First up I have to admit that I’m a big fan of the FSR design. I think it works pretty well and the Enduro is a bike that’s developed in a good direction. Unlike earlier designs using the four-bar linkage the current Enduro range now offers some serious travel, adjustable using the ITch switch on the Fox air shock between 100 and 130mm travel.
This isn’t really a cross country race bike then, the Epic now fits that billing, but for a trail bike for all day riding the Enduro has a loyal and happy following. I test rode the Enduro Expert over an eight hour epic in the Peak District that involved various types of terrain and conditions. I set the bike up using Specialized recommended pressures, but found that the rear shock needed about an extra 15 psi to give me the performance I was looking for. The pressure values given in the manual are for guidance only – a bit of experimentation is usually needed to get the best out of the bike.
I used the ITch switch a few times and then settled with the greater travel available with the 5″ travel setting. The lockout on both the Fox Float RL shock and the RockShox Psylo SL forks are invaluable. No matter how well you plan rides, there always seems to be an inevitable bit of road climbing somewhere and being able to lockout five inches of travel at each end is a big advantage in those situations. Climbing off road is also aided by the U-Turn feature on the Psylo forks, which allows the suspension to be adjusted between 80-125mm. The 80mm option lowers the front end and alters the effective head angle dropping the rider into a better position for climbing. The fork and the back end both remain active.
The disadvantage is that it’s not some thing that can be adjusted on the fly.If you’re faced with a good climb off road then it would make sense to stop, spend about 30 seconds winding the fork down getting back on and setting off, then having to repeat the process at the top of the climb for the descent. This is a proper faff. I think that the ECC system offered by Marzocchi is a superior system in that with a simple flick of the switch it can be turned on and off and can be used whilst riding to great effect. I quickly gave up on the U-turn system, but may be I should have perceivered longer.
The frame itself is splendid in it’s aluminium finish. The transform monocoque is shaped out of Specialized’s A1 aluminium, but this means that positioning water bottle cages can be a bit of an issue. Most of the time this isn’t an issue, because a growing number of riders are using camelbak style systems because of the need to carry other kit around in a rucksack (like a shock pump). It is an issue if you decide to go night riding and suddenly need somewhere to fit a waterbottle style battery pack. At least the mounting on the back of the seatpost and seatpost tube allows this. That itself raises another useful design feature. Earlier Enduro style FSRs like my Elite, had stops built into the frame to stop the seatpost slipping and taking out the shock. The Enduro’s don’t have that – so adjusting the seatpost height is a simple case of using the quick release. This is nice feature especially if you don’t have the confidence to ride that technical descent with the post at the normal riding height. I did find that the seatpost slipped in the clamp at first, but that was taken care of by tightening the quick release a bit more.
The bike comes kitted out with some nice finishing kit. Stopping power is provided by Shimano’s M555 discs, which once they’re bedded in are probably on par with Hope Mini’s for stopping power. This is probably okay in most situations, but I think a lot of buyers will probably end up moving to a bigger and perhaps more powerful disc on the front at least. The gearing is a mix of bits, with a Specialized splined chainset and XTR rear derailleur being notable perks. It all shifted just fine and I couldn’t fault the performance, but buyers might want to upgrade to higher quality kit in areas like the shifters and front derailleur as bits wear out. The finishing kit all comes from Specialized. The new stem fitted on the Expert and the other Enduro’s is a nice looking and functionally stiff piece of kit and didn’t seem to produce any flex even with the wide riser bars putting a lot of leverage on it. The body geometry saddle and grips however, were my only complaints. I’m a big fan of the body geometry design and run them on three of my bikes, but the saddle used here is just too skinny and race-orientated. More padding please. The grips seemed to follow a similar light-weight theme and were just to thin and uncomfortable to be on an all day bike. These will probably be the first things most owners will change.
The Enduro coped with everything I threw at it. The Shimano disc-hub and Mavic rimmed wheels stayed true through out and the suspension worked smoothly on all the bumps. Fitted with chunky Enduro tyres, the bike was sure footed and grippy under both power transmission and braking force.The rear end has a good range of ability, but the Psylo’s seemed to be a bit sticky over the smaller bumps, although this maybe something that improves as they bed in. In all a well-equipped and confidence inspiring bike that will undoubtedly convert many more riders to Specialized’s tested FSR design.