We cut through the hype to find the very best of the current crop of race-ready enduro 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.
Watch: Hottest enduro bikes of 2017
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
Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 650B
There are very few brands that could use a six-year-old frame design and get away with it. And while this highlights just how far ahead of the sizing curve Specialized was, the Enduro is starting to look a little long in the tooth, or maybe that should be short in the top tube. If you’re under 6ft tall, it’s still a great option though. The FSR rear suspension feels sublime partnered up with the Öhlins shock, it’s competitively priced, given how light it is, and you know it’s going to be reliable.
Kona Process 153 DL
Kona is back in the game. The Process 153 DL is a truly amazing bike that’s fun, fast and super-easy to ride. All of the fundamentals that actually affect performance are accounted for: great geometry, dialled RockShox suspension, consistent Shimano XT brakes and sticky Maxxis rubber. In fact, the only things holding the Process back are that it’s a touch heavy and the chain keeps coming off. Still, it’s a really solid bike that will definitely go the distance; you’ll just have to work a little bit harder on the climbs.
Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race
Ruthless as an enduro race bike, rewarding to ride on an uplift day at the bike park, and clothed in an almost faultless selection of parts, we came away seriously impressed with the Strive CF. It’s genuinely a bike that can do it all. Efficient and rapid on climbs and trail centre singletrack, it would also make an extremely capable companion to take on a riding holiday to the Alps.
Specialized Enduro 29 Comp
Specialized may have arrived late to the 29er party, but once in, boy did it pump up the volume. As a result, the Enduro Comp is a truly cutting-edge 29er. With its solid alloy frame, excellent suspension and well considered parts package, Specialized has delivered another banger for just over two and a half grand. OK, the spec isn’t on the same level as what’s available from the direct sales brands, and the stems are still too bloody long, but with a few small tweaks you’ll be hard pushed to find a long-travel 29er that can party as hard as the Enduro Comp.
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
With well-chosen, high-end parts at a great price, the new Vitus Sommet Pro is a sorted package. It’s lightweight, accelerates and maintains speed well and doesn’t exhibit any quirky or unusual traits, making it easy to ride from the get-go. The suspension performance is solid, albeit a notch or two below the sheer DH style capability and tracking of the Giant. It can’t match the stiffness of the Reign either, and would probably benefit from some beefier dropouts. It’s not an out-and-out Alpine monster then, but it’s efficient under power and neutral on the brakes, making it a good choice for serious enduro competition.
Commençal Meta AM V4 ÀLC
With cutting-edge geometry, innovative design and sensitive suspension, the new Meta AM V4 ÀLC is unmistakably a Commençal. It exhibited great pace on fast-flowing singletrack and was a blast to ride, but it didn’t feel as sure-footed as the Orbea on full-blown enduro trails. The direct sales business model guarantees that the specification is on the money, but it’s not all rosy. The extra wide stays resulting from the inboard position of the rear brake mount will pose a genuine clearance problem for riders with big feet, or anyone that rides with their heels in.
Orbea Rallon X-Team
Orbea has left no stone unturned in its pursuit of speed. Frame construction and quality on the Rallon X-Team are first rate; the bike has incredible balance, yet it remains agile, and the suspension response is more neutral than Switzerland. Yes, the latest generation of Shimano XTR brakes proved problematic, but we chose that ‘upgrade’ ourselves and they still weren’t enough to detract from the bigger picture. The bottom line is that the Orbea Rallon X-Team is one of the most accomplished 650b enduro bikes on the market.
Scott Genius LT 710
With stacks of travel and great geometry, the Genius LT revelled in the steepest, roughest terrain we could throw it down. However, it isn’t especially lively, or agile, and it takes a surprising amount of energy to get up to speed. Nor was it as rewarding as lighter bikes when we were looking to have fun, rather than go flat-out. Without the Twinloc system, the Genius LT would feel like a ball and chain on climbs and flat singletrack. Engaging Traction Control, or Climb mode, firms it up enough to cover ground efficiently, but it’s still a bit mushy and it never quite masked that excess mass.
YT Industries Capra AL Comp 1
Once again, YT has proved that you don’t need to drop the best part of £4k to get a race-ready enduro bike. In fact, with the Capra AL Comp 1 you’ll have plenty of change left over for race entries and travel expenses. Be warned though, this bike has a lot of firepower, so if you’re not hunting down abandoned DH tracks or tearing up every descent, you’d probably be better off on the more efficient Canyon Strive. With that caveat out of the way, we can’t recommend the Capra AL Comp 1 highly enough. What a bike!
Canyon Strive AL 6.0 Race
Clever as Canyon’s Shapeshifter geometry and travel-adjust feature is, we never felt the need to use it other than to check that it actually worked. That’s because, even in the slack setting, the 67° head angle is already at the steeper end of acceptable for an enduro bike. It’s absolutely on the money for trail riding though, and with Canyon’s recent price adjustment, to reflect changes in the exchange rate, the Strive AL 6.0 Race is the best long-legged trail bike we’ve tested by a mile. Or 1.6km.
Vitus Sommet CR
Vitus’s lightweight Sommet CR is a great do-it-all option, rather than a full-on enduro race weapon. It offers a carbon frame for an excellent price and has a pace and a turn of speed that’s the envy of the other bikes here. It’s eager everywhere, whether that’s up, down or along, but the frame’s shape is too short and high for some tastes, and a few of the parts aren’t cutting-edge either. It’s a good trail bike, with dialled suspension, but it doesn’t quite have that elusive ‘X factor’. Perhaps a set of offset bushings would cure that lofty BB height and help release the inner beast.
Merida One-Sixty 5000
The Merida One-Sixty 5000 is a total blast for riding downhill fast, sending off jumps and shredding corners. In the right hands, we’re 100 per cent confident that it could easily win enduro races at the highest level. The silky smooth rear suspension offers brilliant performance while the Gucci carbon front end has perfect proportions without a hint of harshness. On the other hand, you don’t have to look very closely to spot cost-cutting, most evident on the brakes, fork, drivetrain and wheels. Despite this, it’s still one of the sweetest-riding, most capable enduro bikes we’ve tested, and comes highly recommended.
Cube Stereo 160 C:62 SL 27.5
The 160mm-travel Stereo is pitched as an enduro race bike, but Cube’s Action Team riders don’t often use it, likely because it’s more of a long-travel trail bike than a full-on EWS race weapon. This isn’t necessarily a negative for UK riders though; the carbon C:62 SL is super-light, easy to get around on, and has a tuned, comfy ride quality that always had us grinning. Yes, the Schwalbe tyres don’t cut it, the rear suspension lacks support and the overly tall frame shape isn’t exactly cutting-edge, but the Cube still corners like it’s on rails and attacks every trail. Why obsess over trendy geometry when a bike’s this much fun?
Transition Patrol Carbon 1
Other than the ANVL contact points, the Transition Patrol Carbon is the complete package. It’s easy to set up, a breeze to ride and it always manages to remain calm, composed and silent, even when the trails are anything but. It’s not got the zip of the Santa Cruz, but the more generous sizing and extra suspension muscle makes it a better choice for taller or more aggressive riders. It’s in one of the most competitive categories though, and while there’s no denying its pedigree, it’s up against similarly specced bikes like the Trek Remedy 9.9, and ones with equally good geometry, like the Giant Reign, both of which cost considerably less.
Evil Insurgent XO1 LTD Edition
As Boutique Beauties go, the Evil Insurgent ticks all of the boxes, and then some. It’s drop-dead gorgeous, it’s exclusive without being prohibitively expensive, and it’s a total riot to ride. The e*thirteen build kit giving it a distinctly custom feel. Yes, the seat angle is too slack for technical climbing, but that’s not what this bike was designed for. Twiddle up a fire road in an easy gear to get to your favourite downhill trails then open it up. That’s what the Insurgent is all about. And having other riders ask you which model it is, as it’s impossible to tell them apart.
Santa Cruz Bronson CC
If ever there was a trail bike that made everything feel effortless, it’s the Santa Cruz Bronson CC. Whether it’s powering up climbs, smashing corners, or darting between trees at breakneck speed, the Bronson CC is always encouraging you to press ahead and test your limits. It’s one of a rare breed of bikes that gives back with interest any effort you invest. Yes, it’s expensive, but there’s a sparkle to the ride of the Bronson CC that few bikes match. Don’t take our word for it though, get along to a demo day and experience it for yourself. Just don’t be surprised if you ride away burdened with £8K of debt.
Nukeproof Mega 275 Team
Nukeproof has done an amazing job with the new Mega. With clean lines, good geometry and an appropriate size range it’s transforming something of an ugly duckling into a gracious swan. It’s a bike that you know you could instantly be competitive on, in any style of enduro race. To give riders a real competitive edge though, Nukeproof needs to get the shock tune totally dialled. At present you have to run the rear suspension quite soft to prevent the BB from riding high, which in turn makes the bike less manoeuvrable and too easily unsettled under braking.
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.
Canyon’s Strive CF well and truly let us have our cake and eat it too. Thanks to its low weight and rampy suspension it fairly rocketed up the climbs. The alloy Strive AL is the best long-legged trail bike we’ve tested by a mile too.
Specialized Enduro 29 Comp is almost perfect too; by adding a £20 Burgtec offset shock bushing to the forward shock eyelet you can lower the BB a touch and slacken the head angle to really tap into the bike’s inherent DH prowess.
With the Orbea Rallon in the extra low geometry setting you’re very aware of the proximity of your pedals to the ground, and often you can feel the heels of your shoes dragging in the dirt when cornering.
With its One-Sixty 5000, Merida have killed any idea that a brand renowned for XC racing can’t make an aggressive, super-capable bike that’s fun to ride downhill.
Of the megabucks boutique bikes, the Santa Cruz Bronson CC, whether pump or pedal, is instantly up to speed. In that respect the Bronson is an ultra-reactive bike, but somehow it never feels like you’re riding on a knife edge. As such, your confidence soars with every ride as you quickly come to realise that this bike isn’t just easy on the eye.
YT Capra: One bike that did everything well 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.
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.