How much should you spend on an enduro mountain bike?
£2,500, £4,000 and £4,000+ enduro mountain bike options
The ‘enduro’ label gets slapped on a lot of bikes but when we use it we’re talking about race machines. Something that’s ready to charge out of the box, with the ability to drag you up to the top of an Alpine peak then spit you over rocks, roots and jumps in the fastest time possible back down.
These are bikes that can be ridden everyday as well, but they really come alive between the tapes when they are pushed hard. Unfortunately, enduro is probably the discipline of mountain biking that’s hardest on bikes. Sure an enduro bike won’t take the big hits found on a downhill race track but a consistent beating over 50km a day will test any component to breaking point.
But you can’t just have a tank, it’s no good turning up with a 40lb sled between your legs if you have hour long transition stages to pedal, you’d end up gassed by the start of the first special stage.
So, you’re after a combination of light and strong but unfortunately that doesn’t always translate to cheap. The advent of direct sale bikes has moved this price point backwards but we see these bikes as the exception to the rule, so we’re instead going to focus on bikes sold in the traditional manner. Here’s what you can expect for your money if you want to lay it down on an enduro machine.
£2,500 enduro bikes
If you want a bike that’s ready to race then the minimum you should be paying is £2,000 - £2,500. We know this is a bitter pill to swallow but the last thing you want is your bike falling apart underneath you when you’re miles from home.
For this money you won’t get the showiest components but you can be sure they will be robust enough for the job and you have a great frame from which to start upgrading when you have the chance. It is worth looking at direct sale options at this price with the likes of YT, Canyon and Radon offering amazingly specced bikes that we love. However, be aware of the pitfalls of buying online before you commit.
Even the biggest name frames aren’t out of your budget at this price point as brands such as Nukeproof, Specialized and Trek all offer 160mm bikes at this price. In essence you get an Enduro World Series race winning platform for a fraction of the price of the pros' bikes, and you can’t say fairer than that.
You’ll be looking at an aluminium frame but it should have all the features you would associate with a top end enduro bike, that includes race geometry, bottle cage mounts and a 12mm thru axle on the rear.
The suspension you get at this price point may not be the plushest around but it should be functional, adjustable and robust enough for a full race season.
Enduro requires beefy forks so any 32 mm stanchions can be thrown straight out of the window. You’re looking for a specific breed of wide-stanced forks that can soak up the gnarly trails while being stiff enough to keep their composure.
Look for a fork such as the Manitou Mattoc, X-Fusion Sweep or a low-end RockShox Pike. The Pike RC is almost identical to the RCT3, featuring the same chassis and damper, but offers less adjustability.
Shocks will more than likely be air powered. Coils are starting to appear at the top of enduro racing but at this level lightweight and adjustable air is king. While coils arguably offer better pure performance, they are no longer mass produced in the way they were in years gone by - the only options are from boutique brands such as Ohlins or Push and don’t come cheap.
Your shock is likely to come in the form of a Rockshox Monarch or or Fox Float. Look for the versions that come with a piggy back reservoir as they offers more consistent performance under heavy use. However, the firm setting on the shocks is less good and there is a small weight penalty to bear.
Enduro was the proving ground of 27.5 inch wheels but we have seen a push back towards 29 inch wheels in recent years. However, the Boost technologies that allowed this has not yet trickled down to entry level bikes.
The wheels will be aluminium and likely to be pretty heavy to ensure they are durable. WTB are a popular choice at this level, as are own-brand rims among the big names.
Unfortunately, they’re likely to be paired with some pretty shoddy tyres. Bike manufacturers know that tyres will be the first thing to be upgraded on a bike as everyone has preferences for their local conditions, so they tend to not put a huge amount of thought into them. You’ll probably want to swap them out as soon as possible for something with a dual-ply casing and less weight. If you're struggling to decide we like the Schwalbe Magic Mary for all-round use.
The rest of the bike you can expect to be robust, but not stellar. We’ve listed an ideal spec below but you’re unlikely to find al of it for this money so just pick the things that matter to you most and find the best mix of them. Keep an eye out for any corner cutting though, if possible you want to avoid the squidgy brakes or narrow bars that are often snuck under the radar. The only thing you definitely want is a dropper seat post, you’ll be lost in an enduro race without one.
In an ideal world you’re looking for a 1x drivetrain. 2x drivetrains are a bit outdated now and the extra range isn’t necessary unless you plan on scaling some truly epic climbs. 1x will save you some weight, de-clutter your handlebar and give you one less thing to think about as you clatter through a stage. You’re splitting hairs between a 10 and 11 speed cassette. Yes, you get extra range, but if you’re finding yourself missing a too high or too low gear you can just change the size of your chainring.
Look for a short stem and wide bar that will complement the modern geometry offered by your frame. Brakes will be budget, two piston models but actually brakes are so good nowadays you’ll probably be shocked at how good they can actually be. Shimano Deore are the most common but options from Magura and SRAM are also viable and trustworthy.
The £2,500 to £4,000 range is where most enduro bikes sit and the price range you can expect to find a race worthy bike straight out of the box. Most brands will target this bracket with their flagship models, saving only the very top specced models for the ‘money-no-object’ crowd or full-time racers. These bikes form the majority of our Dirt 100 so don’t feel like you’re getting an inferior bike in any sense.
For this money you want a top of the range enduro frame. There are a mix of carbon and enduro frames at this price range. Carbon is obviously lighter but don’t feel that aluminium is now irrelevant – it’s tried and tested and offers reliable performance that some carbon weaves lack. Carbon frames are also more expensive to produce so you may find yourself looking at a weaker spec as a result. Find a full comparison of frame materials here.
Some enduro bikes also have adjustable geometry at this price point meaning your bike can have a different character for the leg-sapping climbs and hair-raising descents.
Look for premium touches such as internal cable routing for a stealth dropper post, Boost axle spacing or storage solutions such as Specialized SWAT that let you know some thought has been put into making a race-ready machine.
You want to be looking at top of the line suspension at this price to keep your bike composed when the going gets rough.
The Fox 36 is our enduro fork of choice in 2016, in fact, we think it’s the most robust that’s ever been made. However, the competition is not far behind, Rockshox’s Lyrik is now pumping out Boxxer-esque descending performance while the Pike is still delivering after all these years. Basically, all these forks are all very good and you won’t be disappointed if your bike isn’t bedecked in kashima goodness, you should be ecstatic if it is though.
Even at this price range the air shock is ubiquitous. You’re looking at the Rockshox Monarch Debonair of the Fox Float X-2. Both of these shocks are highly tunable and can be locked out for fireroad slogs. Take the time to set them up properly with the correct pressures, rebound and maybe some volume reducing tokens and the rewards will be plentiful.
However, the onset of metric shocks is likely to shake things up a bit at this price bracket – we’ve not put enough hours in to definitively give our opinion on them yet so watch this space.
You’re likely to have to choose between 27.5 and 29inch wheels at this price. We have an in-depth look at wheel sizes here but our best advice is not to listen to the forum chatter on what’s coolest and take a good look at the evidence to decide what’s best.
The rims will more than likely be aluminium, but far lighter than you would expect to see on a cheaper bike. The tyres should also be a step up, but you’ll no doubt want to change them depending on your preferences, so this is a bit of a moot point.
You want a race ready specification out of the box so anything that’s not fit for purpose should be a big red flag. At this price point you should expect to be moving away from own-brand kit and more towards specialist brands, especially for cockpit components.
Your drivetrain will more than likely be a 1x (some frames at this level won’t take anything else) with a chainguide for extra security – the last thing you want is your chain dropping halfway through a stage.
The RockShox Reverb Stealth is our dropper post of choice at this level. It has infinite adjustment, it’s neat and it’s about as reliable as any other dropper post out there
If money really is no object for you then you can lay your hands on a gorgeous bit of a kit very similar to what the professional racers on the Enduro World Series circuit are riding. It’s a game of diminishing returns though and, while you will have an enviable bit of kit it won’t be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, it’s the finer details that matter the most here.
The frame is going to be carbon. It may not be as comfy or potentially as durable as aluminium but when you’re a racer all you care about is the lightest and stiffest material possible. In this case, that’s carbon. The frame should have impeccable finishing including sensible cable routing and 1x drivetrain optimisation.
The choices available at this price point are not too different from the previous one but you’re now more likely to see flashes of golden Fox kashima then RockShox black. It’s more than a fashion thing though, as we previously mentioned, we love this current generation of Fox forks and shocks.
You may also start to see coil shocks specced at this price. Our shock of the year is the Ohlins TTX, but unless you go aftermarket, you’ll only see this on a Specialized Enduro, alternatively there are downhill coils such as the DHX2 appearing on enduro bikes to cope with the most demanding stages.
Again you’re picking between 27.5 or 29er wheels at this level. A lot of racers in the EWS will pick and choose wheel sizes depending on the course they’re riding. Unfortunately, we can’t all have that luxury and the best idea may be to pick the wheel size that suits the riding you do most often.
Carbon rimmed wheels are available which will give a lighter stiffer ride. You’re starting to look at a lot of carbon though, sometimes a bit of alloy to absorb some chatter is no bad thing.
Bike companies can go wild with the finishing kit at this level and you can snag yourself some gorgeous bits of kit if you shop round.
At the top of the desirability pile in 2017 will be the SRAM Eagle drivetrain. It’s the world’s first 1x12 drivetrain and comes finished in gold just so everyone knows how much you’ve spent on it.
You’re after brakes that wouldn’t look out of place on a downhill bike. Check out out the relevant Dirt 100 section for our favourites.