4X/DS bike for trail riding?

Hi Lee,

I’ve been looking at different four cross/slalom type bikes that can cross over and be used for general singletrack riding. Given your experience with Specialized, how do think the SX (4.2″ travel) would work out?


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Me gettin’ some Santa Cruz love, February 2005.

Hey Jason,

I’ve ridden my Specialized SX on trail — and it RIPS!!!!!!!

– Run a small (32-34t) front ring.

– Use a chain guide. The Gamuts work well for me.

– If you do a lot of trail riding, run a standard MTB cassette. 11-32 or 11-34. With a 1:1 ratio you can climb really well. Any steeper than that — just hike!

– Run a short cage rear derailleur, for less chain slap than a medium or long cage. I love X.0 because it doesn’t hit the stay (BTW, I pay for all my SRAM stuff).

– You’ll need a really long seat post for trail and a really short one for 4X/DS/DJ. A Maverick Speedball would be sweet as the long one: You enjoy full XC height on the climbs, then you instantly drop the seat 3 inches for ripping DH action.

After all that, you can run a low seat and rule a 4X or DS. Pretty sweet!


— Lee

Lars Thompsen, jefe of Trail Head Cyclery gets some too. This was on a two-hour XC loop.
19 replies
  1. Lars says:

    Dude, that guy is fly’n on his SX!

    Really though, I’ll second Lee’s affirmation that the SX rips on the trails. The gearing mentioned works perfect for me as well. Added tip,,, For racing, I run the 34t Gammut with a SRAM PG970 12-26 cassette and PC991 chain. Then, when I go into the hills I swap the cassette for an 11-34 and just add enough chain with another power-link. To go back to the race set up, I just pull out the extra chain links. No tools are required to use the power-link, just stash the extra links with the second power-link in a bag, and voila! Racers ready, watch the gate…braaaaaaaaap!

    Note: Power-link is SRAM’s master link. Very clever little dealio. I too buy my own, sort of.

  2. Pete says:

    Lars very kindly lent me that very bike last time I was in the states and I absolutely loved it. Cheers for that mate.

    I generally find most bikes much of a muchness, but that bike is awesome (even with the brakes the wrong way round… ha). Its a great descender (low bb + slack angles) and it climbs surprisingly well. If I had to have one bike to do everything, that would be the one.

    Shame they don’t import them into the UK. Either of you two know if its just a standard Enduro frame with a short shock? I.e. could I make one from a regular Enduro?

  3. leelikesbikes says:

    The SX frame is different. Lower and shorter.


    The first “SXes” were Enduros with short shocks. Brandon and crew at Specialized put short-travel shocks on their 2002-4 Enduros and used them for DS/DJ.

    The bikes worked so well, the guys convinced the companies to make a couple hundred special bikes — the SX — and the rest is history. Funny: Specialized didn’t believe anyone would want such a bike. Thankfully, Brandon knows his stuff, and now we have this neat bike.


    You can make a 2005+ Enduro more SX-esque with a shorter (eye to eye and stroke) shock and a correspondingly shorter fork.

    As a matter of fact, some of the S guys did just that for smooth Santa Cruz singletrack. They shortened the rear travel from 6 to 5 inches, and they dropped from 6″ to 5″ forks. The resulting bikes were low, slack and quick.

    Brain dump!

  4. Jonas says:

    I ride a Santa Cruz Blur 4X for this kind of riding an it works perfect! It climbs like a xc bike, than on top of the hill lower your seat (with the Blur 4X you don’t need two seatposts), enjoy the low bottom bracket and slack head angle, and make the single track your own slalom track. This bike can be ridden so aggressive and precise, it is so well balanced and corners like hell, it’s pure fun! 115mm travel may sound like not much travel, but i believe today most of us ride with too much travel, it’s fun to ride such a short travel bike on singletrails, you can sprint out of corners and pump every root. Despite its short travel its very stable at high speed. Needless to say it is a perfect 4X/DS bike and jumps are easy on this bike.
    The Blur 4X is just the best bike I’ve ever ridden on singletrails, it climbs perfectly, you can adjust your seat where you want it, and on the way down it’s more fun than any other bike I know. So I would give it a try before buying a SX (which is good bike as well).

  5. Matt says:

    Hey another bike to consider is the Cannondale Phophet 4x this bike rips and is 1/2 the price of a Santa Cruz.(plus it has another inch of travel) Bought one this year and love it!!! Rode it XC, freeride and even won a downhill race on it. Can’t say enough about this bike.

  6. leelikesbikes says:

    Whoa, I just learned something.

    The Enduro Pro and Enduro Expert have 6″ front and rear. I thought they were all like that, but it turns out the Enduro and the Enduro Elite have shorter travel. They get 5.3″ in the rear and 5″ in front.

    The angles are all the same, but the 5″ bikes are lower. They seem like great weapons for smoother trails.

  7. Luc says:

    There is no need for two seatposts, something like Titec Scoper seatpost will do the job fine – and it is considerably cheaper than Maverick Speedball or Gravity dropper.

  8. leelikesbikes says:

    Good call. I forgot about the telescopic posts. I ran one on an old BigHit, and it worked great.

  9. vapor says:

    Don’t blame Lee for always mentioning specialized. The Enduro/SX/Demo bikes are so immensely stiff laterally and torsionally. They go where you want with no hesitation. The shock gets to do its job without the bike getting in the way. Plus, they weren’t afraid to make them low. They corner like a snowboard.

    Way to much fun

  10. Nash says:

    Hey guys

    Im looking at changng my Enduro Expert frame to one of these SX cats, is it possible to swap out the RP23 shock for the bigger DHX COIL (9.0 x 2.75) like on the SX Trail, is that possible?

    Cheers 🙂


  11. leelikesbikes says:

    Different eye-to-eye and stroke. If you get an SX, rock the stock shock. If you need more/custom performance, get it PUSHed.

  12. Nash says:

    So theres no way of changing it over?

    Thats a shame, will have to hang on till I find a SX Trail frame, I really dig the black chrome too!!

    Thanks for the help though dude, saved me some hassle buying it

  13. Nash says:

    Id want to change out my bike setup completely you see, that would include my talas 36’s which would totally screw with the geom with such a small shock wouldnt it? plus I do more freeride and wouldnt be comfertable with a smaller shock than i run now

  14. leelikesbikes says:

    Maybe i misunderstood.

    You have an Enduro, and you want to add travel front and rear to make it like an SX Trail?

  15. Nash says:

    I have an Enduro and have seen a SX frame (with the FOX RP) I want to buy from a friend, however I want to swap everything from my bike to the SX, including the shock and forks 9.0 2.75 and 150m talas

  16. leelikesbikes says:

    I see no good reason to do this. Keep rocking your Enduro. If you want it to feel quicker:

    – Stiffen the suspension. Dial up the ProPedal / low speed compression damping.

    – Light tires and wheels.

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