Three nuggets but with so many caveats – dangers in the definition, the reality of component usage and the contrasting capabilities and nature of each bike. Used as trail bikes all these bikes are over–performers under–using their potential as they are machines built for combat – each with varying levels and abilities. The problem lies in componentry particularly the Swiss BMC machine. As discussed it is brilliant but it would be the frame option that we would choose for enduro use. Both the Trailfox and the Enduro are strong but have a serious weak point in the wheelset – go big and hard on these bikes and you’ll be going home.
Tyres are a big one on all these bikes. Maxxis High Rollers have a reasonably good compound and tidy weight that don’t make the big wheels unwieldy. The problem arises when dry becomes wet and then the slightly hard ‘Rollers become unstuck, you need the softer rubber in such conditions. The new Michelins provide better grip but are simply too heavy. In wet conditions mud tyres are plentiful for these bikes – ironically a good lightweight mud tyre is totally lacking for 27.5”!
To choose between the three, they are all worthy and would all top their travel categories. If I was to choose a bike for riding from the door of my house on trails and the occasional harder downhill then the Carbine is the bike that delivers an incredible turn of speed, has amazingly direct power delivery and is light. We built the Intense up with the kind of hardware you’d want on bike of this style and its 140/160 set–up and crisp ride will work wonders for those riders still sitting on the fence over whether they need a trail bike or an enduro bike. It’s certainly weighted slightly more towards trail and in some ways forms its own category. I feel it could well be many people’s answer when the Enduro is such a lot of bike. If I was racing predominantly UK enduro I’d choose the Carbine.
For a bike that is slightly more adventurous the BMC offers more strength and slightly better geometry to allow those trips away. If I was to be super picky the BMC wins the geometry battle as the Enduro has a slightly high bottom bracket, the Specialized however is stiffer and shades it on suspension. With better dampers and wheels the BMC would push the Enduro. Its strength as a complete bike however is as a tough trail bike, no more, nevertheless as a frame only with tougher parts its horizons widen. For something that spends most of its time in the UK then the BMC or Carbine would be slightly better choices than the Specialized.
The Enduro meanwhile has an eye for trouble and has a body to take a slapping. Don’t make the mistake of trying to make it something it isn’t or think you’ll be getting two bikes for one because you wont. It’s not a trail bike. It was made strong for a reason and if you honestly ride full–bodied terrain, want an enduro race bike or a machine for worldwide exploration the Specialized remains the vanguard.
Footnote: There is a limitation. You really need good quality strong wheels to use these bikes to their potential and if you cannot go the distance then 27.5” will be a better option for you. In the next issue we test four of the best at a variety of prices.