Specialized’s all-new Enduro platform potentially has the frame and handling package to set whole new standards for lightweight long-travel trail bikes. The superlight proprietary fork needs some tweaking to release the bike’s full performance, though.
Ride & handling: Light, agile all-rounder that's great fun to ride
The most obvious thing about the S-Works in ride – or just ‘pick it up and look shocked’ terms – is the weight, or lack of it. Coming in at under 27lb (without pedals) the S-Works could give a lot of 140mm bikes a shock on the scales. Light wheels and tyres offer acceleration to match, and there’s enough length in the top tube for your breathing to keep up too, while you’re leaving most 160mm bikes behind.
The new Boost Valve shock stabilises the sometimes squat-prone FSR linkage really well, giving a crisp pedalling feel without relying on remembering to flick the Pro Pedal lever on and off. The more consistent and controlled mid-stroke reactions of this year’s Fox shock flatters the already very good tracking and ground connection of the rear wheel. As long as you land tail first, it sucks up the big stuff and drops without complaint too.
Cutting weight out of a long-travel bike is always a risky business but Specialized told us at the launch that they have deliberately gone for a “reasonable balance throughout” on the Enduro. That means while the wheels, tyres and cockpit aren’t the toughest or tightest pieces, there’s a predictable amount of smear and flex between the very stiff frame/fork and the floor.
Stress and impacts are also loaded throughout the kit, rather than all concentrated in one ‘weakest link’ section. It might sound like hype, but it works well in practice. We’d definitely shy away from smashing this down or off really hardcore terrain on a regular basis, but it’s a massive amount of fun to push much harder than usual on intermediate trails.
The handling balance boosts confidence really well too. The long, low, slack-angled front end is very stable for seeing you through random rock sections or keeping you surefooted in fast turns, and the super-short back end and very steep seat angle mean a snappy follow through on the tight stuff. This makes it a natural speedway slider when the tyres hit their limits. A wider bar than the skinny 680mm supplied would increase steering leverage and flatter the rider’s skill.
Frame: Stiffer and stronger for 2010, with added versatility
The 2010 Enduro family has new framesets throughout the range. The smooth tapered head tube sits at the front of a deep headbox that flows into a super-broad top tube. ‘X Wing’ cross braces then straddle the top tube, connecting the seat tube top to the down tube. The wide, scoop-backed lower section also forms the front shock mount, and Specialized claim they have increased mainframe stiffness by 30 percent and tripled fatigue cycle life.
The frame is all impact-resistant, high-strength (rather than the stiffer but more fragile high-modulus) carbon fibre for maximum durability. At 2,150g for the carbon mainframe, it’s also 400g lighter than the M5 frame. The lazy S-curve down tube allows room for an ‘in frame’ bottle cage while cables under bolted clamps add a useful extra layer of frame protection.
The cable from the remote control Command Post seatpost gets a side mount clip, with the seat collar quick-release lever cunningly forming the upper cable guide. Equally ingenious is the 12g replaceable alloy ‘ISCGotron’ piece mounted onto the forged, keyed bottom bracket shell. While all the Enduro range comes with a roller and bashguard, it’s got enough clearance for a full triple chainring setup.
All bikes share the same M5 alloy rear end too. This includes an ‘Enduro’ logo seatstay bridge and sealed cartridge bearings, including the patented FSR rear pivot on the chainstay. Finally, a short kicker link on the curved seat tube drives the Fox RP23 shock via a unique connector section that mounts directly onto the head of the shock can.
Equipment: Quality kit, but rattly fork lets the side down
Specialized are still using their own travel-adjustable 160/135mm E160TA forks on the carbon Enduro models. Using a fully carbon tapered steerer and crown drops weight to 1,774g, making them nearly 1lb lighter than a Fox 36 Talas fork and 1.5lb lighter than a RockShox Lyrik 2 Step.
The minimal weight and firm low-speed compression feel of the fork (even at minimum platform level) will please climbers. Unfortunately there’s very little small bump sensitivity in the default setup, so it rattles rather than tracks on rough surfaces. You can change the sensitivity by removing the cartridge and ‘gulping’ more or less air in under it to create a negative spring effect. That’s a shop job or keen fettler’s tweak rather than a trailside adjustment though.
The way the fork blows through its travel shows that the compression damping isn’t as consistent or controlled as on its big name rivals either. A definite downer on such an otherwise sorted ride.
Completing the Enduro's super-light front end is a Syntace cross-country/road stem, while a three-height-position remote controlled seatpost gives instant pedal or plummet positioning.
You also get Specialized's very light Traverse EL wheelpack with mid-width rims and straight pull spokes wrapped in the lightest S-Works version of their chunky Eskar all-rounder tyres.
Even the transmission is custom pimped, with a Shimano XT chainset running a twin ring and flyweight Gamut chain device system.
Custom brakes from SRAM’s latest superlight XX group are impressive stoppers, and red anodised elements on the top spec SRAM X.0 mechs and shifters pick up spoke nipple and grip flange colour detailing too.
Guy Kesteven: "We’ve only had snapshot rides on the Enduro at the launch in Utah in summer and then again at Interbike. That means we haven't been able to ride the bike with its fork properly retuned and tweaked yet. The fact that Specialized already have a solution is promising, but we’d prefer a proper on-trail, rather than workshop-only, fix. We’ll crank up the score when the bikes come totally sorted straight from the shop floor."
We asked Brandon Sloan about the new S-Works Enduro...
BikeRadar: The X Wing layout is new; did it take a long time to work out?
BS: It took a while – specifically in terms of carbon fibre layup and bladder work. ISX Fibre weaves can be pulled after the layup to remove any wrinkles and then cut to length. Three separate bladders also mean optimum fibre use and frame strength.
At what point should riders be looking at the Stumpjumper or the Big Hit bikes instead?
This depends on rider style and preferred terrain. You can certainly ride an SJ in the same places as an Enduro (or BH for that matter), it just depends on what you want to get out of the ride. The SJ certainly has more of a cross-country stance compared with the Enduro and BH but it all depends on your priorities.
There are some interesting spec choices on the bike that blur its purpose slightly. What’s the reasoning, and who’s the bike for?
The super-light stem has to pass the same test standards as a super-heavy one; as long as it meets our stiffness needs, why not save weight? The shift guide’s main function is less in bashing but more in chain security. You want to be able to shift on the bike but have confidence your chain will be in place on the most technical descents. The Enduro is still for the all-round rider looking to climb to their favourite descents. The goal for this year’s redesign was to improve its descending capability while keeping efficient climbing skills.
What parts of the S-Works Enduro are you particularly proud of?
The Enduro’s balance between climbing ability and descending prowess all in a superlight package. We got the balance perfect!