In the beginning, we simply wanted to find the fastest enduro racing bike on the market, but it turns out that nothing is ever simple! The cliché of “the fastest” may make for good marketing propaganda, but it definitely does not ensure owner happiness. In the following test we aimed to determine what really matters, what makes a bike feel fast, and what part design and specification play. And of course we took the bikes onto the trail to perform an extensive test!
There are many interpretations of enduro. Not only do manufacturers have their own vision of what an all-rounder has to offer – we, the riders, have our own vision too: precise requirements regarding material, performance, and design. Every single one of the six selected test bikes has seen action in the Enduro World Series – a merciless test for both rider and bike. Thus, perhaps we should call our benchmark test “6-World-Series-Bikes”? But then let’s be honest: how many of us actually participate in the Enduro World Series? Who can ride as fast as Jerome Clementz or as crazily as Cedric Gracia? Who, on the contrary, spends most of their time enjoying home trails?
There are endless variables that need to be taken into consideration, and evaluation has to be careful and correct. That is why we set up a multi-faceted test crew to reflect the diverse range of riders in enduro: including a participant from the Enduro World Series, ambitious enduro riders, and a weekend warrior – we had them all. Some might consider performance to be everything; others may have fun, aesthetics or even the fascination of technology at the forefront of their thinking, striving for up-to-date and futuristic materials.
Before we start, we have to make one thing clear! There is no such thing as THE perfect enduro bike. However, there are concepts that work perfectly for a specific target group, while others fall short. Well, we did have a favorite. Which one? Keep on reading to find out. The differences begin on paper before we even turn the pedals. From 135 mm up to 160 mm of travel, 27.5 or 29 inch wheels, agile or stable geometries? Electronics or pure mechanics? 1×10 plus chain guide, or classic double chainring?
One thing was certain: not every bike will excel for every rider. The choice of specified equipment is also fundamental: Fox and Rockshox are standing toe to toe in the test – three bikes equipped with Fox 34 and another three bikes with Rockshox Pike suspension forks. The new Focus SAM is the only one equipped with carbon wheels. Five out of six bikes are equipped with SRAM drivetrains. With the majority sporting 1×11 setups, the Rocky Mountain Altitude is fitted with 1×10 and the Trek Remedy with a 2×10 setup.
But enough of comparing the hard facts – how do the bikes compare on the trail?
Click on the Bikes below to get directly to each review
To sum up: The difference among these enduro bikes was startling. Contrary to our expectations, wheel size has nothing to do with a bike’s performance – it is the bike’s overall concept and design that counts!
While the Lapierre Spicy is a high-tech gadget with its electronically controlled chassis, internal cable routing, and novel carbon- and derailleur guards, the high performance Santa Cruz Bronson lets the frame do the talking with exterior cables and without any novel ‘special features.’ The Specialized Stumpy FSR Expert 29 relies on evolved design: with outstanding performance in most areas, and the clever S.W.A.T. system (integrated tools) you always have the ‘must-haves’ at hand – even when riding without a backpack! The Rocky Mountain Altitude Rally Edition and the new Focus SAM present an uncompromising racing pedigree and focus, especially noticeable in the uncompromising equipment of the Rocky Mountain, and the geometry of the Focus SAM. With 2×10 propulsion and comfort-oriented setup, the Trek Remedy 9 29 seemed aimed more at the ambitious trail rider. This demonstrates how every manufacturer expresses their own interpretation of enduro.￼
The agile and flexible Bronson and Spicy stand in opposition to the downhill-solid SAM and Altitude. The best chassis for crisp downhills is the Rocky Mountain with its Fox Float X shock, impressing with superb performance and forgiveness (even though it could have been slightly stiffer). By contrast, the Rockshox Pike was ahead by a nose compared to the Fox 34 Float or TALAS models within the test. It proved to currently be the best trail fork on the market.
With elaborate equipment, low weight, and excellent handling on the trail (both up- and down), the Specialized wins the highly coveted distinction ‘Best Performance’ for its outstanding overall concept. The Rocky Mountain Altitude Rally edition is awarded with the distinction of ‘Race Ready.’ With equipment we would trust to succeed in any enduro race, it creates an advantage due to technology – true to the motto “I’m faster than you.”
Read more stories in our ENDURO issues – free & digital, of course!
Words: Robin Schmitt | Photos: Fabian Rapp￼