I purchased an ’08 Specialized Enduro with the fabled e150 fork. It’s commonly known that the e150 suffers from a design flaw in the internal air/oil cartridge; the web is full of posts describing suspension failures in these first generation forks. However, Specialized has acknowledged the problem, beefed up the cartridges and extended the warranty to 5 years. I knew this upfront and decided it was acceptable, mainly because of reports that the replacement cartridges took care of the problem and the shock was rock solid afterwards.
Sure enough, I blew out the fork after one good ride. Specialized sent a replacement to my LBS within two days. I was a bit relieved to get that out of the way, so that I didn’t have to deal with it when I was out of town.
Surprisingly, my problems with the shock did not end there. I enjoyed a fantastic trip to Moab; the bike completely redefined the experience. After I returned, I noticed that the shock had lost a noticeable amount of air pressure. I called my LBS to get their impression on what amount of air loss is reasonable. The kid I worked with had a lot of experience with these forks and he recommended swapping out the cartridges a second time. This time, it took two days again for the replacements to arrive but, alas, they were the wrong size. Four business days after that, the right ones arrived and were installed. To be on the safe side, I added a couple additional pounds of pressure to the fork just to ensure that I didn’t bottom it out. Then I took it to Lambert Park for a nice, getting reacquainted ride.
Lambert Park is a local trail system of prime single track with a ton of variety. Steep walled bobsled runs, wavy turns in the trees, sage brush burners, and a couple runs with some moderate stunts. I’m not a heavy guy and I don’t pound the bike terribly hard, but I gave the hits a little extra oomph to test everything out.
The following morning, I took the bike for a spin and checked the fork’s travel indicator. Sure enough, it traveled a millimeter or two further than the day before. I’ve come to the conclusion that the e150 looses air at a rate relatively faster than other brands and models of air/oil forks. So I’ll be carrying my shock pump with me and checking the pressure prior to each ride.
It’s definitely a bit of a hassle to baby the fork before each ride, but would I buy a different bike or fork if I had a chance to do it over again? Certainly not. The e150 is a flat out amazing shock. After eight weeks on the bike, I’m getting a good handle on adjusting the compression and rebound for different conditions. The bike’s performance is stupefying. It rides so clean and there is zero flex up front. Specialized’s goal of designing a perfect suspension package for the Enduro was certainly achieved. It’s too bad the design is slightly flawed, but one can’t push the envelope without taking some risks.
I’ll happily deal with this issue because of the quality of ride the bike/shock combination provides. If I blow another cartridge, I’m satisfied that Specialized will honor their commitment in a timely fashion. After the warranty expires in five years, I imagine that suspension technology will have progressed even further and I’ll probably be ready to upgrade (don’t tell Jenny).
I have good news to report about my shock. First of all, The amount of air loss between rides is negligible. I purchased a new shock pump shortly after I bought this bike and I underestimated its volume. I have since calculated the actual amount and discovered that I was incorrectly blaming the shock. In fact, I rarely have to adjust my air pressure unless I happen to be riding at a radically different elevation. I still check my sag before each ride, just to be safe, but I’m finally to the point where I can relax and not worry about it.
Tuning the shock has been a fun exercise. The recommended defaults were a vast improvement over my former 3″ travel shock, but I didn’t know how much better it could get. I’ve started riding with much lower compression and I’ve slowed the rebound about 1/3 from wide open. I can really feel the difference in the overall ride and I’m getting better at selecting optimal settings for my favorite trails. This bike has been awesome and my faith has been fully restored in the shock. If you’re considering an Enduro with an e150 fork, you won’t be disappointed.