I thought i should post this in here for anyone shopping new bikes. My curiosity was piqued by the new Specialized Enduro 29 with it's short chainstays and I had the opportunity to pick one up at a very good deal. It was not a replacement for my current ride which is a Mojo HD so I have both now. My thought was to ride the comp version for a few hundred miles and if I really liked it and noticed a significant speed difference to then pick up the SWorks version. I did upgrade the Enduro Comp (aluminum version) pretty significantly with the following items;
Easton Haven aluminum wheels
KS Lev 150 dropper post
1x10 conversion running a 32t up front
I am a Strava addict and information junkie so I wanted to see what the difference in times would be between my HD with 26 wheels and the Enduro with 29 wheels. My thought was that a single or even multi day demo would not be enough time for me to adjust to the new bike and really put it through it's paces. I had ridden a few other 29 bikes for up to a week at a time, but they were never MY setup and always felt strange.
First thing I noticed getting on the E29 was the position. I LOVED the way it felt just sitting on it and pedaling around the street. It is also much more comfortable when I get out of the saddle. The other thing I noticed immediately is that the bike is, ahem *plush*. Definitely something that I would keep an eye on. Time to hit the trail!
I spent a significant amount of time on the E29 exclusively so that I could really acclimate to all the changes. It was a lot to get used to, but pretty quickly I got up to speed. I am fortunate enough to have a lot of trails out of my garage and I ride 3-5 times per week. Since I have so much Strava history to rely on I thought it would be unfair to compare to my best historical times. Instead my plan was to put in 15+ days on the Enduro then switch back to the HD so that my fitness and trail conditions would be as similar as possible. As you would suspect I had the new bike stoke with the E29 and was having a lot of fun with it. One thing I did notice was that Descend mode was almost unusable for me. It was so plush that did not even like it on the rough downhills. After a few rides I never took it out of Trail mode except on pavement sections where I would switch to Climb mode. Then came time for the switch...
Last week I pulled out the HD, pumped up the tires, lubed the chain and got rolling. I immediately noticed how lively it felt. When pedaling it felt really quick and in the corners it changed direction RIGHT NOW! It was a blast to ride it again after being away for a while. Overall I had a great time getting back on it, but after I finished I was dreading my Strava upload. My expectation was that the E29 would crush the times and I had ridden the exact same loop the previous day on the Enduro. That meant tired legs since I was pushing hard both days. Luckily my 510 loads much faster than my old 300 so the wait was over quickly. The results were surprising to say the least...
Overall the times were i d e n t i c a l. I am not talking margin of error 2-4 seconds the same, I am talking 9:59 up the long fire road climb, 2:18 on the rocky technical tight descent, 6:32 over the longer rolling descent for BOTH BIKES. If it wasn't my own data I would not have believed it. There were some differences on some sections, but they were less than 5 seconds. I was blown away, so blown away that I started to switch off bikes to make sure it wasn't a fluke. Then things got really interesting. Over the next week it became clear that there was NO difference in times according to the GPS data. It was repeated over and over again. Differences of less than 5 seconds between the two, but on any given day either one would be faster. There was no consistent winner anywhere on any type of trail.
The real difference is how they went about it. The E29 just smashes everything. There is just total disregard for just about any trail feature. When things get steep and hairy you do start to notice the size. My HD on the other hand can be whipped around and has no issue changing lines in an instant. It can still roll through rough sections, but it also opens up a lot more line choices.
After spending time on both bikes I can see how the E29 would be significantly faster for a less experienced rider. It wants to roll and feels very stable which will instill confidence in newer riders. That being said, under an experienced rider you might not see the speed advantage that you would expect. It is different, but not faster under my riding conditions and trails. I will say that I used it on every type of trail I could think of from super steep quasi DH courses to long pavement climbs and did not see a difference on any of them. I would argue that my experience is backed up somewhat by what has been seen in both the Enduro World Series and the World Cup XC season. Both series were dominated by non 29r bikes. In the EWS both Clementz and Graves were on 26 and Nino Schurter is on 275. That being said I think that if you put any of those riders on a 29 wheeled bike and they had time to acclimate the results would have been the same. It comes down to the rider and not the wheel size.
To wrap up I am not a proponent of any wheel size now. The choice is there for anyone to make, but there is no guarantee that any of them is going to make you a faster or better rider. It all comes down to what you are comfortable with and where you want to take your riding. There are pretty much ZERO choices if you want to pick up a brand new 26 XC race bike. A lot of people say that a 29r can't compete on tight technical descents. My conclusion is that both are more fashion statements that facts. If you have any questions please let me know and I will do my best to answer them.
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