Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon frame

Top all-mountain frame

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

Specialized paint the dream picture when marketing their Enduro big-mountain bikes. Generally, that involves putting team freerider Matt Hunter in a picturesque setting and letting us watch him pedal up and down some incredible slopes. 

Specialized sell the S-Works Enduro Carbon as a frameset in the US ($3,300) but there was a two-month wait on a test model, so we conducted a frame-only trial of the Enduro Expert Carbon. This isn’t available to buy, but the two frames only differ by way of graphics and shock spec. 

The S-Works model comes with the same shock tune but a Kashima-coated shock shaft and body, plus Specialized’s Command Post BlackLite adjustable seatpost. The cable actuated, air sprung post adjusts via three preset mechanical adjustment points. While the BlackLite performs reasonably well, we prefer the benchmark RockShox Reverb we used on our test Enduro.

While we can’t shred like Hunter, riding the Enduro in Colorado over the last few months has taken us on our own adventure. Specialized haven’t oversold their FSR suspended, 160mm travel all-mountain machine – it really is a do-everything bike.

Ride & handling: Downhill or up, the Enduro Expert has you covered

The predictable thing for us to do would be to rave about how much faster our frame has made us on descents – how it rides like a mini downhill bike and continually saves us from stunts that should have put us on our faces.

Rather than tell you those things, though, we’ll get directly to what blew us away on this bike – how a flick of the ProPedal lever on the custom-tuned Fox RP23 Adaptive Logic shock changes the Enduro from a downhill devil to a spritely climbing and trail riding gazelle. It’s testament to the time Specialized’s product managers spent with Fox engineers to get the shock tune perfect for this bike’s dual personality.

Yes, our Enduro weighs almost 30lb. Yes, it has big tires and a 170mm travel fork. Yes, it’s slack. But flip that switch and it offers less pedaling induced feedback than most cross-country bikes, while remaining surprisingly active. It’s this attribute that’s amazed us every time we’ve pined for a 24lb trail bike, which we knew would leave us high and dry once we get into big-mountain terrain. Once we got the Enduro up the hill, we were glad we persevered with the big tires, long fork and 160mm chassis.

The trussed FACT IS-X 10M carbon main frame proved exceptionally stiff and stable

Despite how well the Enduro pedals uphill, you’ve still got to have a reward waiting at the top to justify making a 160mm bike your everyday driver. If you live somewhere flat, you need not apply. This bike is built for going up and down big, big mountains. While we were most impressed by how amazingly it climbs, it’s fantastic on the descents, too – but we expected this.

Once the trail drops away, a highlight is the tunable suspension. But it’s the carbon chassis that’s the real slap-you-in-the-face feature. It’s super stiff, which translates to point-and-shoot handling and rock solid stability, helped by the slack, 66.5-degree head tube angle and fairly low 13.7in bottom bracket.

This stability benefited us everywhere from super-fast and flowy trails to technical drops. The frame felt damp, too, but we’d attribute that to the material’s stiffness and how that complements the suspension.

We only came across one issue while testing our Enduro. Charging a descent that was more dry creek than trail, our front wheel kicked up a rock and smashed it into the down tube, shattering our derailleur cable housing. It was enough of an impact to warrant a photo and email to Specialized. 

However, Specialized’s mountain bike marketing team told us that the engineers were happy with the frame, and that the damage went no deeper than a paint chip: “We have looked into down tube protectors, and you’ll see one on the new Demo 8 Carbons. That is more for peace of mind though, as these bikes are crazy, crazy strong, especially in the high-risk areas like the down tube. Truth be told, the housing is a very, very good protector and both easy and cheap to replace.”

Merely a paint chip, say Specialized’s carbon engineers

That said, a shattered brake line could have led to a tense moment. We’d prefer a safer cable routing and/or some type of protection for the down tube.

Frame & equipment: FACT IS-X 10M carbon, FSR four-bar suspension

Specialized mold the front triangle of the Enduro out of their FACT IS-X 10M carbon fiber. The material offers impressive handling and strength, and is also fully featured with sealed cartridge bearings, a replaceable ISCG mount/adaptor and 12x142mm rear through-axle.

The FSR suspension is damped by a custom-tuned Fox RP23 Adaptive Logic rear shock, which caters adeptly for the Enduro platform. This is one of the best custom tunes we’ve run into on a production bike. The two modes really do change the bike’s handling characteristics, and the three-position compression adjustment offers legitimate changes to the downhill mode’s performance.

The head tube is a version of Specialized’s tapered, deep-set lower bearing design. This accepts the company’s proprietary fork or can be adapted to fit a standard tapered steerer.

Other touches include mechanical routing for a dropper post cable (all of the front triangle cable routing is done without zip ties) and replaceable rear derailleur hanger.

The frame and shock weighs 2,667g (5.87lb) with seat clamp, mechanical cable fixtures and derailleur hanger. The molded plastic and rubber chainguide weighs an additional 57g – the ISCG mount contributing 17g and the 12x142mm rear axle just 65g.

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