Specialized Enduro Elite 650b review

The original ‘Enduro’ bike – and still one of the very best

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
GBP £2,800.00 RRP | AUD $5,999.00 | USD $5,000.00

Our review

A superb aggro trail bike with outstanding responsiveness and suspension control, but only if it fits
Skip to view product specifications

Specialized was the first company to use the ‘enduro’ name for a bike 14 years ago – and has been a leading player in the lightweight, long-travel trail/all-mountain game ever since. Does its most expensive metal model deserve the ‘Elite’ tag?

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Frame and equipment: short but superbly accomplished

While the 650b wheel size is new for 2015, the ‘X-Wing’ frame design has given the Enduro impressive stiffness-to-weight ratios for years and Specialized adopted the neutral pedalling and braking Horst Link four-bar linkage suspension design as its ‘FSR’ system in the 1990s. Chain guide mounts, a custom shock mount and internal dropper post routing complete the M5 alloy chassis. Our large was sized more like a medium though, and there’s no XL except in 29er format, which rules this brilliant bike out for bigger riders.

SRAM 1x transmission? yep, that floats our boat:

SRAM 1x transmission? Yep, that floats our boat

Like the Mondraker Dune R, Lapierre Spicy 527 and Devinci Spartan XP we pitted it against in a recent test of aggro, gravity-oriented rides, the Enduro sports a RockShox Pike RC fork, while the Cane Creek rear shock is a bonus for feel fettlers. The SRAM 1×11 transmission is a great fit for flat out, brain out function, light rolling stock boosts responsiveness, and Specialized’s own dropper post is included.

The 75mm stem does give more of a trail than DH feel though – and fitting a stubbier one makes that irritating shortness of the frame more obvious.

Ride and handling: confidence enhancing, truly all-mountain performance

The Cane Creek DBInline shock takes complex tuning. Both rebound and compression damping are high- and low-speed adjustable, and rather than just incrementally increasing low-speed compression damping, the Climb lever also increases low-speed rebound. You can change the air volume and progression rate with spacer rings. Thankfully the shock comes with a ‘start guideline’ card that gives a reasonable setting for most riders and the relevant Allen key for tweaking all four embedded adjusters.

Cane creek’s dbinline shock offers four-way damping tuning, oil-recirculating twin-tube smoothness and a uniquely double damped climb lever:

Cane Creek’s DBInline shock offers four-way damping tuning, oil-recirculating twin-tube smoothness and a uniquely double damped Climb lever

If you really want to get your money’s worth from this potentially outstanding piece of control enhancing kit, it’s worth spending a few hours and rides sessioning some choice bits of trail to get it just right for you. Get it dialled and the super-sensitive start gives succulent traction that sticks the semi-slick Specialized Slaughter rubber out back to the ground with consistency and climbing grip.

Done right, that easy movement settles into a supportive, hard-carving mid stroke that lets you slingshot through berms as though you’re on a short-travel race bike. The increased, permanently recirculating oil volume of the twin-tube (rather than mono-tube) damper means it sucks up big hits and other blunt force trauma without blinking. Even on long, bouldery, swerving descents where we’re normally hanging on with squeaking sphincter terror, the Enduro stayed on target and in control.

When our puzzlingly calm pulse rates made us determined to go back up and try the descent again even faster, the shock shone again. The climbing lever works really well for adding just the right amount – or lack – of movement for every type of surface, though it takes a while to find the lever consistently and adjust it.

The idea of a gravity-oriented ride being this nimble would have seemed laughable just a few years back:

The idea of a gravity-oriented ride being this all-round nimble would have seemed laughable just a few years back

We can’t fault the Enduro for injecting the maximum amount of speed and enthusiasm into every riding situation. Not only is it extremely light for a 165mm (6.5in) travel bike (and lighter than most 130mm trail bikes) but the Roval Traverse wheels are also very light for such a wide-rimmed set. Specialized has opted for its ‘trail weight’ Control carcass for the Butcher and Slaughter treads rather than the heavier duty ‘Grid’ version.

This creates a steed that lights up off the line or out of corners like an XC bike and is happy challenging shorter-travel rides for summit or Strava honours on climbs. The super-short rear end makes it a joy to whip and flick around, while the front end stays locked in, from a chassis perspective at least. Even with the relatively long stem the slack head angle gives tons of front end confidence and composure.

The Roval wheels are flexy under pressure, with the back end smearing and stepping out through corners. That keys into the ‘let it rip’ ride character well but if you want a bike that drills through rockeries and corners rather than shimmying and drifting you’ll want stiffer hoops. While tubeless valves make it easy to increase tyre survivability, more aggro riders will want to switch to heavier rubber for big-mountain use.

You may – like us – find yourself mystifyingly calm when hammering the enduro, so impressively is it set up:
Steve Behr

You may find yourself mystifyingly calm when hammering the Enduro

Verdict

Two rides set themselves head and shoulders above the rest in our recent long-travel trail / enduro / all-mountain / what-d’you-call-it bike test. If full-gas downhills thrill are your bag, you should certainly give Mondraker’s Dune R – with its superb suspension and geometry, but some kit flaws – the once-over too.

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But ultimately Specialized’s ultra-responsive, state-of-the-art suspended, flat-out fun Enduro Elite just shades the Dune as the standout ripper, in our opinion. Having ridden the equally sorted and entertaining 29er, big riders shouldn’t be too gutted that the 650b wheeled version isn’t an option for them either.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Enduro Elite 650b (15)
Brand Specialized

Available Sizes S M L
Weight (kg) 13.38
Rims Roval Traverse Fattie 650b
Saddle Specialized BG Henge Comp
Seat Angle 74.5
Seatpost Specialized Command Post IR
Shifters SRAM X1
Stem Specialized XC 3D, 75mm
Weight (lb) 29.5
Rear Tyre Specialized Slaughter Control 27.5x2.3in
Spoke Type DT Swiss Revolution
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 13.86
Chainstays (in) 16.61
Seat Tube (in) 18.23
Standover Height (in) 30.71
Top Tube (in) 24.02
Wheelbase (in) 46.77
Rear Wheel Weight 2290
Rear Shock Cane Creek DBInline
Bottom Bracket SRAM PF30
Front Derailleur SRAM X1
Brakes SRAM Guide R
Cassette SRAM XG-1180, 10-42T
Chain SRAM X1
Cranks SRAM X1, 32T
Fork RockShox Pike RC Solo Air, 160mm (6.3in) travel
Frame Material M5 alloy
Front Hub Roval Traverse
Rear Hub Roval Traverse
Front Tyre Specialized Butcher Control 27.5x2.3in
Front Wheel Weight 1860
Grips/Tape Specialized Sip lock-on
Handlebar Specialized AM Low Rise, 750mm
Head Angle 66.5
Headset Type Cartridge
Rear Derailleur SRAM X1
Frame size tested L