On the Trail
On the trail, it quickly became evident that the Enduro 29 is a big bike that likes to go straight and fast. In my Enduro Expert review, I noted that the 26er excelled at straight line plundering, and that it was a pretty long bike. The Enduro 29 has these exact same characteristics, enhanced—the 29 is basically just an amped up version of the 26.
The Enduro 29 is not overly inclined to go around tight corners; more than once on my test ride I found myself running off the outside of the trail. It takes a bit more body english and some deliberate maneuvering to get the Enduro 29 to finish a turn. Did I mention that the Enduro 29 feels like a big bike? Ok, good, because that point bears repeating.
On my Enduro 26, the rear end is pretty short, which makes tucking it into corners a bit easier. While the chainstays on the 29 aren’t ridiculously long, the longer stays that come with the bigger wheel size definitely made the rear end a little less inclined to slip smoothly into a tight corner. The longer stays also made it a bit more difficult to loft the front wheel than on my 26er. But while the longer stays made the bike feel less maneuverable, they also contribute to the overall stability of the bike, which is really what this thing is all about.
Once my speed picked up and the trail got chundery, the Enduro 29 came into its element. More than any other bike I rode at Interbike, the Enduro 29 will blast straight through rock gardens at ludicrous speed. The big wheels plunder over rocks with ease and the bike is stable.
Some people like to flick their bike through a rock garden and pick a clean line. The Enduro 29 is not the bike for these people. It wants to take the straightest line, and it wants to do it fast. And if the straightest line has tons of big gnarly rocks in it, well, that’s okay—the Enduro will plow over them with minimal fuss.
Due to a bit of wind storm that picked up while I was demoing the bike, I didn’t get a chance to get it off the ground very much. That said, on the few small jumps and drops I hit, the bike felt composed. While the bike is long, it didn’t feel unwieldy or unbalanced in the air.
There was some discussion of trying to do a Strava race to determine which was faster—the Enduro 26 or the Enduro 29. We ultimately didn’t do this because:
1) We didn’t really have time to pull this off at Interbike.
2) It was really really hot out and going race pace sounded unpleasant.
3) We at Blister are generally in agreement that Strava is stupid. But if I was going to wager on the outcome of this imaginary race, I suspect the Enduro 29 would be significantly faster on anything except for really tight trails.
Enduro 29 v Yeti SB95
Out of the bikes I rode at Interbike, the obvious comparison would be the Yeti SB95 (review to come). Most 29ers tend to err on the side of rolling straight through chunder rather than dodging around it—it’s pretty rare that I find a 29er that I would call “playful” or “flickable.” With that in mind, the Yeti is much more playful and flickable than the Enduro. The Enduro is a freight train that is singularly focused on going straight and fast. The SB95 falls more towards the “normal” end of the trail bike spectrum: it’s stable and it’ll plow over stuff alright, but it’ll still go around a corner if needed.
While I only got to spend a few moments on it, the new GT Force is the bike that I suspect bears the most similarities to the Enduro 29, in that it felt like a long bike that was built with race pace, straight-line destruction in mind. Granted, it does this with 27.5″ wheels instead of 29’s, but the basic premise behind the bike seems similar.
Ultimately, the Enduro 29 is a bit more business than the 26″ Enduro and most of the other bikes I’ve ridden, regardless of wheel size. It’s not playful, and it doesn’t like to turn, but if going straight and fast is on the menu, the Enduro 29 could be a good choice.