The enduro bikes in this group test will make bike enthusiasts’ hearts beat faster and their palms sweaty. They’re the stuff biker-dreams are made of, but not every one of them is suitable for every type of rider. We put them head-to-head on the trails of the Trans-Provence to find out their individual strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s face it: most of us have space for more than one bike in our garage, but either our better half, our wallet, being sensible, lack of time, or a combination of all these factors often make an investment in more than one bike impossible. When this is the case, we need an all-rounder that cuts a fine figure on our favourite home trails as well as on shuttle runs in Finale Ligure or in the bike park. At the same time, however, the bike should climb reasonably well for all-day unsupported epics.
Trail bikes have become increasingly potent over the last few years, becoming the ideal companion for most riders’ everyday lives. However, there are guys and girls who want more: more downhill performance, more reserves in demanding terrain, more speed. For them, enduro bikes are the perfect match!
The test subjects
The test subjects in this comparison include nine of the most exciting enduro bikes of 2018. All of them have one thing in common: they are marketed as full-on enduro bikes. Looking at the numbers, however, it becomes clear that they are all very different. Thus, we’ve included five 27.5″ bikes and four 29ers, all with suspension travel ranging from 150 to 170 mm. The biggest difference, however, is the price. At € 9,899 the most expensive bike in the test costs almost twice as much as the most affordable bike, which goes for € 4,999.
|Bike||Price||Weight||Travel f/r||Wheel size|
|Cannondale Jekyll 1||€ 7,499||13.30 kg||170 mm/165 mm||27.5″|
|Canyon Strive CF 9.0||€ 4,999||13.15 kg||170 mm/160 mm||27.5″|
|EVIL The Wreckoning X01||€ 7,499||14.03 kg||160/160 mm||29″|
|Kona Process 153 CR 27,5||€ 5,499||13.70 kg||160/153 mm||27.5″|
|Merida ONE-SIXTY 8000||€ 6,999||13.61 kg||170/160 mm||27.5″|
|Orbea Rallon M-Team||€ 6,689||13.72 kg||160/150 mm||29″|
|Santa Cruz Nomad XX1||€ 9,899||13.39 kg||170/170 mm||27.5″|
|Specialized Enduro PRO 29||€ 7,499||13.65 kg||160/160 mm||29″|
|Trek Slash 9.8||€ 5,499||13.95 kg||160/150 mm||29″|
Why didn’t we include (insert bike here) in the test?
The selection of test bikes is based primarily on the results of our reader survey. We test the bikes that interest you the most. Of course, we invited other brands like YT, Intense, and Transition to supply bikes for us to review. However, they either had no test bikes available or chose not to face the challenge.
What matters most is having fun!
What could be better than sending it as a train down an unknown trail with your buddies? Exactly – nothing! What really counts when riding is having a good time, the adventure, the sense of community and, of course, a cool after-ride beer with your buddies. To fully live the spirit of enduro in the cold month of January, we traveled to the warm south of France and tested the bikes over ten days in the footsteps of the legendary Trans-Provence on the dusty and rocky trails around Sospel. The eight-person test team put the bikes through their paces, inspecting them with a fine-toothed comb and gaining some important insights.
29ers stump the competition
The days when 29″ wheels automatically meant sluggish handling are finally over. All 29ers in this test impressed with balanced handling and a high degree of agility. They can be maneuvered just as directly and playfully as the 27.5″ models, but at the same time they won us over with noticeably increased traction, grip, and better roll-over performance. The rougher a trail becomes, the more brilliant the 29ers are. Of course, there are also very good 27.5″ bikes, but we can say this for sure: the future of enduro belongs to 29ers!
Having fun on a bike doesn’t necessarily depend on the components!
If you think that having fun on your bike depends on its componentry, you are wrong! A super-expensive drivetrain looks nice, but it doesn’t improve a bike’s handling downhill. On top of that, the more affordable alternatives are becoming less of a compromise. The SRAM CODE R on the Specialized Enduro, for example, is powerful and easy to modulate; there’s also the FOX 36 FLOAT Performance on the Trek Slash, which works very well despite entry-level internals.
… but, there is room for improvement
Not all components were as convincing though. Sometimes large companies such as Trek and Specialized use in-house components whose performance unfortunately can’t keep up with the competition. Both the Bontrager and the Specialized dropper posts rattled loudly, and the tires used by both companies are not quite up to MAXXIS quality.
What’s up with the seat angles?
Sure, you won’t be out to score climbing KOM’s on an enduro bike, but even after pushing the saddle all the way forward, the seat tube angle of most current bikes feels much too slack. One’s seating position is vital both for efficiency and comfort. Riders with long legs, especially, will be familiar with this problem. On the Evil Wreckoning, the Kona Process, and the Trek Slash the seat angle slackens quite a bit as the dropper post is extended. The most comfortable seating position we found was on the Orbea Rallon; here you’re placed centrally and in an upright position.
When enduros suddenly become freeride and downhill bikes
Can an enduro bike perform too well on the downhills? Although a question of perspective, for those who don’t spend their days on the roughest trails in the world, trying to clock the fastest times going downhill, the Evil Wreckoning and the Santa Cruz Nomad might be overkill. Both bikes ride downhill like freight trains, destroying every obstacle in their way. Their rear suspension performance is outstanding, without affecting the geometry, always remaining stable – and that’s what their problem is. These are terrific bikes if you’re looking for a bike to shred downhill and see how far you can push your limits, but they are too much bike for someone who occasionally likes to ride flow trails and less steep terrain. For the purposes of this comparison, they overshot the mark a bit. However, if you like to go full speed all of the time, you will love both of these bikes!
Tops & Flops
Often small details can make a huge difference: seamless integration, first-class ergonomics and carefully selected parts. Easier said than done – here are some of the tops and flops from this grouptest.
We’ve been looking for the perfect all-rounder: A bike that cuts a fine figure on small mountain ranges as well as in the bike park or in an enduro race. In short, a bike that can do it all.
Which bike would you recommend to your best buddy?
This is the question we ask ourselves with every group test. There are very few bikes currently available that are absolutely terrible – and none of them were in this comparison. Nevertheless, each of these enduro bikes have their own character, strengths, and weaknesses. However, we’ve been looking for the perfect all-rounder: a bike that cuts a fine figure on small mountain ranges as well as in the bike park or in an enduro race. In short, a bike that can do it all.
Unfortunately, all the bikes in this shootout had weak points. While poor components can be replaced if you’re willing to invest, you’re somewhat limited when it comes to upgrading the rear-end performance of a bike. In the pages to follow, the individual reviews will reveal how each of the bikes handles and for whom they’re best suited.
In the end, it was the Trek Slash 9.8 and the Specialized Enduro 29 Pro which prevailed against the competition, despite weaknesses in their choice of componentry. At € 5,499, the relatively affordable Trek Slash does away with expensive components, but impresses with its incredibly good rear suspension. Thanks to the new Thru Shaft shock, the bike offers even more traction with very good feedback from the ground. Downhill, the Slash offers the perfect mix of smoothness and agility, not only making its handling well behaved, but also remaining composed on even the most demanding trails. The Trek only loses points because the seat angle is too slack, which, especially for tall riders, puts you too far behind the rear wheel. Nevertheless, the bike secured our Best Value tip.
Compared to the Trek Slash, the Specialized Enduro 29 Pro is much more comfortable and efficient on climbs, sprinting ahead more willingly during short bursts. It scores points downhill too with a longer front triangle, which requires a bit more effort through tight turns, but rewards riders with outstanding speed and lots of fun. The rear suspension also works brilliantly but is a little less sensitive than, for example, the Trek or Evil. However, it never seems overwhelmed and in return gives more feedback from the trail. Innovative details such as the SWAT box in the downtube and the tool integration in the head tube complete a very good overall package and allows us to overlook the clattering dropper post with too little adjustment range. Best in Test!
All bikes in test
Cannondale Jekyll 1 | Canyon Strive CF 9.0 | Evil The Wreckoning X01 | Kona Process 153 CR 27,5 | Merida ONE-SIXTY 8000 | Orbea Rallon M-Team | Santa Cruz Nomad 4 CC XX1 | Specialized Enduro 29 Pro | Trek Slash 9.8
If you’re looking for a bike with less travel head to: Everyday Heroes – Six of the hottest, grin-inducing trail bikes in review
Information about biking in Sospel
Ash Smith, the Godfather of the Trans Provence, along with several colleagues in the area around Sospel, has marked out a terrific trail network with more than thirty trails. If you want to discover the region, you will find all information about the trails, shuttle services, as well as suitable accommodation on the Trans Provence website.
This article is from ENDURO issue #032
Words: Christoph Bayer Photos: Christoph Bayer, Valentin Rühl