Crowning the fastest enduro race bike in the world is never an easy task. If the manufacturers are to be believed, each of them has the best, fastest, and most beautiful bike. If the sponsored team riders are to be believed, each of them has the best bike. But what if you believe your own feelings? For this extraordinary test, we have spared neither cost nor effort. We too believed a lot, until we were hit with the cold, hard truth.

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We decided to drive to sunny Finale Ligure, in order to test the fastest Enduro Race Bikes.
Special thanks to Enrico Guala (Superenduro / EWS), Lorenzo (Sporthotel Regina) and Sonja (Cascina del Groppo) for the great support on sight.
Special thanks to Enrico Guala (Superenduro / EWS), Lorenzo (Sporthotel Regina) and Sonja (Cascina del Groppo) for the great support on sight.

Beginning of March 2014, Finale Ligure. The Enduro Mountain Bike Magazine team met up with pro racers, bike developers, and race organizers to put on our own special race: the Enduro World Series bike comparison test. For in this age of contradictory, subjective reviews, who better to judge the fastest bike than time itself?

The competitors: the ten most interesting enduro models of 2014.

The request we sent to participating bike manufacturers: send us the best and fastest bike that you can build. Money is no object.

BMC_TRAILFOX_TF01_XTR (5 von 15) e_trailfox_price

BMC Trailfox TF01 XTR

Canyon_Spectral_Team_edition (5 von 13) e_new_canyon

Canyon Spectral AL 9.0 SL

Commencal Meta AM Factory (13 von 13) e_new_com

Commencal Meta AM Factory

Cube Stereo Action Team Edititon (5 von 11) e_cube_price

Cube Stereo Action Team Edition

Focus SAM Team Edition (13 von 13) e_focus_price

Focus SAM Team Edition

Norco Rage Carbon LE (6 von 14) e_norco_price

Norco Range Carbon LE

Scott Genius LT Tuned (3 von 10) e_price_scott

Scott Genius LT Tuned

Specialized S-Works Enduro 29 (4 von 13) e_spe_price

Specialized S-Works Enduro

Trek Slash 9 (5 von 12) e_trek_price

Trek Slash 9

Yeti SB66C Graves-Edition (4 von 12) e_Yeti_price

Yeti SB66C Graves Edition

The race course: the very varied Special Stage in Finale Ligure, parts of which were used for the Enduro World Series race in 2013.

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The Norco Range at top speed.

The speed: each tester was instructed to ride in his comfort zone so that the testing could be done consistently over several days. Moreover, the rider’s comfort zone
reflects the closest equivalent to actual race speed in enduro races, as the object is to complete the individual stages of a race as consistently as possible without
making mistakes. Those who constantly ride at or beyond the limit are at great risk of crashing. Jared Graves
himself says: “To finish first, you first have to finish!”

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It is not the travel that plays the main part. That is what we take home with us from the Canyon.

Line choices: free choice within the course boundaries! Every bike has different strengths and weaknesses due to suspension, geometry and wheel size. The choice of line therefore has to be adapted to each.

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Both tires of the Norco lost air during a timed run.

Number of descents: before the test all bikes were “brought up to operating temperature” and given time to “bed in” with at least three course runs per bike. This allowed the testers to get a feel for the bike and make any necessary set-up adjustments. Then two consistent error-free runs had to be made down the mountain. Otherwise the run had to be repeated.

We were given expert guidance by Manuel Ducci, the Italian Champion no less, who showed us the best lines during the track walk so that each bike could be ridden under identical conditions during the timed runs.
We were given expert guidance by Manuel Ducci, the Italian Champion no less, who showed us the best lines during the track walk so that each bike could be ridden under identical conditions during the timed runs.

Ambition, determination, and a will to win are attributes which any good racer must possess to claim victory in a race. Our test shows that the perfect race bike also needs certain clearly defined characteristics which make it easier for the rider to win. More later about the bike which best brings these qualities together.

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Manuel Duci on his bike, an Ibis Mojo HDR.

Although we actually “only” wanted to find the fastest 2014 race bike, we were given bikes and designs which couldn’t have been more varied. From carbon to aluminum frames, 26”, 27.5”, and 29” wheels, 1×11 or 2×10 drivetrains: each company followed its own individual convictions. In our test field there were bikes which are very similar to those on sale to the public like the BMC Trailfox TF01 and the Specialized S-WORKS Enduro 29—alongside bikes which were tuned to the hilt, such as the original race bike of Jared Graves, the Yeti SB66 Carbon, a Canyon Factory Enduro Team race bike, and a Cube Action Team replica of the Cube Stereo.

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Only for personal use: Unprofessional Timing.

The findings of the race test were surprising. Even though some testers were faster than others, the personal ranking of each rider corresponded almost exactly to that of the others for the first four places. In other words, relatively speaking, every rider was faster or slower on a certain bike than on the other bikes.

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“3, 2, 1, GO!”

Contrary to expectations, wheel size really had no decisive role to play, instead merely influencing line choice and riding style. Depending on the course, 26” can thus be faster than 29” and vice versa.

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Professional Timing.

Another variable was the rear suspension systems. Claims such as “a linear rear suspension set-up only causes imprecise handling ”or“a progressive, stiff rear suspension set-up allows you to ride more actively and faster” were disproved. One thing is clear though: whether soft as butter and linear, or stiff and progressive, at the end of the day the kinematics of the rear end influence only a small part of the overall concept, which must work in its entirety to go fast.

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For the sheer amount of runs, we where in need of a shuttle, even if it didn’t match the spirit.

More importantly, the correct geometry is a crucial ingredient for a fast bike, and geometry plays a large part in determining how the bike handles. It is the rider who decides whether he wants it compact and agile or long and stable. However, longer bikes with good stability and slack head angles do complement fast racing speeds, especially on steep and rocky sections of the course where they give the rider security and help to conserve vital energy.

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A last chance to check the choice of line before the race.

The cockpit and components have a very big influence on the handling and overall performance of a bike. The correct choice of stem length, bar width, and the number of spacers used (e.g. to raise the front) are decisive. A high front end normally makes the rider feel safer on demanding courses.

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An accident could be very tremendous at this speed. This is the reason why all test riders decided to wear a full-face helmet

Race bikes are extreme: on some bikes the limits were exceeded, leading to broken carbon rims, bearings torn out, and other damage. However, there were no complete write-offs and all the bikes would have reached the finish line eventually!

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There are thus many factors which all affect the finishing time. What is indisputable is the fact that there was a real observed difference of up to 6% between the
individual bikes. This is the equivalent of a 1.5 minute difference on a typical 30 minute enduro race course. At the EWS in Finale Ligure 2013, this would have meant the difference between 1st and 17th place, or 36th and 74th place!

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Manuel Duci during Test Walk.

It is thus proven that good equipment and/or a well-balanced bike is simply quicker than a poorly set-up bike. Nevertheless, it is the rider who decides how far
to push his comfort zone limits or how much risk to take to gain valuable seconds. May the best man win; the fastest race bike will be revealed on the following pages.

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“Tires make a big difference!”

Let it be said that each of these bikes is fundamentally quick, and the list of available race bikes is much larger than the sample we tested. 10th place doesn’t mean the slowest bike, but rather in the top 10 of the fastest bikes in the world!

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The chief editor gives the Specialized a go.

Carbon is good but not necessarily better. A well-constructed aluminum frame can also be light and efficient. However, some may argue that aesthetics and durability give carbon the advantage.

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Manuel Ducci was able to give us professional advice.

At the end of testing, we were ready to attribute three superlatives to one bike: the fastest, most competent, and best!

“Ambition, determination, and a will to win“
“Ambition, determination and a will to win“

And taking that honor was the Canyon Spectral Factory Team Edition. Showing just how close the testing came, with an advantage of just one second over its nearest rival, it is the fastest bike in our test of the best!

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The Canyon is one of few bikes in our test without a carbon frame, or indeed many carbon components. Nor does it have a complex rear suspension design. Despite this,
Canyon has succeeded in creating a bike whose individual parts complement each other perfectly. The combination of very good geometry and first-class Fox suspension results in a very harmonious overall picture. It must be made clear at this point, however, that this Spectral has very little in common with the standard model. For example, the standard Fox 32 fork was replaced with a 160mm Fox 34, which is stiffer and raises the front end. The regular Fox Float CTD shock gave way to a more downhill-oriented and progressive Float X, which gave the rear end a considerable performance boost. The wide Renthal cockpit added to the feeling of control the rider has, especially in steep and rough terrain, allowing the rider to put the pedal down hard without worrying about going over the bars. The powerful Avid brakes, precise SRAM XX1 shifting, and efficient (on Finale Ligure’s dry trails) Mavic tire combination complete the overall impression of the bike.


As we have already mentioned, the Canyon Spectral is a team replica bike which unfortunately cannot be bought with this spec. Upgrading from the standard spec would be costly and time-consuming.

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In contrast, the Specialized S-Works Enduro was tested almost entirely with the standard specification. The only thing we did was change the tires to tubeless. It impressed our testers in all areas with its superb handling and strengths in both fast and technical terrain as well as its additional confidence reserves from the large
wheels. The Specialized Enduro S-Works 29 came out of this comparison test as the fastest standard model bike. However, it would appear that speed has a cost, so you will need 7.999 euros to buy the best production model enduro bike currently available.

Now it’s up to the rider to win the race: chocks away!


Text & Photo Christoph Bayer

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