Vital MTB Test Sessions: Five of the Best Long-Travel Enduro 29ers Raced and Reviewed 163

Multiple back-to-back tests of the Evil Wreckoning, Orbea Rallon, Specialized Enduro, Transition Sentinel, and Trek Slash revealed their strengths and weaknesses, and then we raced them against the clock!

Vital MTB Test Sessions: Five of the Best Long-Travel Enduro 29ers Raced and Reviewed

For six years a dedicated crew of Vital MTB testers have been bringing you some of the most honest, detailed mountain bike reviews you'll find anywhere through our Test Sessions. So why change things up? Because we knew we could do better. New for 2018, we're providing a much more comparative look at specific types of bikes. Five leading long-travel enduro 29ers are the first to take the stage:


We know how difficult it can be to pick your next bike. Fact is, they're all pretty rad these days. With a myriad of kick ass options to choose from, how do you sift through all the noise and find the perfect +1 to add to your stable? We aim to break down some of those barriers and make things more clear with our new approach to Test Sessions. Through a series of back-to-back tests of the same type of bike during same day, on the same trail, and in the same conditions, we're able to better evaluate and compare bikes.

For this first go, it only seemed fitting that we head to a trail often used by many of the world's top enduro and downhill racers as they prepare to do battle each season.

Our thoughtfully selected five-bike lineup includes some of the best in the long-travel 29er world, including a few that set benchmarks as big-wheeled bikes with lots of travel evolved to become a thing.

This was a massive undertaking, and we encourage you to dig deeper into the links and race results below. We think you'll find the individual reviews very informative and worthwhile. Each review features a video with a concise summary of our thoughts specific to that ride, more clips of the bike in action, more comparisons, plainly stated strengths and weaknesses, a detailed suspension analysis, and a summary of who we think it's best for. DIG IN!

Evil Wreckoning

Read the Evil Wreckoning review

  • Travel: 161mm (6.3-inches) rear // 160mm (6.3-inches) front
  • Suspension Design: Single-pivot with DELTA link
  • Frame Material: Uni-directional carbon
  • Measured Weight: 31.5-pounds (14.3kg, without pedals)
  • Size Tested: Medium
  • Model Tested: The Wreckoning X01 Eagle with PUSH shock upgrade
  • MSRP: $6,899 USD base price, $7,799 as shown
  • More Info:

Orbea Rallon

Read the Orbea Rallon review

  • Travel: 150mm (5.9-inches) rear // 160mm (6.3-inches) front
  • Suspension Design: Advanced Dynamics with concentric rear axle/pivot
  • Frame Material: Orbea Monocoque Race carbon
  • Measured Weight: 31.4-pounds (14.3kg, without pedals)
  • Size Tested: Large
  • Model Tested: Rallon M10 with MyO customization
  • MSRP: $4,999 USD base price, $6,890 as shown
  • More Info:

Specialized Enduro 29

Read the Specialized Enduro 29 review

  • Travel: 160mm (6.3-inches) rear // 160mm (6.3-inches) front
  • Suspension Design: FSR (Horst link)
  • Frame Material: FACT IS-X 11m carbon
  • Measured Weight: 32.9-pounds (14.9kg, without pedals)
  • Size Tested: Medium
  • Model Tested: Enduro Coil 29
  • MSRP: $5,200 USD
  • More Info:

Transition Sentinel

Read the Transition Sentinel review

  • Travel: 140mm (5.5-inches) rear // 160mm (6.3-inches) front
  • Suspension Design: GiddyUp 2.0hh (Horst link)
  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Measured Weight: 32.4-pounds (14.7kg, without pedals)
  • Size Tested: Medium
  • Model Tested: Sentinel X01
  • MSRP: $5,000 USD
  • More Info:

Trek Slash

Read the Trek Slash review

  • Travel: 150mm (5.9-inches) rear // 160mm (6.3-inches) front
  • Suspension Design: EVO link suspension with ABP (Active Braking Pivot)
  • Frame Material: OCLV Mountain carbon main frame and seatstays, alloy chainstays
  • Measured Weight: 29.7-pounds (13.5kg, without pedals)
  • Size Tested: 17.5
  • Model Tested: Slash 9.8
  • MSRP: $5,500 USD
  • More Info:

Comparative Suspension Analysis

Using the bike industry's leading linkage analysis software, André Santos was able to determine a close approximation of each bike's kinematics for the purpose of this comparison. Though they don't always tell the full story, these charts provide great insight into several key factors that impact how the bikes ride. 

André's Observations:

  • The Rallon, Enduro, and Sentinel have a slightly progressive suspension designs with around 10% progressivity, meaning that it’s relatively easy to use all the travel with a more aggressive riding style. On the other hand, The Wreckoning and Slash are more progressive at around 30%, which is an average value for an enduro bike.
  • Most of the bikes tested use near 100% anti-squat to prevent pedal bob. Interestingly, the Rallon uses significantly more anti-squat that nears 140% on middle cogs.
  • With the exception of The Wreckoning, all of them have relatively low anti-rise at approximately 50%. This means that the rear suspension is relatively independent from rear braking forces. The Wreckoning uses a single-pivot design and has an anti-rise of 90%, meaning that the braking forces counteract the extension of the rear suspension and reduce forward pitching of the bike.

Which Long-Travel 29er Is the Fastest? Timed Results

For race-ready bikes like these, there's nothing more telling than the clock. Following two days of riding and filming our testers were able to get intimately familiar with the trail and dial in each bike's suspension settings. Then, using the same state-of-the-art LITPro device and analysis software used by Supercross racers and World Cup downhill teams alike, we were able to accurately time the bikes during a mock race.

Prior to the race we determined segments that showcased bike performance in specific types of situations. Here's the breakdown:

  • Segment 1 - Big compressions
  • Segment 2 - Fast corners and jumps
  • Segment 3 - Tight turns and steeps
  • Segment 4 - Rough terrain

Steve's Results

Steve's fastest times were posted on the Orbea Rallon through the segments filled with big compressions, fast corners, and jumps; and the Evil Wreckoning when the trail got steep and rough.

Brandon's Results

Brandon's results showed a different story, with the Specialized Enduro taking top honors through the big compressions, tight turns, and steeps. The Trek Slash showed lots of promise through the fast corners, jumps, and rough terrain.

Averaged Results

The individual results clearly show that different bikes may work better for different riders – what one person is most comfortable or quickest on doesn't always work for another. By averaging the results, we're able to get a more clear overall picture. In this instance, the Orbea Rallon was the most consistent bike across both riders. Prior to learning the results, it was also rated highly by both riders as being one they felt very comfortable on.

If anything, the results show just how competitive this genre is. Those are some close times!

Relative Performance Ratings

With a wide variety of trail features and pitches under our tires, the areas where each bike excelled or struggled really came to light. Considering both the timed results and how things felt on the trail, we rated each of the bikes on various performance metrics relevant to the long-travel 29er category. We encourage you to dive into the reviews linked above for much more detail.

Evil Wreckoning - Average Rating: 3.4 out of 5
Orbea Rallon - Average Rating: 4.1 out of 5
Specialized Enduro - Average Rating: 3.8 out of 5
Transition Sentinel - Average Rating: 4.1 out of 5
Trek Slash - Average Rating: 3.8 out of 5

Which type of bike should we test next? Are there any models that really interest you? What test location would be best? Leave your suggestions in the comments. We look forward to your feedback.

Photos by Luca Cometti // Video by gordo with assistance from Suspended Productions

bturman 3/6/2018 10:25 AM

163 comments newest first

Solid review, for my purposes, showing the time to climb back up is an important factor that should not be overlooked.
Thanks for the well thought out review, these aren't easy.

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One more thing, I don't have any experience with the Quark Shock Wiz, but I was wondering if you all could use it next time to see if it provides useful information. I'm curious b/c you all mention how many times some of the bikes bottomed out and I was curious if the Shock Wiz would provide actual data confirming your suspicions on how the suspension is working.

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I feel like they should mention, maybe i missed it, where these bikes were tested and how much riding these guys do at said location. The chances of 15 runs by 3 riders on 5 different bikes all coming within 2 seconds of each other seems like an impossibility.

I am curious if they ride these trails often and if knowing the trail means they are just riding at the comfort level they're used to and that they would get the same results on ANY bike.

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Fair point. There is a no doubt a certain comfort level for any rider on any trail. That said, the bike you're on can have a lot to do with your perceived comfort level. What feels good on one bike is sometimes a scary situation on another.

Steve and I have ridden this trail extensively on both enduro and DH bikes. The filming process allowed us to get even more familiar with it. That familiarity ensured consistency in line choice come race day.

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The Evil is my favorite bike to look at, the Trek is the most revered, the Orbea I can’t buy and the Enduro is the one I own.
It just goes to show that none of these bike is really that much better than the other.
For those of you who own some these bikes and don’t agree with the results, you shouldn’t take it personally. Any of these bikes with different riders on different trails could have come out on top.
The use the same tires thing I agree with on one hand, but these are the tires the manufacturers speced so it’s good to see how they stacked up out of the box.

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Loved this article&video! Might be one of my favorites on Vital EVER!!!
Would love to see you guys test out long and slack bikes vs normal bikes e.g. Nicolai geometron and Pole Evolink vs any of the bikes in this test.

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thanks Vital, you guys rock! this was a pleasure to read/watch. usually I much prefer reading and still pics to videos but this video review was amazing.

maybe I missed it, but did BT and SW have favorite bikes from this test, regardless of the fastest and perceived fastest? or maybe "perceived fastest" is a proxy for their favorites?

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Damn, have you ever seen this many comments on vital?? Hope you guys don't become like that other website. =)

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Wow Vital! Excellent data analysis, superb videography, and absolutely pinned riding! Overall extremely informative and entertaining article, and I hope that you go on to more comparisons using this particular format. It's the first time I can recall starting to watch a bike review vid on my phone screen, stopping it, and moving into the living room to cast onto the big screen.

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Great review! It really shows that the stop-watch and the "this feels fast" are different things.

Please do the same test on the same course with the Nomad4, the 2018 Capra both 27,5 and 29 and Canyon Torque. And include one of the bikes from this test as a reference (to see if the mesured times are comparable).

That test would answer a lot of questions that keep me up at night!

Both because of the 27,5/29 thing and also because both riders and testers seem to agree that those are longer travel "freeride-bikes" and not enduro-race-bikes. I suspect they are really fast though.

PS. Technical climbing aside, I mostly wonder which one of the bikes lets me get to the top without killing my legs, I need that power for the race-stages.

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Firstly, killer work Vital crew. This is one of the best bike tests I've seen. IMHO it works so well because of the fairly narrow field of well matched bikes (bruisers) and 2 similarly quick riders, with slightly different strengths. Secondly, it seems a lot of the commenters vastly overestimate how much of a difference there is between the parts - namely suspension and tires. None of it is junk and the geometry/suspension kinematics play a much bigger role than the perceived difference between a modern mid-range to gucci damper does.

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I wish you guys would have tested middle level bikes all air shocks instead of some mid level build and some top level builds with Super plush coil shocks. A $4500 Slash 9.7 or $5500 Slash with Deluxe shock, a $5300 Wreck with Monarch Plus, $4500 Enduro Elite with Super Deluxe, $5000 Patrol Carbon with DPX2 (GX), and a $5000 Rallon M10 with DPX2. Give them all the same tire and go!! These are the bikes are what normal customers would buy and would outsell the $7-8K bikes 10:1

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The SLASH platform is still the Benchmark. It's within 1.1 seconds of the fastest Rallon on a 2:20min course. Toss a 2.5WT DHF Minion on the Slash instead of the weak XC tires that come with it and it will take the win. Throw on a Coil shock or an X2 on the Slash and give it a decent fork like a Performance Elite or Lyrik RCT3 and it will still be cheaper and lighter than the Orbea or Evil and pull ahead even more.

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benchmark to whom? for enduro bikes i think the nomad is the benchmark even though it’s 27.5

cheaper? not than the evil. the slash frame is 3700 retail. any equivalent build for these bikes is going to be within a couple hundred dollars which at the retail price level is not important. if you can afford a bike for 7000, 300 should not sway the decision.

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Who says the Nomad is the benchmark? Vital is calling the 2017 Red Slash 9.9 RSL that won pink bike of the year the benchmark 29er along with many other web publications. The Nomad is top 5 for 27.5 I'll give you that. The 9.9 Frameset (Red) is pricey but for this comparison, the Evil cost $7,800 (as shown) vs. the Slash at $5,500. There's also a $4500 Slash. Trade in the performance fork for a factory or Factory elite for $200-300 more and trade in the RS through shaft shock for a X2 or DHX2 for another $2-300 and you have a $5000-$6000 Slash that will smoke the the fastest bike in test by well more than 1.1 seconds.

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where are you ‘trading in’ your suspension for those margins. last time i asked a LBS to trade suspension on a brand new bike during the purchase process they quoted me at nearly retail for the upgraded fork. if you aren’t working off bro deals, crazy internet deals, or that mythical shop that gives you 50% off upgraded suspension parts for a case of beer, then yes, at retail price equivalent parts on these frames will be almost the same.

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Fine, Pay Full MSRP on a Fox 36 Performance Elite or Factory for $900-1100 and an X2 for $650. Still $550-750 ahead and you have a spare shock and fork

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I keep seeing posts making the IFP based 36 out to be some slouch. Its not. While I'm not saying I prefer it to the bladder based FIT 36, the difference is so negligable to me, I'm not rushing out to replace it anytime soon. Word is there are actually a few top rung riders who *prefer* it to the bladder based fork.

I don't disagree the bike was lacking in the tire department, and I hated that rear shock, but if anything that just speaks to how good the bike actually may be...

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Incredible video - I audibly gasped at the 30 min run time, but watched all of it anyway. I love the metrics used for analysis, and the data you presented at the end. Keep up the good work guys!

I'm heading down to Trinidad this weekend to check out the dry trails...can't wait!

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Having owned an Enduro Pro and Evil Insurgent, I like my Hightower better. Climbs better just as fast on the downs. I think it really says something, when the specs vary but the times are close. Geo is the main determining factor.

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These bikes are so capable I would argue that tires and suspension are just as important as Geo. Some bike have $$$$ suspension while others like the Slash had a cheap Performance Fork and weak trail tires.

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Great Review but wish you had similar tires and similar spec bikes. Some bikes have PUSH coil shocks and Fox factory forks and Meaty Downhill tires like the DHF while other have lower end Fox Performance (not even Performance Elite) forks and Trail tires (Bontrager SE4).

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Wow....I love this! More of this type of content please.

One thing I would like to see is multiple timed laps from each rider on each bike...I know this is tough with a large group of bikes like this...fatigue will really set in. But if you do single tests like this and have a dedicated test track it would be great to see and compare each test bike you have...a la Top Gear/ Grand Tour test track times.

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I'll be great to have a small rider riding a 27,5 and 29er (Hightower LT - Bronson / Enduro 27,5 - 29 / ...) . How the difference are regarding feeling, cornering and of course timing.

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Agreed. While not everything on the Enduro Coil was top notch, Specialized did a good job of putting value into several of the components that matter most.

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Agree. The base level Enduros are priced very well. If only I needed that much travel...... maybe I'll demo one this year (currently on an up-forked Stumpy29 (160-130 dual position fork)

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130/160 forks are great for the Stumpy. It already has a super low BB at 130 so even at 160, it's not that high and your HT slackens close to 2 deg.

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Man, this was the best bike review/round up I've ever seen. My only critique for next time is to have more test riders with varying body types, like a tall rider, a 'racer' vs someone with more of a 'freerider', etc

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Also test runs with flat and clipless pedals. I'd also like to see runs with tight fitting clothing and looser clothing to see if that actually affects times. If you end up doing varying body types could you be sure they have significantly different shoe sizes? I'd be curious if the extra weight of having big feet slows down your pedaling. I also noticed that in the video sometimes Steve was wearing a half-shell helmet in practice. Could you do timed race runs with full faces vs. half shell helmets to see if a full face gives you more confidence, resulting in faster times? This will make the test just slightly more complex, but that is really my only critique.

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Bingo! adrennan is on point with his comment regarding testers needing to fit a specific bike size. Certainly room to mix up test rider backgrounds though. Appreciate the feedback.

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