I work part time at a bike shop for a couple of reasons, 1: the people that work at bike shops are more often than not, great humans! 2: I hate paying full retail for bike parts, well ok for most bike parts. Sometimes some items are so good that I happily plunk down my hard-earned scratch to get my hands on them. The WRP Enduro Mullet Link is one of those items. I eagerly plunked down my 220$ US and began the wait process as each link is made after order, and shipping is a mess these days.
Let’s talk about “Mixed Wheel” or “Mullet” set ups (I prefer the “297” moniker and will use that here). A 29 front wheel and a 27.5 wheel out back, this set up comes with some pluses and minuses. I’ve tried this set up three times before this, with mixed results: one “god-awful”, one “well its ok” and another “hey this works, but I wish the bike had more travel”. Why give the Specialized Enduro the “297” mod? The Enduro is a big bike, not just in travel but in wheelbase and general handling. High speed and big hits are its specialty, but the bike struggles on tight switch backs, and requires a lot of rider input in slow speed chunk. I was lucky to get my hands on one at all given the current times but it’s a S4 size (a “largeish” Large) so even after installing a shorter stem I found the bike to be a handful at slow tech sections.
It did not take me long to start thinking “I wonder how it would ride with a 27.5 out back”? The low BB height even in the high position quickly led me to look for a better solution. My first stop was Cascade Components, a company widely known for producing high quality aftermarket links for several brands. In my Google searches I came across a press release from Cascade that mentioned they would not be machining one for the Enduro as it already exists from Williams Racing Products.
Based on the Australian coast, Williams Racing Products or “WRP” was founded in 2017 by bike racer and engineer Mic Williams with the goal of making custom components “so you can go faster, higher, further, and be safer doing so”. Mic started out making dropouts for the Commencal Supreme in the 297 configurations. Since then product line has expanded to machining parts for Commencal Metas, stems, chain guides and a whole host of other specialty products.
Now let’s start off with a little disclaimer here, the following should not be taken as gospel. The measurements I took were using the best “Garage Science” methods I had at my disposal and are only to provide you with a general idea.
I had some concerns before ordering the 297 link, the description on WRP’s website states “while retaining as close to identical geometry as possible”, hmmm what does that mean, how close are we talking here? This time Google was very little help, I saw a bunch of sweet bikes with the links installed and a video that pretty much consisted of “ya Bra I like it, it’s lit” ….not helpful.
Essentially the yoke increases the effective length of your shock to make up for the smaller wheel size and making the bike sit higher on the leverage curve. You can see the difference from the stock unit easily when placed side by side.
Construction: The Yoke consists of 6061 T-6 alloy, a good choice as this alloy can often exceed the yield strength of some types of stainless steel. The link is CNC’d (computer numerically controlled) then hand polished to the luster you see here. Top quality Enduro bearings are hand pressed, and WRP provides an extra set in the box.
Installation: Installing the 297 link is a simple affair. Start by removing the two shock bolts from the main frame, then the third bolt that goes through the link. Remove your shock and then it’s a simple matter of the removing the lower “dog bone” linkage bolt. Be careful as there are two spacers that float in the links recessed body that love to fall in the abyss of the bottom bracket area. Reverse the procedure consulting your handy Enduro Owner’s Manual (probably the most useful bike manual I have ever seen, it’s a bike mechs Mona Lisa) for what to grease/Locktite and torque specs. WRP’s website advises that the link was designed to be run in the lower position and not all shocks would work in the high position as eye to eye lengths from different manufactures can vary. I did try just to see if my Rock Shox Super Deluxe would fit in the high position, it did not.
To measure the changes to the geo I grabbed the ol protractor and a ruler. I started by setting the bike up with 20 psi in the front tire, 25 in the rear. I placed the bike against a wall and made sure the protractor resting on the seat settled to zero. I then placed the protractor on the stanchions of the fork and got a reading of about 64 degrees (it’s a cheap protractor I bought for this use). Next, down on all fours with the ruler and using an imaginary line through the center of the crank spindle got a measurement of 347ish mm for the bottom bracket height.
After installing the link and the new 27.5 wheel with the same Maxxis DHRII 2.4 tire pumped to 25 psi, I was pleased to report that the new measurements were so close, I could not see any difference. Keep in mind this might vary depending on your shock, but the variance is going to be minimal.
For the first ride on the 297 set up I chose a trail system I’ve ridden a lot, that way I could focus on what the bike was doing and feeling a bit more than trying to not hit a tree. The start of the ride has a 3.5 mile climb up a paved access road. This is where the loss of the 29 rear wheel was felt the most but not surprising at all. On the flip side of that climbing a steep rocky bit of single track was far easier with the increased torque of the 27.5 wheel. I have rather short legs for my 5’11 height and not buzzing my butt on the 29 back wheel when hitting the steeps was a welcome change. Another change I knew was coming and was looking forward to: switch backs. It took me more than a few turns (and probably will next ride as well) to remember I can cut the turn tighter with this set up, as I mentioned the Enduro is a big bike and tight switchbacks that were difficult to negotiate are now a breeze. I also was able to clear a 4 pack of tables that I have not cleared before so that was a welcome surprise as well. The bike felt just as stable at higher speeds as it did in the full 29er mode, but this trail system does not have a lot of high speed extended sections. As expected, square edge hits at slower speeds did require a dash more body English to get the back wheel over, again a tradeoff of the 297 configuration.
Back in my throttle twisting days the wheels on my moto were different sizes and I thought nothing of it, so when I came to MTBing I thought it odd it was not the same here as well. All in all the Specialized Enduro in the 297 configuration was a welcome change. 297 with proper geometry delivers a lot of advantages especially for smaller riders or riders who were just never fully comfortable on a full 29. The WRP Mullet Yoke is a great piece of hardware that delivers exactly what it claims: “bolt on and start partying”! I’m really happy I took the chance and ordered the WRP link, for me 297 is great and I don’t plan on going back to full 29 anytime soon.