No doubt about it: enduro is booming! There are more bikes than ever before to choose from, and we’re relentlessly bombarded with marketing hype as brands spew out superlatives! And that’s not even mentioning the constant flooding of new standards and wheel sizes that add further confusion. But enough of that; this group test is here to put an end to our misery and reveal the reality behind the hype. Which bike is actually the best one on the market right now?
This group test staked its claim pretty firmly: no compromises. We asked brands to send us their sickest, spiciest, and most interesting enduro bikes of this season. The price? Who cares. Once the so-good-we-want-to-weep bikes had landed in our office, our experienced test team headed down to the Bike Republic of Sölden to get dirty and push the bikes to their limits on the wild, challenging singletracks in the region as well as the network of manmade bike park trails. What were we looking for? The bike with the ultimate total package. A bike that’s rapid enough for a pro on the EWS circuit, as well as rad enough to cement a grin on a regular rider’s face. During testing, we encountered a few undeniable certainties.
The air gets thinner
Not long ago, there were noticeable gulfs between how top-of-the-range bikes performed, but now there is noticeably less breathing room between the bikes. Geometry is now more uniform across the field, build specs are all reaching new highs, and even entry-level bikes are coming under fire less often for blatant weaknesses. Ultimately it’s the details that are even more decisive these days, with the power of the minutia able to separate a good bike from a very good bike.
Keep the Balance
If you purely went by discussions on internet platforms or amongst certain mates, then you might be fooled into thinking that the perfect geometry exclusively relies on a longer reach, a slacker head angle and super-short chainstays. Admittedly, these are part of it – and it’s true that modern geometry has proven a worthy step. But have you ever heard of ‘too long’, ‘too slack,’ or ‘too short’? How a bike handles is so much more complex than these individual figures. After weighing up the balance of the figures and pitting them against reality, our test determined that the YT CAPRA and the Yeti SB5.5c possess the most deftly chosen geometry, with both bikes nailing the right dosage of smoothness, great agility, predictability, and sheer brilliance when cornering. They’ve done this with neither an overly long reach nor super-short chainstays.
2x drivetrains are dead!
News that doesn’t particularly hurt to hear: 2x drivetrains are history on enduro bikes. Certain brands might kit out their more affordable bikes with 2x drivetrains, but there’s a definite trend for new bikes to go for a single chainring at the front. Many brands have also killed off the option of a front mech. The advantages of 1x are just too good: better pivot points, optimized suspension performance, more stiffness, and last but not least, more intuitive shifting. Since SRAM launched their 12-speed Eagle drivetrain, the issue of a limited gear ratio is old news. So we definitely weren’t surprised (or distraught) to see that none of the bikes in this group test came with a double (or god forbid, triple) chainring at the front.
|BMC Trailfox 01 XX1||160 / 150 mm||13.10 kg||6,999 €|
|Bold Linkin Trail LT 29||160 / 154 mm||12.87 kg||8,266 €|
|Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race||160 / 160 – 135 mm||13.10 kg||4,099 €|
|CUBE Stereo 160 C:68 Action Team 27.5||160 / 160 mm||12.44 kg||5,999 €|
|Giant Reign Advanced 1||160 / 160 mm||13.80 kg||4,999 €|
|SCOTT Genius LT 700 Tuned||170 / 170 – 110 – 0 mm||12.52 kg||7,999 €|
|Rotwild R.E1 FS EVO||160 / 160 mm||13.38 kg||5,299 €|
|Yeti SB 5.5C X01||160 / 140 mm||13.38 kg||8,490 €|
|YT Capra CF Pro Race||160 / 170 mm||13.37 kg||4,199 €|
29″: the latest old trend
Three years ago we started to see brands launching 29ers with some pretty hefty suspension onto the market. However, few riders cottoned on to the benefits, and the on-going skepticism about 29ers reigned. Poor wheel stiffness and lumbering handling was the main consensus – but most hadn’t even tried a 29er. Fortunately, the new Boost rear hub standard has heralded a comeback for the bigger wheels, which had never really fallen out of favor with the industry anyway. For the skeptics out there, we’ve got some advice: give them a try and you won’t regret it.
A change in the current
“Why haven’t you tested a bike from XYZ?” This is a question we encounter after every single group test, and there are a ton of reasons. Usually it’s because a specific bike wasn’t ready or available at the time of our testing. Take this group test, for example…we’re gutted not to have a Trek or Specialized in the test fleet, but their latest models were unfortunately not ready for delivery in time. In the past, there were much more defined schedules with bike launches and model years, meaning that bikes were launched when they were ready – and not just when a big trade fair was on the horizon. Naturally, model launches are cool for consumers, but it does add another hurdle to our testing schedules. Plus, there’s always the potential concern that a bike will fare badly in a group test.
The Yeti SB5.5c came out on top as the ultimate enduro bike. Whether racing, hitting epic rides, or just shredding around your post-work loop, the Yeti is capable of setting new standards. It dominated the group test with its super-balanced handling, insanely good suspension, great climbing, and envy-inducing design. And while price is irrelevant on in this test, € 8,499 is pretty hefty – particularly when you consider that you can get two YT CAPRA CF Pro Races or two Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race bikes for the same price, both of which are two virtually unfaultable whips. So given the minimal dollars for the CAPRA and its impressive performance, it strolls home with the win for value for money, dishing up outstanding handling, a mean performance on the descents, plush suspension, and an unrivalled spec. However, it missed out on top spot to the Yeti due to its less punchy edge on the climbs. And what about the rest of the test fleet? Check out the following pages to see where their respective strengths and weaknesses lie.
All bikes in test: BMC Trailfox 01 XX1 | Bold Linkin Trail LT 29 | Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race | CUBE Stereo 160 C:68 Action Team 27.5 | Giant Reign Advanced 1 | SCOTT Genius LT 700 Tuned | ROTWILD R.E1 FS EVO | Yeti SB 5.5C X01 | YT Capra CF Pro Race
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Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer