|I've been spending a ton of time on the 150mm-travel, 27.5'' wheeled Arktos and have been impressed with how efficient and playful it seems. The Alchemy is one of the few all-mountain bikes that doesn't feel like a burden during long, hard days in the saddle, and its lively personality makes it a lot of fun to ride. What it's not, however, is a true enduro race rig. Sure, you can haul ass on it, and it's more capable than most of us will ever need, but it doesn't have that invincible attitude that a true enduro race bike has.|
The Enduro, on the other hand, could be described using the old 'miniature downhill bike' cliche, and it's never been truer than when talking about Specialized's latest all-mountain monster. It eats up chunky, fast terrain, and feels more stable than the Arktos when doing so, but it's also much more bike when you're on run of the mill trails. It's going to be a lot of bike for some riders who aren't honest when it comes to their abilities and the kind of trails they ride, but to each their own. The Enduro is also available in two flavors - a 29'' wheeled model with 165mm of travel, and a 27.5'' version with 170mm - so you can choose what best suits you.
What would I choose? I rarely race, but I do like to haul ass on the downs and go on some big adventures that involve a ton of pedaling, so I'm likely to reach for the Arktos. If I did race, spend a lot of time in the bike park, or ride with buddies who spent more time sessioning jumps and drops than pedaling, I'd pick the new Enduro. - Mike Levy
|I've been thrashing around on a set of Stan's new Flow MK3 wheelset for the last few months with excellent results. They're nice and wide, with a 29mm internal width, weigh a very reasonable 1870 grams, and are extremely easy to set up tubeless. Plus, at $679 USD they fall within your budget. If it were me, I'd be tempted to go the custom route, and build up a pair of Flow MK3 rims around a set of DT Swiss hubs. Stan's Neo hubs haven't given me any trouble, but I'm an even bigger fan of DT Swiss' simple yet effective star ratchet design. If you were about to embark on an epic ride, whether that's an adventure of your own making or something along the lines of the Trans Provence or BC Bike Race, a spare star ratchet could easily be tossed into a pack, which means that in the unlikely event your hub stopped engaging it'd only take a matter of minutes to fix it and be back on the trail. - Mike Kazimer|
|Four-cross suitable frames have fallen from fashion in recent years after the UCI dropped the 4X World Cup Series, BMX made a big comeback, and dirt jump mountain bikes have become the norm for street/dirt/slalom/4X. The main differences between a 4X specific frame over a dirt frame will be a stiffer alloy frameset for quick response and gate starts (although less forgiving when you case that big landing and wish the lawyer was on speed dial). The head angle should also be a little slacker for high-speed stability, chainstays might be a little longer and it will have provisions for gearing. If you are looking for a slightly bigger size frame too, your options are limited; I would suggest a reach figure around 400mm to be small, and 430mm would be a generous large frame.|
The Antidote you mentioned looks beautiful and the best option if you want to win a 4X race. Only one size with a 420mm reach, but at 1599 Euros for a frameset it isn't cheap. The Hornet 4X has a 415mm reach which I suggest is right in the middle of sizing and is a bargain, NS Bikes also make the specific Liar 4X with 405mm reach. The only bike of all these I have swung a leg over is the cro-moly Transition PBJ (Pumps, Bumps, n' Jumps) which is a good mix of more supple steel tubing, slacker head angle and has a large size with 430mm reach, but is singlespeed only.
Other bikes to consider are the Evil Faction which has three sizes with the large having a 424mm reach, the Bergamont Kiez also comes in a large size with 435mm reach, the biggest frame I can find. - Paul Aston
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