I thought I would come back and update my review of the bike now that I have ridden it for a year and moved onto another bike. Most of my riding impressions remain the same, but in retrospect, and after moving on to an even more long, low and slack 29er (Norco Range 29), the steeper and taller geo of the 2017 holds it back in places, but also makes it more of an all-rounder in other areas. It's still a very capable bike, and in 2018 it's even better with revised geo and the option to run it in high or low mode, making it as slack and long as my new Norco Range.
The things that dampened my enthusiasm for the bike are design & build flaws, and support from Specialized. Here they are in big list:
The downtube protector is just for show and doesn't actually protect anything. I cracked my frame under the protector, probably from rolling something steep that hit the downtube near the bottom bracket or a big rock that was kicked up by the front wheel. Specialized would not warranty the frame for this.
The ISCG mount only has places for two bolts, making it unsuitable for installing a proper bash guard (which may have prevented the cracked downtube)
It came with a 125mm dropper, which is weak, but when I tried to install a 160mm dropper it wouldn't fit because the rocker pivot goes right through the seat tube (I had no problem installing the same dropper on my Range)
It did not come with any protection on the seat stay where the chain can hit it, which was very noisy and destroyed the paint. I had to zip tie some old inner tube material there to protect it, which worked, but looked like shit and shouldn't have been required
I blew the rear shock, and so did everyone else who had the Ohlins (Specialized did replace under warranty)
The headset constantly creaked and did not want to stay tight (I prefer press in headsets for this reason, as I've had the same problem with other bikes with integrated carbon cups)
The replaceable derailleur hangers bent so easily I'd swear they were made of marshmallow aluminum. It's hard to fault Specialized for erring on the side of protecting the derailleur, but the slightest impact would bend the hanger, and combined with the Eagle drivetrain that's highly sensitive to any mis-alignment, I was constantly having shifting problems, and I had to resort to always carrying at least two spare hangers (at least they're reasonably cheap)
The aluminum wheels it came with use proprietary rims, and when I wanted to replace the rear rim I had to wait months for Specialized to get them in stock
Finally, the big one, I broke the rear seat stay, and that's on me, but when I tried to replace it, my only options where to get a black stay which did not match my red and blue bike (for $200) or get a whole new frame for $2500 (plus tax). This was incredibly frustrating because it was still 2017 when I cracked the stay, but they were already out of replacement parts. For comparison, when the carbon went bad on a Yeti I had, I was still able to get a matching rear triangle a year later. So I had to either have a mismatched stay which would tank the resale value, try to paint it, or get a new 2018 S-Works frame. I ended up going with the new frame since mine was in such rough shape, but did not do well when it came time to sell because I had so much money sunk into the bike, and $2500 for a crash replacement frame is not very generous (my brand new Norco Range frame retails for only $400 more)
I ride my bikes hard and my Enduro was no exception, but it didn't seem to hold up as well as other bikes, and the support I received didn't seem as good you'd get from other companies. Specialized has a great design team and they come up with some really cool ideas, but they miss the mark in other areas that matter to people who ride hard and expect longevity from their bikes.
My first ride on the 2017 Enduro Pro 29 left me with the impression that this bike is unlike anything I’ve ever ridden. I’ve had a long-travel 27.5” bike and most recently a mid-travel 29” bike, but Specialized combined attributes of both of those types of bikes to create a rather unique monster.
I chose to go with the Pro model. Like the S-Works, it has a full carbon frame; unlike the S-Works you get XO1 instead of XX1 (but still Eagle 12 speed), a Rockshox Lyric instead of the Ohlins fork, alloy cranks, wheels, and handlebars instead of carbon, and a few other lower spec components. For me though, it comes in at a more reasonable price point with more durable if slightly heavier alloy components, and the proven Lyric fork.
After taking delivery of the bike and looking it over, I came to appreciate the quality and attention to detail Specialized put into this bike. The internal cable routing is the cleanest I’ve seen, and everything is oversized and burly. That burliness does contribute to some extra heft as the bike comes in around 31lbs. Some of that extra weight also comes from the addition of the SWAT door in the downtube where you can store a tube, tools, and whatever else you can stuff in there. It adds some weight to the frame, and when packed with a tube and tools the bike feels extra heavy, but most of that is weight that you would have to carry in your pack, and when stuffed into the frame your center of gravity is lower and you’re unencumbered from all that weight on your back or hips. I also like being able to hop on my bike with just a water bottle and know all of my essentials are already accounted for. Speaking of water bottles, I love that I can carry a full size bottle in the frame, something I haven’t been able to do with the last four bikes I’ve owned.
My biggest complaint with the build is the fact that Specialized is still using a 125mm dropper post when 150mm is the new standard. That said, I think I will like the reliability of the mechanical Command Post. It reminds me of my old Gravity Dropper, and like that old post, you have to be mindful of potential violent sack taps due to its high speed return. Eagle is great; it shifts as crisply as the 11 speed, and the additional range is welcomed, but I wish Specialized would have opted for a 32 or 34 tooth chainring to make better use of that range instead of the 30 tooth which limits your top end speed.
The Enduro 29’s big wheels combined with the Lyric’s 160mm travel up front and 165 of Ohlins/FSR travel out back makes for one incredibly plush ride. Where before I had to carefully choose lines, with the Enduro 29 I can just mob over everything. The steering took some getting used to, however. The combination of the tall front end and tall riser bars made the steering too light and imprecise for my tastes. I later slammed the stem to get more weight on the front wheel, and I immediately found that the bike climbed better and had sharper cornering manners. The bike is surprisingly nimble and playful for being so big, and a lot of that is thanks to the tight 432mm chainstays, but there’s no denying its first priority is outright speed and capability. Due to the weight and big wheels with heavier casing tires, it’s not a zippy accelerating bike by any means, but a bike that builds speed and maintains it. Climbing feels like more work than I’m used to, but with lighter wheels and tires I think this bike could gain some trail bike climbing qualities at the expense of some of its bomber DH capabilities. The Ohlins shock feels superbly plush, active, and well matched to the FSR suspension. The compression adjustments are more for fine tuning, however, as you won’t find a locked out climb setting like you have on some other shocks. Overall the rear suspension strikes a good balance between pedaling performance and plushness.
The Enduro 29 is not a bike I would recommend for the average trail rider. It’s a big bike and it feels like one. You have to learn to ride it aggressively, and it’s not really at home unless you’re going mach two with your hair on fire. The Stumpjumper, for instance, would be a better climber and more nimble while still providing 80% of the descending capability, but if you live for that other 20%, the Enduro 29 is the bike. It’s given me the confidence to huck and send it bigger than ever, and over steep chunky terrain I’ve gone faster than I have on any bike before. It’s not an eager climber by any means, but it gets the job done well enough to be an able companion for big rides and to get you to the top so you can slay those epic descents.