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[First Ride] Specialized Enduro

[First Ride] Specialized Enduro

14/08/2016
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14/08/2016

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Last week Specialized brought us up to the Sunshine Coast in Canada for an exclusive first ride on their new 2017 Enduro.  Our first day was chock full of laps at the pristine trails at Coast Gravity Park.  Our second day was spent on some of the local natural terrain offerings which consisted of a variety of mixed singletrack.  We rode the top level, 27.5″ wheeled S-Works Carbon during both days.

A great deal of media camps in Canada involve float planes, this was no exception.

A great deal of media camps in Canada involve float planes, this was no exception.

We took off from Vancouver airport and landed at the Painted Boat Resort via float plane.  Nestled in Madeira Park, BC it’s in a beautiful part of the sunshine coast and around 30 minutes from the bike park. We were greeted with smiling faces and a visit from the Dylan Dunkerton and Curtis Robinson of the Coastal Crew.

Curtis Robinson on beer duty.

Curtis Robinson on beer opening duty courtesty of Yeti Coolers.

2016 Specialized Enduro Launch

Nate Riffle presenting the new Ambush Comp and 2FO Cliplite Lace.

Specialized presented the new products during breakfast to over a dozen thirsty media members from around the world.  Hopefully this news doesn’t get drowned out by the buzz of the new bike, because we’re pretty stoked on two of their other new announcements : a new helmet as well as a new 2FO shoe.

Ambush Comp

Ambush Comp

2FO Cliplite Lace

2FO Cliplite Lace

Last year, Specialized launched the Ambush Helmet and 2FO Cliplite BOA.  Both were extremely well received and earned rave reviews all over, but while both were value packed they were aimed at the higher end of the market.  The helmet and shoes retailed at $180.  This week Specialized responded with lower budget offerings(shown above) which each come in at a very attractive $120 while still boasting many of the key features that made their predecessors so popular.  Here are our writeups on the Ambush Helmet and 2FO Cliplite BOA.  In a nutshell the main differences are that the shoes use laces instead of BOA dials and the helmet features a slightly different system with the straps.  We rode the shoes and so far we’ve loved them; look for a long term test down the road.  Now onto the big news with the Enduro…

2016 Specialized Enduro Launch

The new Specialized S-Works Enduro 650b

First Impressions/Setup

Our weapon of choice is pictured above.  With 170mm of travel front and rear, Specialized made a rather bold choice to increase the travel.  As enduro racing continues to see rowdier terrain this seems like the right move.  We’re also seeing enduro bikes gain tremendous popularity at bikes parks.  2.6″ wide tires add to the level of capability by providing even more cushion.  Perhaps the biggest news is the addition of SWAT storage in the downtube.  It truly is one of the most brilliant advancements we’ve seen in frame design in recent years.  We managed to carry a tube, pump and a burrito out on our ride…Other updates include a refined, longer/lower geometry set, threaded BB, and a better thought out linkage hardware design which uses the same size wrenches and bearings front to back.  The 29″ Enduro sees 160mm/165mm travel front and rear respectively and can utilize either 27.5″ Plus or standard 29″ wheels.  Moving on, let’s see how the bike fared during our two days on the coast.

2016 Specialized Enduro Launch

SWAT and CGP.  Both are brilliantly executed.

When we first started setting up the bike we were super impressed.  Clean lines and great features.  Aesthetically and functionally speaking it’s a beautiful bike.  The linkage has been beefed up and the flagship bikes feature the Enduro family’s first carbon rear end.  The cable routing is logically laid out and where it runs through the downtube it’s sleeved so it doesn’t make any noise.  Our size large featured a 76º seat angle which will improve the bike’s climbing efficiency by positioning rider weight further forward while the seat is in higher positions.  Other key numbers are a 65.5º head angle, 350mm BB(with 2.6″ tires) & 425mm chainstays which have grown slightly.  We were STOKED to see that Specialized have finally lengthened the reach to match numbers that are on par with the rest of the industry as well.  They’ve also added a size XL; something for tall riders to be excited about.

Bikes are packed, there's fun to be had.

Bikes are packed, there’s fun to be had.

Both the fork and rear shock were a snap to set up, the new Ohlins STX22 features AutoSag, as does every rear shock in Specialized’s lineup.  We liked that the shock had a lower number of detents, this made setup a bit easier and the range was broad and usable.  We opted for 3 Bottomless Tokens in the Lyrik and we would like to explore riding the rear shock with a couple of volume reducers as well sometime in the future.  As a stock shock it seemed well tuned and would prove to compliment the bike well.  Other setup musings include a bit of disappointment that Specialized still doesn’t make a 150mm travel dropper post, but on the flip side they’ve spec’d all of the Enduros with 780mm wide bars so hats off to them for that.  Lastly, since the bike’s bottle cage features a multi tool, the Enduros feature Maxle Lite axles front and rear.  We appreciate the clean aesthetics and since the bike always has a tool attached, it’s no big deal.  After slapping our own pedals and grips on it was time to head to the park.

On the Trail – Day One

If you haven’t been to Coast Gravity Park, you’re missing out.  It’s one of, if not the only bike park on earth that runs year round.  It is home to the Coastal Crew and they do an incredible job with its maintenance; you’d be hard pressed to find a single braking bump anywhere.  There are trails for every ability level and while it mostly consists of groomed bike park style trails, there are some fast, rowdy sections to be found on some of the natural terrain trails.  The park makes incredible use of its fairly low elevation and runs with a shuttle rather than a chairlift.  Now that you’re up to speed on where we were riding, let’s talk about how the bike performed.

Stepdown on Lift Off.

Popping out of a little stepdown on Lift Off.

Since our first day was in the park, naturally we spent a bit of time jumping, pumping and railing berms.  After all, a great deal of consumers interested in the Enduro will be looking to do precisely that as well.  The first thing we noticed was that the Enduro felt like a lot of bike in the parking lot after a couple of bounces around on it.  However, once we hit the trails it never wallowed or felt like it was too much to handle.  We think a lot of this is attributed to its well laid out geometry.  Short chainstays and a low bottom bracket kept it snappy and easy to flick around and manual.  A fairly roomy top tube helped to keep it stable at speed.  The head angle is just about right at 65.5º, not too steep and not too slack.  The suspension was flawless up front, we’re big fans of the RockShox Lyrik.

2016 Specialized Enduro Launch

Out back our first impressions of the Ohlins shock are really good but we’ll need some more time on it.  We would like to experiment with volume reducers in the shock as we were having to run the bike a bit firmer than we’d typically like to.  This is partly because that’s just how you set up a bike to ride well in a bike park, but it’s also due to the somewhat linear nature of the rear suspension.  We ended up riding with the high speed compression adjuster in the middle of its 3 clicks, the low speed adjuster 1 click from closed and the rebound fully closed.  Our tester prefers to run a rather firm setup, especially in a park.  That said, at 185lbs he feels that the rear shock could prove to be slightly underdamped for some of the heavier riders out there.

2016 Specialized Enduro Launch

The new 2.6″ wide Butcher/Slaughter combo was a bit surprising.  We’d heard that Specialized was dabbling with tires on the 2.8″ end of things in their 27.5 Plus range, but we didn’t expect them to be beefing up their standard 27.5″ offerings.  On hard pack and in the park the tires didn’t really blow us away.  After a bit of fine tuning we managed to find a pressure that struck the right balance between being so firm that the knobs squirmed, and so soft that the tires folded over in the turns.  More on the tires in day two when we rode them in terrain that they were designed for.  The Roval Traverse SL wheels that the tires were mounted to proved flawless per usual, in our opinion they are the best carbon fiber wheels on the market.

After a full day in the park it was time for dinner and a break before day two on very different terrain.

After a full day in the park it was time for dinner and a break before we spent day two on very different terrain.

On the Trail – Day Two

After a great day in the park it was time to earn our turns.  We headed out to a trail network a few minutes away.  The ride started with a climb; it was a steep, technical one at that.  This allowed us to really get a feel for how well the Enduro would get us up the hills.  To be honest, with 170mm front and rear we were a bit dubious.  Straight away we were proved wrong and very much impressed.  It’s hard to say exactly why the bike climbed so well, but we think it’s simply the sum of the parts : a very steep seat angle and a well laid out suspension on both the damping side and the kinematics side.  Another element that could be easily overlooked was the Lyrik’s custom 46mm offset.  By lengthening the front forks upper crown from 42mm to 46mm it’s very much settled down while climbing and it prevents the front wheel from flopping around in the slower turns like slack bike with a 170mm fork typically would.

2016 Specialized Enduro Launch

Once we got into the nitty gritty and started to ride some proper BC singletrack, the Enduro really came alive.  We lightened our damping and softened the pressures a bit according to the new terrain.  The frame is incredibly nimble and the handling is just about as good as it gets.  Chassis stiffness is top notch and the front to back carbon construction rides silky smooth.  It also has a refined feel that takes the edge off; after all that’s one of the main reasons you shell out big bucks for carbon fiber frames in the first place.

2016 Specialized Enduro Launch - Tire: Butcher

Specialized Butcher 27.5 X 2.6″

In this environment we became believers in the tires and their size.  The traction they provided was absolutely incredible yet we could still get them break when we wanted them to.  Rolling resistance wasn’t all that bad either considering their girth but bear in mind the fact that the rear was a semi slick does help it roll faster.  Most importantly though, even at relatively high pressures the tires didn’t bounce like 27.5 Plus tires typically do.  As far as other noteworthy thoughts on spec go, SRAM’s Eagle drivetrain is fantastic yet slightly finicky; but it does provide freakishly huge range,and the unique SRAM Guide RS carbon brakes were solid as could be.

2016 Specialized Enduro Launch

Although most of the photos may indicate otherwise, we mainly rode tight twisty wooded terrain  that undulated through rocks, roots and hairpin turns.  It was dreamy, loamy stuff but it kept us on our toes.  The bike teased us to open it up and go a bit too fast but the terrain would bite back every time we were tempted.  We encountered a fair bit of mild rock rolls and small drops, all of which the bike was laughing at.  The new Enduro genuinely approaches DH bike capability; however somehow it manages to flaunt trail bike sensibility and functionality.  It really is a bit of an anomaly, more so than any other bike we’ve ridden to date.  We can’t wait to throw a leg over a full time test rig.  We had very little to pick apart with spec.

Part way through the ride we took a break to reconvene.  Above, Dylan Dunkerton reveals a Yeti cooler full of IPA's stashed in the woods waiting for us.

Part way through the ride we took a break to reconvene.  Above, Dylan Dunkerton reveals a Yeti cooler full of IPA stashed in the woods & waiting for us.

Enduro as F*ck.

Enduro as F*ck.

Overall

We got back to Painted Boat and had a lot to process.  For a short term test, we were floored.  Spending a day riding in the park allowed us to bang out laps and hone in on specifics while getting familiar with the bike and dissecting how it would also perform for an overlooked segment of the market(park riding).  Heading out to a diverse trail network the next day gave us the opportunity to test the new Enduro in the environment it was intended for.  All in all, while it’s hard not to have fun on a flagship bike from a big innovative brand, we feel that Specialized have made massive improvements that were definitely due on the Enduro.  We can also confidently claim that out of all of the major brands, Specialized does the best job with their in house parts.  Having a quick glance at both flagship and mid priced options, they’ve packed a great deal of value into their Enduro lineup across the board.  The takeaway point is just how incredible the frame and its engineering is.  We’ll look into a long term test bike once they’re available to us, and we’ll chase down some time on the 29″ wheeled version of the Enduro as well.  Stay tuned.

2016 Specialized Enduro Launch

Signing off with a booze cruise…errr…sunset cruise around the Sunshine coast.

Thanks to :

Specialized
Ohlins
Yeti Coolers

Photos : Harookz

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