Enduro Bike Matchup
Megatower vs Slash vs Firebird
It’s undeniable that mountain bikes have changed drastically over the years, and riders have become more and more demanding of their bike’s capabilities. Thus emerges the enduro category, which is fancy speak for bikes that have the most suspension possible while still being able to pedal uphill. These rigs are for those who want something that can rail any rock garden, smash any berm, and cruise laps in the bike park, while still maintaining a nimbleness and capability to climb you back to the top of the trail. Here’s an overview of our top models in the enduro category.
Megatower shown in Translucent Blue
Santa Cruz Megatower
This bike has been the mainstay of Santa Cruz’s enduro lineup for a few years now, but it recently got some much needed refinements. The Megatower now boasts a 170mm fork and 165mm of rear travel. Moreover, it has a super slack 63.5 degree head tube angle and now has size-specific rear triangles for better fit and ride feel. Perhaps the best feature of all however (or at least my favorite), is the new storage compartment underneath the bottle cage. This allows for on-bike storage of essentials like a tube, multi-tool, and even snacks.
I owned the previous generation of this bike and there were a few noticeable differences right off the bat. First off, the new model climbs much better. I attribute this to the steeper seat tube angle, which helps disperse a bit more bulky weight over the front wheel and puts you in a better overall climbing position. On the downhills, the Megatower blew me away. The previous model took quite some effort to make it feel comfortable, leaving me twiddling around with suspension settings and pressures for weeks to obtain a desired effect. The new bike seems much easier for the layman to configure. It has a lot of the musings of a downhill bike (long wheelbase, 29er, slack headtube) but maintains decent handling. The Megatower screams for aggressive descents, and will make you feel comfortable and confident enough to ride them. The two standout downsides are the noticeable weight of the Megatower, and this is also the most expensive option, of the three bikes reviewed here.
One of the first enduro-focused 29ers, the Slash has established itself as a do-it-all enduro bike, with historical success at the Enduro World Series. The bike was redesigned for 2021, with upgrades such as a steeper seat tube angle and a lighter frame. Standard fare for the Slash is a 170mm fork and 160mm rear travel, which is paired with Trek’s ABP (active braking point) suspension system and thru-shaft technology on most models. Like the Megatower, the Slash also has internal storage in the downtube, but on both carbon and alloy frames.
This bike was probably one of the better climbing enduro bikes that I’ve ridden, it's also the lightest of the three reviewed here. It never seemed to sink too deep into its travel, and I felt like I was in a pretty comfortable and somewhat aggressive position. On the descents, I found the Slash to really excel on smoother and flowier trails. That’s not to say it can’t handle the chunky stuff, but it felt more lively pumping corners and boosting off jumps than it did railing rock gardens. That being said, I felt balanced and centered on almost any terrain, while the ABP suspension kept me planted and stable through it all. Another tip of the hat to the Slash is it's attractive price point which also offers carbon wheels.
The Firebird has long been a contender for best enduro bike in the industry, and it became even better. The Firebird features a completely redesigned suspension setup, linkage, and frame geometry. It still utilizes the always perfect DW-link suspension but now with a vertical shock layout, giving the bike a more energetic feel. Pivots attention to detail is second to none in our opinion, from beautiful gloss paint to geometry precision, they nail it. Combine this with 29 inch wheels and 165mm of rear travel, and you’ve got a bike that’s ready to shred, both up and downhill.
The Firebird climbed the best of the group we reviewed with very impressive trail bike style efficiency. It doesn’t want to slowly lumber up the hill, it wants to attack it, and comfortably. The more gas I gave this bike, the more efficiently it seemed to pedal, providing ample traction I needed over any technical sections. Of the three bikes on this list, the Firebird feels the most comfortable. The Firebird favors raw speed, and will reward you for it. This bike is very stiff and wants to be pushed harder, powering through anything in any terrain. I’d liken it to a high-end sports car with professionally race tuned suspension. Other advantages of the Firebird are a better price point than the Megatower or the Slash, as well as a slim weight for a bike of this category. Side Note: Half of our Bountiful staff are currently ripping the Firebird for what it's worth.
Here’s a comparison of some key specs, all for size large: