When Specialized combined big wheels and big travel, many scratched their heads and asked: “will that work?” The cynics predicted a monster truck, but Specialized has silenced them with a well-balanced and versatile all-mountain machine.
Frame and equipment: rigid chassis dressed in quality kit
Specialized’s ‘X-Wing’ mainframe design delivers superb stiffness. The four-bar FSR rear end is a little flexy in comparison, but offers a superbly supple suspension feel that strikes a happy balance between pedalling efficiency and small-bump sensitivity.
Spesh’s successful cramming of a 29in wheel and 155mm (6.1in) of travel into super-short (430mm) chainstays pays dividends on the trail in terms of agility. There’s even room for a water bottle too.
Cane Creek’s DBInline shock impressed throughout testing thanks to the Climb Switch and tunability
The RockShox Pike fork is, as you'll probably be aware, a sterling performer – though the long-legged 29er version is a little more prone to bushing bind than its 650b brother – and Cane Creek's DBInline shock offers vast tuning potential. The wide (29mm internal) Roval wheels, meanwhile, provide plenty of support for the tyres without making them overly square.
The SRAM 1x11 drivetrain is superb, the Command Post IR dropper works well, and the Specialized and SRAM finishing kit performs decently while keeping costs down. Our only gripe is with the 75mm stem, which is a bit long for aggressive riding.
Ride and handling: ground-eating all-rounder
Strava narcissists and enduro racers will love how fast the Enduro 29 covers ground. The light and fast-rolling rubber, big wheels and fairly efficient yet comfy suspension enable it to accelerate and ascend remarkably fast.
Activate the Climb Switch on the shock and it continues to swallow bumps but rebounds slowly like a stress ball, turning the bike into a planted technical climber.
On the descents, the short chainstays allow for impressive flickability, while the big wheels and long travel keep the bike planted and composed through the rough. The own-brand treads are grippy, though the thin Control casing makes them too prone to tyre roll for a bike of this pedigree.
The Enduro Elite is a very capable descender
The 24-spoke front wheel is quite flexy too, producing a vague feel in tight corners. If you’re a big rider, this limits the Elite model’s hard-riding potential somewhat. We also found that the provided volume spacers for the rear shock were insufficient to prevent it bottoming out harshly, and had to order in some more.
The long-travel 29er format has led some to call the Enduro 29 a ‘mini DH bike’, but riders looking for a gravity-focused bike will want burlier, stiffer rolling stock and perhaps a head angle slacker than 67.5 degrees too. As it is, the Elite is a nimble and versatile all-rounder rather than a gravity bruiser, able to take technical climbs, all-day rides, tight corners and fast descents in its stride.