trak. The Pivot Mach 6 I’m building has yet to be finalized but front suspension is the Formula 35, and the brakes are Formula T1 with shimano rt-99 freeza rotors.

  • MTBP says:

    GOOD thing for online retailers, otherwise, hardly anyone could afford any of these nice products. MSRP is DEAD!!!!!!!!!

    Also, the X01 cassette shifts better that the XX1.

  • Matt says:

    Did you guys not have any Hope brakes? That’s the only thing I would change.

    • EAS says:

      I have the hope Tech 3 E4. They are pretty good, great modulation like all the reviews say. They don’t have overwhelming instant power, but you can still lock both wheels up if you want to. The levers are comfortable and easily adjusted. Compared to some other brakes I’ve ridden they remain fairly consistent from the top of the run to the bottom with a minimal change in power when they get hot.

  • Moshe says:

    XO 2×10,
    XTR Trail Brakes,
    Bontrager Rhythm Pro Wheels,
    Bontrager Rhythm Stem and Handlebar,
    TALAS 34 150 CTD
    Float X CTD DRCV
    Reverb Stealth,
    Bontrager XR4 Tires,
    ODI Locking Grips,
    On a Trek custom Remedy 27.5 Frame

  • dude says:

    SC Bronosn C
    XTR drive, shifters and brakes
    Enve wheels, bars and stem
    RS Pike fork
    HighRoller 2’s
    RS Reverb post
    RaceFace Atlas pedals
    Specialized Henge Expert saddle
    Specialized Grappler grips

  • C54N4 says:

    Corsair Marque
    E13 drive
    Saint shifters and avid brakes
    Dt swiss wheels
    Renthal bars and stem
    Bos Deville fork
    Bos vip’r shock
    RS Reverb post
    Straitline amp pedals

  • Paul says:

    @Mike are you new to the area? Ever ride in Pacifica? It’s not hard to find trails that push the limits of these bikes in the Bay. There are lesser known DH worthy trails all around and these bikes make those trails much easier to access. A modern 5-6″ travel bike is perfect for most of the steep and tech stuff in SC too.

  • Alex Bo B'Alex says:

    Mtbing is a sell out

  • TheChez says:

    XT 2×10 converted with a narrow wide and clutch derailleur.
    XTR brakes(trail or non those things stop!)
    Wide rimmed wheels like Syntace 35
    KS Lev
    King headset
    50mm stem
    750mm bars(Havens are nice or new Thomson)
    Charge saddle
    Time pedals
    ODI Vans grips
    Pike fork
    Monarch Plus shock(highly underrated shock)
    Trail King tires front and back

  • MBR says:

    Re: Dream Bars “If your bars aren’t at least 750mm wide, you’re doing something wrong.” Oops. Guess I’m doing it all wrong. My carbon bars are just 720 mm wide, weigh 40g less and cost half…

  • Chris says:

    I concur with the syntace wheels.
    They would probably rule here as well as their stem, the megaforce is lighter and prettier (subjective) than the Easton.
    Other than that I agree with a lot of the choices.
    Maybe the x-fusion vengeance should at least be mentioned.

  • Derek Chavez says:

    Obviously some of you haven’t ridden SRAM 1×11. It is incredible. Just built up an Anthem 27.5 aluminum. Sweeeet race bike! Didn’t like the fox ctd the frame came with so I installed a rock shox monarch rl. It has a real lockout. XX1, xx fork, Stan’s crest wheels. Not my dream ride but close. Needed an extra 4k to spend on carbon for that ( carbon wheels for sure), but a light weight very sweet ride.

  • chris aka Mr Ski says:

    I am seeing more and more Dream bikes around. Wow. Built my dream bike last year. Turner Burner, Fox 34 Fork, Fox Kash CTD shock, XX1 165 mm crank arms and 28 teeth up front, Shimano XTR Race Brakes 160 rotors F&R, LEV post, Chromag saddle, Cane Creek 110 Headset, Chromag HI FI stem, Raceface 6c bars, ODI grips, Could not see the sense in carbon wheels as the weight was the same as my Stans ArchEX 650B, laced to Hope hubs, high roller on the front and Hans Damph rear, and XTR trail pedals. Gets me around Whistler. 63 and tax

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