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Racer X Tested: Specialized Enduro Expert EVO

by David Langran

The Specialized Enduro Expert EVO.

Mountain biking is sometimes overlooked by moto athletes as a training tool in preference of road cycling. Truth is, mountain biking can be a lot more beneficial than just pounding out miles on a road bike (just ask Eli Tomac). While mountain biking, not only are you getting a great cardio work out, but you are also using a lot of the same control muscles as in moto. All the while having to process the terrain and make line choices, etc. So, if you are one of the moto guys that does mountain bike for training, which bike should you go for? A full XC bike? A trail bike? Or something more downhill orientated that you can still pedal up?

Enduro bikes are becoming more and more popular in the mountain bike world. These bikes are basically hybrids of an xc and downhill mountain bike. They have more suspension than your typical trail bike (up to 180 mm), wider tires and bars, slacker geometry, and more heavy duty frames so they can take the abuse of gnarly descents. But they are still nimble enough to be pedaled up steep inclines.

Many of us here at Racer X are big mountain bike fans and Specialized sent us one of their 2012 Enduro Expert EVOs to try out for a long term test. The "EVO" part of the name indicating that this particular model is more equipped to handle downhill terrain than the other Enduro models in the Specialized line. When I pulled the bike out of the box, the first thing I noticed was just how burly  the frame is. It definitely looks a lot more like a downhill bike than a trail bike. The only thing I changed on the bike set up was to swap out the stem for a shorter one as I prefer a more downhill style riding position, then it was time to hit the dirt. I'm lucky enough to live in a place with some great mountain biking, Laguna Beach. Laguna is known for having everything from steep, technical inclines and descents, to full downhill fast and flowing trails and everything inbetween.

Cross Country/Trail
For my first ride I wanted to test the Enduro Expert EVO on the type of terrain your typical moto rider would be using a mountain bike for, cross country/trail riding with some steep inclines. I embarked on a 14 mile loop around the hills of Laguna taking in the whole spectrum of what the area has to offer. Once I hit the inclines, I noticed a little more bobbing as I pedaled than with my usual trail bike, and I perhaps did have to labor a little more due to the extra weight and slacker geometry. But, the Enduro Expert EVO is still a confident climber and was easy to maneuver even on the tight, technical climbs. Of course the real pay back of this bike is when you get to the top of the mountain and point the bike down. From slow technical rocky descents, to big drops, to the faster downhill trails, the Enduro Expert EVO literally handled everything I threw at it and then some. The bike truly inspires confidence on the descents and will leave you grinning from ear to ear by the time the ground levels out again.

Super D
After a couple of weeks of getting used to the bike on the trails around Laguna, for the next part of my test I decided to enter a local Super D race in Fontana. Super D is a combination of cross country and downhill racing where each run lasts anything from five to ten minutes and has the riders taking on terrain that requires pedaling as well as downhill sections. The runs are intense and require good fitness as you have to be pedaling hard whenever possible to save time. I had done one of these events prior on more of a trail bike that had less suspension and more of an XC set up, so I was curious to see how the Enduro Expert EVO would help my results. As soon as I hit the course in practice I felt a lot more comfortable than my previous race there. This type of riding is exactly what this bike was meant for. We competed on two timed courses over the event. A shorter, faster course, and a longer, more technical course with a steep rock garden at the bottom. The second course also had some long traverse sections where you had to pedal as hard as you could to the next downhill section. Although the traverse sections weren't super steep, they still required a lot of pedaling. The Enduro Expert EVO was in it's element and handled both courses with no problems at all. I ended the day 5th overall in my class. It was a national event and I was very happy to go home with a top 5. Knowing that the bike definitely helped improve my result.

Langers racing Super D at Fontana on the Specialized Enduro Expert EVO.

Bike Park
Mountain biking isn't just a training tool for motocross, it's also pretty damn fun. Mammoth Mountain has one of the most fun bike parks in the country. During Racer X's visit there for the annual Monster Energy Mammoth Motocross, I decided to load up the Enduro Expert EVO so I could hit the bike park inbetween spending time at the track. I was in some good company when I hit the mountain including downhill skier and moto head Darron Rahlves, KTM test rider and Loretta's Lynn's champion Michael Sleeter, as well as our own David Pingree. All these guys are no slouches on mountain bikes and were charging everything the park had to offer. I'll admit there were times that I felt I was in over my head. "Flow Drop" was one of those moments. I looked over the edge of the 10 foot vertical drop and questioned what I was about to do. But after watching Darron, Ping, and Sleeter all take on the drop on their 200 mm suspension, full-on downhill bikes, I decided to suck it up and just go for it. The Enduro Expert EVO didn't miss a beat as I landed onto the wooden boards after the drop and finally took a breath! After that it was on and my confidence in the bike continued to grow. Everything from wall rides to ramp jumps to table top sections and steep rocky sections felt like a breeze. The bike felt stable in the air and the suspension soaked up the landings no problem. The Enduro Expert EVO had prooved itself again.

Langers riding the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park
Langers and crew at Mammoth Mountain.

In total I have been riding this bike for about 6 months and on every type of terrain. I can honestly say (depending on what you want to get out of a mountain bike and your training) this could be the only mountain bike you will ever need. Don't expect to be able to keep up with full XC bikes on climbs, you won't. But if you want your training to be fun and ride something that you can pedal up pretty much anything, but then have the confidence of a downhill bike on the declines, the Enduro Expert EVO is a perfect choice. Also keep in mind that Specialized offer other models in their Enduro line that aren't quite as aggressive as the Enduro Expert EVO, are more trail orientated, but still very capable on the downhill stuff.

Check out for more info and pricing on the entire Enduro range.

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    BigUglyManiac October 04, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Where were these bikes in the 80s when I was riding my Peugeot Canyon Express?

  2. Gravatar
    localexpert October 04, 2012 at 11:10 am

    I was just looking at this bike the other week at a local bike shop owned by a former motocrosser, this bike is a beast. I broke my "Dicks sporting goods" Diamondback for the second time in a month. Time to upgrade.

  3. Gravatar
    Motomystic October 04, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Bro, this bike is sick! I love Specialized, and ride a 2010 Stumpjumper FSR now. Might just be time to upgrade. Too bad my local Specialized shop here in Auburn, Ca (Victory Velo) is staffed by a bunch of engorged flaming penis lovers, or I may have to go take a look at this bike today! I think I shall go in to the city to take a look....thanks for the legit review

  4. Gravatar
    VodooMonkey October 04, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    This bike sells for close to $6,000 from what I've seen. Others go for $9,000 or more. Really?As much as or more then a new 450? While dirt bike prices have gone up in the past 5-6 years for sure, seems like mountain bike prices have nearly doubled.

  5. Gravatar
    xray October 04, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    beats my why anyone would say "fuhk bikes". i grew up racing bmx and now ride my mountain bike all the time, and i'll tell you one thing: every minute i spend on my bike makes it easier to go longer and harder on my 450. wise up and get strong.

  6. Gravatar
    Matt October 05, 2012 at 1:00 am

    Buyer beware! If your planing on getting a mountain bike don't go out and buy this bike. Nothing against Racer X, love you guys, but this bike is a downhill bike. I bet that thing is heavy too! My bike is under 30 lbs. Anything with a coil shock and THAT much travel on a front fork is great! If your going to Mammoth mountain or Whistler in BC. Now if downhill is your thing then great! There are many other options out there that will save you a lot of cash though. I recently picked up a new bike myself, and for me it came down to either the Specialized Stumpjumper Evo and the Yeti ASR 5. I chose the Yeti, and if any of you reading this should consider them also. This is the best mountain bike I've ever ridden! It gives you scary confidence. The Enduro is a great bike, but the head geometry is steep and makes it a bit difficult for climbs. If you want a more all-mountain ride check the Stumpy out or a Yeti 575, basically the ASR 5 with slightly more travel. The ASR 5 tracks up hills better though with slightly more slack geo on the head. The thing that sets Yeti apart from others, they don't use their name branded products on the rides like Spec/Giant, etc, (your getting all aftermarket sorta speak components) The bars, stems, seatpost, etc all aftermarket. It's also a boutique bike so they hold their value more so than specialized or any other big brands. But back to the bike. I mean showing up on this thing for an XC race is a bit much. That's like showing up at DisneyLand with a telephone lens. It's excessive. I think MBA had the shootout with this bike and 4 others. The Yeti 575 won hands down and your paying 3200 for the base model up to 6k for the full on race model, which the normal guy doesn't need.

  7. Gravatar
    Matt October 05, 2012 at 1:05 am
    this is the article for the shootout if anyone is interested.

  8. Gravatar
    El Capitan October 05, 2012 at 1:48 am

    @Matt - no dude, this is a downhill bike

  9. Gravatar
    motorhead October 05, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Mountain bikes are a killer training tool and reek of good clean fun. But WAY overpriced in every shape and form.How can I justify more $$$ for a bicycle than a dirtbike with about2,748 less parts???
    Just keep pumpin' my 98' GT rigid till the pencil necked geeksquad gets off the pedal power kick.
    Yeah like that'll happen.

  10. Gravatar
    Matt October 05, 2012 at 10:22 am

    @ El Capitan - Whats up bro? Saw the link you set. Ya, thats a full on downhiller. The Enduro Evo is a hybrid. Don't get me wrong, it's nice, just showing up to local trails here in So cali with the Enduro is a bit much is all I'm saying. The 180mm travel in the front is too much travel for any single trails here, unless of course your hauling ass down stair steeps in Aliso WIlderness where there are some 3-5 foot drop offs; even then that's quite a lot of travel. Specialized reps even said they developed this bike FOR Whistler and bike parks a like. I mean if you wanna pay $6g's for a bike go ahead. You going to pay that much you might as well throw down on an Ibis Mojo HD with Shimano XTR throughout, which the price doesn't even justify the bike. It's not worth 8g's. To each his own. Just saying you can spend around 3-4g's and have an above average full suspension mountain bike that can do anything. I just wanted to share some insight for anyone reading this article who wants to get a mountain bike. I remember when I first started MTB I was overwhelmed with what direction I should go. So many options your like a deer in the head lights.

  11. Gravatar
    Taylor October 05, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Hey Matt. All valid points, but the test clearly states numerous times that this is more of a downhill orientated bike. The advantage being that you can still pedal it uphill. I don't think anyone that buys this bike would be expecting to keep up with an XC bike on a trail. But you can bet they would blow them away on the descents! Mountain biking is great for training for motocross, and I'm sure a lot of guys that use it as training relish the downhill sections. The test also states that there are other models in the Enduro range with steeper geometry and more trail orientated characteristics. As far as the pricing of mountain bikes these days, I'm also a bit confused by how a bicycle can cost more than a brand new 450. But people are obviously happy to spend the money!

  12. Gravatar
    Matt October 05, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Hey Taylor. I do want to point out to you that just because this has 180mm of travel doesn't mean your going to blow whomever away on the descents. I'll bet on that. Yes, you may be able to plow through more crap; doesn't mean your going to beat someone down just because of suspension. Again, love the RX guys and I think that's really cool that they did this test and shared with us. I hope they keep doing it with other bikes too. That being said, I just thought I'd post my two cents on the subject. I'm just saying don't limit yourself to just Specialized and the big bike brands out there. You can get more bang for your buck elsewhere. Ya, some of these bikes are crazy expensive. Some get up to 10g's. Now when I first got into MTBing I told myself NEVER will I ever pay over 1g for a bike! lol, Well I caved. lol I learned real damn fast trying to get a what seemed like a fifty pound bike up a very long, steep mountain face. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. That's where the money comes in. Better, lighter components, frames, etc. The bike I own now weights in at 28 lbs.(didn't pay over 4g's for it) But ya, you can finance MTB's now adays. I'm sorry that just sounds rediculous. I don't know about you, but I'd be embarrassed to tell someone I know I just financed a MTB.

  13. Gravatar
    Jon October 08, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    Just a heads up to all. I have ridden this bike for over a year and placed in xc races with a second place overall. (beginner series) Yes the bike has its dis advantages but over all I don't regreat it and yes it is worth more than my truck. The bike takes more to climb but the reward of the downhill afterwards is worth it.
    Good all mountain series bike for the serious rider.

  14. Gravatar
    eddy December 01, 2012 at 6:32 am

    how do u compare this endure eve with the one by canfield ? pls advice....

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