By Anthony Smith
This review originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Bike
I really hate 29ers. I think they are for old men to ride when they're not playing golf. I'm sure that's why I got the assignment to test the highly anticipated 29-inch Specialized S-Works Enduro Carbon. My prejudice against big wheels—coupled with the fact that I praised both the Enduro Carbon Pro in the September/October 2010 issue and the Enduro EVO Expert in the August 2012 issue—made me a perfect candidate to write a scathing review of this new 29er. But you won't read that here. This bike has forever changed my opinion about these 19th hole beach cruisers.
This new Enduro is anything but a cruiser. In fact, all the handling characteristics that I fell in love with on the 26-inch version are still there with the big wheels. This is in large part due to the short 16.9-inch chainstays and low 13.1-inch bottom bracket. The pop and playfulness that are staples of the Enduro lineup are alive and well with this new rig. Add to that a 67.5-degree head angle and it's easy to forget that you're riding a 29-inch bike with 6.1-inches of rear-wheel travel.
I assumed there would be some sacrifice to having all these lustful angles in a big-wheeled package, but I couldn't for the life of me find any. I quickly found myself opting for some of my favorite steep, rocky, technical trails to attack aboard this new Enduro. The rollover benefits of the big rubber along with what some would argue is geometry akin to a 26-inch bike made this thing feel virtually unstoppable.
That feeling of invincibility also held true when climbing. on steep, technical, or just fast, wide open climbs, the Enduro loved every minute of it. I found myself taking advantage of the TALAS travel-adjust and CTD system on the Fox 34 more than I typically would on some platforms. Lowering the fork along with some added compression damping was an open invitation to destroy what I previously thought to be respectable personal-best Strava segments.
The bottom line is that I was able to do everything better on this bike, in spite of my unfounded prejudice against 29-inch-wheeled bikes. I climbed everything faster. And, to my surprise, I was just as fast or faster on all of my favorite descents. You won't see me on the corner flogging all my 26-inch bikes just yet, but if I had to choose one that I could show up to a ride with knowing I'd shred every section of trail, the Enduro 29 would be my first choice.