2020 Specialized Enduro First Ride Review

The new Specialized Enduro mountain bike stays planted on trail descents and offers a firm platform for climbing.

all photos Jeff Barber, unless otherwise noted.

Last week Specialized announced a major update to the Enduro, moving the shock to a lower position, overhauling the suspension kinematics, and throwing out the old sizing system. There are a lot of big changes to be sure, but as I found during a day of testing at Whistler Bike Park, most, if not all of the updates are geared toward making the Enduro a faster, more capable descender.

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Specialized is known for providing an efficient, racy platform on all of their bikes, and the Enduro is no exception. From the first descent, the Enduro just feels like a Specialized. One of the adjectives I wrote in my notes was “planted,” which makes sense given the 2020 changes. The updated Enduro sees the shock moved downward, which lowers the center of gravity, allowing the bike and rider to more closely hug the trail. The bottom bracket (BB) height is lowered, and even the BB drop is increased slightly over the previous model.

The lower center of gravity isn’t the only thing that keeps the new Enduro planted on the trail. Specialized also increased the rear stiffness by 12% for more precise handling. On the trail that makes the bike feel responsive and snappy as opposed to other enduro bikes that are designed for a more couch-like feel. Not that there’s anything wrong with either approach — it’s just that the Enduro is designed to be the fastest up and down the mountain, not the most comfortable.

photo: Michael Welch

The long, 1302mm wheelbase and 511mm reach on the size S5 bike I tested makes the bike feel extremely stable descending at speed. That glued-to-the-trail design keeps the 170mm front and rear travel bike tracking precisely through rough spots, and the Enduro feels like it wants to stay as close to the ground as possible rather than soaring into the air at every rise.

The Enduro is no slouch at slower, technical descending either, able to slide through tight spaces and steep angles like a much smaller, more agile bike. Again, the planted feeling lends responsiveness which translates into precise handling through tricky sections.

Specialized says the leverage curve has been modified for the 2020 Enduro to make the suspension more supple early in the travel. To be honest, the small bump sensitivity didn’t blow me away during my short test, though it’s likely with more time I could dial in the settings to optimize the feel of the bike, particularly at the left end of the leverage curve.

The open routing port on the left is for a dropper post, not a front derailleur. The S-Works I tested was equipped with a RockShox Reverb AXS wireless dropper post, so no need for cable routing.

Like most bikes, the latest Enduro is longer, lower, and slacker, with the head tube angle losing about a degree and a half to 63.9 degrees in the low position (tested). To maintain its climbing abilities, Specialized chopped the fork offset down to 46mm. However, the seat tube angle actually slackens on the latest Enduro, placing the rider farther back on the bike in climbing position.

Admittedly I didn’t spend much time climbing on the Enduro at the bike park, so I can’t comment on how well the front end tracks in climbing mode. However, the few times I did point the bike uphill or pedal across a traverse, I was impressed with how firm the pedaling platform feels.  Specialized says they’ve increased anti-squat by 40% which certainly improves efficiency.

New to the Enduro, Specialized scraps traditional small, medium, and large sizes and instead designates size by number (S1, S2, etc.). The thinking is that riders can choose a bike not only by their body size, but also by riding style. In fact, another bike brand we met with at Crankworx mentioned some of their customers are sizing up in order to get longer reaches, more dropper post travel, and the like. I tested an S5, S-Works Enduro (roughly an XL) and it fit me perfectly. Personally I don’t think sizing up or down would offer me an advantage, but it’s nice to have the option.

Finally, I have to give props to Specialized for the little touches they include on their bikes like the SWAT storage system. This was my first time using the SWAT concealed carry tool, and it feels very James Bond. Slide the cap to the side and — POP! — a multi-tool rises up. No reaching or fumbling is necessary; the tool is always available and accessible.

It’s clear the Specialized Enduro is built to win races, making use of the latest innovations in research and design to create an efficient and consistent weapon of attack. While it may not offer the cushiest, sled-like way to reach the bottom of the mountain, it’s definitely one of the fastest.