Gary Jennings Tests Specialized's Enduro|
Monday, June 06, 2005
|The Specialized Enduro
As marketers find ever more ways to tempt you into buying new bike
models, we are all too aware that in most cases, below the paint job,
changes are minimal. One bike that certainly does not conform to this
scenario is the new Specialized Enduro. It is completely redesigned from the
previous 130mm bike, which won much praise in recent years. The
influence of the demo series is obvious in the new model. The Enduro, now with
150mm of travel, is a big-hitting, all-day-riding incarnation.
First impressions are unanimous, "Geez look at those forks, they're
flippin' huge." Whether 36mm stanchions are any stiffer or stronger is
kinda irrelevant when they look the bomb and yes, despite being 700 notes
and a disgusting brown color, I do want some. And we haven't even
gotten to the wheels on the bike yet. The frame's beefy design compliments
the forks, as do the very square 2.3 tires.
The bike appears well made, with sound engineering applied to the
multitude of joints and pivots. It certainly looks like it will take a
beating, and that is reinforced by the weight, which at a guess would be
around the 33 pound mark.
With just a short time with the demo bike, we set the shocks up in the
right ballpark and set off. The short (75mm) stem looks like it would
contribute to a very relaxed ride, but the longish top tube compensated.
Using the slacker head angle and lower bottom bracket setting, we were
amazed at the very cross-country riding position. Fox forks have always
had a short axle to crown height and the 36s continue the trend.
Despite having 20mm more travel, they are shorter than 130mm Marzocchis. The
low front end was mated with a ridiculously narrow (for this type of
bike) 25-inch wide, oversize bar. Sure not everyone likes 27-inch bars,
but at least you could have cut it down. The combination seriously
hampered the ability of the bike; it took way too much effort to pop the
front and, when up to speed, quick line changes were not an option.
Thankfully the suspension was first rate. It was very stable at high
speed, provided the line was straight, whether bombing rocky double track
or the hoof printed descent out of Grimspound. Whether this was due to
the much lauded horst link design, the extra inch of travel, those big
tires, the super burly fork or, simply, their combination, I couldn't
tell without a lot more testing. As it was, it had a similar bombproof
feel to the front of my 7-inch Junior T equipped tandem, so straight
through, rather than around or over was the order of the day.
Having been slightly disappointed with the geometry going downhill, we
were expecting it to climb well, especially when reducing the fork
length further by dropping the travel to 110mm via a very smooth leg top
adjuster. But again it was not quite right. Switching between my Heckler,
Dave's Liquid and the Enduro, it was the Specialized that was hardest
work. On long steady grass climbs up the moor there was noticeable drag.
A quick experiment with another back wheel suggested that the main
problem was the tires (or more particularly their soft compound, as I am
used to wide tires). The ride position was spot on for climbing and with
lower gearing and similar weight it should have romped it.
Serious fro action requires dropping the saddle out of the way, but the
interrupted seat tube design doesn't allow full adjustment, though it's
better than previous models. The one-of-a-kind shock is still in direct
firing line for any rear wheel muck or missiles. These are, in fact,
the reasons I have never before considered buying a spesh FSR. There is
an option to raise the BB height and steepen the head angle by switching
the shock mount, but in my opinion this is going the wrong way. If BETD
could knock up a slacker shuttle, I think they'd be onto a winner. The
air shock performed well and I didn't notice any lack of plushness
compared to my admittedly shorter travel coil. The platform was simple to
adjust with a shock pump and could be set anywhere from
super-bobby-active to epic-like firm.
Brand new Shimano gears always work flawlessly regardless of group and
were thankfully conventional in both lever and action. Time will tell
if the hub-mounted rear mech stiffener / saver is worth the extra faff
involved putting the wheel on, but it's still quicker than the bolt
though fork. The new XT / Deore brakes were powerful and predictable
thanks, no doubt, to the downhill-sized rotors. Occasionally though, I had to
use two fingers where I would have expected one to suffice, again the
lack of confidence from those narrow bars may have been to blame.
The rest of the kit was fine for the money, though I personally didn't
like the saddle and I would have expected an integrated BB /chainset.
Despite their looks, the tires had very thin sidewalls.
Overall, as it came, the Enduro is a classic jack-of-all-trades, master
of none. The burly construction, stiffness, and suspension action are
perfect for freeride light/all-mountain days, but the geometry and bars
belong on the racetrack where the weight and leaden tires do not.
I don't think the problems would be hard to correct though: higher,
wider bars and some faster rolling, stronger tires could make this into
the perfect JustRide bike. For a 6-inch trail flyer, choose the lighter
S-works frame and build it with some 6-inch trail forks, such as the air
sprung Nixons, Pikes, All-Mountains or Pace Fighter models. If you're
after a harder hitter, the coil sprung SX frame with Z1 freerides could
be for you.
Thanks to Certini for loaning Matt the test bike while they fettled his
coiler and thanks to Matt for sharing the Enduro and putting up with my
Heckler's Race Blade saddle.
Thanks to Certini for the bike.
Editor's note: This review first appeared in www.justride.uk.co