Specialized S-Works Enduro first ride review

Specialized's redesigned Enduro is a mini downhill bike that you can pedal all day

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GBP £8,999.99
Specialized S-Works Enduro

Our review

This first ride review is based upon one day's riding on unfamiliar tracks — once we have a bike here for full testing we will update this review
Pros: Incredibly planted, supple rear suspension should mean flat-out speeds are easy to attain; S-sizing means riders will easily be able to fit on a number of different bike sizes; Specialized's geometry is bang up to date
Cons: Ground-hugging suspension saps climbing speed, though traction is impressive

Specialized has revamped the Enduro and I rode the new 170mm carbon 29er on the hot, dusty and fast trails of the Northstar Resort in California. I only got a day’s riding under my belt on unfamiliar bike park trails, but first impressions suggest this is an aggressive enduro machine for flat-out riding.

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You can read my report from the launch for the full tech run-down — I’ll focus on those initial ride impressions here — but to quickly recap, Specialized’s latest machine reflects the shift towards gnarlier, more technical enduro tracks, with a redesigned suspension linkage to improve the bike’s ability to carry momentum at every opportunity. 

All four bikes in the range are based around a carbon fibre frame and I rode the flagship Specialized S-Works Enduro (£8,999 / $9,750 / €10,999), where I also swung a leg over the new Specialized Epic hardtail.

While one day of riding on new trails certainly isn’t enough for a full review, it did give me the chance to get to grips with the bike.

Specialized S-Works Enduro
Chunky rock gardens proved no problem on the S-Works Enduro.
Dylan Dunkerton

Smooth, supple suspension

The Enduro clearly hasn’t been shortchanged in the travel department, with the 170mm Fox Factory 36 up front providing ample control for the 2.3in Butcher tyre mounted on to stiff, but not harsh-feeling Roval carbon rims.

Outback, the Fox X2’s wide range of adjustability meant getting the feeling right through the frame was no issue. However, with so much adjustment on offer, there would be ample opportunity to tune the suspension for the terrain you’re riding.

The bike is supple, with a very smooth feeling through the pedals on both small chatter and bigger hits. Specialized’s claims about the more rearward axle path getting the rear wheel out of the way of bumps seemed to hold true — there’s minimal kick through the pedals and the bike rarely got hung up on square edges.

Specialized S-Works Enduro
Specialized describes the new Enduro as a mini downhill bike.
Harookz

As such, with better knowledge of the track we were sessioning, it was possible to gain and hold plenty of speed through rougher sections. On jumps and drops there’s plenty of control throughout the stroke, with no harshness felt through the pedals and no obvious bottoming out of the shock.

The suspension kinematic is nicely progressive as it goes through its stroke, providing that control when you’re deeper into its travel.

If you’re looking for a bike with a bit of feedback through the pedals, this isn’t it. The isolation from the ground will appeal to those looking to go flat-out through rough, rocky trails where ultimate smoothness is key.

Specialized claims the Enduro is fairly efficient through the pedals, but on more pedally sections of track, it didn’t feel the peppiest of rides. While it’s not a wallowy ride, little spurts of effort through the pedals didn’t quite get reflected in quick bursts of acceleration — instead the bike felt like it just hunkered down and gradually increased its speed. In fairness though, despite these claims, Specialized also basically said it’s a mini DH bike, so this can perhaps be expected.

At the start, I rode a fairly long climb, and here I used the shock’s compression lever to give additional support — with the shock fully open, the longer drag would have been more painful. The shock’s low-down position made the lever trickier to access while pedalling, but that’s a minor complaint.

The upside to the bike’s climbing performance though is that thanks to the sensitive early stroke, and fairly steep seat angle, technical, loose climbs were despatched with decent levels of competence. It might not be the fastest up hills, but it’ll be your legs or skill level that give up first.

Specialized S-Works Enduro
All our riding on the Enduro was at Northstar Resort in California.
Dylan Dunkerton

New geometry on the money

Shape-wise, as we’ve seen with bikes such as the Stumpjumper Evo, Specialized seems to be on the money. The Enduro uses Specialized’s ‘S’ sizing, ranging from S2 to S5, with relatively short seat tubes and head tubes, with 76-degree and 63.9-degree angles respectively on the S4 bike I rode.

The position on the bike feels very natural; nicely balanced between the axles and with plenty of room to move around to get the bike going where you want.

The seat angle is steep enough to get as much power to the pedals as you can, while there’s enough reach and a slack enough head angle to give you buckets of confidence on even the steepest of trails.

The ‘S’ sizing system works well in my opinion — it effectively makes for a longer bike with a shorter seat tube. At my size I could happily fit on a smaller or larger bike in the range. As someone who prefers a slightly less stretched position, I would like to spend some time on the smaller bike to see if this shorter geometry is a touch more nimble through tighter, twistier bits of track.

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Specialized S-Works Enduro early verdict

With more time on the bike I’ll be able to give you a better impression of how it rides, but from first impressions, if you’re looking for an aggressive, descent-focussed enduro bike, this new Enduro could be it.