This article is part of the Mtbr's Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here--


Specialized has been called "off the back" because of their apparent reluctance to bring 27.5-inch wheeled bikes to market amidst the avalanche of hype. But after spending some quality time on their S-Works Enduro 29, we understand their reasoning-it's hard to imagine the new wheel size would improve anything. In fact the Enduro 29 is so good as-is, we've named it the Best Overall Bike in our Enduro Compare-O, wheel size be damned. Silky smooth on descents, surprisingly capable on climbs and just plain fun to ride, the Enduro 29 dominated our voting. When Spech' inevitably rolls out their 27.5ers-soon we expect-some will say they're just playing catch-up. With the Enduro 29, we say they're already way out ahead.


The Enduro 29's win in this category is not only remarkable because it makes the Specialized the only two-award-winner in our test, but because it beat a strong field of gravity-focused designs like the Orbea Rallon, Rocky Mountain Altitude MSL 770 Rally Edition, and Norco Range Alloy to do it. Through some magic matrix of its big, 29-inch wheels, 155mm of rear travel and ridiculously short chainstays, the Enduro 29 set the standard anytime the trail pointed downward. We'd be remiss not to mention the suspension here-RockShox's über-buttery Pike RCT3 fork and Cane Creek's Double Barrel Air CS rear shock which Specialized balanced to perfection on the E29.

See the rest of the award winners here.

Before the Specialized S-Works Enduro 29 even rolled out of the parking lot, we knew this bike was something very special. Since launching in early 2013, the Enduro 29 has been an award-winning, podium-dominating machine thanks to a groundbreaking short-chainstay design that mixes the nimble handling of a 26-inch bike with the benefits of bigger 29-inch wheels and 155mm of rear suspension travel.

As we stated in our First Look at this bike, the Enduro 29 is an understated yet eye-catching looker. Its matte black and white paint scheme compliments the bike's signature X-Wing front triangle which not only adds to the aesthetics but strengthens and stiffens the front end.

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

Onward and upward

Given its reputation, there was no doubt the Enduro 29 was going to slay downhill, but what about uphill? When we threw it on the scale we were stunned to find this long-travel 29er weighed in at only 27.3 pounds. Of course, our test bike was outfitted with all the fixins including SRAM XX1, Roval Traverse SL 29 carbon wheels and a heart-stopping $9,250 price tag. Yeah, a lot bit pricey for most people, but then again, a bike like this is not made for most people.

On fire road climbs, riders said the Enduro 29 ascended like a really efficient 140mm bike, with solid traction out of the saddle and an overall eagerness often lacking in other long-travel 29ers. A new lockout feature on the Cane Creek Double Barrel Air CS shock helped pedaling efficiency on longer, steeper climbs. On the technical uphills, the Enduro 29 continued to impress.

"The short chainstay positions the rear wheel directly under the rider for great rear wheel traction while in the saddle and on steeper climbs," said one rider. "The flip side is that if you applied too much power, it would lift the front wheel a bit. Once you get used to the short rear end, you'll find you can climb technical stuff very well."

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

Quick and nimble

The extremely short 16.9 inch chainstays on the Enduro 29 are part of what makes this bike such a standout. Not only does it help the bike climb better, but cornering, lifting and rolling terrain performance are also enhanced. One of the test riders compared the Enduro 29 to his personal bike-a Specialized Stumpjumper EVO-which has both longer chainstays and less rear travel.

"On rolling terrain, the Enduro 29 feels like a shorter-travel bike-if I didn't look down at the bike I couldn't tell the difference between my Stumpy EVO and the Enduro," he explained. "The one thing that stands out, again, is the short chainstays.

"You can lift the front to manual obstacles with ease-substantially easier than with any other 29er I've ridden," he continued. "This doesn't equate to a faster bike, but it certainly makes it a more fun one."

Other test riders were equally smitten with the Enduro 29's short stays-along with the primo wheelset-and resultant handling.

"The exceptionally short chainstays, and stiff Roval carbon wheels made the Enduro 29 handle with the sharpness and agility of a 26-inch wheel bike," concurred another rider. "I couldn't believe this bike was a 29er-it has uncanny handling prowess."

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

The undisputed king of descent

Despite the cheers for its handling and climbing abilities, the real pleasure and praise for the Enduro 29 came once the bike was pointed downhill.

"Hands down the best descender in the test," said one rider. "Simply amazing and effortless. So smooth at warp speed. This bike doesn't come alive until most riders are at their absolute limits.

"The Rock Shox Pike up front and 155mm out back made Braille Trail like a kiddie pump track," he continued. "Even the most stutter-bumped sections of trail were smoothed out like a sheet of glass. Such a treat to ride downhill."

The M5 welded aluminum FSR rear triangle with a 12x142 rear thru-axle delivered burly performance while the Cane Creek Double Barrel Air CS shock delivered rear end plushness that seemed to have no limits. The RockShox Pike up front-despite a couple issues detailed below-was an absolute standout performer, upping the bike's overall plushness.

Continue to Page 2 for more on the Specialized S-Works Enduro 29 and full photo gallery »

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

Component woes

Unfortunately our test bike was beset with minor component and adjustment issues that detracted from an otherwise stellar ride. The three-stage compression dial on the Pike kept coming loose every time we touched it, and eventually just started clanging.

The Specialized Command Post IR dropper post was not properly adjusted and kept slipping during crucial climbing sections. Because it was internally routed, having to pull it and adjust the cable was a time-consuming annoyance.

The XX1 shifter was positioned outboard of the rear brake lever, putting it too close to the grip and making for inadvertent shifts when banging downhill.

Although we eventually fixed all the minor issues, it was a bummer for a few riders who rode the bike before it was dialed in.

Though the performance of the RockShox Pike was stellar on other bikes, the one on the Enduro 29 had some issues. Photo by Tyler Frasca.

Send in the SWAT team

The Enduro 29er comes equipped with what Specialized calls the SWAT-Storage, Water, Air, Tools-system. While we thought them a bit gimmicky at first, these lightweight, integrated emergency tools-a handy multi-tool beneath the bottle cage, and a chain tool integrated into the stem cap-could be ride savers, particularly if you're going sans pack, which the inclusion of a truly usable downtube-mounted water bottle cage allows.

Who is This Bike For?

As spec'd-and priced-the S-Works Enduro 29 is like the Ferrari of enduro racing. It's made for riders who race competitively, push the limits of sanity, and need to have the best equipment to compete. If not for actual racing, the S-Works edition of this model is probably overkill unless you're a money-is-no-object Strava hunter.

What's in a a name? In this case-everything. Photo by Tyler Frasca.

The Final Word

The S-Works Enduro 29 offers astonishing speed and stability downhill, handles in corners like a 26er, is incredibly light, impressively capability uphill and in one rider's opinion "is the best downhill bike in the test by a mile."

In addition to downhill kudos, the Enduro 29 earned some of the highest overall praise of any bike in the Enduro Compare-O. With all the hyperbolic arguments about wheel size, the Enduro 29 is rolling proof that a well-designed bike can work optimally regardless of wheel diameter.

Yes, this bike is an absolute standout performer, but for many people, our $9,250 test bike is just not practical. Thankfully there are less expensive Enduro 29 models-the Expert Comp 29 and Comp 29 listed below-that can get you much of the same performance without completely detonating your savings account.

The Good

  • Supreme descending capability
  • Climbs well
  • Nimble like a 26-inch bike
  • Outstanding high-speed stability
  • Great componentry

The Bad

  • Extreme price point
  • Tall front end

Price and trickle down versions:

S-Works Enduro 29: $9,250 as tested
Enduro Expert Carbon 29 - $6,600
Enduro Comp 29 - $3,500

Specialized S-Works Enduro 29 Specs

  • MRSP: $9,250 US
  • Frame MSRP: $4,000 US
  • Weight: 27.31 pounds (size large)
  • Wheel size: 29 inches
  • Sizes: M, L, XL
  • Color: Matte Black/White
  • Frame Material: FACT 11m carbon front triangle, M5 aluminum rear
  • Fork: Rock Shox Pike RCT3 160mm
  • Rear Travel: 155mm
  • Rear Shock: Cane Creek Double Barrel Air
  • Headset: 1-1/8" to 1-1/2" threadless
  • Handlebar: Specialized XC Mini-Riser, 750mm
  • Stem: Syntace F109
  • Seatpost: Specialized Command Post IR (Internally Routed)
  • Brakes: SRAM XO Trail, 200mm front, 180mm rear
  • Shifters: SRAM XX1
  • Front Derailleur: N/A
  • Rear Derailleur: SRAM XX1
  • Cassette: SRAM XX1 10-42 - 11 speed
  • Crankset: SRAM XX1, 32t
  • Wheels: Specialized Roval Traverse SL, DT Swiss Star Ratchet hub internals
  • Tires: Specialized Butcher Control 2.3", 2Bliss Ready Front, Specialized Purgatory Control 2.3" 2Bliss Ready rear
  • Bottom bracket type: PressFit 30
  • ISCG Tabs: Yes
  • Chainguide: No
  • Head tube angle: 67.5 degrees
  • Seat tube angle: 75 degrees
  • Chainstay length: 16.9 inches
  • Bottom bracket height: 13.8 inches

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This story is part of Mtbr's 2014 Enduro Compare-O. Check out our intro story here for all the ground rules and goings ons.