If you’re looking for a bike that can take on the toughest descents but still let you get up the climbs under your own steam, then an enduro bike might be just what you need. Read on for all the things you need to know about them, plus our pick of the best enduro bikes on the market.
Enduro bikes are one of the hottest products in mountain biking at the moment. The name 'enduro' refers to a rally-style race format where downhill stages are timed, but the linking stages that join the descents up aren’t. The descents themselves can vary from fairly pedally to extremely steep and technical. Originally, most of the competitors just used normal trail bikes, but as the popularity of the sport has grown, more specialist bikes have been developed.
This means that modern enduro bikes are incredibly capable all-round machines which can cope with everything from trail centre runs to super tough Alpine descents. That means that even if you’re not a racer, buying an enduro bike can be ideal if you like to cruise the climbs but push yourself hard on tricky descents.
So what should I look for in an enduro bike?
As with any bike, the frame is the heart of any enduro bike. The most commonly used frame material tends to be aluminium, though it’s becoming more common to see full carbon fibre frames on higher end machines. Regardless of the material, the frame needs to be tough enough to take a serious beating, stiff enough to help keep you tracking true through rough and tumble sections and still lightweight enough not to be a drag uphill.
The frame geometry tends to be on the long and slack side, with head angles from around 67-65 degrees paired to steep seat angles and a long reach. This means you’ve got a bike that’s super stable on descents but still puts you in an effective pedalling position on the climbs. This geometry is paired to a short stem of around 30-50mm and handlebars from around 760-800mm in width in order to give enough leverage to keep the bike in check at high speeds.
Most enduro bikes use the 650b/27.5in wheelsize. The main reason is that it makes it much easier to package the longer travel suspension while keeping the geometry of bike feeling responsive compared to 29in wheeled bikes. Flex can also be an issue with the bigger wheels, but there are still some great enduro bikes out there that use the larger wheelsize to superb effect. Which size you choose really does come down to personal preference on how each rides and feels.
Enduro bikes need plenty of travel to cope with the rough descents, but they also need great pedalling performance. They are almost exclusively full suspension and travel tends be around the 150-170mm mark at either end, with lightweight air shocks rather than coil springs and single crown forks.
Rear shocks will often be of a ‘piggyback’ design, which use a larger external reservoir of damping oil to better cope with the large amount of heat generated on rough descents. On more expensive machines, it’s common to have shocks that have multi-way rebound and compression adjustment to allow you to tune the bike to different tracks, though this does require a good working knowledge of suspension setup. Even on more affordable machines, it’s common to see the ability to stiffen up the suspension to make the bike more efficient on long climbs. Some bikes even have ways to adjust the geometry and/or travel on the fly to optimise them for either descending or climbing.
It’s becoming more common to see dedicated single ring drivetrains even on cheaper enduro bikes, often run with a chain device to help keep everything secure on rough descents. Paired with a wide-range cassette this is usually more than enough to get you up the climbs and gives you a weight advantage over double ring setups.
Getting enough stopping power is vital in the world of enduro, where long descents can be punishing on your brakes. You’ll want to see hydraulic discs with larger diameter rotors, from 180-200mm, to give you enough stopping power. Many designs now use four piston callipers or special rotor and pad designs to help cope with the heat generated, too.
Having a dropper seatpost with a remote is a huge advantage on an enduro bike and the only reason not to have one is that your budget can’t stretch to one. Being able to adjust the height of your seatpost automatically without taking your hands off the bars means you can conserve energy on small climbs or flatter, pedally sections while still being able to get the saddle out of the way when you head back down.
Tyres are another vital element in an enduro bike and they need to balance the contrasting requirements of low weight for pedalling against durability and grip for the descents. You should look out for a reinforced sidewall and tubeless compatibility, while a multi-compound tread rubber helps improve cornering grip without affecting rolling resistance. You’ll often see a faster rolling rear tyre paired to an aggressively treaded front to help optimise the balance of grip and rolling speed.
How much do I need to spend on an enduro bike?
Obviously, this depends very much on your budget, but it’s possible to get a very capable full suspension enduro bike starting from around £2000. As you spend more money, you’ll tend to get a lighter frame and better equipment and at around £3000, you’ll be looking at a bike that offers a great compromise of weight, performance and value. Over this amount, you’ll start to see carbon fibre frames and extremely high tech and very adjustable suspension units. It’s possible to spend over £6000 on a top end enduro bike but you’ll need to have deep pockets or be a very serious rider and racer to able to justify that.
Read on to discover what we think are the best enduro bikes both under £3000 and over £3000.
Best enduro bikes under £3000
YT Industries Capra AL 1
The YT Industries Capra AL 1 uses the exact same geometry and suspension platform as its more expensive carbon fibre sibling but has an aluminium frame to deliver an outstandingly good value enduro package. As we’ve come to expect from YT, the spec wouldn’t be out of place on a bike costing twice the price. Add in a low bottom bracket and a slack head angle along with progressive and predictable suspension and this is a do-it-all bike that shines when the descents get wild. Like its wild goat namesake, the Capra makes light work of the climbs, considering its weight and 165mm (6.5in) of travel.
Canyon Strive AL 6.0 Race
Canyon has always offered exceptional value for money, but the Strive totally delivers on performance, too. The extra-long Race geometry is paired with a clever angle adjusting Shapeshifter linkage to sit it up for climbs of slacken and lower it for descents. The control of Pike and Monarch Plus shock and the precise feedback of the immaculately tuned chassis dispatches even the most rowdy descents like a cold calculating killer, straightlining boulder runs and sending drops we normally roll.
Commencal Meta AM V4 Race RS 1x
This fourth generation Meta takes the best of the bikes that went before and improves on them to give a superbly controlled and beautifully balanced chassis with an efficient and responsive character. Chaos-ready angles are paired with fully adjustable RockShox suspension to give a ride that’s completely confident on descents but still more than happy to climb, despite a somewhat slack seat angle. Elsewhere, the Meta is shod in top value enduro-ready kit thanks to the price savings Commencal’s direct sales model allows.
Specialized Enduro Elite 29
Even though 155mm of travel and 29er wheels might seem like a recipe for an uninspiring monster truck of a bike, the Enduro is a well-balanced and versatile all-mountain machine. Short chainstays help keep the handling responsive and despite some spec issues such as the overlong stem and slightly flexy wheels, the bike is planted and composed through the rough.
Best enduro bikes over £3500
YT Industries Capra CF Pro Race
It’s not often we give bikes a full five star score, but the Capra blew us away with an amazing combination of direct-sales value and a superbly well sorted ride. This top end model gets a full carbon fibre frame with 165mm of travel matched to staggeringly supple suspension from French wizards BOS. When it comes to bang for your buck, the Capra is almost untouchable.
Mondraker Dune Carbon XR
The Dune might be a whole load of cash, but the lightweight carbon fibre frame and superbly progressive 160mm of rear travel means it’s an amazingly competent bike. Combined with their extra long reach Forward Geometry, it’s capable of hitting the hardest descents, scaling the highest peaks and still leave you eager for more. Top notch suspension from Fox and adjustable geometry mean it’s highly tuneable and versatile too.
Whyte G-150 Works SCR
With geometry that excels downhill but a supportive suspension platform, the G-150 manages to be an absolute blast on your local trails yet able take a top three place in the world’s most mental mountain bike race, the Megavalanche. The single ring only frame is stiffer than ever before while the SRAM based build kit is functional and lightweight, adding up to an aluminium bike that can rival carbon fibre framed bikes for overall weight.
Ibis Mojo HD3
The Mojo is remarkably composed and competent with brilliant handling manners. The well-sorted suspension gives it far more downhill capability than its somewhat modest 150mm of travel might suggest, plus the climbing performance is better than many dedicated XC machines. It’s not the slackest or most aggressively shaped bike but it offers a great compromise between downhill performance and a lively and involving feel on more mellow trails.
Best women's enduro bikes
The women's enduro bike market is a small but growing one. While many of the bikes share their geometry with the unisex versions, they often have equipment that's better suited to the needs of female riders.
Juliana Roubion 2 CC XX1
With 150mm of travel front and rear paired with a lightweight carbon fibre frame, it's a capable all-day machine that can also tackle some seriously tough descents. It shares its geometry with the Santa Cruz Bronson on which it is based, but this complete bike has women's specific touches such as grips and saddle. The geometry is now longer, lower and slacker than before, turning the bike into a less nervous machine when the trails gets rough. The VPP suspension has also been tweaked to improve performance too. The super-high end build kit compliments the quality of the extra-light CC frame, though those with tighter budgets might want to consider the C model, which uses a slightly heavier layup to save weight.