Specialized Enduro Expert review

Super-stiff chassis gets the suspension it deserves

BikeRadar score4/5

We tested the Enduro Expert last year and hated the RockShox Lyrik 2-Step fork. For 2011, the alloy version gets the Fox fork it deserves to let the excellent, sweet-handling frame shine.

It's serious drops, rocks and control where the burly Specialized comes into its own. A long front, short back end, stiff chassis and sorted cockpit sit on smooth suspension to tackle anything you dare. Our only doubts revolve around the suitability of the carbon crankset.

Ride & handling: Superbly balanced and accurate

The Enduro's long front centre (distance between front wheel and bottom bracket), with the fork raked out slack and a short stem on top, gives a vast amount of security with which to pick off boulders, float through sharp rock fields or control front wheel slides in loose conditions.

By direct mounting the rear end of the shock and curving the seat tube to tuck the rear wheel right in at full travel, Specialized have kept the chainstays outstandingly short. Add the impressive frame stiffness and the back end feels tight and snappy, letting the bike move fast in tighter turns and keeping a lot of rear wheel feel through your feet.

Push your weight forward to get the front wheel biting and the back end will break sideways with a big shower of grin-inducing dirt but more than enough control. In short, the geometry is set up superbly for getting maximum fun out of any technical or just plain fast trail you point it down.

Specialized have reduced the compression damping of the generously long 215mm Fox RP23S shock. That means once it pushes through the relatively high, pedal-stabilising, low-speed compression threshold of the 250psi Boost Valve setting there’s loads of fluid and buoyant control to squeeze the bike back and forward through.

The FSR pivot stays active under braking, and the short rear end is naturally quick to react as well, with fast and eager collection of any hits and dips creating excellent traction. The three-position shock lever lets you tighten up initial shock feel for long climbs or more pedally sections too.

The one con of the long front and short rear is that keeping the bike pointing where you want on steep climbs takes a lot of practice. But it weighs more than 30lb (13.6kg), so climbing was never going to be its best talent.

Specialized enduro expert: specialized enduro expert
Specialized enduro expert: specialized enduro expert

Frame & equipment: Outstanding chassis stiffness

The frame was never a problem with last year’s bike, so we’re not surprised it’s unchanged. The smoothly tapered head tube backs onto a rounded S-curve down tube and steeply sloped top tube. A broad, hydroformed seat tube brace then creates an ‘X’ across the centre of the frame, which Specialized claim seriously improves stiffness.

Muscular, multi-shaped chainstays end in a double-sided FSR rear pivot position ahead of the dropout. Despite only having a quick-release rear axle rather than a screw-through one, the whole rear end is super tight. The custom Fox air shock mounts directly into a wishbone mount on the rear, with a short U-shaped pusher link mounted on the front of the seat tube curve.

Detailing is impressive. Bottle cage mounts sit low on the down tube and there are bolted clip mounts on the top tube. A notch on the seat quick-release lever for the dropper post remote control cable, laser-etched sag indicators on the pusher linkage and a replaceable ISCG spider are also part of the package. The star-shaped detailing around the FSR bolt head even matches the machined pivot heads.

Equipment: Sorted cockpit, decent tyres, bashguard and dropper post

The 2011 Enduro has a simple but surprisingly light and very effective Float R version of Fox’s 20mm-axled, fat-legged 36 fork. The tapered steerer capitalises on the overall chassis stiffness too. A short stem and wide, low bars create a spot-on cockpit, and Specialized’s own-brand Command Post three-position dropper post is a nice inclusion, if a little rough in feel when you’re pedalling.

The light but broad Traverse AL wheels have been stiffened up, and the Specialized Clutch and Purgatory tyres are tough and traction rich. The jury’s still out on the mushy feel of SRAM’s X7/X9 shifters though, and we’re not sure why Specialized have fitted a carbon chainset on an obviously aggro bike. It’s slightly lighter than an alloy crank but much more vulnerable to damage, and weight matters least around the bottom bracket anyway.

The Gamut chainring and rollers do a decent job of taming the KMC chain in extreme situations, and you also get a replaceable chain link to make servicing easy. Red chainring bolts and other details provide subtle highlights, but the overall price seems high for an alloy-framed bike from such a major brand.

Damage-prone carbon is an odd choice for the crankset – it means you’ll have to take more care on an otherwise hardy bike: damage-prone carbon is an odd choice for the crankset – it means you’ll have to take more care on an otherwise hardy bike
Damage-prone carbon is an odd choice for the crankset – it means you’ll have to take more care on an otherwise hardy bike: damage-prone carbon is an odd choice for the crankset – it means you’ll have to take more care on an otherwise hardy bike

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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