2020 Specialized Enduro Carbon Comp "Demo" Review
Updated: Mar 5, 2020
What it is: The base level build of Specialized's 2020 Enduro, available with 170mm of travel in 29er only.
I was looking to replace my Sentinel for various reasons I'll cover in another post, the new Enduro has had pretty rave reviews everywhere I've read, so I thought it a worthwhile experiment.
I had the choice between buying a frame only ($3350USD) or a comp build ($4500USD), where the frame only comes with a Fox X2 and carbon links and the comp build uses alloy links with a Super Deluxe Select+. I opted for the full build to have some extra parts laying around, but also because I didn't really care that much about carbon links and a lot of my components needed replaced anyway, which I figured I'd spread out over time.
I'll cover my thoughts on the bike itself in another more detailed post, but I wanted to offer some thoughts on the component spec as it works with the bike and it's purposes in this "Demo" review. I only rode the bike in stock form a few times, so this is a short lived, non-long term review of these components.
In short, the Comp build is Specialized's entry level build with base level components and is currently the cheapest build available.
In no particular order, the build highlights are below. The general summary is that I feel Specialized put money where they should when laying out this build: suspension, brakes, and tires, while keeping the drivetrain a bit more base level. I feel that too many of the entry builds try to balance out everything and in doing so, they sacrifice the most important components on the bike like suspension and brakes.
For example, they could have specced a GX drivetrain on this build, but would have needed to put a cheaper fork, shock, or brakes on. Instead, they went with NX, and put a better, upgradable fork and brakes on. Most riders won't notice the extra weight of the NX, but if the suspension components sucked, they definitely would feel that. It was a good decision and makes the bike easier to upgrade, but also means the most important components are higher end than those with more negligible benefits.
Fork : The fork is a RockShox Lyrik Select, which comes with the newly revised RC damper. Unlike the other Charger dampers, the new RC damper uses a spring backed IFP (similar to Fox's GRIP) and is completely different. The damper offers rebound and LSC adjusters. The rest of the fork, such as the chassis and air spring, are all the same:
The fork surprised me. In the past, the RockShox RC dampers have been pretty harsh and overdamped, but that seems to have been resolved here. I think there are only about 6 or so clicks of compression, but I actually found myself dialing it in a bit more, whereas previous RC dampers, I kept it open.
The really nice thing about this choice is the chassis and air spring, which are the same as the higher end models, so you could upgrade to the RC2 damper or HC97 (this would require a full damper assembly also) and have a great fork down the line. I did notice a bit more friction than I was used to, but I didn't really ride it enough to let the bushings wear in or service it to ensure the bath oil quantity was correct (it never is). I expected to hate it, but I really had a hard time hating it for the price point, I probably would have kept it if it wasn't for my Mezzer.
Brakes : The brakes are Code R, which worked alright, but seemed to lack the power of the RSC models I've covered previously. The rotors are standard Centerline, with a 203 up front and 180 in the rear. They work alright, but I still prefer my Dominions. Once again, there is a thoughtful upgrade process here where you can swap the levers around and get full RSC brakes, which is really nice also.
Rear Shock : I've always had good luck with the Super Deluxe line of shocks, I had one on a Patrol Carbon for a while and really liked it. The shock is responsive, smooth, and damping seems on point (this is obv. based on the tune chosen), along with being easy to work on and well documented. The Select+ model here has a 2 position switch and rebound adjustments. I have a hard time faulting the shock at the price point, it feels really good. I actually think I'd prefer this to the DPX2 on the higher end build, but my experience with the DPX2 is a bit more limited.
It is worth commenting that the rebound adjuster, which is at the top of the shock, is a bit tedious to access the way it's positioned in the frame. It's a minor gripe, but a normal dial like those on other shocks would have been a bit easier to access.
Tires : I've never been a fan of the previous Butcher models, I found they washed out unexpectedly and I just never got along with it. The version that comes on this bike was recently revised: the tread was changed, the casing was thickened, and the compound changed. Whatever happened here worked really well, because I was very surprised how much I liked this tire.
All models come with the same tire, the 2.6 GRID Trail up front and 2.3 GRID Trail in the rear. I'll cover these in another review, but the highlight here is that these are working out really well despite our wet and leafy conditions. The volume on the 2.3 is really impressive, as well, it nearly measures to a 2.4 on 30IW rims. The casing is compliant, hasn't wept yet, and the grip is pretty impressive especially considering my previous experiences with the tire. I plan on keeping them on for a bit and offering a better review down the line, but for now, they are staying on.
Dropper Post : The S4 version, which I have, comes with a 170mm X-Fusion Manic. The post is an entry level dropper that costs under $200 aftermarket, so pretty well into budget territory.
I went into this knowing the positive reviews of this post and they were all correct. It's smooth, easy to actuate, and works great. I haven't had to service it yet, but apparently replacement cartridges can be had for $25.
The lever looks a bit cheap and I may replace it with another lever down the line, but the post will probably stay put. It is a bit heavier than the competition, but for the price, it's hard to fault. I think I'd even prefer it to the horrendous experiences I had with the OneUp posts everyone raves about.
Drivetrain : This is where the build starts to fall off a bit. As I said earlier, I'd rather see a lower end, heavier, rougher drivetrain and have good suspension/brakes/tires/etc, but the NX drivetrain definitely has it's faults. For starters, it's very heavy. The cranks alone weigh upwards of 700 grams and the cassette is about 670gr, both of which are very heavy. The other components, also on the heavier side, start to add up and accumulate to a few pounds heavier than lighter options.
The drivetrain works, that's about the best I can say for it. The biggest issue for me is that it requires the use of a Shimano driver instead of XD, which means you won't easily be able to upgrade the cassette without changing out the driver or getting new hubs/wheels.
Of the components on the bike, this was one of my least favorite, but it did the job and it's hard to complain about in context with the rest of the build. I wouldn't go out of my way to put one on a bike, but it came with this build and it works reasonably well.
Wheels : They kindof suck. These are the weakest point of the build. Again, I'm spoiled and coming from high end components, I've been on Industry Nine wheels for the last few years, but why some of these budget wheels can't do better than the 18 or so points of engagement is beyond me. These wheels held up fine while I had them on (~2 weeks and 100 miles or so), but the engagement is really hard to get past when you are used to better wheels. They also seemed a bit flexy and the rear wheel developed some play very quickly.
It's a budget build and I get why they aren't high end hubs, but these wheels were the hardest part for me to deal with and the first thing to go. I'd strongly recommend anyone buying this bike to swap these out with some I9 1/1 or similar hubs. I don't think the rims are so much the issue, but the hubs stink.
They also came with tubes, but the build kit included the valves, stems, and rim strips to convert to tubeless, which I did right away very easily.
Grips: The grips kindof suck too, but I'm really sensitive to grips and I found these a bit on the harsh side. YMMV, but I immediately went back to my ODI Dread Locks.
They use a single locking bolt and are fairly thin. They grip well and do the job, but I prefer larger diameter grips.
Misc: The saddle feels pretty good, nothing to write home about. The bars are heavy alloy 800mm bars, but feel good given the price point. The stem, which I replaced right away since I had an Industry Nine stem ready to go, does the job despite being on the heavy and plain side.
SWAT : I LOVE the SWAT tool being so readily accessible. What's more, it does away with the need for a star nut, which I have always found a bit janky. The system tightens the headset bearings with a bolt on the bottom that attaches to the lower part of the steerer on your fork, then threads into an adapter that holds the multitool shown above.
It isn't as featured as the OneUp tool, but doesn't require threading the steerer and the tools on hand are the most common tools required. It doesn't do away entirely with the need for a multitool, but it gives you the most common tools required much quicker than pulling a tool out of your pack.
Frame : I'll cover my thoughts on the frame and bike ride in more detail a later, longer term post, but the frame is a full carbon frame for all builds. The only difference between the S-Works model and the others is that the S-Works model uses carbon links and the others are alloy. No alloy rear triangles, all carbon. All have SWAT boxes and the same headset. The internal cable routing is easy to work with, all tubed (why Transition doesn't do this is beyond me), and rattle free. There are a TON of bearings in the linkage, we'll see how that plays out throughout winter. Thankfully, most of the bearings are covered or have spacers, which would keep dirt off them and hopefully prolong their lifespan.
I'm coming from a Sentinel Carbon with all top spec components: DPX2 Performance Elite, X01/XX1 drivetrain, Industry Nine Torch Enduro 305 wheels, carbon bars, and so forth. I've been a bit spoiled, but a lot of these components were starting to show their age and I wanted to start fresh. The point being, take into context the build I'm coming from, which was considerably better on paper.
I've slowly been upgrading the build (you can see the Dominions and ODI grips on it below), but I did get some time on the base build to see how it felt.
The whole package comes together really well. The suspension is responsive and tracks well, the Code brakes provide decent power and fade resistance, the tires grip really well in a variety of conditions, and the drivetrain works. The crazy part is that compared to my high end build Sentinel, wheel engagement aside, I felt like the Comp build outperforms it.
In part, I think this is due to the suspension performance of the bike. It's a 170 vs a 140, but whatever is going on with the linkage here is really impressive. The bike doesn't get hung up on features or holes, it feels really planted and just keeps on moving through chunk, where my Sentinel would hang up. I actually find myself flinching sometimes, expecting the bike to hang on something, but it just keeps on moving. It is really planted, but remains lively and easy to push into and get a response out of.
The bike is heavy in this build configuration, there isn't really getting around that, but it pedals well. I have actually PR'd a few climbs since getting on this bike, despite it weighing probably 4-5 lbs heavier than my Sentinel! The linkage pedals really well and there is almost no bob, even out of the saddle. The length of the bike does become a factor on technical climbs, where you have stairs, multiple ledges, or tight turns, but with better hubs and some practice, I don't think it'll be worse than my previous bikes. The engagement of the hubs posed the biggest difficulty for me on the technical climbs, once those are replaced, we'll see how the rest of the bike feels.
What really shocked me on this bike is how responsive and playful it remains. I was worried that dropping off small, slow speed drops on flat sections would be difficult without speed, but the suspension is so responsive that it makes up for the considerable wheelbase and chainstay length. If you drive into the bike with your feet and preload properly, you are given a good response that makes hitting those features easier than other bikes I've had. I read a lot of reviews saying not to expect this bike to be one for messing around on the trail, but I disagree, I've found it plenty responsive and playful. That said, I'm not great at jumping or manuals, so take that in context of the rider. My main concern was a few tight drops we have here that have really slow run ins, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to press into the bike and loft the front wheel to land well, but those concerns were unfounded.
The length of the bike does come into play in really tight switchbacks, you have to push it really wide to get around them, but it's not much worse than my Sentinel and I haven't encountered any that really pose a problem yet.
Over time, we'll see what downsides present themselves, but despite the geometry figures and considerable travel, I've yet to see any reason I'd want to keep my previous bike. The build they put together here, which is the main context of this review, was very thoughtful and well laid out.
At $4500 this isn't a true 'budget' build bike, but it is a full carbon bike with components that can be easily upgraded (cassette aside). The brakes and fork in particular can, with some added expense, be easily converted to higher tier models by changing parts around.
The weakest point are the wheels, but everyone has their preference on wheels and there are some great, inexpensive hub options out there right now that could be laced up as an upgrade. If you aren't used to high engagement hubs, then they may not bother you as much as they did me.
The build is heavy, but rides well and was very thoughtfully chosen. In comparison to the other build kits, I'm not sure the upcharge is worth it when you can buy the Comp build and selectively replace or upgrade parts that you want to use.
The folks at Specialized did a great job of laying out a build that can easily be upgraded and that prioritizes the most important components over those with more negligible benefits.
I'd focus on the wheels first, if you have the budget for them. You can often find good deals online for used wheels, I ended up getting some DT Swiss EX511s w/ Hydra hubs, but that's a bit more on the higher end of things. You could get some Industry Nine Enduro S 101 wheels for around $600 after discounts or just replace the hubs and re-lace them to the existing Roval wheels. I am a bit biased towards Industry Nine since they are so close, but their 1/1 hubs seem like a great deal for the money.
On the cheaper side, grips are a big one also. I know this comes down to preference, but I wasn't a huge fan of the Specialized grips on the bike.
On the fork, getting an aftermarket damper like the RC2, Avalanche, or something similar would be a good upgrade that would put the suspension at a much higher tier. I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to replace the entire fork, unless you wanted something like a Manitou Mezzer or DVO Onyx. The Lyrik chassis is fairly decent and the air spring performance seemed good enough, the damper that it comes with did really well also, but it did have a bit more friction than I'd have liked and I do like having more adjustments.
Lastly, I'd think about upgrading to Code RSC levers, not so much for the contact adjust, but for the bearings in the lever and slight power increase that seems to come with the better lever.
Aside from those things, it's hard to fault the rest of the build unless you want to drop weight. It may be surprising that I didn't mention the drivetrain here, but it does the job and is consumable, so upgrading it later down the line is probably better if you aren't trying to swap everything on the bike around all at once.
So who would I recommend this to?
This is definitely an enduro bike, I would not suggest it for anyone on trails that don't have prolonged descents. That said, it pedals really well and is responsive for those of us with access to trails that have long downhills or are doing enduro style riding.
The build itself, I'd imagine some are turned off by NX on a $4500 bike, but I'd look at the other components before passing judgement mainly because the other components, which are higher priority, offer a better picture of the value in the build. It is their cheapest build and there is a weight that comes with that, so if gram counting is your thing, then you'll want to save for a more expensive build.
For riders that are either on a budget or want to slowly upgrade the build over time, the Comp build is a great starting point.
vs Transition Sentinel : The Sentinel frame is a bit lighter due to it's simpler linkage and there are fewer bearings to maintain. The Sentinel is probably more 'all around' with shorter chainstays, less reach, and less travel, it also uses a more standard 31.6 dropper post size that's easier to find. That said, the Sentinel is also in the 'enduro' category of bikes, which means comparison here is fair despite the 30mm travel difference. The Sentinel uses an odd shock size that is hard to find, has less piggyback clearance for certain shocks (e.g. Manitou Mara), and the suspension performance on the Sentinel is nowhere near that of the Enduro. The Sentinel also lacks internally tubed routing and I've had consistent issues with bearing life and axles backing out on a monthly basis with all of my Transition bikes. The geometry rides surprisingly similar, but the Enduro is more planted where the Sentinel gives you a bit more feedback on the trail.
vs Megatower : I see this one online a lot, likely due to the shock positioning. I haven't owned a Megatower and my coverage of it was purely based on a one day demo, but I'll try to offer what comparisons I can. I rode a Large Megatower, whereas I'm on a S4 Enduro. The reach difference is about 17mm, which made me feel like I was riding on top of the Megatower compared to in the Enduro. The Megatower felt more 'all around', almost like a long travel trailbike, but a bit more nimble and easy to get around tight corners, albeit less planted and stable on steep sections. I found the suspension performance of the Megatower on par with my Sentinel, but nowhere near as good as the Enduro. The Santa Cruz bikes are easier to maintain with fewer bearings than the Enduro, but both are subject to flaws in the positioning of the shock, which is exposed to dirt and mud being low on the bike. If I were not in the mountains, I'd probably choose the Megatower for it's more nimble nature, but prefer the planted feel of the Enduro for where I live and ride. Both pedaled about the same.
Thoughtful build that prioritizes suspension performance/braking/traction over drivetrain and allows ease of upgrading critical components
Planted, while remaining responsive and playful esp. given the geo numbers
New Lyrik Select feels great despite it's price point and budget damper, is also easily upgradable
The X-Fusion Manic is a smooth, well performing dropper post, albeit a bit heavy
New GRID Trail Butchers perform well in a variety of conditions
Excellent suspension performance that doesn't hang up on holes, roots, or chunk and remains planted
Full carbon frame (links aside) with SWAT storage, internally tubed routing, and nice finishing features
Comp build is heavy
Numerous bearings in the link will make bearing replacement a chore
Hub engagement is terrible
34.9 dropper posts are difficult to find (shims are an option)
Not setup tubeless from the factory (although everything but sealant is provided)
Grips are painful