No bike in the test field had us riding as fast the Specialized Enduro S-Works. Your pupils are the size of a dinner plate, adrenaline flooding your brain and pumping through your veins and all you’re thinking is: how on earth did I get down that trail?
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best enduro bike 2020
The Specialized Enduro S-Works has nothing in common with its predecessor. Gone are the days of the classic X-Wing design. Once tame and playful, Specialized have turned the Enduro into a descending machine. While developing the latest Enduro, the American brand drew from what they learned in creating the new Demo, their downhill bike. One of the top priorities here was the rear axle path as it goes through its travel. Instead of getting hung up on obstacles, the wheel moves back and out of the way, allowing the bike to carry speed more efficiently. As you’d expect, the frame features Specialized’s SWAT-Box in the down tube and a tool conveniently stowed in the steerer tube. As with the Stumpjumper Evo, the sizes of the Enduro are no longer defined by the height of the seat tube and you choose the bike based on its desired length. The spec looks a bit of a mix and match at first but Specialized wouldn’t settle for anything but the very best and so the American brand combine a wireless RockShox Reverb AXS dropper post with a Shimano XTR drivetrain and XTR four-piston brakes. Our only gripe is the small 180 mm brake rotor on the rear wheel. The FOX Factory suspension consisting of a 36 GRIP2 fork and an X2 shock offers 170 mm travel, front and rear.
Specialized Enduro S-WORKS 2020
Fork FOX 36 Factory GRIP2 170 mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT X2 Factory 170 mm
Seatpost RockShox Reverb AXS 170 mm
Brakes Shimano XTR 4-Kolben 200/180 mm
Drivetrain Shimano XTR M9100 30 - 10/51
Stem Deity Copperhead 50 mm
Handlebar Roval Traverse SL Carbon 800 mm
Wheelset Roval Traverse SL Carbon 29
Size S2, S3,S4,S5
Weight 14.66 kg
Geometry and size of the Specialized
The geometry of the Specialized S-Works Enduro is radical yet balanced. The head angle is super slack, the reach is long and the bottom bracket is low. Thanks to the short seat tube, you get to choose the bike based on the length, not the hight. Which is why Specialized don’t categorise the sizes from S – XL, but by S2, S3, S4, S5. At 180 cm tall, you can choose between S3 and S4. A flip chip in the shock mount gives you two settings – the high setting is most suitable for everyday use and the low setting is only relevant if you’re aiming to ride in a bike park.
|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|
The Specialized S-Works Enduro 2020 on the trail
With a rider height of 180 cm, we could have chosen either size S3 or S4 of the Enduro and ultimately settled on the larger version with a reach of 483 mm. The added length gives you plenty of space to move around on the bike and thanks to the low bottom bracket, you’re positioned centrally between the 29″ wheels, feeling well integrated. This alone instils you with confidence, but as soon as you get off the brakes and let the bike go, you’ll be questioning everything you thought you knew. No matter how harshly you enter a rock garden or how directly you blast into a field of roots and ruts, the suspension of the Enduro remains unimpressed and delivers the traction you need. This bike eats boulders for breakfast and indulges in the steepest and meanest descents for dessert. The bike remains agile enough in narrower sections but we wouldn’t use the word playful to describe the size S4 Enduro with its very plush suspension.
Whatever you point the Enduro at, the rear suspension will iron out everything!
The suspension is supportive enough for you to pump the bike or catch air but it demands steep terrain. After a few rides, we mounted the shock with the flip-chip in the high setting where the bike still remained very composed but felt more balanced overall. That said, the low setting is great for bike park days, making your downhill bike obsolete!
Despite its outstanding performance on the descents, the Specialized Enduro climbs surprisingly well. We recommend pushing the saddle forward where the pedalling position is nicely balanced. The rear suspension doesn’t bob as you pedal even without the climb switch engaged, making easy work of the climbs. On more technical ascents, you have to choose your lines carefully because of the low bottom bracket, but you won’t find the bike lacking in traction.
Your synapses won’t stop firing! The Specialized is an attack on your senses – provided you’re riding something steep enough.
How does the Specialized Enduro S-Works compare to the competition?
When it comes to speed on rough terrain, the Specialized Enduro is the unrivalled king of this group test. No other bike on test is as capable at dealing with fast, hard hits as the Enduro. If you don’t constantly find yourself tackling the roughest trails, you’ll find better all-rounders in the test field, such as last year’s winner, the Canyon Strive, but when it comes to maximum performance at the highest speed, the Specialized Enduro is in a class of its own.
Tuning tip: if necessary, shorten the handlebars | choose the high setting on the flip-chip | if you like it more agile, size down
The Specialized Enduro S-Works is an enduro bike that can easily take on the most demanding tracks in the world, elevating its rider to new heights. Its super-capable rear suspension and uncompromising geometry make it a mini-downhill bike that still climbs pretty well. This outstanding performance is topped off with lots of clever details, making the S-Works Enduro the best enduro bike of 2020 and our deserved Best in Test!
- next level speed
- incredible performance of the rear suspension
- high-quality workmanship with smart details
- brilliant spec
- seat tube angle could be steeper
- small brake rotor at the rear
- by far the most expensive bike on test
You can find out more about the Specialized S-Works Enduro 2020 at specialized.com
The test field
For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best enduro bike 2020
All bikes in test: Canyon Strive CFR 9.0 LTD | CUBE Stereo 170 SL 29 | Giant Reign Advanced 29 0 | Ibis Mojo HD5 | Norco Sight C1 29 | Nukeproof Mega 275C RS | Nukeproof Mega 290C Pro | Orbea Rallon M-LTD | Pole Stamina 180 LE | RAAW Madonna V2 FOX Factory Built | Rocky Mountain Slayer Carbon 90 29 | Santa Cruz Megatower CC X01 Reserve | SCOTT Ransom 900 Tuned | Specialized S-Works Enduro 2020 | Specialized Turbo Kenevo Expert | Trek Slash 9.9 X01 AXS | Yeti SB150 T2 | YT CAPRA 29 CF Pro Race
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 / Finlay Anderson / Markus Frühmann