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29″ Enduro Bikes

Casey Brown (Trek Factory Racing) aboard the 29″ Slash (photo: Matt Delorme/Trek Bikes)

There are comparatively fewer bikes on the 29er list simply because there just aren’t as many full-on enduro bikes with wagon wheels on the market today. I suspect the offerings will continue to grow, though, as the larger wheels are inherently better at plowing through the rough terrain which often factors heavily into enduro race courses.

Like the 27.5″ bikes, we see manufacturers taking different routes to come up with their ideal 29″ enduro bike. However, we don’t see quite the level of variation in geometries with 29 as with 27.5.

Head Tube Angle: Slackest to Steepest (°)

As with the 27.5″ bikes, Transition takes the cake for slackest head tube angle (photo: Transition Bikes)

Once again, a bike from Transition claims the coveted “Slackie Award” for having the slackest head tube angle. Interestingly, Transition went with a custom, shorter offset fork to bring the front wheel back in towards the rider. The combination of a slack HTA and a shorter offset fork are key components in Transition’s Speed Balanced Geometry, which the company claims gives incredible stability at speed without deadening the steering.

At the opposite end of the spectrum sits the Niner RIP 9. The RIP saw a complete overhaul for 2017 that changed it from a modest trail bike with 125mm of rear travel to a full-on enduro bike with 150mm of rear travel paired with a 160mm fork. Despite relaxing the HTA by 2.5°, the new RIP is still fairly conservative by today’s standards with a 67° HTA.

Average head tube angle: 66°

  • Transition Sentinel – 64
  • Orbea Rallon – 65
  • Scott Genius 900 – 65
  • Evil Wreckoning – 65.5
  • Intense Carbine – 65.5
  • Norco Range – 65.5
  • Orange Stage 6 – 65.5
  • Specialized Enduro 29 – 65.5
  • Trek Slash – 65.6
  • Whyte S-150 – 65.6
  • Rocky Mountain Instinct BC Edition – 65.9
  • Process 153 – 66
  • Mega 290 – 66
  • Hightower LT – 66.4
  • Marin Wolf Ridge – 66.5
  • Yeti SB5.5 – 66.5
  • Niner RIP 9 – 67

Reach: Longest to Shortest (mm)

The new Kona Process 29er ties the Transition Sentinel for longest reach (photo: Kona Bikes)

The 29″ list doesn’t have an outlier like the Mondraker Dune in the reach department, but we still see a variance of 33mm (1.3″) between the Transition Sentinel and the Yeti SB5.5. Looking at all these lists, what struck me the most is how the Yeti is at or near the bottom in all measurements. Since the Yeti brand is synonymous with enduro, that came as a surprise.

Average reach: 460mm

  • Sentinel – 475
  • Process 153 – 475
  • S-150 – 474.4
  • Mega 290 – 470
  • Genius 900 – 466.1
  • Wolf Ridge – 462.2
  • Stage 6 – 462
  • Enduro 29 – 462
  • Range  – 461
  • Slash – 459
  • Rallon – 455
  • Carbine – 455
  • Instinct BC Edition – 454
  • Wreckoning – 452
  • RIP 9 – 451
  • Hightower LT – 443
  • SB5.5 – 442

Chainstay Length: Shortest to Longest (mm)

The Yeti SB5.5 hits the average 437mm chainstay length, right on the nose (photo: Yeti Cycles)

Holding all else equal, you’ll always be able to make the chainstays on a 27.5″ bike shorter than those on a 29″ bike. You can only trim away so much material before you run into that larger back wheel. That said, designers have found a way to make chainstay lengths pretty damn close between the wheel sizes. Take the Kona Process: it has the same 425mm long chainstays as its 27.5-wheeled brother, which are also just 5mm longer than the incredibly short chainstays found on the Jekyll.

Average chainstay length: 437mm

  • Process 153 – 425
  • Wreckoning – 432
  • Enduro 29 – 433
  • Slash – 433
  • Sentinel – 435
  • S-150 – 435
  • Wolf Ridge – 435
  • Range – 435
  • Rallon – 435
  • Instinct BC Edition – 435
  • SB5.5 – 437
  • Genius 900 – 438
  • Hightower LT – 438
  • RIP 9 – 440
  • Carbine – 445
  • Mega 290 – 450
  • Stage 6 – 450

Bottom Bracket Height: Lowest to Highest (mm)

Like its smaller-wheeled brother, the Whyte S-150 has a super low bottom bracket (photo: Whyte Bikes)

One of the cool things about well-designed 29ers is how they feel like they’re on rails when cornering. Much of this sensation comes from the increased BB drop compared to 27.5″ bikes. Since the taller wheels have higher axles, the relative distance between the axle height and the BB height is greater. This gives the rider a lower center of gravity relative to the axles and makes you feel like you’re in rather than on the bike.

Average BB height: 343mm

  • S-150 – 335
  • Stage 6 – 335
  • Wolf Ridge – 336
  • Rallon – 336
  • Hightower LT – 338
  • Wreckoning – 339
  • Range – 340
  • Mega 290 – 341.7
  • RIP 9 – 343
  • Genius 900 – 344.4
  • Sentinel – 345
  • Process 153 – 346
  • Enduro 29 – 346
  • SB5.5 – 346
  • Carbine – 348
  • Slash – 352
  • Instinct BC Edition – 353

Wheelbase: Longest to Shortest (mm)

The Orange Stage 6 has the second-longest wheelbase, trailing the Transition Sentinel by just 2mm (photo: Orange Bikes)

Once again, there’s a substantial variance in the overall wheelbase — 52mm (2.05″). The Transition Sentinel is the longest bike in the comparison thanks in large part to its super-slack 64° HTA. The Orange Stage 6 comes in just 2mm shorter than the Sentinel, but it owes more of its sprawling wheelbase to its long, 450mm chainstays. At the other end of the spectrum, the Santa Cruz Hightower LT and Yeti SB5.5 tie for the shortest wheelbase at 1195mm.

Average wheelbase: 1220mm

  • Sentinel – 1247
  • Stage 6 – 1245
  • Mega 290 – 1236.3
  • Carbine – 1233
  • Genius 900 – 1232.1
  • S-150 – 1231.6
  • Slash – 1219
  • Process 153 – 1218
  • Enduro 29 – 1218
  • Rallon – 1217
  • Range – 1217
  • Instinct BC Edition – 1213
  • Wreckoning – 1208
  • Wolf Ridge – 1206
  • RIP 9 – 1204
  • Hightower LT – 1195
  • SB5.5 – 1195

27.5 vs 29 Enduro Bike Geometry

When we use the chart below to compare the average 27.5″ enduro bike to the average 29″ enduro bike, there are remarkably subtle differences. A 27.5″ enduro bike has slightly more suspension travel front and rear, but a majority of the geometry figures are within half a degree or a few millimeters. The one exception is the stack measurement, which is understandable considering the taller wheels raise the front end of the bike.

*Note that values for the averages were rounded off to the nearest whole number for the sake of clarity, but the differences between the averages were not

What this tells me is that there is a narrow range of geometry values that can be used to make a solid, high-performance enduro bike regardless of wheel size.

Conclusion

Hang in there, we’re almost done.

Comparing the first generation Santa Cruz Nomad to the newest, fourth generation. You can see some of the family resemblance, but the differences are quite apparent. (photos: Santa Cruz)

The basic ingredients for an all-mountain or enduro bike haven’t changed much over the past decade or two. Take a full suspension frame, add two parts long travel, and mix with one part burly build; bake and spread over gnarly trails. What has changed are the little pinches of this and a half a teaspoon of that, which totally altered the flavor (that would be the geometry in this analogy). Compared to ten or even just five years ago, the modern enduro bike has radically different geometry. Head tube angles and wheelbases that were once solely in the realm of downhill bikes are now commonplace on the latest crop of enduro bikes.

While bikes like the Mondraker Dune show there is still room to grow, it seems that, largely, brands have settled into a formula that works for their particular design goals. We’ll likely continue to see subtle tweaks to enduro geometry going forward, but it seems doubtful we’ll see things change by leaps and bounds.

It’s simply another sign that we’re in the Golden Age of mountain biking.

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# Comments

  • Dr Sweets

    Nice round up of the numbers. One particular thing I’ve noticed in the long-travel 29er realm is that most manufacturers bikes tend to have long reaches, shorter effective top tubes and long if not sprawling wheelbases. The couple of bikes I’ve demoed with this (Kona Process 153 29, Orbea Rallon) I had to size up (I usually go with mediums and went with larges instead). Both were decent pedalers, however they both had that tugboat steering when came time to corner. I would expect the same from bikes with similar numbers. This trait is pleasantly absent from my own whip a medium Evil Wreckoning, which has a longer effective top tube and a shorter wheelbase. This combined with it’s short chainstays and low bottom bracket (both among the shortest and lowest available) allows it to corner like mad and remain incredibly nimble despite have more travel than most of the bunch.

  • mongwolf

    Aaron, you must be very tired. =) Thanks for the great resource. Definitely, an article I’ll be looking at over and over again in the future reference. I assume you have all the data in Excel. It would be fun to do some further analysis using some boolean logic.

  • mongwolf

    And speaking of tired, I cracked up when you pictured the Pivot Firebird as an example of a longer travel bike that you wouldn’t want to pedal up the transfers. When I am back in the States, I usually ride my son’s 2012 XL Firebird on the trails in CO (and elsewhere). That thing weighs like 34 lbs and is a freight train on the descents with 180mm of travel up front. And somehow it also climbs amazingly on steep technical climbs. But man, will that bike wear you out over two or three hours of riding. I get back to Mongolia and jump on my Mojo HD, and ride like the wind … or so I think. =) I did 38 miles and 4700′ of climbing on the Firebird one day last summer in CO … … oh man, was I digging deep for all I had to finish out that ride.

  • Natemtn

    I love this article. With so many bikes on the market and bike geometry playing a huge part in how a bike feels and fits a friend and I created a website to compare all the numbers. It’s easy to select a group of bikes and see the deltas. Plus, if you register you can add bikes to the database. Have a look!

    bikenerd.io

    Enjoy!

    • Jeff Barber

      Wrong URL? Couldn’t load the site…

    • Natemtn

      Sorry. Needs an “s” on the end.
      Bikenerds.io

  • Plusbike Nerd

    We are living in a Golden Age for mountain biking. That Mountainbikes could come with 29×2.6 or wider tires and have 6+ inches of travel and still climb well was unimaginable 10 years ago. I easily ride over stuff that I used to get off and walk. It seems like you can’t fall off these new bikes. No more flying over the handle bars, spinning the rear wheel on climbs, getting beat up absorbing hits, pogo-ing during hard efforts, etc. The list of woes could go on. Now it’s just smooth, controlled and composed. If you’re new to the sport, you don’t know how good you have it.

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