A decade earlier there would be no question: if you shuttled downhill trails, hucked to flat, rode bike parks and hit the big jump lines, you wore a full face helmet, baggy pants, probably used flat pedals, and you rode a downhill bike. Today, you are likely to see a substantial number of riders hitting the same trails and features clipped in, wearing half-shell lids, tailored-looking kits, and riding all-mountain bikes.
The easy explanation would be that the recent push to build ultra-capable enduro racing bikes has improved the performance of the genre to the point where, in capable hands, they can match the performance of a DH bike in every aspect shy of World Cup competition and the Red Bull Rampage. Why buy a dedicated gravity design that requires pushing or lift assistance, if I can get the same downhill performance from a bike that actually pedal well uphill?
In theory, that may be true, but the extra four pounds of material that goes into a downhill bike raises questions pertaining to the long-term survival of enduro riders who dare invade the sanctuary of big bikes. Beyond the obvious, however, there may be more compelling reasons for riders who would normally have chosen a DH bike to opt instead, for a long-travel all-mountain model.
One reason is the expectation that comes with ownership. DH has matured to the point where if you toss a Santa Cruz V10c into the shuttle truck, it would be fair to assume that you will be hitting all the big features on the trail. Show up with a Santa Cruz Bronson, however, and you would be scrutinized less harshly. You would probably be expected to be a good bike handler, but there would be no assumptions beyond that. If you are feeling it, you can go big. If not, few observers would give your performance a second thought.
And, there's the economy of having one bike that can supply a full dose of downhill adrenaline and double as your go-to trail whip. To get the most from a DH bike, you can't compromise much of anything, so it's going to be an expensive purchase however you look at it. Spend a similar figure on an enduro bike and you are essentially getting two high-end machines for the price of one.
Bringing the subject full circle, there is much truth in the saying that any device designed to do multiple tasks will never be able to do any one of them well. You may or may not aspire to be invited to the next Rampage, or World Cup DH, but that doesn't alter the fact that a downhill bike is the best choice for riding downhill. If you are a gravity rider, you probably should be honest about it. So, today's poll question is: