Enduro is the hottest ticket in mountain biking right now, we cut through the hype to find the very best of the current crop of race-ready bikes.
With almost as many different enduro race formats as models of bike, designers of enduro race bikes really have their work cut out. From chairlift-accessed events in the Alps and Canada, to lung-bursting pedal-fests in Colorado and Scotland, top-level enduro racing isn’t just tough on riders.
Enduro has exploded from a niche race discipline into a buzzword that has become synonymous with ‘extreme’ mountain biking. Hardly a month goes by without the launch of another new enduro bike. And, if it’s not new bikes to get you fired up, it’s new enduro events to ride them at.
Cut through the hype, however, and you’ll quickly discover that it’s also a hotbed of product development. Improvements in fork and shock technology are particularly key in driving forward the genre. Lightweight and able to handle prolonged descents, top-notch components feature heavily on the latest crop of 160mm race bikes.
To be competitive, the bikes need to strike the perfect balance between speed and efficiency on flatter trails, yet still be able to blast descents that wouldn’t look out of place on the World Cup DH circuit. A compromise that is further complicated by the fact that minimal mechanical support is allowed at races, so the bikes need to be ultra-reliable too.
Timing has also played a massive part in the making of enduro. With bigger wheels, 1×11 drivetrains and carbon fibre frame construction trickling down to ever-lower price points, the latest bikes truly can be lighter, stiffer, faster and more capable.
That is why you shouldn’t rush straight out and buy a sexy new enduro bike if most of your saddle time is spent trail riding. If you do, you’ll quickly find that you’re totally over-biked for the majority of your riding. Even the lightest bikes are overkill on all but the toughest trails.
Enough with the preamble though, if you’re intent on racing, what you really want to know is which bike is the fastest. So let’s get to it…
What to look for:
First it needs to be lightning fast downhill. That’s because downhill sections make up the bulk of the timed runs in an enduro race.
With some stages lasting upwards of ten minutes, and with limited practice time to learn the courses, the bike needs to be easy to ride and forgiving of bad line choices and cock-ups that are inevitable in the heat of the moment when fatigue sets in. That’s the reason 150mm of travel or more on these bikes is ideal.
But enduro isn’t simply about high-alpine marathon DH runs. The bikes also need to climb and pedal efficiently.
With long liaison stages linking up the timed sections, the weight of the bike is also a factor as you don’t want to be carrying excess baggage on the climbs. Lighter bikes also needs less manhandling to guide them when you get tired, which becomes a massive bonus for those long days in the saddle.
In a nutshell, a good enduro bike needs to be every bit as capable as a downhill bike, but as agile and efficient as a typical trail bike. That’s a pretty tall order, but hopefully these chosen bikes fit the bill.
The bottom bracket heights of a lot of our bikes hover at around the 350mm mark. But this measurement can’t be taken at full value, as all of the bikes have different amounts of suspension travel. If the bikes are all set with the same amount of suspension sag, then the bike with the shorter travel will have a higher bottom bracket.
Another point to note about the BB height is that the axles of the 29 in wheels are higher than for the 650b wheels, so there is a greater BB drop, giving added stability
The Best Enduro Bikes – Reviews
Amazing suspension but let down by limited sizing - £4,600
A decent platform let down by a lacklustre fork - £4,300
A solid enduro race bike that's fun, fast and easy to ride - £3,999
An enduro wizard that punches way above its weight - £3,699
The chassis of an all-out enduro racer married to the spec of a trail bike - £2,600
A long travel 29er that knows how to party hard - £2,600
Blisteringly quick but also a barrel of laughs - £3,999
The new Orange Alpine 160 has been given a sizing reboot but is too heavy to compete - £3,960
The Vitus is great value but could be more downhill focussed - £3,699.99
A redesign and improved value for the legendary Andorran trail bike - £3,487
A composed and accomplished change in direction from the Spanish brand - £4,599
A great bike for flat-out descending - £3,899
The Jekyll plays it too safe with geometry for an enduro race bike - £3,999
We can’t recommend the Capra AL Comp 1 highly enough. What a bike!
The best long-legged trail bike we’ve tested by a mile
It’s amazing how enduro bikes have evolved in such a short space of time; the best new designs are now essentially lightweight mini-downhill bikes and, it seems, every man and his dog is now an enduro racer (mbr staff included). Cut through the marketing spiel, however, and one thing is crystal clear: longer-travel bikes are better than ever before, and we have enduro to thank for it.
The reason is simple; racing breeds development. The latest enduro bike may not look dissimilar to the all-mountain bikes of yesteryear, but in fact they are very different animals. Due to the nature of the racing, this new breed is more DH focused, with slacker angles and better high-speed handling. In fact, the geometry isn’t too far off what you’d see if you strolled the pits at a World Cup DH race.
YT Capra: One bike that did everything better than the competition was the YT Industries Capra. When we heard that it had 170mm of travel, we thought YT’s designers had gone too far, but our opinion soon changed when we rode it. Yes, it’s got a boatload of suspension, but the Capra only uses exactly what’s needed at any given instant, so it never feels over the top or sluggish.
The extra travel means that it smoothes out the rough stuff as well or better than any 29er, and the unique feel of the ultra plush and composed suspension makes the bike a force to be reckoned with.
It pedals efficiently and climbs surprisingly well, but it really comes to life when you point it downhill and let gravity work its magic. If ever there was an enduro bike guaranteed to help you post fast race time, it is the new YT Industries Capra. And, given that it’s also so much cheaper than the competition, you’ll have plenty of change left for more race entries in the season ahead.
Scott Genius LT 710: No longer shackled by the overstretched Fox 34 fork, Scott’s 2015 Genius LT is a bike reborn. Running a solid Fox 36 fork and retuned Nude shock, it monster tucked the roughest sections and allowed us to exploit the low bottom bracket, slack head angle and excellent balance.
Giant Reign 27.5 1: Some bikes are fun to ride, others are plain fast. The Giant Reign 27.5 1 is something of an enigma in that it’s an eye-wateringly quick race bike, but still a barrel of laughs on a social ride. Maybe it’s the subtle flex of the quality alloy frame that makes it such a forgiving ride.
Equally, it could be the superbly tuned rear suspension that never gets hooked up and lets you keep pressing ahead. Either way, if we had entered an enduro race, it would be the first bike we’d reach for. Even if it won’t win any awards for value, it’ll give you the best shot at a podium finish.
Vitus Sommet Pro: Chain Reaction’s in-house brand, Vitus, is fast becoming a serious player, and it has done its homework with the Sommet Pro. The bike is great value, the spec is amazing, and the understated black and grey finish looks the part. Out of the box the Sommet has a tight, snappy feel that makes it incredibly fast.