Combining elements of cross-country racing fitness and the technicality of downhill racing (minus those huge jumps), enduro has its origins in the French Alps. It was here that riders formulated a purer version of all-day racing, which prioritised descending, without the benefit of chairlifts.
An enduro bike can’t feature the same sacrificial terrain-absorption ability of a downhill bike, because it must be pedalled uphill too. Some enduro events even have special stages which require a hundred yards or so of pedalling. An element of suspension efficiency is crucial. As such, mountain bike engineers and component designers have supplied an entirely new class of bikes and gear to cater for this discipline’s unique demands.
When the Enduro World Series (EWS) started in 2013, racing was dominated by 27.5 wheeled bikes, with 150mm of travel. In 2020 there is a selection of 29er alternatives, designed around the same amount of travel, while the 27.5-inch bikes have become even more capable, averaging 160mm of rear-suspension.
The fact that enduro events are raced blind mean these bikes have now matured into the most forgiving and capable single-crown descending frames available, effectively transforming modern mountain bike geometry.
BEST ENDURO MOUNTAIN BIKES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
As the popularity and participation numbers in enduro have grown, the market has responded with a greater diversity of bikes – at all price levels. Below are a few attributes worth considering before making a purchase as well as our top three enduro bikes currently available.
1. Frame material
The greatest differentiating factor remains frame material: with carbon bikes easily outranking aluminium alternatives in price. We say that with one caveat, though, as the most boutique bike on our list is one of the most expensive and made from aluminium.
Rear suspension design and geometry are the most important features worth considering when evaluating an enduro bike. With special stages that can run for far longer than expected (up to 3-miles), the issue of shock fade, due to overheating, is a real concern for enduro riders. Therefore, a frame which offers sufficient shock clearance to run a high-volume air shock (with a piggyback reservoir) or coil shock, is vital.
The Enduro category, with its requirements for all-day riding endurance and extreme terrain taming ability on descents, has revolutionised mountain bike geometry. Longer bikes with slacker angles are the defining trend, optimising the theory that an elongated wheelbase is inherently more stable. Many bikes also feature flip-chips for their suspension rocker arms or mounting hardware, which allow for small geometry adjustments – and those might make all the difference for your riding.
Our top picks
Enduro’s most desirable bike in 2020 is Yeti’s SB150, which combines vanguard geometry numbers (480mm reach and a 64.4 head angle, sized large) with advanced carbon-fibre construction and the brand’s proven switch-infinity suspension system. It is the closest of all enduro bikes to combining cross-country pedalling competence with near-downhill-grade descending stability.
Second place in our selection goes to Pole’s Stamina 180. It features the cycling world’s most advanced aluminium construction and radical geometry numbers, with reach stretched way beyond 500mm. Unless you are willing to commit to experimental frame geometry, the Pole could perhaps be too much bike for most riders. Exceptionally tall mountain bikers could discover this huge Finnish enduro rig, to be the perfect bike for them.
Those seeking vanguard geometry numbers at an affordable price, will be heartened by Bird’s Aeris AM9, which is smashing value. The British brand’s 150mm 29er enduro bike offers a slacked-out 65-degree head angle and 500mm reach (sized large). All at a third the price of either the Yeti or Pole.
THE BEST ENDURO MOUNTAIN BIKES IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE
1. Yeti SB150
Carbon art presented as an enduro bike
Frame type: Carbon | Travel: 150mm | Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 13.5kg | Wheel options: 29in
The Coloradoan brand dominated Enduro Word Series racing in 2015 and 2016, with Richie Rude and Jared Graves winning overall titles aboard its SB160. Replicating all the virtues of the that bike, with the benefit of 29er wheels, is Yeti’s SB150.
Frame weight is impressively light, as you’d expect for a bike of this price, with an enduro build coming in at just 13.5kg. Geometry numbers are just shy of most dedicated downhill bikes in terms of head angle and wheelbase. The latest iteration of Yeti’s renowned switch infinity suspension system gifts the SB150 tremendous climbing efficiency without sacrificing descending ability.
Debits? It is a very expensive bike and the rear tyre clearance, slightly limited, for those who like to ride larger casings than 2.4 – especially in muddy conditions.
2. Pole Stamina
The downhill racer’s trail bike
Frame type: Aluminium | Travel: 180mm | Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.2kg | Wheel options: 29in, 27.5in
A boutique Finnish frame that combines outrageous geometry with advanced alloy construction. The Stamina is effectively machined into two halves, with the frame glued together to form a single monocoque.
It you are a tall rider or ardent believer in the new trend of extra-long bikes, the is the bike for you, boasting a reach of 510mm (size large) and slack 63.5-degree head angle. This is by far the most vanguard enduro bike you can buy and offers massive tyre clearance of up to ‘2.8 on 29er rubber.
A very clever feature is the ability to remove a linkage bolt, which allows the Stamina to fold in two, making its wonderfully easy to transport in a car or store in an apartment.
3. Bird Aeris AM9
All the right numbers – including price
Frame type: Aluminium | Travel: 150mm | Sizes: M, L, XL | Weight: 14.3kg | Wheel options: 29in
You don’t need to pay silly money to access the very latest trends in enduro bike geometry. From Swinley comes the Bird Aeris AM9, which is a long-travel travel 29er presenting uncanny value. Geometry numbers are very current, with 500mm of reach on a large frame.
One wouldn’t expect a featherweight bike for the blend of features and price, yet the Aeris AM9 isn’t uninspiringly heavy.
As a value offering, this bike is essentially unbeatable. It has sensible rear triangle mud-clearances too, which will allow you to run 2.5 width tyres on a wide rim.
4. Santa Cruz Megatower
Turns all the A-lines into easy lines
Frame type: Carbon | Travel: 160mm | Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL | Weight: 14kg | Wheel options: 29in
The Californian brand has an impeccable pedigree in gravity racing and popularised the long-travel 29er with its original Tallboy LTC back in 2012. A radical reconfiguration of Santa Cruz’s VPP suspension system increases rear-wheel travel to 160mm, by employing a lower-link driven shock, which runs through the frame.
Santa Cruz has resisted extending its enduro bikes to extreme geometry, with the Megatower having a relatively average 470mm reach (in size large), although there is some geometry adjustment available.
Light and outrageously capable, the Megatower is most appropriate for riders who prefer to hang-on and allow the bike to plough over terrain.
5. Nukeproof Mega 290
Compact and bombproof
Frame type: Alumnimium | Travel: 160mm | Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 14.6kg | Wheel options: 29in
If a frame’s racing lineage is your unit of analysis, this is the world’s best enduro bike. Ridden by current Enduro world champion and former Downhill phenom, Australian Sam Hill, the Mega has seen updated geometry and options for either aluminium or carbon for 2020.
Geometry numbers might not be overly daring (470mm reach on a large frame), but the Mega 290 has 160mm of rear-triangle suspension travel and a reputation for bombproof reliability.
The suspension design does prioritise big-hit absorption capability, at the cost of isolating pedal input – so it does bob a bit under power.
6. GT Force 29
A classic mtb name returns to former glory
Frame type: Alumnimium | Travel: 150mm | Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 15.8kg | Wheel options: 29in
The evolved Force has been part of GT’s significant brand revival over the last year and a half, by regularly podiuming (and even winning) Enduro World Series events. Part of that success is due to GT abandoning the brand’s own pivot design and reverting to a horst-link suspension configuration.
GT has finally answered demand for a big-wheeler version of its proven enduro bike and the Force 29 blends the value of aluminium construction with entirely contemporary geometry.
If you pine for the glory days of GT (circa 1990s), this is a greatly symbolic enduro bike which can trade on more than merely sentiment.
7. Giant Reign 29
An eagerly anticipated arrival
Frame type: Carbon | Travel: 146mm | Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 13.1kg | Wheel options: 29in
The Taiwanese brand has produced a potentially giant-killing bike with its 29-wheeled Reign. An evolution of the existing Reign platform, this is 2020’s latest Enduro bike and combines a hugely competent 146mm of rear-suspension travel with an array of fork options ranging between 160mm and 170mm.
Other significant upgrades that the progression to bigger wheels have brought to Giant’s Reign include a trunnion mount rear shock and the choice between 42- or 44mm fork offsets, offering riders, with appropriate skills, a much quicker steering option.
Geometry numbers feature a meaningfully longer frame than Giant’s 27.5-inch Reign, with the new 29er stretched to 494mm of reach on large frame.
8. Scott Ransom Tuned 900
A Swiss lightweight with substantial ability
Frame type: Carbon | Travel: 170mm | Sizes: S, M, L, XL | Weight: 13.1kg | Wheel options: 29in, 27.5in
Enduro might be about descending but a light bike is never a debit, especially if you are trying to lean it into and through high-speed corners for an entire afternoon. With build kits rolling onto the trail at only 13.1kg, this Scott certainly won’t hold your fitness to ransom…
Scott’s Ransom is one of the lightest long-travel enduro frames available and offers great adaptability by accepting both 29er and 27.5-inch wheels.
The Ransom also features adjustable geometry, allowing you to tune its angles, and climbs with an efficiency that no 170mm bike should, thanks to Scott’s twin-loc system, although some might find an additional handlebar remote (for the twin-loc) annoying.