Outlier Demo Review: 2018 Specialized S-Works Enduro and Trek Slash 9.7

This year’s Vail Outlier Festival continues the tradition being one of the most understated events we attend all year.  The timing coincides with fall’s stunning aspen colors as well as the usual first chance to throw a leg over the hottest new bikes.  The big news of the festival was the debut of  Mondraker’s radical geometry bikes in the US –> more info here.  There were also new model releases such as the fabulous new Yeti SB5 Lunch Ride.   An opportunity to ride two of the hottest bikes from the giants of the bike industry was also presented.  The 2018 Specialized S-Works Enduro and Trek Slash 9.7 differ greatly in price but not so much in FUN!


2018 Specialized S-Works Enduro 27.5 $9500 | 170mm front and rear travel | XX1


The 2018 Specialed Enduro has updated geometry with longer reach, shorter chainstays and slacker headtube angle.  I’ve enjoyed some time on previous Enduro’s and Stumpjumpers and the latest from Specialized is no different.  Despite the reach being 30mm’s longer than my current ride I didn’t feel too stretched out.  With fairly short 433mm chainststays and low 342mm bottom bracket height, the Enduro feels agiler than others within the 160mm travel range.  The Ohlins suspension felt great climbing but seemed overdamped and not as supple throughout its travel range compared to Fox or Rock Shox.  I’ve noticed this similar feeling riding other bikes with Ohlins suspension in the past.  Tweaking main and ramp up pressures helped in the fork, but I couldn’t get the feel I wanted out of the rear.  Given the Ohlins premium price tag, low user serviceability and heavier weights I would choose another suspension given the option.

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2018 Specialized S-Works Enduro
Ohlins suspension front and back didn’t feel quite as good as offerings from other brands. The bike felt overdamped.

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The spring-loaded Swat tool is brilliant and very fun to play with.

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2018 Specialized S-Works Enduro dropper
The Command Post WU claims to have 150mm of drop from 1118mm stroke length by pivoting backward. Hmmm, still doesn’t feel like 150mm of drop.

At a reported 650 grams and 34.9mm, no thanks.  I’ll take a less complicated “real” 150mm dropper.  Try to find a spare for that one if it fails.

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2018 Specialized S-Works Enduro
The Butcher tires had great traction but felt a little slower than I like.

Overal the updated Enduro is a serious weapon of an “enduro” rig with modern geometry and smart Swat storage solutions.  I feel like Specialed is trying a little too hard to differentiate themselves with “unique” propriety suspension and dropper though.  Let just say at $9500 I would like to have a bike that I can dial to my preferences.



2018 Trek Slash 9.7 $4500 | 160mm front/150mm rear travel | SRAM NX


I’ve heard lots of good things about the Slash, so I figured I’d give it a try to see if the hype was real.  I was pleasantly surprised despite the lower end spec compared to the average demo bike.  The Slash even with lower end Rock Shox Yaris and SRAM NX was a blast. At almost half the price of the above Specialized Enduro it sure didn’t ride like half the bike.

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We enjoyed riding the Slash so much that we forgot to take the time to take detailed bike photos.

The bike begged to be pointed down the roughest lines with the travel and big wheels more than capable of soaking it all up with ease.  The funny thing is that I had little to complain about with the lower end, less tunable suspension.  The Slash felt plenty agile as well as confident on the steep and rough terrain.  Although the bike is aimed at the enduro charger the bike surprisingly felt as though it wouldn’t be out of place on big backcountry rides with not too radical geometry and efficient pedaling.

Final Thoughts

Trek’s Slash 9.7 offers surprising performance and fun factor given the lower end spec.  With the cash saved over the Specialized, you could make some tweaks and use the leftover to travel to your favorite riding destinations.  It might be nice to compare the equally priced 29″ wheeled Elite version of the Enduro.  I might smell a future shootout!

 

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