Best Enduro Mountain Bikes of 2017
Enduro is probably the busiest niche in mountain biking, with tons of interest and innovation and new designs to match the hype. It’s the product that best matches how mountain bikers are increasingly trending: pedal uphill and then play all the way back down. This style of riding spawned the style of racing of the same name.
Enduro races feature timed downhill sections with untimed transfer sections. The transfers are typically climbs, that may not be at a race pace, but are still taxing. Thus enduro demands a combination of almost-downhill mountain bike performance with near-cross country uphill capabilities. The bikes are rugged enough to ride bike parks and huck jump lines, while still pedaling efficiently uphill on road and single track. These are jacks of all trades, with a thirst for speed and adrenaline.
After testing six of the latest designs we can attest that as a group they are truly competent two-way machines. While not at all like a cross-country race rocket, we never felt like saggy slugs on the climbs either. They packed plenty of punchy power on technical terrain and efficient pedaling on the ride up. At the top we hit the ubiquitous dropper seat post into its low position and flew down. These bikes want to roll fast, but offer plenty of forgiveness with the ability to absorb big hits and slow down in a pinch.
With generous amounts of suspension both front and back, the ride is quite plush. All that travel instills plenty of confidence, as we found ourselves riding faster and taking bigger air than ever before. Plus, our test group included very high-end models, between $6,000 and $8,000, making them that much more enjoyable.
On the specs side these are dual-suspension models with anywhere from 150mm to 170mm of travel, carbon fiber frames, 650b (27.5”) or 29” wheels, and between 65- and 67-degree head angles. The shocks were top-of-the-line factory issue from top brands, but mostly FOX. The drivetrains were also near top end, with a mix of Shimano XT and XTR, as well as SRAM Eagle XO. This category uses almost exclusively 1x setups and either 11 or 12 cogs in the back.
Because of the uphill performance demands, weight is a key focus. The bike’s we tested ranged from 28-31 pounds: While not really light, they can hardly be called heavy, especially considering their capabilities. All were carbon-fiber frames and most had a full-carbon rear triangle, handlebars and other components. Wheel rims were a mix of carbon fiber and alloy.
So, is an enduro bike right for you? If you’re considering racing enduro than the answer is definitely yes. These bikes are optimized for the racing style. For more recreational riders the answer is more nuanced. We were impressed by how well these bikes rode on all sorts of trails. Designers are getting really smart with geometry, finding seemingly disparate performance between stability at high speed, climbing prowess, and slow motion handling. That said these bikes will not satisfy an aerobic-focused athlete or XC racer. Those that prefer to be strung out over an efficient machine will find the upright riding position too mellow. And if your local riding is vertically challenged you will feel over biked most of the time. On the flip side: if your rides tend to go up and then down – especially on rough terrain – or if you want a bike that can do everything from the DH line to the XC, then this is the perfect category for you.
The demands of high performance uphill and down is not cheap, but it produces fun bikes. And that’s really what this sport is about. We all love it because it’s damn fun, and this style of bike brings just about any trail into its playground. Read on and get playing.