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Vital MTB Test Sessions - Enduro Bikes

Enduro started out as a racing format. These days, it's a word used to describe long-travel bikes that can be pedaled to the top of some very nasty terrain. Some riders use these bikes for all-day adventures. Others see them as a means to get to the top, even if it's at a glacial pace. From singletrack to lift lines, this is a rapidly growing segment of mountain bikes.

Vital grabbed some of the latest enduro offerings, as well as some fan-favorites from smaller brands. Despite months of planning, our selection process was still subject to availability. We know there is no way to include every brand and in one case, we had a bike get lost in customs and not make this review.

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Beyond being able to actually get the bike, our criterion for inclusion was rather straightforward. We wanted bikes with a 170mm travel fork and the appropriate parts spec to match. With the exception of downhill bikes, each of these models is the longest travel each brand offers. As a matter of industry direction, every bike has a 29-inch front wheel. Two of our bikes sport a 27.5-inch rear wheel. Several models are capable of a 27.5-inch rear wheel but are not offered as such from those brands.

We knew just where to test these bikes - Reno, NV. Surrounded by rugged mountains, strewn with rowdy trails, we knew the Biggest Little City would be the perfect proving grounds for our bikes. Sky Tavern Bike Park is a non-profit that operates on city land and is free for the public to ride. Their expanding trail network includes an adaptive green trail, all the way to hard-hitting black diamond runs. From heavy downhills to steep, challenging climbs, the Sierras threw it all at our test bikes.

 

Meet the testers

Casey Coffman

  • Height: 5-foot 9-inches
  • Weight: 180
  • Years riding: 21
  • Riding style: Reformed racer. I prefer straight lines in rocks and finding bonus doubles to keep it fun.

Andrea Napoli

  • Height: 5-foot 8-inches
  • Weight: 140
  • Years riding: 14
  • Riding style: Playful with a smidge of ass-hauling.

Ryan Lummis

  • Height: 5-foot 8-inches
  • 160 lbs
  • 18 years riding
  • Riding Style: Would rather jump over it than run over it. Prefer fast flow and big hits over steep gnar.

Brad Howell

  • Height: 5-foot 9-inches
  • Weight: 165
  • Years riding: 27
  • Riding style: I like goofing around on natural, rocky trails. I'll take steeps over flow any day.


Casey Coffman - Casey's many years racing the professional downhill, super-d, and enduro ranks are evident in his riding. He brings raw power and unflinching commitment to his lines. After lining up at a few Megavalanche races, he has the confidence to tackle anything put in front of him. With blatant disregard for the well-being of his wheels, Casey knows the fastest way through the rough is a straight line.

Andrea Napoli - It may seem like all laughs and good times with Andrea. Put a technical line in front of her and the analytical mind takes over. Once clipped in, the Battle Kitten will drop into anything with the sort of confidence that can only be earned after the fifth beep. Andrea spent years racing professional downhill, super-d, and enduro. She might enjoy all-day epics currently, but her fearless race pedigree isn't going anywhere.

Ryan Lummis - You may not find Ryan between the tape but if you look far enough above the lip, you may just catch him flying overhead. Ryan's motocross background keeps him comfortable in the air but his many years of mountain biking have hardened him to most any terrain. Flow, rocks, all-day adventures. If there's fun, speed, and airtime involved, Ryan is game.

Brad Howell - The Vital staffer behind this edition of Test Sessions. There were numerous hurdles in putting together this test. From the ever-present bike and supply shortage, to wildfires, and ultimately getting the right collection of testers. In the end, this is a dream team of riders and a collection of bikes we hope our readers will love learning more about.

All of our guest testers are far too humble to brag but they have been vetted on the race track and in the midsts of many miles shared together. Their diversity in riding styles and bike preferences should give readers a broad perspective on these bikes' performance. Sometimes we all agreed and at other times we were at odds. It is often hard to remain fully objective in a review and this is where we hope the eclectic crew we've gathered can be most helpful.

The Setup

Our three guest testers all approached these bikes blind. They were not given the full roster of test rigs, so some of our bikes were a surprise to them. We did not disclose price to our testers until the the filming was a wrap. To start, we also had our testers ride the bikes blind, not knowing any of the geometry configurations. We did make sure that proper sag and setup was achieved but we didn't want any preconceived notions creeping in before the riding began.

Prior to testing all of our bikes were ridden to make sure they were broken in. Pads were bedded, cables were stretched, and everything was seated and sorted. With the bikes properly ready for testing, it was time to load up and get them in front of our team.

The Bikes

The Pivot Firebird, Orbea Rallon, Devinci Spartan HP, and Transition Spire are all relatively new releases. While the Banshee Titan and Guerrilla Gravity Gnarvana aren't this week's news, we wanted some smaller brands in the mix. Every bike tested was a size medium. In the case of the Gnarvana, we went with a size 2 based upon input from Guerrilla Gravity.

Guerrilla Gravity Gnarvana - Rally Like Barelli Edition

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Strengths

  • Comfortable at high speeds
  • Suspension feel through rough terrain
  • High threshold for the gnar

Weaknesses

  • Tight, slower corners
  • Takes a lot of steering input

Highlights

  • 29-inch wheels
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) rear travel // 170mm (6.7-inches) fork travel
  • Revved Carbon front triangle with 6061 aluminum rear triangle
  • Modular Frame Platform
  • Freedom Linkage suspension
  • GeoAdjust headset with 10mm of reach and wheelbase adjustment
  • Integrated-External cable routing
  • Frame Storage System with mounting bracket for tools and a tube
  • Water bottle mount
  • 73mm BSA threaded bottom bracket with removable ISCG05 chainguide mount
  • 12x148mm Boost rear hub
  • SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger
  • Designed and manufactured in the USA
  • Price: $5,905 as tested

Read the full Vital Test Sessions review of the Guerrilla Gravity Gnarvana.

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Transition Spire Carbon GX

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Strengths

  • Rides like a smaller bike
  • Comfortable on the climbs
  • Lively trail manners
  • Spot-on build kit
  • Easy to get along with

Weaknesses

  • Rides like a smaller bike
  • Rear suspension is harsh

Highlights

  • Japanese Toray Carbon or Aluminum frame offerings
  • 29-inch wheels only (stock)
  • 170mm rear travel (160mm with 60mm stroke shock)
  • Size-specific chainstays
  • Lifetime warranty
  • 56mm upper and lower headset cups
  • Guided internal derailleur and dropper post routing (carbon)
  • External rear brake routing
  • Boost 148mm rear spacing
  • SRAM UDH
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • Dual crown compatible
  • Price: $5,999 as tested

Read the full Vital Test Sessions review of the Transition Spire.

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Pivot Firebird - Pro XT/XTR Coil

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Strengths

  • Efficient pedaling platform
  • Carries speed well
  • Reduces trail noise and chatter

Weaknesses

  • Struggles in steep, chunky terrain
  • Not that nimble

Highlights

  • Full carbon frame
  • 29-inch wheels
  • 165mm (6.5-inches) of rear wheel travel // 170mm (6.7-inches) fork travel
  • DW Link suspension design
  • 1.5 straight headtube (tapered steerer)
  • Internal cable routing
  • FOX Live Valve capable
  • Mounts on the top tube and downtube for Tool Dock
  • Size-specific chainstay lengths
  • Molded, rubber frame protection throughout
  • PF92 Press-fit bottom bracket with ISCG05 mounts
  • Super Boost+ 157 rear spacing with 12mm through axle
  • Universal Derailleur Hanger
  • MSRP $7,799 USD (Pro XT, Coil, Alloy Wheels)

Read the full Vital Test Sessions review of the Pivot Firebird

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Devinci Spartan HP GX 12S

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Strengths

  • Makes rough terrain disappear
  • Cool, calm, collected confidence
  • Pedaling efficiency is superb
  • All the grip, all the time

Weaknesses

  • Not light
  • All-day adventurers need not apply

Highlights

  • Full carbon frame
  • 29-inch wheels only
  • 170mm (6.6-inches) or 180mm (7-inches) LTD model front travel
  • 160mm (6.3-inches) rear travel
  • Split Pivot, High Pivot (HP) suspension system
  • Threaded bottom bracket with 2-bolt ISCG tabs
  • Partially guided internal cable routing
  • Geo-adjust flip chip
  • Coil shock compatible
  • SRAM Universal Derailleur Hanger
  • Polyurethane protection for chainstay, seatstay, bb/downtube, and shuttle zone
  • Size-specific chainstays
  • Super Boost 157 with 12mm through axle
  • MSRP - $6,149 (as tested)

Read the full Vital Test Sessions review of the Devinci Spartan

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Orbea Rallon LTD - Mixed Wheel

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Strengths

  • Pedaling efficiency
  • Easy to get along with
  • Versatility is the name of the game
  • Customizable builds
  • Urges riders to go faster
  • Not easily unsettled

Weaknesses

  • Rear suspension could be a bit less harsh
  • The grips are hard and uncomfortable

Highlights

  • Full OMR Carbon frame
  • 29-inch wheels or 29/27.5-inch wheel option
  • 170mm front travel
  • 160mm Advanced Dynamics rear travel
  • Internal cable routing
  • Threaded bottom bracket with ISCG05 tabs
  • LOCKR In-frame storage
  • Integrated multi-tools
  • Boost 148 rear spacing with 12mm through-axle
  • 29er link offers two geometry settings
  • Four build kits, each are customizable
  • Custom color options through MyO
  • Available in sizes small through x-large
  • Rallon M-LTD with Mullet option - $9,000 as tested

Read the full Vital Test Sessions review of the Orbea Rallon

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Banshee Titan

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Strengths

  • Carries speed incredibly well
  • Makes excellent use of suspension travel
  • Comfortable, efficient climber
  • Accentuates the traits of a mixed-wheel bike
  • Rear suspension has tons of pop but never harsh

Weaknesses

  • Tall head tube is not for everyone
  • Can take a little getting used to

Highlights

  • 7005 T6 Aluminum frame
  • 170mm (6.6-inches) front travel
  • 155mm (6.1-inches) rear travel
  • KS2 Suspension design
  • 29-inch front wheel, 29 or 27.5-inch wheel
  • Internal cable routing
  • Modular rear dropout for chainstay length and ride height
  • Threaded bottom bracket with ISCG05 tabs
  • Rubber molded chainstay protection
  • Size medium - x-large
  • Boost 148mm rear spacing with 12mm axle
  • Price: $7,000 USD in limited markets

Read the full Vital Test Sessions review of the Banshee Titan

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What's the Bottom Line?

Our testers logged a ton of miles in the Sierras and sampled some of the finest rocks at Reno's Sky Tavern resort. As a last-day surprise, we posed a final question to our testers - if you could take one of these bikes home, which would it be?

For three of our testers, the reply was cut and dry - the Orbea Rallon. Our fourth tester called out the Banshee Titan as the perfect complement to their current quiver. The caveat? If they could only have one bike, then make it the Orbea Rallon. Before we dig into the Rallon, let's get our honorable mentions.

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Banshee Titan - Andrea found this bike to be an absolute blast. She loved the way it rode and how she could make it handle the rough stuff. For her, the Banshee struck the perfect balance of being a total bruiser without taking too much input to control. Only one of two mixed-wheeled bikes, she noticed the Banshee really made excellent use of this configuration. Being able to drive with her hips and feet, the Titan was easy to control and rip down the mountain. Banshee did an excellent job of making the bruiser climb as well. That icing on the cake meant that Andrea would have no problem adding this to her arsenal of bikes.

Orbea Rallon - The one bike to rule them all? 

The Transition Spire was a riot to ride and had quickly won over Ryan's heart. Its lively nature and ability to build speed quickly were impressive. A harsh rear suspension feel was felt by all and meant the Spire was a handful in rock gardens. Only slightly less poppy, the Rallon will deliver all sorts of smiles for those bonus lines and not beat you up in the chunk.

Devinci went all-in with the Spartan and its flat-out nature spoke to Casey's aggressive riding. While the Spartan will give confidence to the average mountain biker, it does take a more powerful rider to unlock more of its potential. Though the Spartan was head of the class in the harshest terrain, it was less fun elsewhere. The Orbea Rallon may not make Tigers of house cats but it's darn close and no slouch in the heavy stuff. Riders will also have an easier time getting to those locations due to the Rallon's more friendly climbing character and overall more compact sizing.

While the Banshee put a massive smile on Andrea's face, there was the qualifier that she already owns a long-travel 27.5 bike and a short-travel 29er. If there was only one bike in her shop, it would be the Orbea Rallon. For Andrea, it's all about big days in big country. For her, no other bike measured up to the Rallon's ability to efficiently get to the top and annihilate the descent.

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Brad was also impressed by the Spartan HP's capabilities but that sort of weaponry isn't necessary much of the time. There were high hopes for the Pivot Firebird as well but the sensation of constantly fighting being pushed forward was fatiguing on anything but low-angle trails. Pivot's DW design with a coil is an awesome combo but can't carry a whole bike. The Rallon was plenty confident in the most uncomfortable scenarios but took less input on mainstream bits. Though slightly more harsh than the Firebird, the Rallon still remains settled under hard hits and keeps the rider fresh.

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Despite our eclectic group of riders and their different takes on each bike, we were flabbergasted they all arrived at the same spot. We'd like to reiterate that all of our testers rode these bikes "blind." They knew nothing about geometry or price and were only able to extract what they could through ride impressions and proper setup. We would also repeat that all the key components on the Rallon can be had at a much lower price via Orbea's MyO custom program.

That is a wrap on our 2021 Enduro bike Test Session. We had a blast riding these amazing bikes in the Sierras overlooking Reno, NV. If you want to know more about what the Washoe Valley has to offer, head to VisitRenoTahoe.com

Brady Bunch X Skittles

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