Ask a group of MTBers to name a few iconic bikes and it’s dead cert that at least one person will mention the Specialized Enduro.
The 2005 version of the bike might not have been the only long-travel trail bike around at the time, but it was almost certainly the most popular – and introduced a generation of XC riders to the delights of burly forks and slack (ish) head angles.
Then in 2013 the Californian company dropped a new version of the Enduro that I think will prove even more important to the development of MTBs – and a lot of other bike companies are only just catching up.
It might have only been four years ago, but 29er wheels were still widely believed to only be fit for lycra-clad XC warriors – so the E29’s 155mm of rear travel, 160mm fork and short 430mm chainstays had a lot of people scratching their heads at the time. Now long-travel 29ers (including DH bikes) are the hot ticket for racers.
My first time
I have a confession to make. Despite riding MTBs since the late 1980s – and seeing a very high turnover in recent years – this is the first Specialized I’ve ever owned. It’s not that I had anything against the brand, it’s just never happened.
However when looking for a frame change from my Kona Process 111, I kept coming back to the large E29 as having the kind of geometry I wanted and being able to accept my existing 29er bits – and I was lucky enough to source a used 2016 frame for a very reasonable price.
New frame bearings were installed and I built it up with a Pike, mix- and-match Sram GX/Shimano XT 11sp transmission, a Reverb and Race Face Turbine wheels.
I was aware that the E29 has a famously high bottom bracket, but wanted to try it in stock form. Coming from a bike with a notably low BB, the Enduro felt precariously, almost comically high – as well as being too steep.
Fortunately I was quickly able to source a shock yoke from the 650b version of the bike, a common but not-officially-endorsed mod that drops the BB and slackens the head angle to much more sensible positions.
It was like riding a totally different bike after that – a really good bike.
What are the main characteristics people look for from their MTB suspension? Plushness, support, traction under braking, effective damping, climbing ability?
The E29 actually seems to manage all of these things – and more importantly it does them all in a totally predictable manner.
It takes big hits without flinching, it soaks up drops comfortably and it stays reasonably composed over gnarly terrain – considering it has the Fox Performance DPS shock rather than a fancy twin-tube damper.
With the 650b yoke fitted the handling is intuitive and the bike happily pumps, jumps and hops around the trail in a way that I really didn’t expect. It feels really playful and lively.
I’ve read about long-travel bikes that “climb like an XC whippet” before – but of all the bikes I’ve ridden the E29 comes the closest to fulfiling that unlikely claim. It really is an astonishingly good climber and I’ve racked up several Strava PRs on trails that I ride absolutely loads.
Breaking the mould
I sometimes see the phrase “long-legged trail bike” thrown around like an insult, usually at long-travel bikes with conservative geometry – and in its standard guise the E29 would be guilty as charged.
However the same term could be applied in a positive light with the 650b yoke fitted. Compared to my Radon Swoop it feels perky, playful and involving on flat and more tame trails. It also happens to be a searingly fast enduro bike when you need it.
Unlike the other enduro bikes I’ve owned, I reckon it’ll be good fun at trail centres – and should make a superb companion for pedally days out in the mountains.
Tweaks to come
So I’ve had a few good rides on the E29 now, covering most of my local trails and a few choice Hebden Bridge selections – and there are a few bits I could improve.
I needed a flat bar and used a 762mm one from my spares box, but I’d like a 785mm carbon flat bar at some point (can you buy such a thing?)
The cranks I have fitted at the moment are 175mm, and I’d really prefer 170mm to aid ground clearance and to decrease the distance to the saddle. 165Mm could even be a possibility.
On the subject of distance to the saddle, the seat tube is undoubtedly a bit too long and I need to either hacksaw a bit off or get a dropper with a lower collar or a lower profile saddle (or all three).
My 45mm stem feels good, but a 50mm one might be just a touch better.
It took me a while to get used to the flex in the 160mm Pike, but I don’t feel it’s slowing me down and it suits my planned use for the bike, however I might keep an eye out for a suitable replacement shock along the lines of a CCDB Air, Fox X2 or even an Ohlins TTX.
There’s also the possibility of sticking B-plus wheels and turning it into a stealth bomber trail hovercraft. And I could use an offset bushing to knock another half a degree off the head angle and lower the BB further – though that may not work at the same time as the plus wheels.
If you’ve found this post useful or interesting, please follow the blog on social media via the icons at the top of the page.