Specialized's five-bike Enduro range tops out at £3,000; this bike, at half that price, is the cheapest. Like the GT Ruckus i-Drive, the Enduro's relaxed geometry and imagery suggests a downhill bias, but take a closer look. Despite its rock ring-equipped crankset and chain retention device, many of the components are effectively hard riding cross-country parts. The Enduro promises to get you up hills with all but the fittest cross-country riders and let you stay in touch with the downhillers on the drops. So can one bike really have so much versatility?
OK, the Enduro's frame might look like a complex structure compared to a frame like the Mythic, but most riders see it as a thing of beauty, with all the forged parts shaped to maximise stiffness, strength and weight advantages. The low centre of gravity and maximum standover room emphasise ride confidence and stability. You can even choose to alter the geometry and bottom bracket height by fitting a different forward shock mount (supplied). Together with the fairly light Fox DHX 3.0 Air ProPedal-equipped rear shock and the Marzocchi AM SL air fork, the rolling chassis helps considerably to keep the overall weight to a trim (for this bike type) 33.5lb.
Rear wheel travel is 140mm (5.5in) and the fork has 130mm (5in) travel. Both offer excellent rebound damping and easy-tofine-tune compression damping that allow you to set up the bike to suit cross-country or downhill riding. The higher bottom bracket shock mount steepens the geometry slightly for more crosscountry biased duties. Other detail highlights include a rear derailleur guard, a neoprene chainstay protector and loads of mud room around the big treads. The fourbar linkage rear suspension uses sealed cartridge bearings and there's more room than usual (for an interrupted seat tube frame) to lower the saddle on big drops.
The Enduro has a thought-provoking but sensible parts mix. The drivetrain is made up of Truvativ's hollowaxled Stylo cranks with a rock ring and quiet-running Blackspire Stinger chain guide, a SRAM X-9 rear mech, SRAM X-7 trigger shifters and a Shimano Deore LX front mech. The Hayes Sole brakes have big rotors (front 200mm, rear 180mm) for rapid stopping on big terrain and the super-tough but not overly hefty wheels are made from Sun SOS rims, a Specialized Stout hub up front and a Shimano Deore hub at the back. The big 2.3in Specialized Enduro tyres aren't exactly easy rollers but they're incredibly grippy in most conditions and tough enough for all but the roughest downhills. The rest of the finishing kit is sensible middleweight stuff that emphasises all-round ability rather than a pure hardcore outlook.
The Enduro's 24in top tube reach (on the Large size bike we tested) and longish stem combine well to emphasise the bike's rangey cross-country speed abilities. The ProPedalequipped shock and efficient Horst Link four-bar configuration at the back end mean pedalling efficiency is excellent, even with the fork and shock set up to be plush. Obviously, a plush set-up is excellent over bumps, and it deals equally well with both pitterypattery sections and Alpine rock gardens. If your penchant is for cross-country speed you'll probably prefer a firmer fork/ shock set-up to calm down weight shift wallow on stand-up climbs.
The relaxed downhill-friendly geometry conspires with the low bottom bracket shock mount to create something of a Jekyll and Hyde ride persona. Some riders love it but others aren't so sure. The slack head angle makes for ponderous handling on slow, technical singletrack, but great handling on raggedy drops. And although there'll be times when you'll love the inherent stability of the bike's low centre of gravity and 13.5in bottom bracket height, there will also be times when the always-active rear suspension will have you clouting your pedals on rocks through bumpy corners. For pedally cross-country work, the forward shock linkage that lifts and steepens the frame is a better bet. For downhill work without too much pedally stuff, the lower set-up works well.
No bike can truly offer you the best of both worlds but the Enduro comes a lot closer than most. At 33.5lb, it's lighter than most bikes of this type, which certainly helps on climbs. It's also a blast on singletrack if you keep the speed up, and downhill demons will love it. You're only reminded of the bike's relaxed geometry limitations on slow, technical stuff or if you stand up and attack a climb. Finally, it's great value for money too.