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Long Term Review

2017 Specialized S-Works Enduro 29

Words Perry Schebel
Photos Dave Smith
Date May 4, 2017

The frozen tendrils of a protracted winter have at last released their tenacious grasp, and we’re again able to ride our beloved trails free of the icy death. Time to wrap up the Specialized Enduro 29 long term review. As is our typical review format, if you’re looking for more spec related detail on this bike, check out my first impressions bit, and/or Pete’s coverage of the product launch. Now let's begin.

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The author contemplates the futility of existence. If life is meaningless, may as well maximize the fun factor and ride bikes. 

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Though lacking cachet, the house brand 780mm bars, single lock grips, and ergonomic dropper remote are spot on. 

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The 60mm Syntace stem is unfashionably long for my taste. I never had to use the chain tool craftily nestled within the steerer tube, but as someone who rarely carries tools (and would rather limp a mauled bike back home than carry a pack), the integration thereof is appreciated. 


Holding on

The cockpit is a fairly tidy affair. I like the house brand single lock knurled / half waffle grips, as well as the 27mm rise x 780mm wide carbon bar. I found the 60mm Syntace stem to be a bit lengthy - too much tiller for my tastes. Swapping to a 50mm put me in my happy place.  

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Behold, the Specialized Taint Tenderizer dropper post. Best to keep the dangly bits clear when activating.

Sitting down

The Specialized Command Post is a sadistic thing. It performs the up/down functions fine, but does so in a remarkably unrefined fashion: returning to full height with ferocious undamped genital smashing speed, topping out with a hard metallic clank. Running the minimum recommended pressure had little effect. And at 125mm, travel is on the short side for a bike of this usage. One final gripe; the seat clamp has too much setback for my tastes. I had to run the saddle slammed forward for an optimal climbing position. The release lever is nicely ergonomic with copious position adjustment however. No complaints with the svelte Henge Expert titanium railed saddle.

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The Enduro is quite adept at picking through the vintage jank.  


SWAT

With the influence of Enduro racing, integrating basic survival items onto the bike has become the hot new thing, and Specialized is the current market leader in this dept. No need for packs or duct tape here. Room for a large water bottle in the supplied cage, with a multitool clipped on behind, chain tool neatly nestled in the steer tube, and down tube storage that includes a spare tube and tool wrap (with room to stow a small pump or c02 inflator, tire levers, and snacks). Brilliant.

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Resetting preconceptions: big wheels & tight turns don't have to be incongruous. 

Halting

I generally like Guide brakes. Decent ergonomics, consistent power and modulation. The pads on the RS model Guides on the Enduro, however, lack a bit of bite in the wet, and they’re squealers. I’d be trying some fresh metallics to see if things improve. The RS lacks the pad engagement adjustment of the top of the line Ultimates, and I find myself missing the feature. As it is, lever travel to engagement is more than I’d like. It would have been nice to see said Ultimates on this bike. If you’re bucking up five figures, what’s a couple more bills for top tier stoppers?

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The Eagle drivetrain slogged through a sloppy Vancouver winter with nary a hickup. All the suspension pivots remained tight for the duration of the test, and cable routing was rub free. It's a solid, nicely detailed build. 

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Eagle chainring and an included top guide collude to provide drop free performance. The handy multitool dangling off the water bottle cage is also included. 

Propelling

I’m a fan of the SRAM Eagle. The S-works runs the premium XX1 mech, shifter, and cranks, saving a bit of coin with an X01 cassette. Not much to say that hasn’t been said before: it’s the benchmark for wide range transmissions. Ran with nary a glitch. I would have specified a 32 rather than the supplied 30t chainring if I was want to nitpick.

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Attempting not to piledrive the photographer. 

That which spins in circles

For a house brand wheelset, the Rovals are pretty trick. Sporting 30mm internal width carbon rims laced to DT hubs with straight pull spokes - 28 rear, and a diminutive 24 count up front. Though I didn’t weigh them, they certainly feel light, and spin up to speed quickly. The one thing I did notice - especially when transitioning from aluminum wheels - is the resonance of these things. They tend to ping (quite audibly) off impacts - especially the high tension, half radially spoked front wheel - and there seems to be a bit more distortion (ie, unwanted frequencies) being transferred to the chassis. Personally I prefer the slightly more damped feel of a softer aluminum wheel, but it’s hard to deny the bling-y appeal of carbon, if one is swayed by such things.


I really like the Specialized Slaughter and Butcher tires, despite the silly names. The rear Slaughter is surprisingly grippy for a short knob, but is unsurprisingly overwhelmed in the sloppy season steep & deep. The Grid casings are stout, and I encountered no issues with burping at the relatively low pressures (around 23F / 26R) that I was running.
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Camerawielder Dave likes his arty shots. Making good use of ancient logging debris. 

Oil through orifices

It’s refreshing to see a major player like Specialized supporting a newcomer (to the bike industry) like Ohlins. The Swedish suspension marque has a serious pedigree in motorsport; I was curious to see what they could bring to the table in the realm of human powered devices.

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Ohlins new RXF36 anchors the front. Note the 24(!) spoked wheel with half radial lacing. That's minimalist. 

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The RXF compression adjusters. Unlike most forks, the lockout is found at the end of the high speed adjustment range as opposed to the low. That said, I never felt the need to tweak it for climbing. 

Forking

The 160mm travel RXF36 fork sports a nifty air sprung ramp up chamber - allowing you to tweak the progressiveness of the spring rate with an air pump rather than having to mess with air chamber volume spacers. Using the recommended air settings (around 20% sag), I found the fork decidedly linear, with less suppleness off the top than I’d like. I reduced main spring pressure and added ramp pressure (by 10-15%) which improved things. As such, it was performing within the realm of current suspension major players in terms support and progression. I liked the mid-stroke / big hit feel. However, I found it still wasn’t quite as buttery off the top as the Fox 36s And Pikes I’ve ridden recently, even with both compression adjustments fully open. These desk jockey hands prefer a bit more suppleness (Aaron Gwin I am not), and I found this fork to be a bit fatiguing in high frequency chatter. Unlike the shock, which sports a decidedly limited range of damper adjustments, the fork has copious clicks for all three tweaking parameters - high/low speed compression, and rebound. Near lockout resides at the end of the high speed adjustment range, though I never felt the need to use it on offroad climbs. At a lithe 165lbs, I preferred to run both HSC and rebound near the open end of the spectrum (Richie Rude I am not either). Unlike many other manufacturer’s damper settings that tend to run from pogo to locked out, the Ohlins tends to run within a usable range. The 36mm stanchioned, 15mm bolted axle chassis proved stiff enough under my not so imposing bulk.  

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Here's the Ohlins STX22. It's got an autosag feature that uses schraeder blow off valve. I used it once for giggles; it does get things in the ballpark, but I preferred to use the old fashioned method to dial things in. 

Shocking

An Ohlins STX22 resides in the back, supporting a meaty 165mm of travel. With the factory tune, this is a fairly linear feeling shock. Though it uses full travel non-dramatically (ie, no harsh bottoming), even at 30% sag, it was stroking out more frequently than I’d expect, and I’d have preferred a bit more suppleness off the top, as well as more mid stroke support/pop. Perhaps I’ve been smitten by the Fox X2, but the Ohlins feels a bit dead in comparison, even with the damping circuits opened up. A bit of air chamber volume fettling seems in order to ramp up the progression. This can be done a couple ways - the home gamer can add a couple ml of Ohlins fluid via the air valve, or volume spacers may be added internally - though the Ohlins literature indicates this is a shop job.

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Again with the tightness. We have this in spades here. 

Regarding adjustment, tweakability is decidedly limited with this shock. Low-speed compression sports a reasonable 8 clicks, while high speed has only 3 clicks, with the 3rd position designated the firm(er) pedaling position, leaving only two descending options, of which the difference between is not significantly discernible. I was ok with using the settings provided, but I doubt the offerings are going to please everyone. The rebound adjustment was a bit different in character in that while it offers more clicks (8), I found the effective damper adjustment between detents to be a bit too large - ie, my usable range was within 2 clicks, and probably would have been happier at a position between the two. So - while I got the shock working well, I’d still have liked to have had the ability to fine tune things a bit more - and I’ll admit to not being terribly fussy with my dampers; I’m thinking the tuning neurotics out there may be a bit disappointed with this shock.

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Earning the turns. Not an XC rocket by any means, but a competent uphill grinder.  

Upwardly mobile

For an aggressive-ish, long travel steed, this is a reasonably effective climber. The seat tube angle is spot on. Or it would be if it was sporting a non-layback seatpost. As mentioned earlier, the 3rd click high-speed damper climb position on the Ohlins shock is decidedly subtle. It has a bit more support than the first two positions, but certainly not a lockout by any means. Most lockouts tend to be significantly more effective, consequently this shock allows more sag, thus a more chopper-esque fork angle, resulting in a bit less sharp climbing precision than other bikes of this ilk I’ve ridden. A higher (342mm) BB compounds the feeling of a slightly more cumbersome chassis when the climb gets super steep and tech. The FSR suspension does provide good traction under power, however, at the detriment of a bit more chassis movement than some platforms.

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Brappy good times. Anyone that says 29ers aren't fun haven't spent proper time on a modern iteration.  

Downwardly Inclined

Of course, the primary focus of a big bike like this is punching the downhills, and as such, it’s a capable machine. If I were to describe the handling in a word: neutral. Owing to the relative linearity of the suspension, it’s not the poppiest / most playful example of the breed I’ve ridden, though it does wake up when injected with more speed. Perhaps more apt for straight line charging than pumping features with the current tune. Despite a class leading 165m rear travel, said linearity contributes to it not feeling quite as plush as I’d expect (the 150mm Slash feels subjectively couch-ier to me) though it handles the big chunk just fine. The chassis is balanced, if not snappy through fast corners, and handles steep, tight janky turns (the kind that copiously populate the shore) quite effectively.  For a race-focused bike, it's quite competent in slower tech, the moderate 66° head angle offering a reasonable balance between stability and nimbleness. Unfortunately my test period didn't coincide with bikepark action, but it's well composed when you turn up the wick, and is quite happy being flogged aggressively. Effective over a range of speeds this bike is.   

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Splurging on the Kodachrome here. The bike as pictured weighs 30.0 lbs. 

Final thoughts

I’ve spent time on board a couple other longer travel aggressive 29’ers recently (the Yeti 5.5c and Trek Slash), and have come to appreciate why this is such a hot category these days. These bikes charge on rough trail, and have all surprised me with their versatility on climbs and mellower terrain as well. Lumbering behemoths, these are not. As I mentioned in my first look bit, I found the Specialized splits the difference between the slightly shorter and steeper Yeti, and the slacker, longer (albeit slightly less travel than the Enduro) Trek. It’s got long legs for big hit capability but still steers sharply enough to handle slower, technical lines quite well without requiring overly aggressive inputs to come alive. However it didn’t quite light my pants on fire in the fun hog dept with the factory suspension tune. It's not far off, but I think a trip to the local Ohlins guru could make this bike come alive. That said, it's a very refined, capable example of the species. The Specialized S-Works Enduro 29 can be yours for $8500 USD / $10500 CAD.

For more on the S-Works Enduro click here...


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Comments

dsl4life
+7 Cam McRae grambo Pete Roggeman Merwinn Tehllama42 Tim Coleman Raymond Epstein
dsl4life  - May 4, 2017, 12:48 a.m.

Well written. Very entertaining to read and a good review:-)

Reply

Timmigrant
+4 Perry Schebel Pete Roggeman Tehllama42 dsl4life
Tim Coleman  - May 4, 2017, 7:02 a.m.

Awesome review. Well written, laid out so logically, and beauty photos. Nice work!

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 JT Pete Roggeman
Andrew Major  - May 4, 2017, 10:06 a.m.

This. Love the "vintage jank" shot!

Reply

Thingy
+4 Endur-Bro Pete Roggeman Andrew Major Merwinn
Thingy  - May 4, 2017, 9:44 a.m.

Perry, you have a captivating prose style that's a joy to read. i.e) "...returning to full height with ferocious undamped genital smashing speed..." Well done.

Reply

Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - May 4, 2017, 9:51 a.m.

$10,500, is ridiculous, and I love bikes. Really.

So my question is, in the Enduro line up, where's the best bang for the CDN buck, IYO?

Reply

hbelly13
0
Raymond Epstein  - May 4, 2017, 2:26 p.m.

The best bang for your buck is an Evil Wreckoning as far as long travel 29er's go. Having ridden the three bikes in this test http://www.mbr.co.uk/reviews/29er-full-sus/evil-wreckoning I agree with the Brits. Their statement "how do you put a price on confidence?" is on point.

Reply

delusional
0
delusional  - May 4, 2017, 4:37 p.m.

$10,500 and the it comes with own brand cockpit, doesn't get top spec brakes, etc. Pretty big compromises for such a boutique price!

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Cr4w
Andrew Major  - May 4, 2017, 4:55 p.m.

I'm the last person on earth I'd expect to be defending value on a 10k bike but just comparing it to the Slash you get Carbon rims, Ohlins suspension, SWAT (whether or not that's a selling feature is individual but it's a design and production cost) and a more reliable dropper post by most accounts (I haven't owned either).

Looking at the other super bikes regardless of wheelsize (Yeti 5.5 / 6, Pivot Firebird, Santacruz Nomad) I don't see how the Enduro isn't at least a comparable value. 

All things being equal - and recognizing the longer break-in period - I'd take the Ohlins fork over anything else on the market. They're beautifully made. 

I'd love to see where an Ohlins equipped aluminum Enduro with a GX build would land pricing wise. Would rather maximize my investment in suspension.

Reply

wncmotard
+1 Pete Roggeman
WNCmotard  - May 4, 2017, 9:57 a.m.

Agreed, very well laid out review. And the command post works like a Gravity Dropper. Make sure the speed bag is high and clear before mashing the button. It actually took me a while to get used to hydraulic posts, felt like they took forever at first.

Reply

jt
0
JT  - May 4, 2017, 6:06 p.m.

$10k for a bike that has lackluster suspension performance and trail manners, and a front wheel pinging and resonating through the frame is rather absurd in my eyes. I'd rather not have my MTB perform like a Camry and just work OK, as at that price it should be rather exceptional in near all regards.

Reply

xy9ine
0
Perry Schebel  - May 4, 2017, 8:12 p.m.

Perhaps I may have come off a bit overly critical, but at a $10k price point I am inclined to have high expectations and scrutinize fairly aggressively. If this were a $5k bike, those items I mentioned wouldn't even have been talking points. To be clear, this is a very good bike - certainly worthy company with the other 5-figure bikes of the genre I've ridden.

Reply

jt
+2 Niels Perry Schebel
JT  - May 5, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

I don't think you were overly critical at all. Perhaps I was with the Camry comment, however. You wrote clearly and concisely what your  experience with the bike was like and that's near all we should expect from any reviewer. My thinking is that at this price point a bike should evoke a much more enthusiastic reaction from the rider through its ride character rather than its pricing. Doubly so with the number of mid four figure bikes that deliver on that front and leave more than enough in the coffers for a very nice MTB vacation. Or a vacation with the significant other to smooth over buying a mid four figure bike.

Reply

LoamtoHome
+1 Andrew Major
Jerry Willows  - May 5, 2017, 10:02 a.m.

nothing about Ohlins suspension is lackluster.

Reply

awesterner
0
awesterner  - May 4, 2017, 11 p.m.

As somebody that has been through proprietary low spoke count wheels (SRAM, Easton etc).  They are great initially- light (obviously--low spoke count!), stiff and lively.  But IF you lose a spoke charging in harsh terrain, good luck. From experience, all it takes is one spoke to go to weaken the wheel....

Too bad Canada just gets the Jelly Belly edition, black looks great! And you don't even need to be asking for SRAM Ultimates Perry, just the RSCs would suffice:-)  Great write up!

Reply

Paxx
0
Max Picton  - May 11, 2017, 6:26 a.m.

Hey Andrew, what do you mean by "recognizing the longer break in period"?

I've never heard anything about that with the ohlins before, just curious.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 11, 2017, 7:51 a.m.

Hi Max, no problem.

The build quality on my RXF 34 was awesome (best in class) right out of the box with everything well lubricated. The fork is built tight which is to say that right out of the box the bushings were tighter than what most companies spec and it took longer to 'break in' and become really smooth.

It was still a good fork right out of the box but it took a dozen rides before it was a great fork.

As a point of comparison BOS spec's (spec'd?) quite loose bushings on their forks and well they have the most amazing feeling right out of the box I know of a fair number of riders who had forks that knocked (bushings too loose) quite prematurely. 

I mentioned it briefly in the initial teardown article of the RXF 34 that SuspensionWerx helped me with (here) and again in the first look piece (here). 

...

I obviously haven't been inside this RXF 36 to say that the build quality is the same as my tester 34 was but I'd be very surprised if it wasn't the same. The air system and damper are the same as what I was running and my conclusion (here) was that is is comparable in smooth feel and 'coil like' suspension performance to BOS' DeVille (which is a huge compliment - everything else about BOS as a company aside). 

It's hard to square that circle with what a few people who have ridden this RXF 36 have said. It is possible that the bushings are too tight (easily resolved - resized - at a service/warranty center)  or that the fork sat so long that the oil on the air side has migrated in the lower and a basic refresh is needed to get it working perfectly.

In any event, if I was looking for a new fork - cost no object - based on my RXF 34 experience the RXF 36 would be at the top of my list.

Reply

Paxx
0
Max Picton  - May 12, 2017, 6:31 a.m.

Awesome, thanks for the info. I'm actually just waiting on delivery of this bike (should be here in the next couple days!) and I've never played around with an Ohlins fork before. 

I know exactly how many tokens, what pressure, etc for my old Lyrik but I don't really know where to start with the RFX. With Ohlins being so new, there isn't much tuning info kicking around on the web yet. The few things I have read suggest less sag (15% or so), and more pressure than recommended by Ohlins, but that's about it for tips. 

Any further resources you could provide for getting this new bike dialled would be great. I'm sure with enough time I'll get it all figured out but I wouldn't say no to some help getting it to the sweet spot sooner! 

Thanks!

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 12, 2017, 7:06 a.m.

Hi Max,

The main issue I had setting up the fork was the secondary air pressure recommended is much too low. Adding pressure to the secondary chamber is essentially like adding tokens to your fork. The HSC also works differently than most forks where it actually has a large effect on the mid-stroke support - almost more like a ramp control. 

Keeping in mind I was running a 140mm fork - so your air pressure will likely be lower - I'm 185 lbs and ran:

"Main chamber ~130psi, Secondary chamber ~260psi, Rebound -15 (15x clicks from closed), Low-Speed Compression -7 (LSC 7x clicks from closed), and High-Speed Compression in the mid setting (HSC +2 clicks from open)"

At least that gives you a reference vs. the recommended settings for a rider my weight. With that setup I found the fork provides excellent support but I still used full travel. 

Hope that helps!

Reply

Paxx
0
Max Picton  - May 13, 2017, 6:45 a.m.

Wow, way more pressure than I expected. I got my bike last night and set it up prior to reading this but it looks like I'll be tweaking it before my ride today. 

I'm 225 geared up and I only used 230psi in the ramp up chamber and I'm coming off of two tokens in my Lyrik. 

Thanks for the tips!

Reply

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