The ultimate enduro bike is lightweight with long travel, and everyone wants one. In the first of a two part enduro bike test feature we look at the big wheel offerings from Intense, BMC and Specialized.
DIRT ISSUE 145 – MARCH 2014
Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Steve Jones and Andy Lloyd
It was never meant to be like this. These pages were supposed to have been piled to the rafters with 150–160mm bikes of both 29” and 27.5” wheel size with varying prices, but please don’t run off. OK we’ve landed with this long travel carbon exotica because the boss–man didn’t want me to go too mental on the page count. Hence the big wheelers this issue and 27.5 bikes at varying prices in the next.
One hundred and fifty millimetres (or thereabouts) is a lot of travel, it always has been a lot of travel. Nothing has changed in the last decade except the wheel size availability and the abundance of carbon. Many riders have realized the inappropriate nature of big hitters at trail centres and have turned their minds to harder varied natural terrain, targeting root and rock rather than the standardisation offered by the stone loop and latte chaser.
To play by, or be governed by, the rules and conventions of enduro, then the general consensus is to say that such bikes should be around 150mm plus of travel. Just remember the Enduro World Series (EWS) was won on a 140mm Trek Remedy (‘the ultimate technical trail bike’). The recent Megavalanche in the Reunion Islands on a Trailfox (29” wheels) and the men’s class of the EWS was dominated by 26” wheels.
Mixed messages before we begin then, and during a time when some of the media are still seeking out ‘sense’ in the wheel size debate – surely the only sense comes from the designers of such wheels not those tucked into the tailwind of comment – we will see the real sense is in the strength of the wheels and not the size.
For our first instalment we have the 140/160mm Intense Carbine, the 150/150mm BMC Trailfox and the 155/160mm Specialized Enduro.
Why would you buy a bike like this? Here are nine possible reasons:
- You ride in terrain that such travel requires
- Wheel size politics don’t bother you
- Timing you realize is different on big wheelers, but are prepared to practice
- Lightweight, carbon and graphics are amazing
- Increased speed for racing
- Grip is far greater, better mud capabilities for year round riding
- Better stability that a longer wheelbase provides
- The chilled ride characteristic
- Resale value, getting a wheel size that will take over by 2016
Having been hassled by many people looking for a general duty bike it seems most are wildly unrealistic about where and what they ride – usually a 140mm will do the business but when several 140 and 160 bikes weigh nearly the same you can understand the attraction of the latter if you were after one bike.
By and large most enduro bikes are 150–160mm with 27.5” wheels, and the top male racers on average ride 27lb 160mm bikes, yet I believe the fastest bikes in this class have the bigger 29” wheels, it’s just that the very top racers have not had such machinery available to them just yet. On a practical level the big wheels just offer more grip making them very relevant to UK riding.>>