The “enduro” craze is all about going fast, on the ups and the downs. The Specialized Enduro Expert Carbon 650b is no exception and was obviously built with both pedal- and gravity-fed agility in mind.
Specialized is a veteran in the mountain bike game, and they’ve been making mountain bikes since the introduction of the Stumpjumper—almost three-and-a-half decades ago. However with the influx of so many experimental technologies (650b/29”, linkage systems and even carbon itself) everyone has their own take, some completely redesigned and others simply modified.
In the past few years, Specialized has been reluctant to jump on the 650b train, as they only offered 26 and 29er models of the Enduro Expert in 2014. This year they dropped what seemed to be the weakest link—the 26”—and focused on the newer, bigger and highly debated “better” wheel sizes. The larger wheel size definitely does cater to the “ride it all” mantra of enduro bikes, and already being fans of 650b, we aimed to push the limits of the Enduro Expert Carbon on everything from early-morning leg burners to all-day epic rides with even a few laps down the infamous A-Line.
Kitted with SRAM X01 components, a 160mm RockShox Pike RC 650b upfront and a Cane Creek DB Inline in the rear, we started the test with the bike as it comes stock. On the climb, the Enduro Expert does well in the efficiency category. The pedal strokes directly translate to wheel rotation, rather than shock bounce, as they should, and the carbon frame keeps the bike far from klunker status.
On steep hills we definitely noticed that the front end wanted to come off the ground, something that isn’t helpful when already struggling to just keep the cranks turning. While the bike’s seat-tube angle is 74.7-degrees, the short chainstays and an extended dropper post definitely provide a bit more leverage on the handlebars. Out of the box, the bike comes with a 75mm stem, something that struck us as counterintuitive to the aimed all-around agility of the bike. This stock stem gave the bike much more of a cross-country feel, so we opted to swap it with a shorter, 45mm stem. While this probably also contributed to the rising front end, it made for a much more reactive cockpit on the way down.
Geared with a 1x11 Sram drivetrain, the Enduro Expert is a pedal machine. The rear cassette maxes out at 42t, plenty for any hill you may be facing. The crankset has a 30t stock on it, and if you're looking for even more of a challenge, a 32t crank would still give a pedalable gear range. It's built-in chainstay keeps a smooth running chain, and with a quick proper adjustment, we didnt have any problems with dropping the chain.
The bottom bracket height and crank length of the Enduro Expert were two things that we noticed as awkward on the uphill. All three sizes of the bike have a consistent 351mm bottom bracket height, however the small frame has stock 170mm cranks while the medium and large frames have 175mm cranks. Our pedals suffered an unfair number of strikes, and while some might call this lazy pedaling, it was something that continued to be a nuisance when we were specifically conscious of our pedal strokes. Longer cranks give more energy to the wheels, so having shorter cranks on the small and longer ones on the medium and large frames also seemed an odd choice.
The slack-ish 65.5-degree head tube angle definitely gave the Enduro Expert a trail bike feel on the downhill, and the RockShox Pike RC 650b lived up to all expectations. The fork was ridged in the sense that there was very little flex from side to side, or front to back, but the (Dual Position Air Damper) kept the ride plush and the 160mm of travel were hard to use up.
On the rear end, we weren’t so lucky. The 165mm of rear travel sure is nice to have on a trail bike, but we had some serious trouble with the Cane Creek DB Inline—three blown shocks in a summer. We've had a positive experience with the DB Inline in the past, (Check out our review of the DB Inline on it's own) and were told that Cane Creek has since made improvements to fix the problem that we experienced, however having your bike out of commission for the time it takes to warranty a shock is never fun. The 2016 model is noticeably lacking the DB Inline.
The proprietary shock design also limits the number of shocks that can fit the Enduro Expert without either losing suspension because of eye-to-eye length, or having to do some aftermarket modification—not recommended. The Rockshox Vivid Air is another option that we’ve seen people running in the rear, however we didn’t have the opportunity to try it out with the Enduro Expert.
For a bike that’s designed as a best of both worlds for climbing and descending, the Enduro Expert is extremely playful. The suspension is bouncy, in an enjoyable way, rather than an uncontrollable way and it can handle a jump line about as smooth as any rock garden. To sum up our feelings about the Enduro Expert: it’s a great bike, it’s just a little confused. The factory specs have an odd combination of enduro and XC parts, so in order to dial it into the exact bike you want, whether it’s a light bike for crushing downhill, or an odometer-breaking XC machine, it takes a little bit of effort, but has the potential for either.
Frame Facts: IS-X 11m carbon, 650b geometry, FACT carbon front triangle, M5 rear triangle, tapered headtube, PF30 BB, internal Command Post IR routing, 142mm dropouts, full cartridge bearing pivots, replaceable derailleur hanger, 165mm travel
Rear Shock: Custom Cane Creek DB AIR Inline, high/low-speed compression and rebound adj., w/ climb switch, 8.5x2.25
Fork: Rockshox Pike RC 650b, Solo Air spring, tapered alloy steerer, w/ compression, rebound adj., 15mm thru-axle, 160mm travel
Headset: 1-1/8 and 1-1/2 threadless, Campy style upper with 1-1/2 lower, cartridge bearings
Stem: Specialized XC, 3D forged alloy, 4-bolt, 6-degree rise (We opted for a shorter 45mm stem after a few rides)
Handlebars: Specialized All-Mountain, low-rise, 7050 alloy, 8-degree backsweep, 6-degree upsweep, 31.8mm
Front Brake: SRAM Guide RS, metalic pads, Guide R caliper, 200mm Centerline rotor
Rear Brake: SRAM Guide RS, metalic pads, Guide R caliper, 180mm Centerline rotor
Brake Levers: SRAM Guide R, alloy lever, w/ reach adjust
Rear Derailleur: SRAM X01, 11-speed, carbon cage
Shifter Levers: SRAM X1, 11-speed, trigger
Cassette: SRAM X01, 11-speed, 10-42
Chain: SRAM PC 1190, 11-speed
Crankset: Custom SRAM S-2200, carbon, PF30 spindle, 34T
Bottom Bracket: SRAM, PF30, OS press-in bearings, sealed cartridge
Rims: Roval Traverse Fattie 650b, alloy disc, 29mm inner width, 24/28h
Front Hub: Roval Traverse, w/ 15/20mm thru-axle, 24h
Rear Hub: Roval Traverse 142+, XX1 driver body, 12mm thru-axle, 28h
Spokes: DT Swiss Revolution
Front Tire: Specialized Butcher Control, 60TPI, 2Bliss Ready, folding bead, 650bx2.3
Rear Tire: Specialized Slaughter Control, 60TPI, 2Bliss Ready, folding bead, 650bx2.3
Seatpost: Command Post IR, 3-position height adjustable, alien head design, bottom mount cable routing, w/ remote adjust SRL, 30.9mm, S: 100mm travel, Others: 125mm