5 enduro mountain bikes put to the test

There are so many great enduro mountain bikes on the market right now. Singletracks recently shared a list of our readers’ favorite enduro bikes, so I took it upon myself to do some field verification testing to see if you, our readers, truly know what the crap you’re talking about. We published the list of top enduro bikes on Monday, and by that Thursday I was on the ground at Fall Cyclofest, testing five enduro bikes in just 24 hours.

The Set-up

The US Whitewater Center trail system in Charlotte is expansive, boasting more than 30 miles of singletrack, rated from beginner-friendly to expert-level. Sliced by tributaries feeding down into the Catawba river, the terrain is steep in places, though none of the climbs or descents are very long. Still, there are plenty of “bursts of enduro” to be found, and I managed to average about 100 feet of elevation gain (and loss) per mile. To put that number into context, a ride at Jake Mountain in North Georgia averages about the same amount of climbing per mile, while a truly big mountain ride like Mountaintown yields 135 feet of climbing per mile.

For four out of five of my test rides I rode roughly the same 3-mile loop, which included two “black diamond” trails: the Carpet Trail and Tower 93. Truthfully, neither of these trails offer much in the way of session-worthy technical challenges. At the same time, all the trees, berms, rollers, kickers, rocks, and roots demand skill and finesse to ride at speed. As the rider’s speed increases, so does the challenge, just like in enduro racing.

For me, the other interesting thing about testing enduro bikes at the US National Whitewater Center is that these trails are pretty similar to the trails I ride on a regular basis. These are after-work trails, the type of trails where many a mile is ridden between trips to more epic, big-mountain destinations. Sure, enduro bikes are ideal for places like Colorado and Pisgah, but they’re overkill for most riders’ local trails, right? The answer I found surprised me.

I’ve ranked these bikes based on my back-to-back tests, starting with my least favorite. However, let me preface this by saying even my least favorite is a great bike, and I truly enjoyed riding every one of these enduro bikes. Read on to find out what I thought about each of these 5 excellent bikes!

# Comments

  • Rebus

    Good article! I’ve always been a fan of the Nomad, going back to the humpback days. Man, that was a pretty bike.

  • mongwolf

    Hey Jeff. Thanks for the write up and thoughts on each bike. It was an interesting set of bikes. I understand that you were at the Fall Cyclofest, but how did you come up with this particular set of bikes, besides the fact that they are all in the “enduro” category? Did you use any particular criteria? I hope GA riding is getting pretty nice about now. I’m guessing you all are hitting your peak season for riding … … as we start to freeze over in Mongolia. The inevitable “plunge” into the depths of the Mongolian winter has begun.

  • Jeff Barber

    Glad you enjoyed it.

    There were actually a lot of enduro bikes that I decided not to test at Cyclofest. My goal was to test as many of the top 10 enduro bikes from the readers’ choice list we published a few weeks ago. The Bronson and Nomad were obviously up there (#2 and #3 on that list, respectively.) I really wanted to get on a Specialized Enduro (#1 on the readers’ choice list) but sadly Specialized only brought the electric version of the Enduro. I skipped the Pivot Switchblade (#8) because Greg reviewed that one already, and the Ibis Mojo HD4 (#10) because Greg has that bike in for a long term review.

    As for the other choices, as I mentioned the Wolf Ridge and Tracer were both “most innovative” bike picks according to Singletracks readers, and no one on our staff had ridden those bikes. I was curious about Mondraker since they’re new to the USA. It turns out Aaron just got one in for a long term review so maybe I could’ve skipped that one.

    I also rode the Specialized Stumpy 6Fattie but it’s not really an enduro bike. I’ll be posting a separate mini review of that bike soon.

    Personally, I feel like peak riding season is just getting started! Well, maybe not exactly, but summers are really hot and humid here so I do find myself riding more and bigger rides in the fall/winter/spring.

    Do you have a fat bike? Would such a thing even make riding during the Mongolian winter possible?

    • mongwolf

      IMO, a fattie would not extend the riding season so much here. December and January are just too cold to draw me out for riding. I shut it down due to the temps, not the snow. A fattie would help the riding a little on some days, but not increase the number of days I would ride. In February there are usually a few days that are warm enough to ride, but not so many. In February and March I do ride on some snowy trails that are packed down by hikers. Again, a fattie would improve the quality of those rides, but with so few rides during those times, I’m content just to ride my enduro rig.

  • Caren Villaroman

    I fully understand why Santa Cruz Bronson always comes up on top of the list. Practically ridden it in almost every terrain and it did not disappoint. If i need to buy another bike it will definitely come from Santa Cruz. Highly recommended! I’ve ridden giant, trek and yeti bikes to compare it with, my Bronson is just perfect.

  • CW1KKSHu

    I was also disappointed Specialized didn’t bring the Enduro to Cyclofest. Kudos to the Santa Cruz team for providing the best demo experience and I’ve put their Hightower LT as #1 on my list.

  • tkrumroy

    So I’m currently riding a 2018 Bronson c R build (large). But I’m 6’1” (almost 6’2”) and I feel like the bike is just a tad too small for me. Unfortunately I can’t afford to simply go buy an xl.

    If I’m going to change I’m considering a 2018 stumpjumper carbon coil or a YT capra. Any thoughts on those those?

    I had a guy ready to buy my bike tomorrow we but I buy my bike tomorrow but i just delayed it I won’t find another bike that makes me so happy.

    My current trails are central NC like us whitewater center. I typically ride 10-15 mile trails and a hoping to ride the 50 mile oramm Pisgah race next spring. My budget is now down to $3k if I sell the Bronson. What are your thoughts?

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