PINKBIKE FIELD TEST
A Wild Assortment of 7 Enduro Bikes Battle the Impossible Climb
Carbon, Coil Springs, Mixed Wheels; This Impossible Climb Has it All.
This might have been the Field Test with the deepest variety because there were bikes made from aluminum, carbon, and steel - some with 27.5” rear wheels and some with coil shocks. How would all of those factors rank them in terms of their climbing capability? That answer isn’t simply down to one aspect, but the sum of their parts. Geometry and suspension play a massive hand in how high these enduro bikes would reach on the Impossible Climb.
What lay ahead of me this time around was a steadily increasing grade made of sandstone that appeared to have grip, but was covered in wet fir tree needles, fist-size boulders, and other organic matter, conveniently placed by expert Impossible Climb course designer, Mike Levy. Climbing up this piste was a physical test of directing the bikes up, and then over a strategically placed log. Looping out and testing the limits of friction is always a real concern - crashes can happen while climbing too! Even on this short stint of a climb, weight and drag were also noticeable factors.
Both of those downsides really sap energy. Was it really a surprise that the coil shock and idler wheel of the Contra MC, which pulled my fastest timed descent time, felt like the most work uphill? No, but the suspension did move a whole lot less than the Fezzari La Sal Peak. That kept my balance square on the bike through those lunging maneuvers. However, the Fezarri did track the ground quite well and was super comfortable to pedal while seated on longer rides.
A similar story to the Contra rings true for the Commencal - it's heavy, but stable. Those are two bikes that deal well when churning the pedals constantly to keep the train rolling. Any stop-start, trials-inspired moves will leave you gassed. That caused those longer, heavier bikes to stumble on the log hop, so ideally, lines like this on a regular trail should be avoided. Neither the Claymore and Megatower pulled out any surprises and were simply middle of the road in terms of how an enduro bike should climb. They weren't the heaviest or the most agile. I was simply along for the ride in a comfortable position, waiting for the descents.
How about that lighter weight Transition Patrol and active Intense Tracer 279? Those bikes were open to dancing around allowing for powerful burst moves and easier corrections. Out back, 27.5” rear wheels have that catch-22 shadow hanging over them; they do accelerate quicker, especially when there is a sturdy downhill casing tire attached, but they are reluctant to carry on over obstacles.
I didn't anticipate making it nearly that far up the climb, but the Tracer was surprisingly eager to keep motoring up the slippery wall the furthest. Would I have guessed that from our test sessions? Most definitely. The Tracer rode lighter than its measured weight and higher in the 170mm of travel, almost
tackling the whole Impossible Climb.
The 2022 Enduro Bike Field Test is presented by Rapha, POC, and Continental. Thanks for keeping us dressed, safe, and rolling rubber side down.