If you want a one-line summary, the new Enduro Elite is fast as hell
Sharing several strands of DNA with Demo 29 downhill bike, the latest Specialized Enduro Elite is a major departure from the X-frame design of old.
With its low-slung shock now piercing the front triangle, travel has been upped to 170mm, although we actually measured 6mm more than claimed. Both halves of the carbon Elite frame are identical to the Specialized Enduro S-Works version we tested back in February, albeit without the 200g weight saving of the carbon links.
Specialized Enduro Elite review
Yes, that web of links and pivots behind the seat tube looks radical, but it’s just an updated FSR four-bar suspension design that the brand’s championed for years. The shock position keeps weight low, and the new linkage gives a pretty progressive leverage curve that aids small-bump sensitivity and bottom-out resistance. It also has significantly more anti-squat, and combined with the steeper seat angle, this improves pedalling efficiency and composure.
It’s a lot longer than the old bike too – the reach on the size medium growing to 464mm, where custom offset shock hardware gives you two geometry settings (three if you revert to regular hardware). And even with SWAT storage and tool integration, it’s still the lightest bike on test.
Alongside the increased anti-squat and travel, Specialized trumpets a more rearward axle path as advantageous. And even with the lower-tier RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ shock, the Enduro definitely devours bumps, so we can only assume the rear wheel gets out of the way of impacts very effectively. And for those familiar with longer-travel Specialized bikes, the super-snappy pedalling manners of the Enduro might catch you off guard, as that’s not always been the case.
Sticking with Select+ level suspension, the 170mm-travel RockShox Lyrik fork on the Enduro Elite is friction-free and super- sensitive, but not quite as composed in terms of damping, support and control as the RockShox Lyrik Ultimate RC2 version on the Whyte G-170.
For Specialized, good aftercare service and support is as important as offering good value on the showroom floor, and this is reflected in the lower-tier kit fitted. The latest Specialized in-house components aren’t bad, with decent-shaped 800mm handlebars and forged 40mm stem, but we’d like to see something a bit flashier for five grand.
SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain works flawlessly, but doesn’t get the machined cassette of the higher-level systems that saves weight and lasts way longer. At 14.7kg (32.4lb) with our Maxxis control tyres fitted, it’s not hurting the bike on scales though. Specialized ditched its in-house dropper post program recently, so the Elite build gets an X-Fusion Manic that works really well, but seatpost insertion with the pierced frame design is limited.
Specialized Enduro Elite: performance
If you want a one-line summary, the new Specialized Enduro Elite is fast as hell. The rear end glides over repeated hits and retains all the speed gravity bestows on it. Cut smooth arcs through turns, smash through the rough stuff any way you want and this rock-solid frame keeps pointing true and stays calm. Chassis damping is also excellent, so there’s no sharpness or excessive vibration, while the rubber protection on the stays keeps everything quiet.
The Enduro climbs and pedals better than any bike with 170mm of travel should. Even with the shock wide open, the Enduro is incredibly efficient. With all of that travel, it can feel like there’s less to push against in compressions or when getting the wheels off the ground, and if you try to fight this and square-off sharp turns, there’s not quite enough mid-stroke support from the Super Deluxe Select + shock to retain perfect composure. Better to just hold tight, ride off the brakes and let the bike float you to a zen-like space where any gripes about the finishing kit and price evaporate from your mind.
More downhill-focussed than pretty much any other enduro bike, the latest 170mm Specialized Enduro makes light work of the toughest terrain. So if your main focus is maximum speed and smashing through beaten up braking bumps and repeated hits, it delivers in spades. What’s also amazing considering the Enduro’s downhill capability, is it’s surprisingly reactive, chuckable, and efficient in simply getting you from A to B. The fly in the ointment? Price. So even though the Elite-level frame sports exceptional design quality, others deliver more top-level kit for the same cash and it rankles, even if it doesn’t impact on performance too negatively.