CHECK THIS OUT: EXCLUSIVE ENDURO 29er VIDEO
By Kris Keefer
Test Rider: Kris Keefer
Weight: 170 pounds
Profession: Pro Motocross Racer/Test Rider/Editor
So I was lucky enough to get an invite to Finale, Italy for the Specialized S-works Enduro 29er launch and, while I was at it, race the final round of the Super Enduro series. I jumped at the chance. Who wouldn't?
While sitting on the bike, I had the distinct sensation that I was riding inside of the bike instead of on top of it, which I wouldn't have suspected from a 29er—much less one with 155-millimeters of suspension. I did feel like most of my weight bias was towards the rear of the bike, which is weird for me as I ride mostly on the front end of dirtbikes. Quick disclaimer here: I'm a motocross racer at heart.
The medium-sized frame seemed to fit me perfectly and with little adjustments to the levers (yes I reversed them, moto-style, I know I'm lame) I was set to take off up the mountain. I can't lay claim to having ridden a ton of 29ers to date, but this bike still surprised me in that it allowed me to simply jump in the saddle with no warm up or "break in" time and yet still creatively pick my lines down the mountain. No hesitation.
I didn't need to ride the Enduro 29er with the sense of caution that I bring to some other bikes. I could actually plow through the bigger roots or rocks, making a straighter line choice that was, dare I say it, more motorcycle-ish. I loved that.
Despite it's plow-through-the-chunder prowess, the 29er Enduro corners in tight conditions better than I would have suspected possible. There wasn't a single point during the race when I felt like I needed a more agile or smaller-feeling bike. Well, scratch that thought: I guess the only time that I felt that the bike was a tad too long was in tight, consecutive switchbacks where you really had to turn sharp repeatedly. The gearing also took a bit of time for me to adjust to, as I needed to be in a lower gear than I was used too. I found myself clicking up a couple more times than usual.
On the suspension side of things, the Enduro 29 felt incredibly plush on small impacts. Braking bumps were hardly transferred to my hands and I could actually loosen my grip, which let me come into corners harder and more confidently than normal. The auto-sag feature is great—it makes it easy for anyone, even those of us who are less mechanically inclined or downright lazy, to dial their suspension perfectly every time.
Finally, there's no missing the fact that the S-Works 29er is incredibly light. Hopping over rocks or setting the bike into a berm was a joy on this bike. I had a great time on this bike and would love to get one of my own. The downside? They aren't cheap.. Then again, you get what you pay for. In this that happens to be the best-handling bike I have ever ridden.
When Specialized invited the media to take part in the last round of the Super Enduro series while sampling their still-under-wraps S-Works Enduro 29er, I was stoked to get the chance to race. I have raced Enduros on my dirtbike, so I was familiar with the format, but have never given it a go on a mountain bike.
The course in Finale was unreal. As I was suffering up the climbs on the transfer sections I could look over and see a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea. This gave me a little more drive when I started bonking.
This Enduro was, flat out, one of the hardest things I have done and I'm physically fit. The elevation gains between each stage were gnarly to say the least. I also made the dumb choice of wearing a full-face moto-cross style helmet on the first three stages, so I had to climb with that helmet on the first half of the day. I wasn't allowed to take the helmet off on the transfer sections, so I found myself overheating a little going up. I figured maybe going down some of these special tests would actually be a break compared to getting up to them. Wrong again. My heart rate monitor confirmed that I was almost red lining on the downhills. I started to get a flow on Stage 3, where I did pretty well.
The combination of long climbs and full-speed descents wears on you. There were times on the special test sections when I was definitely the guy on the trail trying to find a spot to move over and let faster guys blow through. A few of the media guys dropped out, as it was an all-day grind. Six hours in the saddle is no joke. I had some serious monkey butt going on.
The overall experience of racing the Super Enduro in Finale, Italy is something I will never forget. It was one of the hardest days I ever had on a bicycle. Climbing 5,000 feet and racing down 5 special tests was taxing. I ate more pizza after the race than I have at any time in my life.
Editor’s Note: Kris Keefer, Associate Editor at Dirt Rider Magazine, exists on Twitter too (@kkeefer120). Follow him.
LOOK FOR A LONG-TERM REVIEW IN BIKE MAGAZINE
Want more information on the new Enduro 29?
You’re in luck.
In addition to our exclusive video on the making of the Enduro 29, we went and put a 29er-hater aboard this thing and made him ride the poop out of the bike (all secretive and Zorro-like) for months now.
So look for a long-term test in the June issue of Bike, which goes on sale May 7th. Are you a vampire and hate leaving your coffin to get magazines in the scorching sun? It’s available on your Ipad too. Get `er done.