Stumpy or Enduro?

To climb fast or descend faster — that is the question.

I am sure you get a lot of these questions, but here’s the deal. I am a former amateur motocross racer who hung up his boots a decade ago, finished college, got married, went to law school, had two kids, and spent the last four years glued to a desk in NYC writing legal briefs.

Last year, I moved to Southern California and made a couple friends who convinced me to buy a mountain bike. I timidly entered the scene by buying a Gary Fischer Piranha and am now totally hooked.

Needless to say, it’s time to step up to the plate and buy a full suspension bike. My dilemma? The ex-motocrosser in me wants to get a bike with 6″ suspension and start searching for the toughest way down the mountain and some drops to scare my pants off. The reality, however, is that most of my rides consist of a long climb followed by a descent on technical, rocky singletrack or fast sweeping fire roads.

So what would be your advice to someone like me? Dream big and go for something like the Enduro or come to grips with reality and stick with a Stumpjumper FSR? Or is there something in between, perhaps the 5.5″ travel Heckler?

BTW – dig your website and just ordered your book. Keep up the good work!


The more you click, the more I can post. Lee Likes Groceries dot com!

Hi Todd,

It’s not a question of big and cool or little and lame. It’s a question of style. If you want to cover varied terrain efficiently, go for a Stumpy. If you want to climb OK but really pin the descents, rock an Enduro.

OK, now the can is open, and the worms are out. So here we go:

Specialized has a full range of bikes designed for every conceivable flavor of trail riding (I’m omitting DJ and DH bikes). At one end you have ultimate lightness and climbing efficiency. At the other end you have ultimate plushness and descending capability. The array goes like this:

  • Stumpjumper Hardtail
  • Epic
  • FSR XC
  • Stumpjumper FSR
  • Enduro SL
  • Enduro
  • SX Trail
  • Note that the Stumpy sits right in the middle. I doubt this was intentional (unless Brandon Sloan is even smarter than I realize), but a Stumpjumper FSR works really well for a wide range of trail riders. As I said, it climbs very well, and it descends very well too. These days, a 5″ trail bike is the middle ground — the best reconciliation of up and down (for most riders).

    — Lee

    BTW: Most major bike makers (Santa Cruz, Turner, Kona, Trek …) have a similar array, and many people buy too much bike. Hey guys, what are you gonna do with that extra inch, really?

    18 replies
    1. Biscuit says:

      I rode an SJ with a slightly shorter stem and wider bars that honestly felt faster than my enduro. Not as much cush, but who needs that?

      I’d say the debate is between the SJ and Enduro SL.

    2. leelikesbikes says:


      On a pretty smooth trail, a shorter-travel bike is usually faster than a longer-travel bike.

      Even DH race bikes are going shorter travel.

    3. Mark says:

      I sold my Enduro for a SJ FSR after riding both back to back on a nasty rocky DH. The SJ pins it so hard, and it’s fun too. But, it’s not really that strong. I agree, it’s between the Enduro SL and Stumpy.

    4. Sarge says:

      I know that you covered this, but I just want to throw this out there and get a direct answer. I have been talking to my LBS because my wife and I decided that we wanted to take up Mountain Biking. I currently live in Maryland and want a bike that will hold up to any terrain that I find in the area. I told my LBS that i wanted a bike that I can ride on any trail and hit jumps if I wanted to. They recommended the Enduro SL. However, if i am reading what you put correctly, a Stumpy is the way to go. So I will just throw out my choices and you tell me what you think the better way to go it for me and my wife. For my: Jamis Dakar XAM 2.0, Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert, or Specialized Enduro SL Expert; and for my wife, Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert (Womens) or a Cannondale Rush Feminine. Thank in advance for the info and I look forward to reading your book.

    5. leelikesbikes says:

      Hi Sarge.

      For your wife, both bikes are great. I’ve ridden the boy versions of both. In my opinion, if you’re going to throw down that kind of money, you oughta upgrade from a single pivot. So that means I’ll pick a Stumpy over a Rush. But both bikes are great, and your wife probably won’t notice the difference. Choose the color/price you like from a shop you trust.

      For you, it’s a question of style. (I know, I already said that.) If you want to cover lots of trail as effeciently as possible, ride a Stumpy. If you want to wring out the downhills and go a bit steeper/faster/bigger, rock the Enduro SL. I rode my SL today on a rocky singletrack in Grand Junction, CO, and the bike ripped!!!

      I mean this with respect: Maybe 1% of riders can outride a Stumpy and enjoy the benefits of an SL. Unless you’re a true ripper (level 3 in my book) you’ll have more fun on a Stumpy.

      The Jamis is closer to the Stumpy. But if you’re gonna spend the bucks, get a real FSR link as on Specialized, not the effectivley-a-low-single-pivot as on the Jamis. That said, most riders won’t know the difference. Color, price, LBS.

    6. Sarge says:

      Thanks for the quick response and information. I think, with the info that you gave me, I will go with His and Hers Stumpy Experts. In your book i am probably a level 100,000 but i dont like to brag. haha. This will be my first bike since about 1987 do I am no expert by anymeans, so thanks for breaking that last bit down about being able to see the difference, that made my decision. Thanks again…

    7. Sarge says:

      I thought of another question. As I said above, I am no pro, so, is it worth paying the $3300 for the Stumpy Expert or should i just save the money, and but the $2200 Stumpy Comp? I have the money to buy either, so what is your opinion.
      Also, since I have never bought a “real” bike before, should I try to negotiate with the price, or do most bike shops sell at MFRP? Thanks.

    8. leelikesbikes says:

      You get what you pay for, but at first you probably won’t notice the difference between the two bikes. The benefits of the upgrade become more apparent when you develop a feel for the bike and over years of yard use. More expensive is usually more refined and more durable.

      Bikes don’t get discounted. The margins are surprisingly low, and Specialized sells more than they can make. Don’t try to haggle the bike price. A good shop will give you a package deal on helmet, shoes, tools, etc.

      I say get the lower end bike (still very good) but go full-out on shorts, jerseys, shoes, helmets, gloves, glasses, hydration packs and tools. Those items will give you a benefit you’ll notice right away.


      — Lee

    9. Sarge says:

      Last question, I promise 🙂
      I was looking at my LBS’s catalog and they have the 06′ Stumpy FSR Pro for 3225 and the 07 Stumpy FSR Expert for 3300. Which one would you buy or, which one should I buy? Thanks and you rock.


    10. leelikesbikes says:

      Hey Sarge,

      You’ll probably enjoy the closeout ’06 — it has a higher parts spec. But there is no bad choice … If you really love the color of one, I say ROCK IT!!!

    11. Todd says:


      A follow up to my questions above. I have ridden a lot of bikes since this post (and the post on standover height and top tube length) and still the bike I have felt most comfortable on is the Blur LT (despite that the standover is a little tall for me). So, I went ahead and ordered one up from my LBS. It’s supposed to arrive this week and I am totally stoked. But then I was in another shop today and took the Enduro SL for a spin around the parking lot. I liked it a lot to. In fact, it felt a lot like the Blur LT; more like it than any other bike I have ridden. How do those bikes compare? I could probably still switch my order, though I am a little concerned about paying that much money for a bike with suspension that is in its first year of design (my guess is that the 2008 Enduro will incorporate some changes that will show what Specialized learned from this first year).

      Any thoughts?

    12. leelikesbikes says:

      The Blur LT and Enduro SL are different animals. The SL is longer, slacker and has more travel. It’s made for more aggressive riding on gnarlier terrain. The LT is still an all-mountain bike, but it’s more XC oriented.

      The Santa Cruz Blur LT is analagous to the Specialized Stumpjumper.

      The Specialized Enduro SL is analagous to the Santa Cruz Nomad.

      Al great bikes. Choose your style.

    13. Todd says:

      Thanks Lee. I really don’t think I’m in the top 1% of riders who will be able to take advantage of the SL – not yet, anyway! : ) It’s just such a sweet bike, I thought I would talk to someone who knew its characteristics well. The LBS I went to, which is not the one I am buying the LT from, tried to convince me that the SL was the bike for me.

    14. CHIP says:

      I have just gotten into riding in the Tahoe region. I am 6’2″ 210lbs and ride very hard for my first year back on a bike. I have been rippin it up (according to my neighbor, 30 yrs. in tahoe) on a hardtail and am now ready to jump to full suspension. I ride a lot of singletrack and fireroads with rocks and loose dirt with small jumps. I am debatting on wether to go for an all-mountain bike like the enduro (expert vs. pro and sl vs. non) or a true freeride bike like the sx trail (I vs II vs III). My neighbor is suggesting the freeride bike with max travel, I have tried his rocky mountain edge? and I liked the plush ride. Thanks

    15. leelikesbikes says:

      Purely a matter of style.

      A non-SL Enduro is the middle ground. You will never out-ride that bike. Spend as much as you can afford.

    16. randy says:

      Santa cruz offers a limited warranty and Specialized offers a limited lifetime warranty. I am new to mountain biking. How much should the warranty play in my decision. I am deciding between a heckler and a stumpjumper fsr. Thank you

    17. leelikesbikes says:

      Unless you’re a total meat head, you won’t break either bike. If there’s a manufacturing defect, both companies will take care of you. I wouldn’t consider warranty in my decision.

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