We cut through the hype to find the very best of the current crop of race-ready enduro bikes.
Enduro is still the hottest ticket in mountain biking, we cut through they hype and find the very best enduro mountain bike.
If you want a bike with less than 160mm of travel then check out our Trail Bike of the Year for all the very best bikes in the sub-160mm travel sector.
What makes the best enduro mountain 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 suspension 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, 1x 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…
The best enduro mountain bike reviews
Trek Slash 9.9 29 RSL
Trek has done an amazing job with the new Slash 29. The geometry and sizing are both on the money, the feel of the carbon frame is solid without being too stiff, or jarring, and the grip that the rear suspension provides is on another level. Even though it’s a whopping £6k, in present company that represents pretty good value, given that you have Fox suspension and a 1×12 SRAM Eagle drivetrain. It’s a tricky bike to set up though, and there are aspects of the build kit, namely the handlebar and seatpost, that prevent the Slash 29 reaching its full potential.
Evil The Wreckoning X1
The Evil Wreckoning isn’t the best specced bike. It could also be argued that its uni-directional carbon frame doesn’t have the same level of damping as the woven fabric used on a Trek or Specialized. It’s not Plus compatible either, and it’s certainly not the best value. But how do you put a price on confidence? Not only is the Wreckoning easy to set up, it’s easy to ride and the geometry and attitude will instantly seduce you. In a crowded market where everything is pretty much the same, the Evil Wreckoning manages to stand out. And not simply because of the funky colours.
Santa Cruz Nomad CC X01
Do-it-all bikes that deliver the goods are few and far between but Santa Cruz has nailed it with the latest Nomad. It strikes a perfect balance between fun, speed and versatility, so if you’re looking for one bike to cover every occasion the Nomad really should be top of your list. Sizing comes up short by modern standards though, but the frame has stacks of standover clearance so upsizing to gain some extra reach isn’t an issue proving you not over 6ft 2in tall, and shorter riders are well catered for too with the air shock option being ideal for anyone of slight build. All things considered, the Nomad V4 is the best Santa Cruz suspension bike to date.
Giant Reign Advanced 0
The Giant Reign has an undisputed pedigree. So it’s fair to say that we were a little nervous when Giant announced that it was changing its winning formula. Our concerns proved unfounded though, as Giant has retained the superb sensitivity of the suspension, the balanced geometry and the forgiving flex in the frame. By increasing the sizing, and adding a longer stoke shock with more support in the linkage the 160mm travel Reign Advanced 0 is better than ever.
Mondraker Dune Carbon XR
Even though it’s an ‘older’ design, the Mondraker Dune XR is still cutting edge in terms of geometry and sizing. And if you’re not 100% happy with the standard geometry the adjustment kit provide with the bike lets you tweak the head angle and chainstay length, the latter being a massive boon for taller riders. it has to be said, the Dune XR is a bit expensive compared to the competition.
Specialized Enduro Pro 29
With its recently revised geometry the 2018 Enduro Pro 29 now has the attitude and riding position to capitalize on its 165mm travel. Now that Specialized has rolled out its “build your own” program in the UK where you can spec an Enduro up with your choice of wheel size, drivetrain and most importantly suspension components. With Fox Factory level suspension, the Enduro 29 could be THE one.
Orbea Rallon M-Team
After tyres, the fork is easily the most important component on a mountain bike, and at present there’s simply no better option for enduro than the Fox 36 RC2 fitted to the Rallon M-Team. And good as the new Rallon is, it isn’t perfect. The size range is limited and the rear suspension isn’t as capable as the Specialized Enduro or Evil Wreckoning, even if Orbea’s geometry has the measure of both. Would it be even better if it were a full 160mm bike? Probably. Would it be better still if Orbea offer a more comprehensive range of sizes? Definitely. Still, if the shoe fits, you’re in for a treat.
Whyte G-170 S
Whyte has produced some amazing bikes of late, but it has always struggled to nail its longer travel G-series models. Not any more. The new G-170 S is smooth, composed and balanced. It is easy to set-up and even easier to ride flat-out, but it still pedals well enough that you don’t feel like your lugging a 170mm anchor up every climb. Make no mistake though, it’s not some long-legged trail bike, it’s a full-blown gravity focused race weapon. A word of caution though, the ultra-low BB is a double-edged sword, that cuts both ways.
Nukeproof Mega 275 Comp
Nukeproof has done an amazing job with the new Mega 275 Comp. The geometry and sizing are on point, the specification is on the money and it offers a slightly more versatile ride because the BB isn’t as low. In fact, you could take this bike straight to an EWS and you wouldn’t even need to change the tyres. We’d still like to have a softer initial touch to the 165mm rear suspension though, as the Mega gave a more jarring ride than others. You can still ride the rims off it though, and with a different shock tune it could have taken the test win.
YT Industries Jeffsy CF Pro Race 27
You can agonise over geometry, travel and sizing, but it’s not until you actually ride a bike that you really get the measure of it. With the YT Jeffsy CF Pro Race 27, it’s the weight that defines it. At 12.56kg (27.69lb) it’s bloody light for a sub-£4k bike sporting 160mm travel. As such, it’s not the stiffest 160mm bike we’ve tested, so it feels much more like a long-legged trail bike capable of turning its hand to anything, than a full-blown enduro rig. That’s not meant as a criticism of the Jeffsy CF Pro Race 27, it’s just good to know which side of the fence it sits on.
Identiti Mettle GX
Identiti has done a great job with the Mettle. The proportions and angles align perfectly, and even with three frame sizes, it offers a great fit. With 160mm travel, it’s unashamedly a big-hit rig. It carries its 14.63kg heft well too, with more muscle than fat, so it’s solid without ever feeling sluggish. Timing has helped too, as the newly released GX Eagle drivetrain enables you to spin, rather than grind, up every climb. It can’t compete with direct-sales rivals’ pricing though, so even though the sizing is better, the complete package isn’t as good value.
DMR states that the Sled is long, low and slack. But only two out of the three geometry claims are close to being accurate, as the 345mm BB height is actually pretty tall for a 160mm bike. Even with the taller front end, we had no issues loading the front tyre on flat turns as the chainstay length extends a lot once you load up the rear suspension. So the 430mm chainstay measurement only applies to the bike when unweighted. That said, the bike is better for the extra length.
What to look for in an enduro mountain bike
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
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.