Not many have endured quite as well as the Enduro. After a solid 17 years on the market in a variety of different guises, Specialized’s long travel trail bike has had yet another refresh in a bid to make it climb and descend that bit quicker than its predecessor.
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Specialized S-Works Carbon Enduro 29 Highlights
- Full carbon frame with 165mm of rear wheel travel
- Improved and now internal cable routing
- Ohlins fork and shock
- SWAT storage compartment
- Single ring only
- Tweaked suspension tune
- Can be swapped to 650b plus wheels/tyres easily
- No more press-fit bottom bracket
Appearances can be deceptive
A cursory glance may be misleading here as, on the surface at least, the 2017 S-Works Enduro 29 doesn’t look dramatically different to the bike it replaces. While it still uses the same X-Wing frame design there’s a plethora of changes throughout.
The seat stay bridge is no more. Instead, the carbon seat stays get bulked up and when paired with the Boost axle spacing, means there’s plenty of tyre clearance should you wish to drop plus tyres into the frame. According to Specialized, the Enduro 29 will easily accommodate up to a 3in tyre.
Any Enduro that uses a carbon front triangle now features Specialized’s handy ‘SWAT’ (Storage, Water, Air and Tools) box. This is essentially a box that sits within a hollow in the downtube, under the bottle cage. For those not into carrying a pack, it’s actually incredibly handy.
Cables are routed internally and, rather than loop the rear gear cable and rear brake hose right under the bottom bracket, they now straddle the base of the seat tube, sitting on top of the bottom bracket instead.
Speaking of the bottom bracket, gone is the press-fit number so many disliked. In its place sits a threaded bottom bracket which should make maintenance that bit easier and hassle free. On top of that, the fact that all the pivot bearings are the same size should also make big overhauls a little more straightforward too.
While the FSR suspension layout remains more or less the same, the shock tune has been tweaked slightly and the rear wheel travel upped to 165mm to handle the greater demands being put upon the bikes.
To further help the Enduro survive when the trails get fast and ugly, Specialized has altered the geometry a fair amount too. The head angle gets kicked out a further 1.5 degrees, leaving it at 66 degrees which should help improve stability when the speeds pick up. It’s not all about descending though of course, and a steepened seat tube angle, which now measures in at 76 degrees (on the medium and large), means pedal efficiency and its ability to climb should also get a boost.
The reach also grows across all frame sizes to give a bit more room to move around the bike. While the chainstay, although still short, grows to 432mm, the bottom bracket height remains almost identical to the previous Enduro 29 at 352mm with the standard 2.3in tyres in place.
Scandinavian precision and plenty of gears
Aside from the fancy carbon frame, the fork and shock are more than worthy of a mention here. Both are from Swedish suspension experts Ohlins, who are renowned for their quality damper throughout the motorcycle industry.
The STX rear shock might not exactly be brand spanking new, but it still promises a lot. It comes with Autosag which should make initial set up hard to get wrong, and features externally adjustable high and low speed compression damping, along with adjustable rebound damping.
It’s what’s up front that really got us excited. The new Ohlins RXF 36 will ship on this bike only (the S-Works Enduro 650b comes with a RockShox Lyrik as Ohlins don’t have a dedicated 650b fork) and features their easy to dial-in air spring, which uses three air chambers (two positive, one negative), letting you adjust the spring curve with as little faff as possible.
The RXF 36 also features high and low speed compression adjustment, as well as rebound damping adjustment too. Thanks to the Boost axle spacing (15x110mm) it’ll happily accept a 650b plus wheel/tyre combo should you wish to make the change.
Aside from the suspension, just like many other 2017 top-end bikes, the S-Works Enduro is clad with SRAM’s latest 1x12 XX1 Eagle transmission.
Other highlights include the carbon Roval Travese SL wheelset, Specialized’s Command Post IRcc with its superb SLR remote lever and SRAM’s dependable Guide RS carbon brakes.
Specialized S-Works Carbon Enduro 29 Ride
Having only spent a couple of days aboard the S-Works Enduro 29 it’s hard to have a true gauge on the bike, but riding it in two very different locations did help me establish some early ride impressions.
We started out at the Coast Gravity Park located on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, which proved to be a great testing ground for those high speed hits, high load g-outs and heavy flat landings.
It didn’t take long to feel comfortable aboard the Enduro after just a couple of runs, and the refinements Specialized has made to the bike, although in places quite subtle, became apparent almost immediately.
At speed, things simply felt confident and capable. Push hard and load the Enduro up take offs or through turns, really driving your weight down through the bike and there’s enough support in the suspension to provide that pop required to launch jumps or exit corners at pace.
Clatter into the rough stuff and things certainly feel a little more progressive out back. In fact, even after clattering into some pretty gruesome root and rock riddled braking bumps, I only really ever bottomed the bike out once and even then, that was really giving it some.
And it’s when the trail gets really rowdy that the control from the fork really shines through. Although I upped our pressures somewhat from those suggested, I did very little to the adjustments after the first couple of runs and was surprised time and time again just how composed and controlled they felt when banging through the successive bike park hits, transmitting little through the bars and keeping my hands feeling fresh.
That said, the runs at Coast Gravity Park aren’t the longest so it’d be interesting to see how they fare on Alpine descents.
The following day we headed out and rode a variety of trails, all of which were, for the most part at least, natural. It was here that I was able to climb the new Enduro for the first time.
That steep seat tube angle certainly seems to make a difference on the steep, technical root and rock strewn climbs, and thanks to the wide range on offer courtesy of the XX1 Eagle transmission, I felt confident in tackling everything the trail had to offer.
If I did dab or put a foot down, it wasn’t because the bike was holding me back. Even on really steep pitches, I never felt like I struggled to keep the front wheel from wandering or lifting, and the range of gears on offer meant I was able to save my legs for any short sharp bursts later down the line.
Over the loose, loamy soil, rock and root riddled trails, the supple, balanced suspension and well-proportioned geometry offered grip and confidence whenever needed, while the big wheels helped to keep momentum on my side and never once felt awkward to manoeuvre through tighter, trickier sections.
It’s also worth noting that even with the 160mm fork plugged in, that short head tube still means bar height isn’t hard to get right either — a big plus if you’re on the shorter side of things like me. And although the bottom bracket does sound on the lofty side, it really didn’t feel like it held the Enduro back on anything I rode during the trip, but it’ll be interesting to see how it feels on more familiar trails once our test bike arrives.
Stay tuned for a full review soon.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.