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Review - 2018 Specialized Enduro Coil 29 from Vital MTB Test Sessions. A burly build kit, dual coil suspension, excellent attention to detail, and convenient features make the updated Enduro Coil 29 a surefire bet for experienced riders looking to let it rip.
Rating: VITAL REVIEW
During the 2018 Vital MTB Long-Travel 29er Test Sessions, the Specialized Enduro Coil 29 went head-to-head with four other leading bikes. What follows are our thoughts specific to the Enduro. Be sure to check out the main feature for an in-depth comparison video, timed testing results, and more.
The Specialized Enduro Coil 29 is a purpose-built trail shredder that's seen several updates for 2018. Few bikes are as race-ready for elite level enduro as this one. The bike's geometry works well with the components to give the rider a high level of confidence going into sections, and we trusted it to keep us on track in every situation. Aided by Öhlins coil suspension front and back, the Enduro was among the best of the bunch when it came to taking big hits. The Öhlins RXF 36 coil fork was a standout performer with a supple off-the-top feel and excellent bottom-out resistance, balancing well with the rear end. Pointed downhill, it strikes a balance between plough and pump-ability.
Given how capable the rest of the bike is, Specialized chose some sensible tires with their updated Butcher design and tough 2.3-inch GRID casing. This choice of rubber provided an exceptional amount of grip, and combined with a great fork we were encouraged to take alternate lines and really explore the limits of our cornering. Other good component choices built to withstand punishment are the SRAM Code R brakes, wide rims on the Roval Traverse Carbon wheels, and a nice cockpit that makes no claims to anything other than pointing the bike downhill.
The frame has Specialized's now famous SWAT downtube compartment with lots of storage room and a clever tool housed inside the top of the fork's steerer tube. We used the little tool often throughout our test and grew to appreciate the easy access and how refined the entire SWAT system is.
Specialized really went off the deep end when it comes to prioritizing downhill performance. It has tough tires, very firm stock rear suspension, and a stiff frame that are all tailor made for no apologies and no hesitation. The tradeoff for that was one of the most taxing rides in the whole Test Sessions fleet. We could never coax a supple feeling out of the rear end, and it took some muscle to move it around. It wasn't the most nimble, but it didn't necessarily have to be. When on flat ground or mellower terrain, the bike seemed to be overkill and wasn't the easiest to live with. It didn't waste energy, but it did take a lot to get going.
As far as the parts go, what you gain with the carbon wheels, a carbon frame, stout tires, and quality suspension is offset elsewhere, and the Specialized lacked some of the nicer cockpit/drivetrain setups that other bikes seemed to have around a similar price point. The lack of an equivalent gearing range to the other bikes made it feel a bit heavier than its already portly waistline indicated.
The Enduro also comes equipped with the new Command Post IRcc WU dropper post that tilts rearward as it goes down. We measured the actual drop of the 'post' at around 115mm of travel in the center and 150mm at the rear of the saddle. Unfortunately, we still felt the front of the seat from time to time when moving around the bike and dancing to save ourselves during the rowdier parts of the trail. The lack of actual drop, extra weight, and complexity lead us to believe this post just isn't necessary, especially when it quickly developed a noticeable rattle in the tilt mechanism when going down the trail.
Suggested upgrades for a few hundred dollars: Add some inner seatstay protection to keep the chain quiet, a wider range 9-46 tooth e*thirteen cassette to help get it up those hills, and swap the stock 36-tooth DT Swiss star ratchet in the rear hub for a 54-tooth with faster engagement.
Using the bike industry's leading linkage analysis software, André Santos was able to determine a close approximation of the Enduro Coil 29's kinematics for the purpose of this review. Though they don't always tell the full story, these charts provide great insight into several key factors that impact how it rides.
Vital's preferred suspension settings for a 175-pound rider on stock components: 434# spring // HSC - 16 clicks out (full open) // LSC - Full open
What's The Bottom Line?
Specialized's latest Enduro 29 is close to the outer limits of how far you'd want to push a pedal bike toward the downhill end of the spectrum. It is built to take a beating, and the weight reflects that despite a carbon frame and wheels. The Enduro wears that weight and toughness like a badge of honor though, mowing over the trail like few can. It is stable, confidence inspiring, and surefooted.
It is also one of the few bikes we would not recommend to a beginner or someone looking to simply try out a little more travel than their current bike. While the suspension is well balanced and the terrain feel is excellent, it can be a bit taxing. This bike needs a rider that will take charge and is willing to let the bike do what it does best, which is take the toughest lines and keep on trucking. If we were buying a bike that we had to race at an Enduro World Series event with no spare parts and no part swaps, it is hard to argue against the Enduro.
Visit www.specialized.com and the 2018 Vital MTB Long-Travel 29er Test Sessions feature for more details.
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