The Specialized Enduro enters this group test as the defending champion. Spoiler alert: it couldn’t quite clinch the win this time. Nevertheless, the Enduro Expert is one of the most capable enduro bikes on the market and for many, it’s still a great choice. We found out who this bike is for!
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best enduro bike 2021 – 13 models in review
When the Specialized Enduro was launched last year, the mountain bike world momentarily held its breath. The bike was radical and innovative in many ways. Specialized had put a lot of effort into developing the rear suspension, paying special attention to the rear axle path. A lot of know-how from their downhill bike, the Demo flowed into this. The ultimate goal was less “hang-up”. Instead of getting stuck on obstacles, the suspension is designed to have a rearward axle path. But that’s not the Enduro’s only speciality. The style-specific size concept with short seat tubes, the large SWAT box in the downtube and the radical geometry are other aspects that make this bike so special. Specialized has also paid a lot of attention to the details, such as the massive chainstay protector, the clever cable routing and the convenient tool integrated into the head tube. With 170 mm travel at the front and rear, the 29er should be capable of tackling everything that the world’s trails have to offer.
The components of the Specialized Enduro Expert 29 – Almost faultless
There was no S-Works model available for our test but that doesn’t matter, because the Enduro Expert leaves nothing to be desired. For the price of € 6,999, you might not get top end but you still have well-specced components. Specialized make no compromises when it comes to the suspension and install a FOX 38 Performance Elite fork with the GRIP2 damper, which doesn’t give up any performance compared to the Factory model. On the rear, you’ve got a FOX FLOAT X2 Performance shock. Shifting is taken care of by a mix of SRAM X01 and GX parts and a pair of CODE RSC brakes with 200 mm rotors handle stopping duties. The aluminium cockpit and the X-Fusion dropper post aren’t anything to write home about but they work perfectly. We were less happy about the in-house Butcher GRID Trail tires – they don’t do the bike justice. The Enduro deserves the more robust GRID Gravity casing.
Specialized Enduro Expert
Fork FOX 38 Performance Elite GRIP2 170 mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT X2 Performance 170 mm
Seatpost X-Fusion Manic 170 mm
Brakes SRAM Code RS 200/200 mm
Drivetrain SRAM X01/GX1 Eagle 30/10-52
Stem Specialized Alloy Trail 50 mm
Handlebar Specialized Trail 800 mm
Wheelset Roval Traverse
Tires Specialized Butcher GRID TRAIL GRIPTON/Specialized Eliminator GRID TRAIL GRIPTON 2.3"/2.3"
Size S2 S3 S4 S5
Weight 15.64 kg
The geometry of the 2021 Specialized Enduro – Long and slack
What the Specialized Enduro is made for becomes clear when you look at the geometry. At Specialized, you don’t choose a bike based on its size, but rather on its length. Therefore, the sizes aren’t designated S, M and L, but S2, S3, S4 and S5. We rode the S4 bike. On this, the head angle is 63.9°, the reach is a roomy 487 mm and the 442 mm long chainstays should keep things balanced on all frame sizes. The seat tube angle is rather slack at 76°, especially when you consider that it slackens even further when the long-travel suspension is at sag. The 28 mm bottom bracket drop ensures that you’re well integrated with the bike.
|Seat tube||400 mm||420 mm||440 mm||465 mm|
|Top tube||591 mm||619 mm||644 mm||670 mm|
|Head tube||95 mm||100 mm||110 mm||120 mm|
|Chainstays||442 mm||442 mm||442 mm||442 mm|
|BB Drop||21 mm||21 mm||21 mm||21 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,217 mm||1,246 mm||1,274 mm||1,302 mm|
|Reach||437 mm||464 mm||487 mm||511 mm|
|Stack||616 mm||620 mm||629 mm||638 mm|
An efficient ocean liner – The Specialized Enduro on the climbs
Whoa, what a tank! That’s the first impression when you take a seat aboard the Enduro. Due to the long frame and the moderate seat tube angle, the riding position is spacious and slightly stretched. For steep climbs, we recommend pushing the saddle forward. However, anyone who fears that the Enduro is a pig uphill would be wrong. Once you get going, the Specialized climbs surprisingly well thanks to its efficient suspension. However, the Enduro Expert will certainly be slowed down a bit if you fit more robust tires.
BRAAAP! On the descents, nothing is capable of upsetting the Specialized Enduro!
“Hold on and stay off the brakes!” the Specialized Enduro Expert cries out. This bike is extremely composed and incredibly stable even in the roughest, most demanding terrain. The Enduro delivers on its promise of the rearward axle path, absorbing even the biggest hits with absolute ease and delivering tons of traction. Every now and then, on particularly hard hits, we would only have liked a little more progression. The bike’s incredible composure is underlined by its length. However, together with the slack head angle, it also means that the Enduro is not the most precise handling bike. But that doesn’t matter since it will flatten everything in its path anyway. The Enduro really comes to life at higher speeds and a corresponding gradient. On the other hand, you will soon get bored on flat trails as the bike isn’t much fun here. That said, the rear offers a lot of support and the Enduro is surprisingly easy to get airborne.
How does the Specialized compare to the competition?
The Specialized Enduro hammers through the roughest terrain without batting an eyelid. Only the Nukeproof Mega 290 and the Rocky Mountain Altitude are able to keep up. However, both of these bikes are more versatile than the Enduro and more fun to ride on easier trails. They also offer a better riding position uphill, making them the better all-rounders. However, if you want to nip at the heels of downhillers in the bike park, there is only one bike for the job: the 2021 Specialized Enduro.
Tuning tips: fit appropriate tires and get a season ticket for the bike park | add volume spacers in the shock
What do you need a downhill bike for? The 2021 Specialized Enduro Expert is an absolute machine, capable of taking on the world’s roughest descents. Its handling is amazingly composed yet balanced. However, this bike needs speed to flourish; flat, easy trails aren’t any fun and climbing is only a means to an end – to blast downhill at top speed.
- completely composed on the roughest trails
- brilliant rear suspension offering lots of traction
- smart features such as the SWAT box
- too much bike for many trails
- riding position too stretched uphill
You can find out more about at specialized.com
The test field
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best enduro bike 2021 – 13 models in review
All bikes in test: Canyon Strive CFR (Click for review) | COMMENCAL Meta AM 29 Öhlins (Click for review) | GIANT Reign Advanced Pro 0 (Click for review) | Ibis Ripmo V2 (Click for review) | Nukeproof Mega 290 Alloy Pro (Click for review) | Propain Spindrift CF Mix Custom (Click for review) | Rocky Mountain Altitude Carbon 90 Rally Edition (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 Coil RSV (Click for review) | Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01 RSV (Click for review) | Specialized Enduro Expert | Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper EVO (Click for review) | Transition Sentinel XT (Click for review) | Trek Slash 9.8 XT (Click for review)
This scale indicates how efficiently the bike climbs. It refers to both simple and technical climbs. Along with the suspension, the riding position and the weight of the bike all play a crucial role.↩
How does the bike ride and descend? How spritely is the bike, how agile is it through corners, how much fun is it in tight sections and how quickly can it change direction?↩
Is the bike stable at high speeds? Is it easy to stay in control in demanding terrain? How composed is it on rough trails? Stability is a combination of balanced geometry, good suspension and the right spec.↩
This is all about how balanced the bike is and particularly about how well it corners. Balanced bikes require little physical effort from the rider and are very predictable. If a bike is unbalanced, the rider has to work hard to weight the front wheel to generate enough grip. However, experienced riders can have a lot of fun even with unbalanced bikes.↩
How sensitive is the suspension over small bumps? Can it absorb hard impacts and does it soak up repeated hits? Plush suspension not only provides comfort and makes a bike more capable, but it also generates traction. The rating includes the fork and the rear suspension.↩
This aspect mainly comes down to the suspension. How much pop does it have, does it suck up the rider’s input or is it supportive, and how agile and direct is the bike?↩
We don’t calculate value for money in an excel spreadsheet or based on how high-end a bike is specced. We are more concerned with how a bike performs on the trail and how the bike benefits the rider. What good are the best components if the bike doesn’t perform well on the trail? Expensive bikes with a lower-end spec can offer very good value for money – provided they excel where it matters. Just as supposedly cheap bikes with good components can get a bad rating if they don’t deliver on the trail.↩
No, it’s not about racing, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along flowy singletrack and gravel roads need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret XC more like the Americans do: big back-country rides instead of a marathon or XC World Cup with the ultimate in lightweight construction! Uphill-downhill ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
...also known as mountain biking. Classic singletrack with roots, rocks and ledges – sometimes flowy, sometimes rough. For this, you need a bike with good all-round qualities, whether climbing or descending. Uphill-downhill ratio: 50:50↩
Even more extreme and challenging compared to Trail riding, riddled with every kind of obstacle: jumps, gaps, nasty rock gardens, ruts and roots. For this, you need (race)proven equipment that forgives mistakes and wouldn’t look out of place on a stage of the Enduro World Series. Climbing is just a means to an end. Uphill-downhill ratio: 30:70↩
Strictly speaking, a 200 mm travel downhill bike is the best choice for merciless tracks with big jumps, drops and the roughest terrain. Those would be the black or double-black-diamond tracks in a bike park. But as some of the EWS pros (including Sam Hill) have proven, it’s the riding skills and not the bike that define what you can ride with it. Climbing? On foot or with a shuttle, please! Uphill-downhill ratio: 10:90↩
Words: Christoph Bayer Photos: Christoph Bayer, Valentin Rühl, Markus Frühmann