Specialized Enduro Expert EVO - First ride

The Enduro evolves for 2012

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Meeting the demands of what Specialized call their more “aggressive” customers, the EVO series bikes are outfitted with wider handlebars, bigger tires, slacker geometry and more travel out of purpose-tuned suspension. The Enduro EVO is a very capable and fun descender, with bail-out climbing/pedaling abilities. It wouldn't be our first choice for all-round trail riding, but offers a wider range of ride options than a full-blown downhill bike.

Ride & handling: A demon descender but sluggish on the climbs

Coil-sprung suspension front and rear defines the Enduro EVO’s ride, and it feels quite different from the standard air-sprung bike. The Fox DHX RC2 shock and 36 Vanilla R fork provide a plush, absorbing ride similar in feel to that of a downhill rig, yet the Enduro has the equipment spec and geometry of a heavy-hitting trail bike. This gives it a basic ability to be ridden to the top of the hill.

Marginally slacker than the standard Enduro due to the extra 10mm of travel in the fork, the EVO feels comfortable in steep chutes yet isn’t a fish out of water on trails that meander over shallower hillside, like full-blown downhill bikes can be.

The 352mm bottom bracket height leans more towards railing turns than pedaling through rock gardens, but is neutral enough that pedal clearance isn't a big issue. The tight, 419mm chainstays give a playful feel yet the wheelbase remain long enough to give a comfortable level of stability at higher speeds.

Coil-sprung plushness usually comes with a performance trade-off, and the EVO is no exception. Without the help of the ProPedal platform damping found on Fox's air shocks, and with a rather hefty ride weight of 32.84lb, without pedals, for our size XL, it's a sluggish climber.

Even with rebound and compression damping cranked up to the maximum, the Enduro bounces and squishes with anything less than the smoothest seated cadence. It’s fine on mellow climbs up mild grades that lead to the top of the fun stuff, or to traverse across mountain slopes to drop into gravity-specific trails.

But the EVO isn’t a bike that one should expect to ride beside lighter, more efficient mountain bikes on trails with as much up as down, especially with friends who like to push the uphill pace.

Dropper-post remote routing is run via two guides along the driveside of the top tube: dropper-post remote routing is run via two guides along the driveside of the top tube

Equipment: Appropriate build kit for the EVO's intended use, save a few small issues

The 170mm-travel Fox 36 Vanilla R fork is nicely balanced with the DHX RC2 shock out back, which gives 160mm of rear travel. They offer plenty of adjustability for dialing in the EVO’s ride for specific tracks. SRAM;s X9 drivetrain works very well, and the Gamut chain guide mounted to custom carbon SRAM cranks keeps the chain on for run after run of World Cup-level downhill courses at the ski hill.

Avid’s Elixir R brakes perform well, especially with 203mm and 185mm rotors fitted front and rear, respectively. We had problems with back brake squeal though, which was both loud and consistent – a nice way to give slower riders about to be overtaken a head’s up, but otherwise somewhat nerve-wracking.

Specialized have stepped up to market demand with a 750mm-wide handlebar that should do the trick for most riders looking for the added stability of a wider bar, and can always be cut down for those who aren’t. Their adjustable Command Post gets the job done when it comes to dialing in saddle height – as long as there's enough forewarning.

More rushed saddle height adjustments are a little hit-or-miss because unless you manage to locate one of the two lower positions before releasing the remote lever, the saddle snaps back to the next highest position. The Specialized BG Henge Comp seat didn’t hold up well at all, with play between the rails and their anchor points appearing almost instantly.

Out of the two tire sizes and treads, the 2.3in Specialized Clutch Control up front seemed more appropriate and consistent for our Colorado test conditions. A 2.3in tire on the back, versus the stock 2.2in, would’ve been a better fit for the 160mm-travel rear end, and the Purgatory tread didn’t seem to grip quite as well as the Clutch Control.

The 32-hole rear rim laced three-cross with DT Revolution spokes offered a little more flex than hoped for on a bike capable of downhill-level abuse. The front wheel tracked well during our short test period, but it would be impressive for a radial/three-cross combo build on a 27-hole rim with such light spokes to hold up for the long-haul on a 170mm-travel front-end.

Providing a plush feel is a fox dhx rc2 coil-over rear shock: providing a plush feel is a fox dhx rc2 coil-over rear shock

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