Review -

Preview Issue #017 | Enduro Bike Group Test

We wanted to find the best enduro bike of 2015, but how many of us who buy ‘enduro’ bikes actually race? Even those that do spend more time riding with buddies than against the clock. So when we talk about enduro bikes, why do we always focus just on ‘how fast’. It’s a valid question for sure, but most of us rarely stray between the tapes. So if we don’t buy an enduro bike as a ‘race only’ weapon, what are we buying them for?

The test bikes, a collection of the finest machines available
The test bikes, a collection of the finest machines available

Most of us want a bike that can handle everything we throw at it, from sessioning DH tracks with buddies, to racing the odd enduro and wringing the life out of it on the weekend ‘big ride’. Most of us care more about beating our buddies down the local technical trail than shaving a millisecond off a stage time.

Ten riders made up the test team, from seasoned World Cup downhillers to experienced testers
Ten riders made up the test team, from seasoned World Cup downhillers to experienced testers
On the rocky and rugged terrain only the best bikes impressed us
On the rocky and rugged terrain only the best bikes impressed us

Some bikes are built for uncompromising speed, with bottom brackets that skim the earth and top tubes that stretch to the horizon, but what are these anorexic downhill bikes like to live with day-to-day. Does a super aggressive geometry make for a comfortable companion for a full day mountain epic, or is something a little less uncompromising the thinking riders choice.

These were all questions that our experienced test team were keen to answer, ten international riders, featuring Top10 EWS racers, WC DH riders and regular riders like many of us. We wanted to find the ultimate enduro bike, so tested nine of the best, not just against the clock but also over long rides, big mountain epics and over some of the UK’s most rugged back country terrain.

Enduro bike test HQ, deep in the Scottish Highlands
Enduro bike test HQ, deep in the Scottish Highlands
Suspension and cockpits were set for each tester, the brace of bikes are good to ride
Suspension and cockpits were set for each tester, the brace of bikes are good to ride
The bikes had to prove themselves on long climbs
The bikes had to prove themselves on long climbs

Rather than choose which bikes we thought were the best, we asked the main brands to send in the bike they would choose, based on the following brief we sent them:

Award Focus

We believe that an enduro bike should be able to handle it all. As standard it should be race ready and come with a build kit that allows a keen amateur racer to compete at weekends. It should also be capable of long big mountain epics and be comfortable and enjoyable on day long rides.

The Testbikes

For this test we have opened up the price range, so it’s your decision which bike you send us. We will rate the performance,
but value for money will also be taken into consideration. The Bike should have around 150–170 mm of travel and has to be a regular production bike (no pre series versions,or modifications to the standard specification will be allowed).

The bikes we were sent included:

  • Cannondale Jekyll Carbon Team
  • Canyon Strive CF 9.0 Race
  • Giant Reign 2
  • Santa Cruz Nomad C XO1
  • Rose Uncle Jimbo 3
  • Trek Slash 9.0
  • Yeti SB6C X01
  • YT Capra Pro Race
  • Vitus Sommet VRX

Note: Radon supplied a Slide and Focus supplied a new SAM Carbon, but both bikes arrived after the testing. Specialized were excited but could not supply a bike in time.

The bikes faced endless rocky trails
The bikes faced endless rocky trails
Fun was just as important as race times
Fun was just as important as race times
A good enduro bike should not only be fast on the track, but great fun too
A good enduro bike should not only be fast on the track, but great fun too
Our testing took us far from the beaten track.....
Our testing took us far from the beaten track…..

When it came to testing high performance in rugged terrain, one location stood out above the rest, Scotland, or more precisely the Scottish Highlands. This rugged land, the knuckle end of the UK specializes in tough and challenging terrain. From the technical Enduro World Series stages of the Tweed Valley to the bleak and remote mountains of Torridon, nine bikes were brutally tested. Pushing them to the limit, on legendary trails like Kinlochleven, the Ciaran Path, Coire Lair and the brutal Fort William Downhill track. Weaknesses were exposed, tyres were torn and punctures were common.

.... and into real big mountain country
…. and into real big mountain country
This is what enduro bikes were built for, flat out in big mountain terrain
This is what enduro bikes were built for, flat out in big mountain terrain
Some bikes featured some innovative technology
Some bikes featured some innovative technology
Riders feedback was collected again and again
Riders feedback was collected again and again
We talked, and debated, which bike could do it all?
We talked, and debated, which bike could do it all?
Which will be the best enduro bike? Find out in issue 17
Which will be the best enduro bike? Find out in issue #017

As a group we clocked up over 500 hours of testing time, after many ripped tyres, punctures and lengthy discussions we had our winner, the ultimate do-it-all enduro bike. To find out which one won you will have to wait for Issue #017 coming soon!

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Words and photos: Trev Worsey