Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29 Review

When you think of bike brands one of the first to jump out is Specialized. Why? They have the history, legacy and success that few can touch, so when the Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29 rolled into the office we got more than a little excited. Beautifully sculpted carbon, long travel and equipped with 29” wheels, the boys and girls of the Specialized design team had created an absolute animal!

The Enduro Expert is obviously aimed at racing and all mountain thrashing, with Specialized claiming to pack the mannerisms of a downhill bike, and climbing abilities of a trail bike into one. Looking at the bike two things stand out; the chunky carbon fibre front triangle with the much hyped Öhlins shock at the heart. The Enduro is a burlier big brother to the popular Stumpjumper and has proved itself on the world stage with Specialized’s top flight racers, but more often than not the bikes that stand upon the podiums of the racing world are different machines when put under the legs of ‘real’ world riders, leaving a few question marks over our heads as to what the bike would be like to live with outside the tape.

Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29 Review Shot 1
Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29 | Weight: 13.04 kg | Travel: 160/155 mm (front/rear) | Price: € 5,999

Geometry of the Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29

Size M L XL
Seat Tube 445 mm 470 mm 520 mm
Top Tube 594 mm 611 mm 641 mm
Head tube 110 mm 120 mm 135 mm
Head angle 67.5° 67.5° 67.5°
Seat tube angle 75° 75° 75°
Chain Stay Length 430 mm 430 mm 430 mm
BB drop 22 mm 22 mm 22 mm
Wheelbase 1163 mm 1186 mm 1212 mm
Stack 632 mm 641 mm 655 mm
Reach 425 mm 445 mm 465 mm

As you would expect from Specialized, the Enduro’s geometry received a lot of approving head nods before we’d even sat on it. A relatively steep 67.5° head angle, short 430mm chainstays, and a long (but not overly extreme) wheelbase provided the recipe for a great terrain and stage smashing machine. Our test rider comes in at approximately 185 cm, so we opted for the Large frame and it immediately felt like a good fit with a pedalling position that proved to be very comfortable for hammering trail after trail. The bike comes in sizes M to XL, smaller riders interested in the Enduro will have to look at the 29er’s smaller 650b brother.

Specification of the Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29

The bike retails for € 5999 which doesn’t leave Specialized with much room to hide if any of the components proved to be below par. Upfront is the tried and tested RockShox Pike RC Solo Air offering up 160 mm of travel, this is paired with 155 mm on the rear which is controlled by the Öhlins single tube shock which had a lot to live up to! The Öhlins STX 22 Air was co-developed with Specialized and is currently exclusively available in the Enduro, aftermarket product will follow in the future. We were happy to see the Enduro Expert Carbon equipped with a SRAM 1×11 drivetrain and Guide RS brakes, whilst rolling on the wide Roval Traverse wheels and Specialized’s own rubber. The cockpit and seatpost are also decked out with Specialized’s own offerings, the cockpit is clean and tidy with plenty of space on the 780 mm bars. The Command Dropper Post is routed internally but only offers up 125 mm of travel, which will leave certain riders longing for more. The post also had questionable reliability and longevity, becoming ‘spongey’ and gritty through its travel.

Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29 Review Detail Shot 1
One of the major talking points is the Öhlins shock sitting at the heart of the frame.
Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29 Review Detail Shot 2
The RockShox Pikes are tried, tested and trustworthy.
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Sitting on the Enduro you are faced with a clean and well thought out cockpit.
Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29 Review Detail Shot 4
The SRAM drivetrain offered up good range and performance.

Climbing on the Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29

We experienced a range of terrain on the Enduro, from long road climbs to steep and technical singletrack; it ate through them all no problem. When tasked with loose and technical climbs the Enduro proved to be a great companion, maintaining traction throughout and with the front end remaining planted and glued to the trail thanks to the low front end and efficient seating position. The range of the 1×11 drivetrain was excellent with the 28T chainring and 10-42T cassette offering up plentiful range keeping our legs happy on long climbs. The Öhlins shock and Horst Link suspension layout need to be commended here as it felt like the majority of horsepower laid down were transferred into the wheel with little or no suspension bob. The shock offers a useful climbing mode, that doesn’t act like a lockout but still allows the shock to sit higher in its travel on long uphills. The 29” Roval wheels rolled amazingly well and turned the Enduro into a rocketship uphill when compared to bikes of a similar calibre. The fairly nimble and efficient climbing capabilities left us impressed but intrigued as to what it would offer up when pointed down.

Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29 Review Action Shot 1
The Enduro is a bike that loves to be hussled, the more you push, the more performance is unleashed.
Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29 Review Action Shot 3
The Enduro felt nimble enough despite the 29″ wheels.

Descending on the Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29

The Enduro has two very different sides, the nimble and happy climbing companion quickly transforms into an aggressive, gnar eating monster. As soon as you put the first few cranks in at the top of a descent you can’t help but attack! With the great power transfer and fantastic rolling characteristics you are soon at full gas and effortlessly within the bikes capabilities. The bike is at its best when charging hard through long and fast technical sections with the big wheels allowing you to leave your mates for dead, much to their frustration! The Pike and Öhlins are a perfect match soaking up big and small repetitive hits with ease, particularly helpful on long descents when your arms tend to tire, the rear end remains active under braking helping you maintain traction. The shock was specifically developed for this bike and offers a rather narrow range of adjustability, that will never leave you with a setup that is unrideable, helping less experienced riders to make the correct adjustments. Short chainstays keep the ride playful allowing you to pick the front end up when needed. The 29” wheels only became noticeable in a negative way once you found your way onto steep and tight turns with the front end becoming lethargic and a little unresponsive, requiring the rider to adapt their style and really accentuate their weight movement to carry speed and turn the bike efficiently. Specialized’s own rubber provided great cornering grip with their chunky side knobs, our test model came equipped with the ‘Purgatory’ tyre on the rear which both cornered and rolled well, however we would have liked a more aggressive centre tread for a little better traction whilst under braking. These, however, are relatively small niggles as the bike left us grinning from ear to ear after every descent.

Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29 Review Action Shot 2
Rock gardens are eaten up with ease.
Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29 Review Action Shot 4
You will be left with a grin on both the ups and the downs.

Bottom Line

Specialized’s claim of downhill bike mannerisms with trail bike like climbing abilities was a bold one, but on the large part proved true. The bike has a rather steep price tag at € 6000, but for that, you get a good spec with little to be desired and a real ‘do it all’ bike that feels at home on everything from rough and rocky Finale EWS stages to smooth and flowing singletrack. The Enduro posses amazing efficiency on both the ups and the downs helping you blast out loops noticeably faster and further than before. It loves to be pushed hard and fast, we failed to even come close to reaching its limits, this is a ride that both aggressive riders and those with less confidence will love; the aggressive riders will unlock a new level of performance, whilst the ride is very forgiving on those with a lower technical and skill ability. The Enduro is A LOT of bike, perhaps overkill for a large chunk of riders. If you are stuck between the Enduro and Stumpy it’s really worth looking at the trails you ride and asking yourself if you really need such a beast of a ride or if you’d be better off on the smaller, but by no means less fun Stumpjumper.

For more information on the Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 29, head to the Specialized website.

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Words & Photos: Ross Bell

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