PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
Enduro / Freeride Bike Round Table
The five bikes that ended up in the enduro / freeride segment of our latest Field Test provide an interesting cross-section of these categories. All of the bikes have at least 160mm of travel, but lots of travel doesn't necessarily mean a bike is only suitable for shuttle and bike park laps – the 170mm Santa Cruz Nomad and 180mm Propain Spindrift are prime examples of bikes with generous amounts of suspension that still worked very well on less wild trails.
The Norco Shore was the bike that stood out as being the most singlemindedly focused on the descents. It does have a comfortable climbing position, but there's no hiding that 63-degree head angle and 37 pound weight, and it felt like a handful unless the trail was extra-steep, and preferably contained more than a few high speed sections.
The Rocky Mountain Altitude and the Trek Slash are the most purebred enduro race bikes in this group, the two options that could easily handle the range of tracks found on the Enduro World Series circuit, everything from the tight, switchback filled trails of France to the fast and rough stages that the Whistler stop has become known for.
I ended up with my fastest lap time on the Altitude, but the Slash felt
fastest, likely due to the extra length and stiffer frame. Is one better than the other? That's entirely a matter of personal preference, although if I had to pick an 'every day' bike out of these five that I could also race I'd go with the Altitude. If overall speed wasn't as much of a concern I'd pick the Nomad and its 27.5” wheels - that was another bike I could hop on and instantly feel right at home.
What about last year's winner, the Specialized Enduro? Where does that fit into the mix? Well, it still holds its own – a year later and remains a very relevant bike. Compared to the Altitude, that extra 10mm of rear travel and low-slung suspension layout give it the edge when it comes to plowing straight through chunky sections of trail, and if I could only have one for a day in the Whistler Bike Park I'd go with the Enduro. On the flip side, the Altitude is a little more maneuverable, and in the tight stuff it'll wriggle quicker than the Enduro. The same goes for climbing – the Altitude's a little easier to get to the top, which fits with its do-it-all nature.
You'll notice there hasn't been any mention of price or value yet – that's on the way. Stay tuned for a comparison video where we dig into the list of models for each bike and pick out the ones that offer the most bang for your buck, and the ones that don't.
The 2020 Pinkbike Field Test was made possible with support from Dainese apparel & protection, Sierra Nevada refreshments, and Smith eyewear and helmets. Thanks also to Maxxis, Garmin, and Freelap.