“I’d picked 2011 to be the year I was going to have a crack at racing the mass-start Megavalanche Alpe d’Huez, along with our art ed Jimmer and staff writer Ric McLaughlin (now working for the Enduro World Series). Having heard stories about how tough and long the track was, and that it included some nasty climbs, it seemed to me that the aluminium-framed, 160mm-travel Specialized Enduro Expert was my best bet for such an event. But before we even got on the ferry, I needed to get my new bike and myself as dialled-in as possible.
“Alongside undertaking a brutal training programme courtesy of Pro Ride MTB, I got busy working on the Enduro, starting with the suspension. Thanks to the help of Chris Porter (who ran the UK Fox service and distribution centre at the time, and now heads up Mojo Rising) a revised build and freshly-tuned Fox Float RP23 shock removed excess wallow from the rear end, while a new Fox 36 Float FIT RC2 up front helped add some much-needed comfort and control. It had more adjustment than the Float R fork it replaced too, and was noticeably smoother and more sensitive – a big help on loose, rocky surfaces.
“I also needed to ditch the front mech. Yes, that’s right – enduro bikes of old came with two chainrings and a front derailleur. I stuck on a Gamut chain guide and switched to a 1×10 set-up as early as possible. Finally, I added a set of tougher Specialized Butcher DH tyres (new at the time), to replace the Clutch Control and Purgatory that came as stock.
“Especially in its final build, I loved riding the Enduro. It felt like a proper mini-DH bike, but despite the long travel and chunky tyres, it remained agile and fun to ride. The dinky chainstays measured in at just 419mm (remember, these were built around 26in wheels) while the reach wasn’t too bad, at around the 430mm mark on my medium frame. At 66.5 degrees, the head angle was pretty good for the time too.
“While I’ve got many great memories of riding the Enduro – tackling some of the wildest off-piste descents around South Wales, flat-out laps of Cwmcarn with Ric and Jimmer, and some wild times in the Surrey Hills with Brendan Fairclough and Olly Wilkins – nothing will top the Mega. Thanks to a magazine deadline, we missed pretty much all of practice (we had enough time to roll down the last third of the qualifying track, but that was it) so rode the qualifier and the race itself almost totally blind.
“After a great start in my qualifier, I made good progress down the mountain within the top 10 – until an overexcited rider took me out on a high-speed section of the track. I cracked my shiny new Troy Lee Designs D3 helmet, twisted my bar, bent my brake lever and span my new RockShox Reverb dropper post. But worst of all, the crash meant I missed getting into the main final race by just one position. Instead I had to make do with the second-tier ‘B’ final, which was still an amazing experience, despite my gear cable snapping early on in the race.
“What stood out for me was just how well the Enduro held up to the whole experience. Even after some reckless line choices, heavy landings and massive crashes, it came away working totally fine (after a cable change) and proved it could handle some seriously demanding terrain. I miss that bike…”
Totally redesigned for 2020, the Enduro is now only available in carbon fibre and with 29in wheels. This Comp model is the cheapest of the four on offer. The sizing has changed dramatically since 2011, with the reach growing dramatically and the bottom bracket now sitting lower as well, despite the big wheels and extra 10mm of travel (170mm).
Key features: What made the 2011 Specialized Enduro Expert so great
Despite its compact wheelbase (only the XL measured longer than 1,200mm), the Enduro felt surefooted and confidence-inspiring on demanding terrain thanks to the plush 160mm of travel at either end. Rob’s bike was custom-tuned by suspension guru Chris Porter, elevating its performance even further.
While far from radical, the 2011 Enduro’s geometry wasn’t bad for the time. OK, the bottom bracket was rather lofty and the chainstays maybe a touch too compact, but the reach was reasonable compared to its rivals and the head angle was relatively relaxed.
THE NEW BREED
Now over 20 years old, the Enduro helped pave the way for enduro riding as we know it. Specialized have done an impressive job of evolving its design over the years, with today’s version being one of the best, most progressive bikes in this category.