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First Look: Specialized Enduro 29 - The All-New Bike We Hate To Love

<b>We're in love with a 29er. Yeah, you read that right.</b>

<b>The Specialized S-Works Enduro Carbon 29 SE won us over. How on earth did Specialized pull it off? We checked in with Specialized's Sam Benedict to find out.</b>

<b>Finding room for 155mm of rear wheel travel without creating a super long bike was no easy task.</b>

<b>Thanks to SRAM's XX1 drivetrain, there's no longer a need for a front derailleur which frees up some valuable space. But wait...</b>

<b>A small tweak to the seat stays played a key part in the equation.</b>

<b>Now for the kicker - the Taco Blade. This new mounting system made in conjunction with SRAM is thin enough to allow the use of a front derailleur, even with the short chainstays.</b>

<b>It all comes together to create a rear end that measures just 430mm. That's shorter than some 26-inch all-mountain bikes (!), and an inch or more less than other long travel 29ers. The overall impact this has on the bike's behavior is HUGE.</b>

<b>Not many 29ers can pull off this look.</b>

<b>SRAM's XX1 highlights the S-Works build nicely with its 10-42 tooth cassette and massive range.</b>

<b>The Expert Carbon and Comp (shown here) take advantage of the Taco Blade system and come setup 2X with ISCG-05 mounted chain guides.</b>

<b>The Comp frame is made with Specialized's M5 aluminum, front and rear. It has a slightly higher standover height, but all other measurements are the same as the carbon versions.</b>

<b>Each of the bikes feature a tapered headtube and a slack (for a 29er) 67.5-degree head angle.</b>

<b>The entire line of Enduro 29ers feature snazzy 2014 graphics.</b>

<b>New Roval Traverse SL 29 wheels with a wider profile will accept tires up to 2.5-inches, perfect for rallying rougher enduro courses.</b>

<b>While the S-Works model is spec'd with a Cane Creek DBair, the Expert Carbon and Comp models get the FOX Float CTD treatment with Autosag.</b>

<b>It's about time the Command Post went internal! The new IR model also has an external pressure valve for easy adjustments.</b>

<b>These boys will agree. The bike just flat out flies.</b>

<b>Whether an adventure rider or racer, they built the bike with you in mind.</b>

<b>We're willing to bet that you'll see the Enduro 29 on top of the podium several times this year.</b>

<b>Coming full circle, we've got to admit how good a job Specialized has done with the new Enduro 29. It's an unlikely love story, but they successfully turned this group of die-hard 26-inch riders into big fans of the big wheel...</b>

Dear Specialized, we hate you for making us love a 29er. - Vital MTB

Some would say that we're a stubborn bunch here at Vital, stuck in our ways. Well, that's true to some extent. We're 26-inch fans through and through. We don't hate all 29ers though - they certainly have their purpose, and some are better than others. It's just that, up until now, there really hasn't been anything great for the kinds of riding we like to do.

Two months ago when we asked Specialized to test their Enduro, we fully expected the 26-inch model to arrive. When this thing showed up by surprise we were scratching our heads. Confused, bewildered, and honestly a little disappointed to be stuck with a wagon wheeler, we sucked up our pride and took to the trails. We've got to admit that we were a little ashamed as we unloaded it for the first time, franticly pedaling away into the woods.

It was less than a minute into the ride before we changed our minds.

For ride number one we made our way up an incredibly rocky, rough, tight trail littered with drops, hairpin turns and precision moves. Turning around at the top and coming back down was quite the experience. The ability to monster-truck over anything combined with the 155mm travel FSR platform allowed us to really open it up. Well, that and a "Send it! I'm on a 29er" mentality. The bike gave us a sort of Matrix-like sensation of slowing down the speed the trail was coming at us, which in turn made us go faster and faster.

What surprised us more than anything, though, was the agileness of the bike. It handles very similarly to a 26-inch bike. You can manual it, jump it, and whip it around with ease. Add to that some substantial gains in traction, rolling speed, and corner exit speed that is nothing short of phenomenal without even trying and well, you've got yourself one very fast bike. Sure, there's an ever so slightly awkward feeling between tight turns and over slow maneuvers, we can feel some flex in the wheels, and the fork isn't quite up to the same standards as the rear shock, but it's nothing like any other 29er we've ever ridden.

They say the clock doesn't lie, and when our times rolled in after that first ride, we were blown away at the results. We were hauling ass and didn't even know it. Having ridden the same trail multiple times on 26-inch bikes, with seemingly the same effort, our jaws hit the floor when we saw we were dozens of seconds faster through many sections. This continued ride after ride, after ride, and in the end, this made us love the Enduro 29 - something we never thought would happen.

We're not alone on this one. The boys at Specialized tell us that Curtis Keene won't get off of his...



How did Specialized pull it off? Watch the slideshow to find out, then cruise over to www.specialized.com or the Vital MTB Product Guide for full specs and more details. The three model strong Enduro 29 lineup drops late March to early April, and ranges from $3500 to $9000.



Read our long term Specialized Enduro 29 review here.


Photos by Brandon Turman and Shawn Spomer // Videos by John Reynolds

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