Vital Test Sessions - Specialized Enduro Expert 1

Is the OG long-travel 29er still as good as ever?

Before the enduro category as we know it today existed, there was the Specialized Enduro. Dating back to 1999, the first generation Enduro was ahead of its time, and the most current generation is no exception. With much of the development taking place in 2018 and first released in 2020, the Enduro has stood the test of time as one of the most progressive long-travel 29ers of the last five years. It was imperative that we include it in our Enduro Bike Test Session this year to see where it lands against the current crop of long-travel bikes. 


  • 29-inch wheels
  • 170mm (6.7-inches) rear travel // 170mm (6.7-inches) fork travel
  • Full carbon fiber frame
  • 64.3 degree head tube angle (high) 63.9 (low)
  • 76 degree seat tube angle
  • 511mm reach (size S5)
  • 442mm chainstay length across all sizes
  • Horst-link suspension
  • Internal downtube storage
  • Steertube mounted multitool
  • Internal cable routing
  • Bolt-on downtube protection
  • Molded chainstay protection 
  • Integrated rear fender
  • 12x148mm Boost rear hub spacing 
  • 73mm BSA threaded bottom bracket with ISCG05 tabs
  • Price: $7,000 USD as tested (Expert model)
Strengths Weaknesses
  • Rear suspension tracks ground incredibly well
  • Centered feeling on trail
  • Excels in agressive terrain
  • Requires more forethought in tight sections
  • Low cadence climbing proved to be difficult
  • Previous generation GX AXS derailleur is loud



Enduro Overview

Dubbed "The Originator" of this whole Enduro thing, The Enduro is built around 170mm of Horst Link driven FSR rear suspension and a 170mm travel fork with 29" wheels front and rear. We tested the Expert level build kit, which retails for $7,000 and comes spec'd with all aluminum Specialized components, Rockshox ZEB Select+ fork, and a Super Deluxe Select+ shock with hydraulic bottom-out adjustment. Stopping power is handled by SRAM Code RS brakes with 200mm rotors front and rear, paired with a SRAM GX AXS Eagle drivetrain and OneUp 210mm dropper to round things out. 


Adjustment built into the frame is found in the form of a rear shock eyelet flip chip that allows for just under half a degree of head tube angle adjustment and 7mm of bb height adjustment. The frame also provides plenty of room for a water bottle, a SWAT box for down tube storage, and SWAT tool integrated into the steer tube. Ribbed chainstay protection keeps things quiet, although the GX derailleur can be loud under hard compressions. Otherwise, the rest of the bike is nearly silent and straightforward; this is the type of bike you know exactly what you're getting into. Or is it?



We tested our size S5 Enduro in the Low setting, which comes out to a 511mm reach with a 63.9-degree head tube angle. The 1302mm wheelbase includes a 442mm chain stay length for a mostly planted feeling that required a bit more effort to throw around. A 76-degree seat tube angle, which was the slackest in the test by only a small margin, makes for a relaxed pedaling position and is not the strongest quality of the Enduro. However, the slacker seat tube angle does keep the seat slightly more out of the way while descending and is appreciated for a wider use than just pedaling. 

  S2 S3 S4 S5
Crank Length 170mm 170mm 170mm 170mm
Handlebar Width 800mm 800mm 800mm 800mm
Stem Length 40mm 40mm 40mm 50mm
Saddle Width 155mm 143mm 143mm 143mm
Seatpost Length 150mm 180mm 180mm 210mm
Stack (low BB) 616mm 620mm 629mm 638mm
Reach (low BB) 437mm 464mm 487mm 511mm
Head-Tube Length 95mm 100mm 110mm 120mm
Head-Tube Angle (low BB) 63.9° 63.9° 63.9° 63.9°
Head-Tube Angle 64.3° 64.3° 64.3° 64.3°
B-B Height (low BB) 347mm 347mm 347mm 347mm
B-B Height 354mm 354mm 354mm 354mm
B-B Drop (low BB) 28mm 28mm 28mm 28mm
B-B Drop 21mm 21mm 21mm 21mm
Trail (low BB) 132mm 132mm 132mm 132mm
Fork Length (full) 581mm 581mm 581mm 581mm
Fork Rake/Offset 46mm 46mm 46mm 46mm
Front-Center (low BB) 777mm 806mm 833mm 862mm
Chain-Stay Length 442mm 442mm 442mm 442mm
Wheelbase 1217mm 1246mm 1274mm 1302mm
Seat-Tube Length 400mm 420mm 440mm 465mm
Seat-Tube Angle 76° 76° 76° 76°
Top Tube Length (Horizontal) 591mm 619mm 644mm 670mm

On the Trail

Pointed downhill, it was immediately apparent how the Enduro has stayed relevant for as long as it has. The performance of the rear suspension is one of the most impressive I have ever tested. Traction in turns was ample, and square edge compliance was phenomenal. The small bump sensitivity could be described as a little dead, but it helped with overall comfort on longer descents and still ramps in a way that provided a lot of support in the second half of travel. The spring rate initially felt a bit softer than anticipated, but that didn't keep me from overshooting a handful of jumps on the first lap. 


Pointed uphill, the Enduro was less impressive compared to the current offering of bikes. It is an efficient pedaler, power transfer is excellent, and while the pedaling position could be more upright, it rewards those in better shape by making a higher cadence more comfortable. Lower cadence pedaling is where steeper geometry angles shine, which is part of why we all struggled with the Enduro on our test climb that only gets steeper and rougher toward the top. Losing speed throughout the climb resulted in a lot of front wheel wandering and loss of cadence unless we mashed the pedals to compensate.  


The Enduro isn't the most playful bike, but it did surprisingly well on the mellower trails and is still fun to throw around as long as the terrain fits the size of the bike. It's not the kind of bike for pumping and jumping off of every undulation on the trail; the suspension eats those for breakfast, but it is right at home being thrown sideways on larger hits. For going sideways on the ground, this bike corners on rails, which inspired us to dive into turns. Although, like anything on rails, it's rather challenging to tighten up turns when needed. While we struggled with this a bit, it may just require leaning slightly harder than we were comfortable with after only a couple of laps *insert "you're not that guy, pal" meme*. 


What's The Bottom Line?

Two out of three testers gave the Enduro the stamp of approval in our test, and Charlie chose this as the bike he would buy with his own money if it were sized down to an S4. Being older than some of the previous generations of bikes on the market, the Enduro has remained ahead of its time and has helped bring many other Enduro bikes to where they are today over the last four years. 

We stayed right at the base of the mountain, courtesy of Visit Big Bear, and couldn't have asked for a more convenient way to spend the week testing bikes. With our condo less than a minute from the Snow Summit village, we could easily head back to our unit between laps to swap bikes and had plenty of space to work on our bikes. Off the bike, we were thankful to have enough room for our whole test crew, as well as a pool and hot tub within walking distance to relax after each day's testing. Big Bear has a wide variety of food options and a great downtown we explored when looking to mix up our dinner plans or just grab some ice cream afterward. If you'd like to explore Snow Summit or Big Bear, California for yourself, visit or for more information.​

Big thanks to those who sponsored this test and made our trip possible!

Head here to check out the entire 2023 Enduro Test Session Feature

Learn more about the Specialized Enduro at

View key specs, compare bikes, and rate the Specialized Enduro in the Vital MTB Product Guide.


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