Best trail mtb 2017

Best trail mtb 2017 DEFAULT

New 2017 bikes are hitting the floors of bike stores around the country, we've had a look through the latest trail mountain bikes and come up with what we deem the best for $2,500 or thereabouts. A trail bike is the closest thing you get to a bike that can do it all, these bikes are designed to be efficient on the climbs, and with 120-140mm of suspension travel, still provide plenty of confidence and control on rough and technical descents. We've put together a list of mostly dual suspension options with a few hardtails featuring plus sized wheels that let a hardtail be an alternative to a trail suspension bike. Consider this a short-list of the bikes we’d put our own money on (in no particular order).

At this price, bikes become increasingly specialized as either cross-country, trail, enduro or downhill, allowing you to choose a bike type that best suits your riding style and the local terrain. Wheel sizes remain a hot topic within the trail bike category, with some brands focused on the smaller 27.5in size for nimbleness, other brands dedicated to the larger 29er wheel for its greater roll-over and speed and then some brands still offering both.

For 2017, the trail hardtail has made a comeback with many brands supporting the new 'Plus-sized' wheel format with massively wide tires. These new 2.8 to 3in wide tires add grip beyond belief, soak up the hits and remain comparable in weight to a thinner-wheeled dual suspension model.

Regardless of how many brands are now offering suitable hardtails, budget pending, a dual suspension remains the most popular choice for this type of riding. Choosing a dual suspension bike provides additional control and comfort, however, you'll have to settle for lesser components as the greater complexity (moving components) of a dual suspension frame is a large part of the cost. At this price, the aluminium frame you're getting is often the same as found on the more expensive models.

Many of the top-tier features such as a dropper seat post, 1x drivetrain and tubeless wheels that you see on the best mountain bikes start to become available at this price. The dropper seatpost has become a favorite choice amongst enthusiast mountain bikers as it allows remote-controlled saddle height adjustment for negotiating technical descents without having to compromise pedaling on flat and uphill sections. Finely damped suspension that features adjustable air springs are just about standard at this price, as are hydraulic disc brakes.

Expect drivetrains to be equipped with either a 10 or 11-speed cassette, paired with a double or even triple crankset, however, some 1x drivetrains begin to appear at this point. The benefit of the 1x drivetrain is less moving parts, which means less chance of mechanical failure or issues, it also helps reduce the weight and allows manufacturer's to experiment with frame design, creating bikes with greater tire clearance and shorter chain stays which help create a more nimble bike with better traction and control.

Designed to improve steering and suspension performance, thru-axle wheels appear at this price but are far from standard equipment with a few bikes still featuring the old quick release skewer. Tubeless wheels are a great upgrade for any mountain bike and will allow the use of lower tire pressures without risk of puncture, some brands will offer 'tubeless-ready' wheels at this price, but commonly you'll need to purchase compatible tires.

If you are contemplating spending a little bit more, then truth be told, the very best value in mountain bikes sits within the $2,500 - $3,500 price range. Here features such as 1x drivetrain, dropper posts, tubeless wheels and thru-axles are near guaranteed. You'll also find improved suspension quality, better shifting and a perhaps even a carbon dual suspension frame. However, if your budget doesn't stretch that far, then you'll certainly find the bikes listed here more than capable of putting a smile on your face.

To find out more about mountain bikes then read our Ultimate Guide to Buying a Mountain Bike to help you sort through all the information and find the perfect bike for you.

Trail Dual Suspension

Giant Trance 3

fullpage Best Trail Mountain Bikes for AU 3 000 BikeExchange 2017 Giant

The 2017 Trance has some significant updates to handle more technical trails with bigger obstacles and faster speeds. New geometry and a refined Maestro suspension system are at the heart of the changes. With a massive 150mm of suspension travel at the front, and an impressive 140mm at the rear, this new Trance is a great a modern trail bike to handle trails with increasingly difficult terrain.

The Trance 3 features a quality alloy frame paired with a thru-axled RockShox Sektor Silver fork up front and a RockShox Deluxe RT shock at the rear. The Trance 3 doesn't feature a dropper seatpost, but jumping up a price bracket to the Trance 2 gets you Giant's Contact SL dropper post which also features on the top tier 0 model. Giant's own 27.5in XC-1 wheels are paired with Schwalbe Nobby Nic tyres. Shimano Deore 2x10-speed shifting and Shimano M365 hydraulic disc brakes round out this budget-friendly package.

  • Wheel size: 27.5in
  • MSRP: $2,100

Trek Fuel EX 5

fullpage Best Trail Mountain Bikes for AU 3 000 BikeExchange 2017 Trek Fuel

The Fuel EX 5 has the potential to be a do-it-all trail bike with either 29in and 27.5in Plus wheel options that you can change to suit your riding style or locals trails (only 29in available as stock in Australia). Like the new Giant Trance, the Trek Fuel EX got an overhaul for 2017 which sees its geometry and suspension travel bumped up to handle aggressive trail riding. It also has an adjustable headtube angle thanks to the 'Mino Link', which allows 1/2 a degree change by flipping a link. This is the same frame as shared by the Trek Fuel EX 9.

The 130mm-travel alloy frame is paired with 130mm RockShox Sektor Silver fork up front. The front suspension travel may seem small compared to some others on this list, but the 29in Bontrager wheels and big volume 2.3in tires go a long way to smoothing out the trails.

A Shimano Deore 2x10-speed drivetrain and Shimano M315 hydraulic disc brakes feature, although no dropper post is provided until you step up to the EX 8.

  • Wheel size: 29in
  • MSRP: $2,199.99

Norco Optic A 7.2

fullpage Best Trail Mountain Bikes for AU 3 000 BikeExchange 2017 Norco

The Optic A 7.2 from Canadian-brand Norco is one of the few bikes available at this price with a dropper seatpost, tubeless-ready wheels and a 1x drivetrain and so immediately sits high on the ladder of consideration. The alloy frame provides 120mm of travel at rear controlled by a Fox Float DPS shock, matched with 130mm RockShox Sektor Silver fork up front.

The creators of 1x drivetrains, SRAM provide its GX1 11-speed with a large ratio 10-42 cassette to ensure you won't be left short by dismissing the second chainring. Alex DP23 rims, Novatec hubs (thru-axle) and Schwalbe Nobby Nic 27.5in tyres will keep you rolling. SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes complete the package.

  • Wheel size: 27.5in
  • MSRP: $2,599

GT Sensor Alloy Elite 27.5

fullpage Best Trail Mountain Bikes for AU 3 000 BikeExchange 2017 GT

GT had a couple of potential options within this price range but we've gone for the Sensor Alloy Elite due to its 140 and 130mm of front and rear travel, 1x drivetrain and tubeless-ready wheels and tyres. Perhaps all that's missing is a thru-axle out back and a dropper seatpost.

Once again an alloy frame is paired with a thru-axled RockShox Sektor fork, with a well-matched RockShox Monarch RL shock featuring at back. The 1x drivetrain is SRAM's 11-speed NX1 with 32T front chain ring and 11-42T rear cassette. Shimano takes over when it comes to the brakes, with entry-level M425 hydraulic disc brakes using larger 180mm rotors front and back. WTB provide its 25mm-wide tubeless-ready rims with the popular Schwalbe Nobby Nic 27.5in tires wrapping them.

  • Wheel size: 27.5in
  • MSRP: $2,710

Specialized Camber 29er

fullpage Best Trail Mountain Bikes for AU 3 000 BikeExchange 2017 Specialized Camber  1

Available in a choice of either 29 or 27.5in wheels, the base-level Camber is sure to offer you a refined ride on the trail. Looking to the 29er version, both frame and fork offer 120mm of travel, with a RockShox Sektor Silver handling the duties up front and a custom X-Fusion model out back. Big bag 2.3in tires will surely provide plenty of confidence, too. Like many models here, the frame shares its geometry and design with more expensive models, with premium features such as thru-axles found on this model.

There's little doubting Specialized has put the money in the important frame and suspension, but it's worth nothing that this is the only bike listed that features a lower-end 2x9-speed drivetrain and more basic Tektro hydraulic disc brakes. And like many in this list, it's also missing a dropper seatpost compared to its more expensive offerings.

  • Wheel size: 29in or 27.5in
  • MSRP: $1,900

Polygon Siskiu D8.0

fullpage Best Trail Mountain Bikes for AU 3 000 BikeExchange 2017 Polygon

Available for as low as AU$2,000, the Siskiu D8.0 is the cheapest bike listed here. Such a price is achieved by the Indonesian brand being its own manufacturer and sold in Australia by predominately online by its distributor.

This is a short-travel trail bike with 120mm of travel front and rear. A RockShox Recon Gold sits up front, with a Monarch RT out back. Impressively, it's Shimano SLX and XT 2x11 components that take care of shifting duties, with the greatly underrated Shimano Deore hydraulic brakes featuring too. Mavic 27.5in Crossride wheels are an impressive sight for the price too.

So with spectacular components for little money, what gives? Well, the online purchase aspect isn't for everyone, and then there's the rather simple rear suspension design that arguably isn't to the same level as the other dual suspension bikes listed.

  • Wheel size: 27.5in
  • MSRP: $2,500

Trail Hardtail

Scott Scale 720 Plus

fullpage Best Trail Mountain Bikes for AU 3 000 BikeExchange 2017 Focus

With a dropper seatpost and tubeless-ready wheels, the Scott Scale 720 Plus is a great example of the value on offer when you remove the rear suspension. This alloy-framed trail bike rolls on 2.8in wide 27.5 tires, with a 120mm RockShox Recon Silver fork up front. Revised geometry for 2017 sees this bike get more capable of tackling steep and technical terrain.

The Shimano 2x10 drivetrain features quality XT and SLX-level components, with Shimano brakes given too. It's Scott's own Syncros component brand that completes this plus-sized hardtail.

  • Wheel size: 27.5in Plus
  • MSRP: $1,699.99

Trek Stache 7

fullpage Best Trail Mountain Bikes for AU 3 000 BikeExchange 2017 Trek Stache

Before we get into specifications, a word about the stunning matte mint-green colourway that stands head and shoulders above a sea of black bikes, bravo! Rolling on some of the biggest tyres you'll find, the Stache takes Plus-sized hardtail up another level with 3in rubber wrapping a 29er rim.

The Stache too has an alloy frame with 120mm of front end travel, thanks to a Manitou front fork, that will feel like so much more with the 3in tires. The unique tyres provide tremendous grip, while a special frame design allows for surprisingly short chainstays which help deliver a livelier ride. SRAM 11-speed GX 1x drivetrain is again in play, with a wide-range 10-42T cassette given out back. The massively wide Sun-Ringle rims are tubeless-ready. Sister company Bontrager provide the tubeless-ready tires, and finish off the bike with stem, handlebar, seatpost and saddle.

  • Wheel size: 29in Plus
  • MSRP: $2,499.99

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Dirt 100 2017 – the best trail mountain bikes

Trail and Enduro Bikes

The do-it-all bikes we love

People ask us all the time: “So, what type of bike should I buy?”. 90 per cent of the time we recommend a trail mountain bike. The simple reason is that they just do everything.

>Dirt 100 2017 – the best enduro bikes
>Dirt 100 2017 – the best downhill bikes

Sitting between 100mm and 150mm of travel they are lithe enough to handle any climbs and, especially with modern suspension, will handle almost any descent in the UK. If you want a bike that you will be able to ride day in/day out while still having tonnes of fun, it has to be one of these.

Don’t be cowed by the shorter travel bikes either. Quite often relying on the bike a bit less can be heaps of fun and really improves your skills. Modern geometry really does make the most of every mm of travel and you get loads of bragging rights over your mates!

In the 2017 Dirt 100 we assembled a fleet of 10 of the world’s best trail mountain bikes, you can read all about our picks here:

Kona Process 111

Don’t be fooled by the Kona Process’ 111 travel moniker – this is a bike that does an awful lot with very little. 100-120mm travel is no longer a travel band exclusively for the XCers, we can now all have loads of fun on short travel rippers.

The Process is a geometry first bike that relies on numbers over burl to get the desired results. The Process 111 is a real ripper of a bike that mixes the urgency of a short travel 29er with the ability of a bike with much longer travel.. You may need a test ride to convince yourself but many doubters have been won over by the way it performs.

Price – £3,499


Calibre Bossnut

Can a bike for under £1,000 be any good? This is the year we can answer that question with an emphatic yes! The Calibre Bossnut is redefining what value is for mountain bikes and should have some big players very worried.

Last year’s Bosnut made it into out 100 but this year’s is even more impressive with better geometry and components. Go grab yourself a bargain while you can. A hugely, hugely important mountain bike.

Price: £1300 (£999 with discount card)


YT Industries Jeffsy CF Pro 29

The YT Jeffsy is a bike that will look on your riding with disdain. “Is that all you’ve got?” Don’t be fooled by the big wheels and small travel, we’re still struggling to find its limits. This is a bike that picks up speed like a border collie but charges like a rhino. It takes some stopping even on the burliest trails. It’s delicate to the touch as well though, highly strung and always alert to rider input.


YT’s march towards global domination continues with the YT Jeffsy, we here at Dirt will be laying out the red carpet in anticipation.

Price: 3,999.00€

Read the full review here

Starling Murmur

If there was a bike that surprised us even more than the Bossnut this year, it was the Starling Murmur. Steel is a throwback, right? A material for beardy blokes in sheds that spend an awful lot of time ruminating on real ales? Something best left on clunky hardtails in the 90s?

How wrong we were. This bike is simply brilliant. Quiet, forgiving and oh so fast. We put it back to back with many of the carbon elite and it more than held its own. It has been totally memorable riding this Starling bike. The Murmur is one of the surprises of the year and one of our favourite bikes of the year. Join the queue…

Price: £1,850 (frame only)

Read the full review here

Scott Spark 700 plus tuned

Scott has now put it’s entire weight behind plus bikes and will no longer be selling traditionally sized (minus?) 650b wheels. When you ride the Scott Spark, you soon realise this is no bad thing.

The tuned is modelled on Nino Schurter’s Olympic medal winning bike but has been re-cast for the modern trail riders. Slacker, longer and burlier than Schurter’s but still with plenty of pedalling efficiency, it’s a perfect balance. It’s probably not a perfect bike for everyone, but for a blast round our local trails it will be one of the first bikes that gets brought out of the shed.

Price: £6,499

Read the full review here

Trek Fuel EX29 – 9.8 Project One

The Trek Fuel is a trail hammering speed machine – lightweight, incredibly well built and so beautifully constructed. As you would expect from Trek, the carbon weave is spot on, it’s on the stiff side but not too fatiguing as we’ve found from other short travel frames.

On top of this, you get all of Trek’s latest technologies and Trek’s unique Project One programme lets you custom spec your Fuel Ex 9.8 or 9.9 on their website and purchase it through one of their P1 authorised dealers. Paint and decal colour choice is huge – with thousands of combinations available, you’ll be riding a ‘one off’ version of the bike and built to your spec. This carbon Fuel EX is a great example of a trail bike where the quality, design and finish reflect the price tag.

Price: 9.8 P1 from £4,400 // 9.9 P1 from £6400

Read the full review here

Whyte T-129

Whyte’s trail bikes have raided this year’s 100 like the Vikings in Lindisfarne and pillaged two coveted top spots. First up is the Whyte T-129 – a120mm 29er. The big wheels make the modest travel go a long way, this is a trail bike that is fast, very capable, and a hoot to ride in the rough.

We’ve been running a 2016 T-129S test bike over the last year here at Dirt and it has proven to be a winner. All the changes we’ve made to the spec of ours have been addressed for 2017. A finely tuned trail bike gets even better.

Price: £2,450


Whyte T-130

The second of Whyte’s inclusions is the 130mm 650b Whyte T-130. ‘Progressive geometry’ is a phrase thrown around repeatedly at the moment but there really are only a few brands that have instilled this thinking throughout their range – not just on the longer travel bikes. The T-130 trail bikes are a great example of this and really are an exceptional design.

This all-aluminium bike doesn’t mind a touch of abuse – and why not? That’s what’s it made for after all. Yet again we see Whyte pushing to the front of what’s happening not just in the UK but worldwide. The T-130 is a truly brilliant trail bike.

Price: £2,999 (RS) // £2,550 (S)

Read the full review here

Trek Remedy 9.9 Race Shop limited

Retuning for yet another year in the Dirt 100s Trek’s premiere 27.5 inch bike, the Trek Remedy. 150mm of travel front and rear will put it in the crosshairs of any potential buyers in the UK and with a 477mm reach, 1231mm wheelbase, 65.5 head angle and 339mm bottom bracket the numbers are bang on too.

If you asked us to pick between this and the Trek Slash we really would struggle. For pure speed in UK conditions we love the 29 inch wheels but as an easy-to-ride, upbeat and very capable bike you can’t go far wrong with the Remedy.

Price: £6,000

Read the full review here

Commencal Meta Trail

The enduro version of this bike made it into the 2017s 100s and so did this one – basically, Commencal have got this platform bang on. The Meta has long been a popular trail bike model and this year’s incarnation is another winner.

Commencal may falter a bit on the value offered by their German competitors, but the ride quality is right up there. Clean lines, contemporary geometry and a good range of sizes sit well with an excellent spec for the price. If you’re happy to buy direct then the Commencal Meta TR V4.2 should be on your list without question.

Price: €2349

Read the full review here

Orange Stage 5

Of course, Orange’s platforms have been around for donkeys’ but the injection of energy from a new owner has seen them come out with some real, world beating platforms in the past 18 months. The Stage bikes see Orange fully embracing 29ers and boy have they done it right.

Light on its feet, with a more nimble feel, this latest 29er from Orange really feels like the years of refinement have paid off. The correct geometry, mated with three realistic sizes and the right choice of fork has resulted in a really versatile trail bike – one that we feel may well give their Segment and bigger hitting Stage 6 a run for their money.

Price: £5,500

Read the Full review here

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What a year it has been! Just like our latest issue, Times are changing, but before we move into a new year, it’s time to review the highlights from our 2017 ENDURO comparison tests.

In the last 12 months, we have tested a total of 43 bikes in 5 different group tests and the results could not be more exciting. We asked ourselves how much trail bike you can get for €3000 and found out that the price says nothing about the qualities of a bike. We then invited the creme de la creme of the trail bike segment to see just how far these bikes can be pushed. And if you want to know which is the fastest enduro bike of 2018 or which offers the best bang for your buck, check out our review of 2017 to find out.

A Bike for All Situations – 9 of the most Exciting Trail Bikes of 2017 on Test

Let’s admit it: very few of us will willingly walk into a compromise. And why would we? Isn’t life about having the ultimate of everything? But what if the ultimate bike is actually one big compromise? Take trail bikes: they’re capable of riding everything, but doesn’t that elusive state of perfection across all terrain somehow evade them? Yet that’s exactly what makes them the ultimate bike for us. We’ve been out testing nine of the new season’s sickest steeds and wondering where compromise cuts in.

For an overview of the test fleet head to the main article: A Bike for All Situations – 9 of the most Exciting Trail Bikes of 2017 on Test

Best in test:: Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29

A veritable rocket, the Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29 takes on the ups and downs with headiness! Superior in terms of efficiency, it handles like a true hero and delivers a superb suspension performance. For anyone looking for an unassailable all-round trail missile that’s equally as capable of long rides as well as quick post-work blasts without any compromises when it comes to its beastly downhill nature, then the Trek Fuel EX is where your search ends. A well-deserved test win!

Read the full article here: Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29 review

Best value: YT JEFFSY 29 CF PRO

You’ll be putty in the hands of the incredibly sorted YT JEFFSY 29 CF Pro! The bike handles with directness and gives precise feedback from the ground. Its spec and art gallery aesthetic won’t give you any reason to grumble. So if you’re looking for a snappy, efficient trail bike for a good price, then this is our Best Value tip!

Read the full article here: YT JEFFSY 29 CF PRO review

ENDURO Mountainbike Magazin
Issue #027 March 2017

If you’ve already got the App, you’ll be able to download the new issue directly. If not, now’s your chance to grab our free App for iOS or Android.


Let’s admit it: very few of us will willingly walk into a compromise. And why would we? Isn’t life about having the ultimate of everything? But what if the ultimate bike is actually one big compromise? Take trail bikes: they’re capable of riding everything, but doesn’t that elusive state of perfection across all terrain somehow evade them? Yet that’s exactly what makes them the ultimate bike for us. We’ve been out testing nine of the new season’s sickest steeds and wondering where compromise cuts in.

Every single day we’ll get an email here at ENDURO asking the same question: what bike should I buy? Our answer usually looks pretty similar: “Well, it depends on what you like riding, and where you’ll be riding.” If you’re the kind of rider who relishes efficiency on an uphill grind but demands the same all-round superiority on descents, then these are exactly the sort of bikes to have on your radar.

This group test is proof of just how vast the assortment of trail bikes on the market is right now. Not limited to a specific wheel size or frame material, we welcomed 29ers, 27.5″ models, and even bikes with plus-size tires. The nine bikes came with suspension from 120 to 150 mm, and in both aluminium and carbon frames. Prices varied wildly, with the YT JEFFSY CF PRO and its € 3,999 price tag cashing in at less than half the cost of the Yeti SB5 TURQ at € 8,939.

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Flanked by a spring-like chorus of birdsong and mild temperatures, we headed to Tuscany’s Massa Vecchia for this group test. Our aim was to exhaustively test the all-round capabilities of these nine bikes, making the most of the carved and sculpted Tuscan trail network – at times super-steep and technical, with long, lung-busting climbs and wildly varied descents that swept us along from flow to gnar.

Forget the front mech!

United on one front, none of the bikes came with a front mech. Now, for many of us, this isn’t a big surprise, but we know there are still some skeptics out there. But surely SRAM’s ginormous Eagle drivetrain has well and truly hushed the murmurs of “There’s not a big enough gear range.” Lower weight, higher performance: 1x drivetrains rock!

Keep the balance

A few years back, it seemed like the evolution of geometry was fixated on one issue: how to make the shortest possible chainstays. Fortunately, this trend seems to have taken a backseat, and this test fleet had some 27.5″ers with longer chainstays than their 29er peers (take the Yeti vs. Trek). Ultimately, both bikes were incredibly balanced. Clearly, what counts is the overall state of the geometry affair – isolated numbers are pretty redundant. All of the brands have nailed the geometry on these test bikes, but that isn’t to say that they all handle the same. The FOCUS JAM rode with the most agility, and the ROSE ROOT MILLER 3 asked for the most muscle to maneuver. Yet both bikes work. Quite simply, we’d ride them both happily – we’d just reserve them for different purposes, or recommend them for different rider preferences.

29ers are anything but boring!

Move on: 29ers can’t really be considered boring and lumbering any longer. This is surely a misconception born out of riding rubbish bikes. The Trek Fuel EX and the YT JEFFSY 29 definitely refute this idea, as they’re easily able to rival 27.5″ models in terms of agility and fun. Plus, they’re just better at rolling along the trails. The Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Expert Carbon on test isn’t the brand’s top-of-the-line model, but its price tag of € 4,999 aligns this heavy hitter with premium models from other brands in the test field. Out-of-the-saddle efforts reminded us that the Stumpjumper was the heaviest bike on test, but it proved comfortable for long hours in the saddle, which is certainly thanks to its big hoops.

Is plus-size still the future?

During the past twelve months the mountain bike scene has literally been rolled into submission by plus-size tires, and these chunkier bits of rubber have fuelled many a tech talk. But while 2.8″ tires have become the benchmark for E-MTBs, conventional mountain bikes haven’t been as eager to roll out the plus-size format on all bikes. The SCOTT Spark Plus is actually the only bike on this test with plus-size tires, but its performance is able to dispute one major misconception: plus-size tires aren’t genetic wallowers. The lightest bike on test at 11.71 kg, the Spark Plus is super-direct and has Maglev-like acceleration.

FOCUS JAM C Factory€ 4,99913.40 kg150/140 mm27.5″
Giant Trance Advanced 0€ 6,79912.34 kg150/140 mm27.5″
Lapierre Zesty AM 927 Ultimate€ 4,99912.67 kg150/150 mm27.5″
ROSE ROOT MILLER 3€ 4,19912.79 kg140/140 mm29″
SCOTT Spark Plus 700 Tuned€ 7,59911.71 kg130/120 mm27,5 +
Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29€ 4,99913.61 kg150/135 mm29″
Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29€ 7,99911.90 kg130/130 mm29″
Yeti SB5 TURQ X01 Eagle€ 8,93911.97 kg150/127 mm27.5″
YT JEFFSY 29 CF Pro€ 3,99912.95 kg140/140 mm29″

Tops & Flops

Often small details can make a huge difference: seamless integration, first-class ergonomics and carefully selected parts. Easier said than done – here are some of the tops and flops from this grouptest.



It’s all in the details

It’s 2017. We should not still be finding fault in build specs, but it’s clearly an area that still needs work. Looking at geometry, it’s easy to surmise that brands are delivering a solid performance across the board, but certain brands have glaring flaws in their component choices. Often the bikes are let down by one small detail that makes a major impact on the ride. Just take the Giant Trance Advanced 0, which has impeccable geometry and an efficient rear end, but comes undone on the trail thanks to its cockpit (the oh-so-long 70 mm stem and narrow 740 mm bars) as well as the less-than-ideal Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires. Tires are hit-and-miss across the test fleet though, with the Yeti SB5 TURQ and the ROSE ROOT MILLER flailing due to a similar tire-related demise. Lapierre, Trek, and YT are the forerunners here, with each bike delivering a solid, faultless performance on the trails.

More bike for your buck

This group test didn’t just have one winner – it had thousands of them (namely you guys)! Right now, it’s evident that we’re living in a fortunate time (or, at least, we are when it comes to value for money). Haters can hate on new standards, throw dirt on plus-size tires, and curse all the latest developments, but 2017’s crop represents the most well-rounded and highest-performing bikes that we’ve ever ridden. Admittedly they’re all pretty expensive, but we’re confident that the benefits of these top-end bikes are already trickling down to the more affordably models from each brand. There’s also a huge gulf in price between direct-order bikes and brands that follow the regular retail model, so if you’re nifty with a spanner and wrench, then direct-order bikes are another step towards extra value for money.


The best trail bike of 2017

This test was dominated by the Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29, which displayed super-balanced and versatile handling, ultra-efficient climbing, a generously well-chosen spec, and an achingly cool look. If you’re looking for a comfortable whip for all-day rides, rocking the jumpline, and doing the odd enduro race, then this is the ultimate bike! Its top-spec model with carbon wheels costs € 7,999 – basically double the amount of the YT JEFFYSY 29 CF PRO, which shares many of the same great riding genes and an equally well-considered spec. (No surprise then that this one is our Best Value tip!) If we were buying a new bike, the JEFFSY would be our first choice based on budget – but if we’re talking performance, the Trek Fuel EX has the edge.

All bikes in test:FOCUS JAM C Factory | Giant Trance Advanced 0 | Lapierre Zesty AM 927 Ultimate | ROSE ROOT MILLER 3 | SCOTT Spark Plus 700 Tuned | Specialized Stumpjumper Expert Carbon 29 | Trek Fuel EX 9.9 29 | Yeti SB5 TURQ X01 Eagle | YT JEFFSY 29 CF Pro

Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer


Trail 2017 best mtb

These days, it’s hard to find a bad mountain bike. However you want to ride, there’s probably a bike that’s perfect for you. The production quality and parts available now are a long way from the early days of klunking around Marin. And that’s good news for all of us who love to get out and play on the trails.

RELATED: These Are the Best Mountain Bikes of 2017

Felt Decree LE


The Decree is an all-carbon trail bike from the crew at Felt. To create the Decree, Felt collaborated with DVO Suspension and Spank Industries. The Decree features 140mm of travel and uses Felt’s FAST suspension platform. A DVO Diamond fork is ready to carry you through the technical sections with 150mm of travel.

For the Decree LE, Felt pulls out all the stops. SRAM’s innovative Eagle X01 drivetrain handles shifting and is designed to run more quietly than previous 1x systems. A uniquely wide 10-50 cassette, meanwhile, makes it unlikely that you’ll run out of gears out on the trail. Spank Oozy wheels, handlebar, and stem complete the build. The Decree’s unique color-tinted carbon frame is also sure to catch eyes on the trail. (Get in top shape and rule the trails with Bicycling's Maximum Overload for Cyclists training plan.)

Price: $6,499.00

Felt Decree LE

Evil The Wreckoning GX Build

Matt Rainey

With the Wreckoning, Evil set out to push the limits of the 29er platform they created with the Following. Their goal was a big-wheeled, big fun, downhill machine. The Wreckoning features 161mm of rear travel and a suspension platform designed by engineering wizard Dave Weagle. Evil’s geometry features a long top tube, slack headtube, and low bottom bracket which should make the Wreckoning stable at speed. A 74.8-degree seat tube angle aims keep the rider within the same time zone as the bottom bracket and gives the Wreckoning a more efficient pedaling position than many long-travel bikes.

Evil’s GX build features SRAM’s 1x12 GX drivetrain which is notable for its eye-popping 10-50 cassette. SRAM Guise R hydraulics pair with Avid 180mm rotors. A Rock Shox Monarch Plus RC3 Debonair shock and Rockshox Lyrik RCT3 Solo Air handle suspension. The Wreckoning has internal routing for cables and a hydraulic dropper post. The GX build comes with the Rockshox Reverb Stealth.

Price: $5,299.00

Evil The Wreckoning GX Build

Yeti SB 5.5 XT


With 5.5 inches of travel, the Yeti SB 5.5 XT is the Colorado-based company’s latest trail bike. Don’t let the 29-inch wheels fool you, the SB 5.5 is no XC bike; it's been ridden on the Enduro World Series circuit by Yeti’s team rider Cody Kelley. Thanks to short chainstays, Yeti has kept the SB 5.5 responsive, while a 66.5-degree head angle makes for predictable handling at speed. The SB 5.5 features Yeti’s unique Switch Infinity suspension system, which is designed to ensure consistent performance throughout the shock’s stroke.

The XT build features Shimano drivetrain, brakes, and wheelset. A Fox Float 36 handles suspension up front and a Race Face Turbine dropper post allows you to dial in your position on the fly. While the SB 5.5 is available with three parts kits, we like the XT package for the balance it strikes between performance and affordability. While XT may lack the bling of XTR, it offers a solid, reliable platform that’s ready to rip.

Price: $4,799.00

Transition Patrol Carbon 3

Transition Bikes

With 155mm of rear travel and 160mm up front, the Patrol Carbon is Transition’s all-mountain, go anywhere trail shredder. Long, low, and slack are the name of the game for the Patrol, which features a 65-degree head angle. The Patrol rolls on 27.5 wheels and includes Transition’s award-winning GiddyUp Link suspension system.

Transition offers the Patrol in three builds— and as a frame only— and the Patrol 3 uses SRAM’s solid GX drivetrain. A hill-crushing 10-42 cassette should get you up just about any climb you encounter, while SRAM Guide R brakes do their best to keep you under control on the way down. A Rockshox Super Deluxe RC3 handles rear suspension, while a Rockshox Lyrik RC Solo Air takes care of things up front. Internal cable routing keeps it clean. Choose from two colors, TR Blue and Race Raw.

Price: $5,299.00

Transition Patrol Carbon 3

Diamondback Clutch 1


If you’re looking for big fun in an affordable package, the Diamondback Clutch 1 might just be your bike. Diamondback designed the Clutch 1 for women who shred with 130mm of rear suspension and 150mm of travel up front. The Clutch 1 features Diamondback’s Level Link suspension which aims to provide a stable pedaling platform that springs into action when you hit the rough stuff.

The reliable SRAM NX 1x11 drivetrain offers precise shifting, while SRAM Level hydraulic disc brakes provide the stopping power. Rockshox’s Yari RC fork handles suspension up front and the Clutch 1 features industry standard thru-axles. Schwalbe’s Hans Dampf tires are, meanwhile, ready for anything. With the Clutch 1, Diamondback has assembled an awesome, affordable full-suspension trail bike for women.

Price: $2,500.00

RELATED: Diamondback Clutch 2 First Look

Diamondback Clutch 1, $2500 at Performance Bike


Juliana Joplin 2.0

Juliana Bikes

The Joplin, a versatile 29er, was among the original bikes in the Juliana line. The new, updated version of the Joplin accommodates both 29 and 27.5+ wheel sizes. The geometry has shifted to reflect the industry-wide trend toward longer top tubes and slacker angles, though the Joplin stays true to its cross-country vibe with a 68-degree head tube and 73-degree seat tube. The Joplin’s VPP suspension is updated for smoother performance throughout the shock stroke and features a less noticeable ramp-up. The Joplin 2.0 also includes the new Flip Chip that keeps the geometry consistent, regardless of whether you run 29-inch or 27.5-inch wheels.

We like the SRAM GX 1x11 build for the Joplin, which hits the sweet spot for performance and price. Fox Float Performance handles rear suspension, while up front, the Joplin 2.0 features a Fox 34 Float Performance. SRAM Level TL hydraulic discs take care of braking an the Joplin 2.0 includes a Rock Shox Reverb Stealth dropper post.

Price: $4,599.00

Watch our overview of the Juliana Joplin:


Juliana Joplin 2.0, $4599 at Competitive Cyclist


Liv Hail 2

Liv Cycling

If you’re a woman rider who’s looking to race enduro or rail your local trails, Liv designed the Hail 2 with you in mind. The aluminum frame offers 160mm of travel on Giant’s Maestro suspension platform. A Rockshox Yari Dual Position fork keeps you on track with 130-160mm of travel up front. Though the industry trend is toward long and low, Liv is aiming for a bike that will fit most women riders with the Hail. They’ve given the Hail a slack, 66-degree headtube angle to inspire confidence on the descents, while a steep 74-degree seat angle helps keep the cockpit comfortably within reach.

The Hail 2 features a SRAM NX drivetrain and Guide R hydraulic brakes with 180mm rotors. We love that Liv designs their bikes for women from the ground up. The aluminum frameset keeps the price within reach on the Hail, but we admit to dreaming of a carbon version.

Price: $3,250.00

RELATED: 8 Awesome Pieces of Women's Mountain Bike Apparel

Trek Fuel EX 9 29


A versatile trail bike, the Trek Fuel can run either 29-inch or 27.5+ wheels and features an updated frameset with 130mm of rear travel. The Fuel is shape-shifter with both cross-country and trail bike characteristics. The Fuel includes Trek’s proprietary RE:aktiv system that offers a stable pedaling platform and responsive suspension performance. A Fox Float EVOL shock handles rear suspension and it includes a three-position damper. Fox’s Performance 34 Float, meanwhile, takes care of business up front.

We’re fans of SRAM’s 1x drivetrains and the Fuel EX 9 is built with X1, SRAM’s 1x11 option. The 10-42 rear cassette should conquer just about any terrain. SRAM’s Guide RS hydraulic discs take care of braking and the Fuel includes a dropper post from house brand, Bontrager. The Fuel EX 9 is a capable, go-anywhere bike that’s well-suited to all-around riding.

Price: $3,999.00

Trek Fuel EX 9 29

Specialized Fuse Comp 6Fattie


A hardtail dressed up with plus-sized tires, the Fuse Comp 6Fattie is ready to romp around your favorite trails. The Fuse’s 27.5+ tires roll over just about any obstacle and stick to the ground with tractor tread grip. The Fuse features a butted M4 aluminum frameset and Manitou Machete 100/120mm travel fork (the suspension is size specific).

Specialized has designed the Fuse for efficient climbing and stable descending. Short chainstays keep things snappy. The capable SRAM NX drivetrain handles shifting and the Fuse includes TRP Slate X2 hydraulic brakes. A TranzX dropper post with internal cable routing adds to the Fuse’s versatility and overall fun.

Price: $1,550.00

Specialized Fuse Comp 6Fattie, $1500.00

At a Glance

  • Like a hardtail on steroids
  • 120mm travel
  • An affordable, distinctly playful ride

Marin Hawk Hill

Marin Bikes

If you’re looking to get into mountain biking on a budget, the Hawk Hill is for you. It features an aluminum frameset with 120mm of travel and rolls on 27.5” wheels. A Rockshox Recon Silver RL provides 120mm of suspension goodness up front. You can also adjust the compression and rebound on the fork to customize your ride. A 100x12mm thru-axle keeps things stiff and secure.

The Hawk Hill features a 1x10 drivetrain with Shimano’s Deore componentry handling shifting. Marin includes Shimano hydraulic brakes on the Hawk Hill, which offer more stopping power and better modulation than more traditional rim brakes. The rear drop-out will accommodate a 142x12mm thru-axle, if you’re looking to upgrade. Marin has a knack for creating fun bikes that won’t break your wallet and the Hawk Hill runs true to form.

Price: $1,499.00

Marin Hawk Hill

At a Glance

  • Series 3 6061 alloy frame with 120mm MultiTrac suspension platform
  • RockShox Recon Silver RL fork with 120mm travel
  • Shimano Deore 1x10 drivetrain
  • Schwalbe Hans Dampf 27.5"x2.35" tires

Pivot Mach 5.5 Carbon XT Race 1x


Pivot is well-known for their carefully engineered framesets and efficient DW-Link suspension. With its 140mm of rear travel, the Mach 5.5 is a versatile bike that you’ll be as stoked to ride up hill as you are to send it on the downhill. The geometry of the Mach 5.5 reflects Pivot’s effort to create an all-around fun machine. It combines a slack 66.5 head tube with a relatively steep 73.5 seat tube, which aims to position you for efficient pedaling. Short 430mm chainstays keep the handling tight.

Pivot has designed the carbon lay-up to shave weight and the Mach 5.5 is one of the lighter trail bikes on the market. The Mach 5.5 can also accommodate the new, wider tire options and you can ride any tire width from 2.1 to 2.6. We like the 11-speed XT build with its solid mix of XT and SLX parts. The Mach 5.5 is available in five sizes from X-small to X-large.

Price: $4,899.00

Pivot Mach 5.5 Carbon XT Race 1x, $4899 at Competitive Cyclist


Santa Cruz Nomad R Carbon C

Santa Cruz

Now in its fourth generation, the Santa Cruz Nomad walks the line between a full-on DH bike and a bike you can actually ride on real-world trails. With each redesign, Santa Cruz has made the Nomad more capable, longer, lower, and generally, more rad. The Nomad features 170mm of Santa Cruz’s proprietary VPP suspension, which has been specifically tuned for the Nomad’s DH proclivities. Run a metric coil shock or a lighter air shock: the Nomad is ready for anything.

The Nomad C is constructed using Santa Cruz’s lower-priced carbon lay-up, which the brand first developed in 2015. The C series uses a different grade of carbon, which adds slightly more weight, but still retains the stiffness and durability you have come to expect from a Santa Cruz frameset. The R build includes a Rockshox Yari RC 170 fork, SRAM NX drivetrain, and SRAM Guide R brakes with 200mm Avid Centerline rotors.

Price: $4,499.00

Santa Cruz Nomad R Carbon C, $4499.00, $4499 at Competitive Cyclist


Ibis Ripley LS 29


Earlier this year, Ibis released the third generation of the Ripley. The original Ripley identified as a cross-country bike, but with each successive update, the Ripley has become more playful. The 29-inch wheels and 120mm of DW-Link rear suspension on the latest Ripley offer a call-back to the original. But Ibis has updated the geometry and it’s now a longer, slacker ride that invites you to send it on the descents.

The new Ripley will also accommodate wider wheel sizes of the not-quite-plus sized variety. Schwalbe 2.6” or Maxxis 2.5” WT tires will both fit and paired with Ibis’s house-built wider rims, they offer more stability and traction for all your cornering and rock garden romping. Though Ibis has redesigned the suspension swingarm to accommodate the wider tire sizes, you can still run a front derailleur on the Ripley if you like. Built with SRAM GX 1x12 and Fox suspension, the Ibis Ripley is an all-around good time.

Price: $4,699.00

Ibis Ripley 29er LS, $5899.00, $4,000 at Competitive Cyclist


YT Jeffsy CF Pro Race 29


YT, which stands for Young Talents, is a direct-to-consumer brand that began making dirt jump bikes in 2006. The Jeffsy CF Pro Race is their flagship carbon trail bike built up with all the fixings. YT’s Virtual 4 Link suspension system provides 140mm of travel and comes stock with a Fox Float X Factory shock. A Fox Float Factory 34, meanwhile, handles suspension up front and delivers 140mm of travel.

The brand departs from current trends with relatively steep head- and seat-tube angles on the Jeffsy. Their goal is a faster-handling 29’er. YT also alters the chainstay length for each size in an effort to optimize responsiveness. The brand goes all-in on the build with SRAM X01 shifting and SRAM Guide Ultimate hydraulic brakes. Carbon bars from Renthal and a Race Face Next SL crankset add to the bling factor. The Jeffsy includes a Rockshox Reverb Stealth dropper post and E*Thirteen tires complete the build.

Price: $5,599.00

YT Jeffsy CF Pro Race 29

Salsa Deadwood

Salsa Cycles

With the Deadwood, Salsa has created a short travel, 29+ bike. The 29+ size combines the speed of 29-inch wheels with the traction of plus-size rubber. This is an especially awesome option for loaded riding, such as bike packing or gravel-road touring. Salsa has also designed the Deadwood with wide tire clearance to keep you rolling in muddy conditions.

The Deadwood combines a carbon fiber front triangle with an aluminum swingarm and it offers 91mm Salsa’s Split Pivot rear suspension. A Rockshox Yari mellows out the bumps on the front end with 100mm of travel. The Deadwood uses a SRAM GX1 drivetrain and your legs will enjoy the wide range of the 11-42 cassette. SRAM Level T takes care of braking and the Deadwood rolls on WTB Ranger 29 x 3.0 tires.

Price: $3,799.00

Salsa Deadwood

Cannondale Jekyll 3


The Jekyll 3 is your 27.5-inch wheel, go-anywhere, hit everything trail bike. Designed for enduro racing or just plain schralping, the Jekyll features Cannondale’s new proprietary Gemini shock. The Gemini offers two modes with different suspension profiles. With 130mm of travel, Hustle is designed for climbing and sprint efforts, while Flow gives you the full bang of 165mm of travel.

The redesigned Jekyll frame combines a slack 65-degree head angle with short 420mm chainstays in pursuit of that magic balance between stability and nimble handling. We like value-oriented performance of the XT build here. Fox Float 36 Performance provides 170mm of travel up front, while Shimano’s bombproof XT drivetrain keeps you rolling. Shimano SLX brakes, Cannondale Si crankset, and WTB wheels complete the build.

Price: $4,200.00

Cannondale Jekyll 3

Kona Big Honzo DL


With the Big Honzo, Kona took an already fun bike and plus-sized it. The Big Honzo DL is an aluminum hardtail that’s been redesigned to accommodate 27.5+ wheel sizes. Schwalbe’s 27.5 x 2.8” Nobby Nic’s will turn just about any bike into a joy ride. The additional width means more traction and more cushion, which adds up to more fun for you.

Kona builds the Big Honzo from butted 6061 aluminum. A Rockshox Yari provides 120mm of travel up front, while SRAM GX keeps your shifting dialed. Shimano hydraulic brakes and WTB wheels complete the build. We like quality frameset and affordable parts package of this plus-sized fun pack.

Price: $2,399.00

Kona Big Honzo DL, $2399.00

At a Glance

  • 1x11 SRAM drivetrain
  • KS dropper post
  • 120mm RockShox Yari
  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakes

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Best Mountain Bike Trails: Orange County part 1, Rock it Trail #top10 #top5 #worlds best #2017

Five of the Best Trail Bikes of 2017

Despite the dawn of so many new categories of bike, so much new technology, an entire universe-worth of wheel sizes and tyre dimensions – plus more ‘international standards’ than you an shake a big stick at – it’s still the humble trail bike that we come back to when we just want to get out for a blast with our mates. Trail bikes are the constant in our life. A trusty, dependable trail partner with the legs to tackle almost any climb and the tenacity to help you get back down again in one piece.

To this end, we’re celebrating five of the best trail bikes to pass through the IMB test office in 2017. Price and spec sheets have gone out the window in favour of an outright fun ranking, so in no particular order here are our picks of the bunch for 2017:

Pivot Cycles Mach 5.5

The Firebird is a very big travel machine, and the Switchblade’s personality is just a little highly strung. The 5.5 flatters both your fitness and your technical finesse in equal measure and only comes unstuck if you go full enduro and hunt out the steepest and roughest terrain. The mix matched suspension, the 2.6 tyres and the phenomenal wheels add together to make it hard to argue that this is not a quintessential trail bike.

Pivot Cycles Mach 5.5 2017

Pivot Cycles Mach 5.5 2017

Pivot appear to be on a non-stop bike producing mission. The last year has seen new models and revisions across the range including the well-received Switchblade and Firebird. As I write this they have done it again with the launch of their e-bike; the Shuttle, at Eurobike adding yet another bike to the range. The Mach 5.5 dropped into the…...

Rose Bikes Root Miller 3

Trail bikes have taken a back seat to the overwhelming dominance of ‘enduro’, but this is a prime example of a trail bike done well. Fast handling, efficient pedalling and confidence inspiring geometry. The Root Miller does everything you could ask of a trail bike, plus a bit more. It’s not the most playful bike out there and nor does it pretend to be, but as a one-bike-to-rule-them-all solution, it offers speed mile-munching and confidence by the bucket load.

Rose Bikes Root Miller 3 2017

Rose Bikes Root Miller 3 2017

Rose Bikes may not be the first name that trips off the tongue when you ask anyone about big bike brands, nor are they even that well known when talking about the convenient and expanding world of mail order bikes. However, do your research, and you’ll find a company steeped in history and offering a banquet of bike build options…...

Orange Mountain Bikes Four RS

For those in ‘the know,’ an Orange bike is a great bike, but the Four is truly an excellent bike. It requires plenty of rider input and skill to get the best from it, but the rewards are fantastic, capable of turning its hand at anything. The single pivot has some limitations in braking, but keep off the brakes and on the gas and it won’t let you down. Forget what you thought you knew about suspension, the single pivot is alive, kicking and disappearing down the trail.

Orange Mountain Bikes Four RS 2017

Orange Mountain Bikes Four RS 2017

With so many new bikes and revised versions of the iconic single pivot machine coming out of Halifax, it's easy to forget that the Orange Four is still a very new bike. Having just dropped the Stage 5 and Stage 6 only recently, the focus seems to be clearly on the big wheelers, yet this short travel 650b trail bike…...

Marin Bikes Hawk Hill

What a great bike! The Hawkhill has endeared itself to me as a bike with a strong, no-frills personality, not overly produced with carbon and media hype. Just a bike to get people out riding, and riding hard too, not just a dumbed down trail bike for beginners who know nothing better. The trickle down is in full flow, and one by drivetrains, air suspension, decent geometry and proper cockpits should not just be the preserve of the mountain bike elite. Sure it’s not perfect, but its a £1200 full suspension mountain bike, what do you want? The moon on a stick?

Marin Bikes Hawk Hill 2017

Marin Bikes Hawk Hill 2017

Change is afoot at Marin, the long established brand with more MTB heritage than most is returning to form in a gradual and purposeful way. Those who have a keen eye for the detail may notice some subtle changes in the 2017 range, but they won't be found at the top end, rather it's happening where most riding occurs, in…...

Specialized Bicycles Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29

In a world of multiple bargainous mail order bike options the Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29 is exceedingly good value for money. But it’s not just the monetary value that shouts volumes about this bike; it’s the ride factor, the huge grin it kept putting on our faces and its ability to elicit a series of small yelps of excitement each time it was pinned through a succession of tight berms or boosted off a drop. Incredible straight line speed and an ability to hold its line over moderately rough ground is just one more feather in its cap.

Specialized Bicycles Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29 2017

Specialized Bicycles Stumpjumper FSR Comp 29 2017

Specialized’s Stumpjumper has been around longer than most of us have been in long trousers, first hitting the market in 1981 in steel hardtail guise and since then it has gone on to become the go-to, do-everything, jack-of-all-trades trail bike of the Specialized range, reinventing itself year on year to stay with - and often just ahead of - the…...

Sat 18th Nov, 2017 @ 9:30 am

Fox Racing Shox Marin Bikes Maxxis Orange Mountain Bikes Pivot Cycles RockShox Rose Bikes Specialized Bicycles


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We started with a mission: to find the very best mountain bikes of 2017. We gathered nominations from our editors, who together ride hundreds of mountain bikes per year. We then chose the most exciting bikes from the bunch—we factored in value, class-leading technology, performance, and more. After many hours of riding (and much heated discussion) we arrived at the final list of 14 bikes. These bikes transcend “great” —we can recommend them without reservation to their intended riders. All of these winning bikes bikes were tested over a week on the phenomenal trails in Bentonville, Arkansas. We liked them so much, we are offering an exclusive, four-day guided tour of the region's most exciting trails.

The following bikes are some of the most capable, versatile, and technologically advanced on the market—and they’re this year’s winners of our highest award. 

Specialized S-Works Epic HT


Fantastic, sharp, light handling: These were just a few of the adjectives tossed out when we discussed the Epic HT. This racy cross-country hardtail boasts the lightest frame that Specialized has ever designed—and that includes both road and mountain models. Riders found it to be super controllable, thanks to the extra meat of the 2.3-inch front tire and wide rims. It scrabbled up steep ledgy climbs with poise and balance more akin to that of a trail bike. Add a 50mm dropper post (easy to do with internal routing and an extra port for a dropper’s added line) and it might be a best bet for a super fun, lightweight, agile all-rounder and XC rig. Wide-range XX1 Eagle gearing and wide, light carbon wheels poise it as a champion ascender, while SRAM’s Level brakes offer good control on the downs too. —Mike Yozell 

What the Editors Said: “I was really impressed by how capable it was just bombing a line—it felt far more rowdy than I expected it to.” “This bike is targeted to racers who want to go as fast as possible on the lightest bike possible—and it hits that target dead center.” “Also, the paint is amazing.”

     RELATED: The 2017 Road Bike Editors' Choice Winners


Specialized S-Works Epic HT, $8000.00

At a Glance

  • Lightest frame that Specialized has ever designed
  • 2.3-inch tires and wide rims
  • Wide-range XX1 Eagle gearing

Marin Hawk Hill

Marin Bikes

The entry price for great full-suspension continues to drop. One current standout: Marin’s new Hawk Hill, which uses an efficient four-bar linkage, with quality suspension from Rock Shox and X-Fusion, on a durable aluminum frame hung with a smartly spec’d parts kit our testers loved.

The suspension worked well on even technical, stair-step descents, but climbed efficiently, our testers found. While the lack of a dropper post was a touch controversial, the Hawk Hill is drilled to accept one, and as a bike that riders can grow with as they progress in the sport, it’s hard to find a full-suspension bike anywhere on the market that offers more value and performance for the price. —Joe Lindsey

What the Editors Said: “This is by far, without exception, the best riding, fully capable $1,500 full-suspension bike that you can buy right now.” “This is the ideal bike for someone who wants a capable entry-level bike and doesn’t want a hardtail or plus bike.”

Marin Hawk Hill

At a Glance

  • Series 3 6061 alloy frame with 120mm MultiTrac suspension platform
  • RockShox Recon Silver RL fork with 120mm travel
  • Shimano Deore 1x10 drivetrain
  • Schwalbe Hans Dampf 27.5"x2.35" tires

Yeti SB5.5


It’s no secret we love Yeti SB series’s Switch Infinity suspension design; the 5.5 is just the latest Yeti SB to win an EC award. With perfectly dialed handling, 5.5 inches of rear wheel travel, and fast-rolling 29-inch wheels, it’s a big bike for big rides that doesn’t handle, well, big.

The SB has a playful peppiness to it that we don’t find in many long-travel 29ers. And riders raved about the excellent Switch Infinity suspension as perhaps the industry’s leading example for quality of suspension travel, with great mid-stroke support without feeling too progressive. —Joe Lindsey

What the Editors Said: 
“Where some trail 29ers feel kind of dead, this bike has an energy that I love.” “The Switch Infinity to me is kind of the paragon of quality travel—wherever you’re riding, the suspension feels supportive but supple and responsive.” “It just feels really good, every time, no matter what I’m riding.”

Yeti SB5.5c, $6599.00, Frame only, $3,500 at Competitive Cyclist

At a Glance

  • 29er enduro racer that can be surprisingly fun for everyday riding too
  • 140mm of rear wheel travel, 160mm-travel fork
  • 1x only; you can’t mount a front derailleur


Specialized Enduro Elite Carbon 29


This 165mm-travel 29er is crazy-fast on descents: Testers loved its aggressive, confident manner on jumbled, rocky downhills. But what put the Enduro 29 over the top was how well this big bike climbs, thanks in no small part to the efficient-pedaling FSR suspension. This is particularly impressive when you consider that this is a mid-level, not-superlight build at $4,500—alloy stays paired with a carbon front triangle help to keep the package affordable, and the parts are known quantities for their excellent value: a SRAM GX 1x group, RockShox Lyrik RC fork, and RockShox Monarch Plus piggyback shock. Our test team routinely rides bikes that are more expensive than this—but the $4,500 Enduro Elite Carbon still emerged as one of the most unanimously loved bikes in our test this year.—Gloria Liu

What the Editors Said:  “On the downhills it was awesome, but getting there was great too.” “It rides light and feels relatively nimble for how big a bike it is.” “After clearing jumps the size of which I’d never cleared before, I started fantasizing about how fun it would be to spend a summer on the Enduro 29.”

RELATED: Find Your Next Bike With Our 2017 Buyer's Guide 

Specialized Enduro Elite Carbon 29, $4500.00

At a Glance

  • Efficient-pedaling FSR suspension
  • SRAM GX 1x group
  • RockShox Lyrik RC fork,and RockShox Monarch Plus piggyback shock

Juliana Joplin CC X01


The Joplin (and its men’s counterpart, the Santa Cruz Tallboy) is one of the new breed of short-travel trail 29ers that seems to offer all the benefits of 29-inch-wheels (it has more rollover and, once it gets going, carries more speed than smaller-wheeled bikes) with none of the old drawbacks associated with the bigger wheel size: The Joplin feels highly maneuverable in tight spaces, and feels plenty playful when you’re flowing down the trail. Testers generally agreed that this bike rides bigger than its 110mm of travel, and lauded its precise handling that is reminiscent of XC-style bikes without the nervousness. To achieve specific goals—aggressive descending capability, or fast and efficient climbing—all bikes have to make compromises. But the Joplin is so well-balanced as a bike for straight-up, all-around mountain biking, it provides the overarching impression of giving up almost nothing at all.—Gloria Liu

What the Editors Said: “This may be the best handling of any trail bike I’ve ridden.” “A fun, playful bike that felt super responsive under hard pedaling.”

     RELATED: The Juliana Joplin Is a Mountain Bike Chameleon

Juliana Joplin CC X01, $6599.00, Competitive Cyclist

At a Glance

  • Precise handling that is reminiscent of XC-style bikes without the nervousness
  • Well-balanced as a bike for straight-up, all-around mountain biking


Liv Hail Advanced 0


Yeah, this 160mm-travel, lightweight, full carbon rig is probably, as Liv claims, the first truly “women’s specific” enduro bike. But that’s not why it won our award. It won because it’s a damn fun bike for enduro-ing. As good as 29ers are today, and as many EWS racers that are converting to long-travel 29ers, the Hail proves that there’s still very much a place in the world for a fun, poppy, and playful 27.5 enduro bike. Getting off the 29er Specialized Enduro (also an Editors’ Choice winner) and on to the Hail, one tester was struck by the comparatively light, tossable feel of this bike when she was airing over tabletops and floating down steppy rock ledges. And the plush-feeling travel dramatically smoothed out the jangly, pointy rocks on one test segment.  In making the Hail, Liv not only made a great women’s enduro bike, they may actually have made a more balanced enduro bike than many of the more extreme unisex models out there.—Gloria Liu

What the Editors Said: “This bike feels like it was built to eat up rough terrain, but it’s not too much to pedal for four hours—which is great if you’re going to race some real enduros on it.” “It has a playful, poppy, nimble feel." "This thing totally eats up chunky descents."

Liv Hail Advanced 0, $8250.00

At a Glance

  • 160mm-travel
  • Lightweight, full carbon frame
  • 65-degree head angle

Evil the Wreckoning

Evil Bike Co.

Evil owner Kevin Walsh sounds almost apologetic when he talks about developing his company’s first two 29ers—The Following  and The Wreckoning. “I didn’t want to do it,” he says. “I wasn’t a 29er guy.” But suspension expert and Evil engineering partner Dave Weagle cajoled him to try, believing that the right geometry and suspension could create a 29er that was more exciting to ride than Walsh believed possible. 

One run on the prototype of The Following, which had only 120mm of travel but short chainstays and the slack geometry of an enduro bike, shook Walsh of his bias. Not only did he greenlight that project, he immediately started thinking of a longer-travel version. The 161mm-travel The Wreckoning fulfills that promise. It has short, 16.93-inch chainstays, a generous 432mm reach on a size medium, and a 66.1-degree headtube in the low setting (there’s also a super-low configuration). 

The Weagle-designed Delta suspension provides excellent mid-stroke control, which allows the bike to corner crisply and pop off lips. And all that travel, combined with 29er wheels, allows the bike to roll over almost anything, giving the rider a sense of invincibility.  

Our test riders were equally impressed by how agile the bike felt when we rode it on twisty cross-country-style trails in Bentonville, Arkansas. It’s not a speedy climber, but the version we tested came with SRAM’s Eagle 1x drivetrain and the extra-low gear made steep climbs less daunting. After weeks of testing on all kinds of terrain, it’s clear to us that no apology is needed for this shockingly good 29er. —Lou Mazzante 

What the Editors Said: 
“This bike made me feel like I could do anything and ride any line.” “It’s amazingly competent on the rough stuff (I mean, duh), but what’s most astounding is how well it worked in tamer terrain.”

Evil The Wreckoning, $6899.00, $2899 (frame only) at Competitive Cyclist

At a Glance

  • 161mm of rear travel; 160mm up front
  • Lively, stiff, and playful long-travel 29er
  • XO1 Eagle 1x drivetrain has massive 50-tooth large rear cog


Scott Contessa Spark


When both Jenny Rissveds and Nino Schurter rode Spark RCs to the top of the podium at the Rio Olympics last year, it was obvious that the bike could go plenty fast. We test rode the Scott Contessa Spark RC 700—a 27.5”-wheeled version of the bike that has 100mm of rear suspension tuned for lighter female riders. And indeed, the bike is speedy—but what’s more, it’s also fun. Testers loved its easy maneuverability, and lauded the ease with which it popped over obstacles in the trail. Its excellent SRAM Eagle drivetrain is matched to a light carbon frame that makes climbing feel faster and easier. —Taylor Rojek

    RELATED: 2016 Mountain Bike Editors' Choice Winners

What the Editors Said: “This is a great bike—it’s really fun, lively, and light.” “This bike has none of that tippy feeling I’ve come to expect from some high-end race bikes—it’s maneuverable and really lively, while still feeling super-speedy.” “I love climbing on this bike!”

Scott Contessa Spark, $6500.00

At a Glance

  • Light carbon frame
  • Easy maneuverability
  • SRAM Eagle drivetrain

Ibis Mojo 3 XT Werx

Ibis Cycles

Ibis’ Mojo 3 combines the best attributes of plus bikes (excellent traction, a plush ride, the ability to plow through bad lines) with those of more standard models (maneuverability and nimbleness). It also hits marks for versatility: It’s compatible with both 27.5+ and 27.5” wheels (we tested it in the plus configuration). The Mojo 3 has a carbon frame and 130mm of rear suspension; the one we tested used the brand’s “Roxy tune” for lighter riders. A Shimano XT 1x drivetrain handles shifting duties, while Ibis specs its own 742 carbon wheels on the Werx build. —Taylor Rojek

What the Editors Said: “So. Much. Traction.” “I love the supportive feel of this suspension—I can barely even feel small bumps.” “This bike is magic.”

Ibis Mojo 3 XT Werx, $7399.00, Frame only, $2,999 at Competitive Cyclist

At a Glance


  • Compatible with both 27.5+ and 27.5” wheels
  • Carbon frame and 130mm of rear suspension
  • Shimano XT 1x drivetrain
  • Ibis specs its own 742 carbon wheels on the Werx build


Pivot Switchblade


Few bikes stretch the spectrum of trail bike capability like the 135mm-travel Pivot Switchblade 29er. One minute it’s rocketing up a steep technical climb with efficiency, thanks to its finely tuned DW-link suspension, and the next it’s flowing down the backside with a prowess that feels an awful lot like an enduro bike at times. Shortest-in-class seatstays make it easy to loft the bike up and over things, help provide amazing climbing traction, and give it a lively flickable feel on the trail. In order to get these short stays, Pivot had to widen the rear end with an optimized 157mm DH hub standard dubbed Super Boost Plus. This width also provides extra wheel and frame stiffness as well as room for massive 3.25-inch 27.5+ tires. That’s right—this 29er can also accept plus-sized tires and adjusts for the shorter overall diameter with a taller lower headset cup. —Ron Koch

What the Editors Said: 
“This is the best mountain bike I’ve ever ridden.” “If anyone tells me “I want a mountain bike,” I don’t care what they want it for or where they’ll ride it—you can tell them to buy this one.”

Pivot Switchblade, $6299.00, $6299 for Pivot Switchblade Carbon 27.5+ XT Pro 1X Complete from Competitive Cyclist

At a Glance

  • 135mm carbon 29er that also accepts 27.5+
  • Climbs like an XC bike and descends like an enduro racer
  • 12mm of tire clearance and super short chainstays
  • Front derailleur compatibility for 2x setups


Trek Fuel EX 9.9


When Trek introduced the Fuel EX a few seasons ago, it was a steeper, long-legged trail bike with obvious XC roots. Fast-forward through changing riding styles and a shift to longer-lower-slacker bikes, and the Fuel EX 9.9 is a shining example of what that type of bike is capable of, punching way above its class when the trail gets rowdy and rough. It’s got a balance and poise that had us hucking road gaps and charging steep bike park terrain. It was equally at home in the backcountry where staccato rock gardens, pace changes, and rough trails are the norm. Add to that a heaping spoonful of climbing prowess, a trait retained from previous versions, and the current Fuel EX platform makes for one great all-day trail bike. The current Fuel EX is also a changeling. Its ability to accept 27.5 plus are a bonus for riders looking for extra capability. —Mike Yozell
What the Editors Said: “The suspension is really great—its supple and reactive.” “This bike is incredibly capable, and provides a good value for what you get.”

For your best ride, here's how to set shock sag in your rear suspension

Trek Fuel EX 9.9, $8400.00

At a Glance

  • Stiffer, lighter, and more trail-oriented than previous incarnations
  • 120mm of travel front and rear
  • A go-to choice for riders looking for a capable mountain bike that spans any categorization

Santa Cruz Tallboy

Santa Cruz

The Tallboy CC is a quiver of one: A bike that pedals almost like an XC bike, and can shred trails almost like an enduro bike. The combination is a result of the crisp efficiency of Santa Cruz’s VPP suspension—now in its umpteenth iteration—and frame geometry that combines shorter chainstays, a long-ish front center and top tube, relaxed head-tube angle, and a reasonably light frame that’s also very stiff. While there are many good bikes available that combine these traits, the latest Tallboy has the little bit of extra sharpness and polish that’s the difference between a good bike and a Bicycling Editors’ Choice bike. We also love that it fits a water bottle in the main triangle, that it’s dual wheel size compatible (29 and 27.5 +), and it’s offered in three frame choices (one aluminum; two carbon) and numerous builds that start at $2,599 complete. —Matt Phillips

What the Editors Said: “I enjoyed the hell out of this bike. I think it’s one of the best handling bikes on the market.” “Its capability for the amount of travel it has is remarkable. It’s incredible to me that you can huck and jump and do so much on a bike with this little travel.”  

Santa Cruz Tallboy CC (V3), $8344.00, Frame only, $2,899 at Competitive Cyclist

At a Glance

  • Pedals almost like an XC bike, and can shred trails almost like an enduro bike
  • VPP suspension
  • Dual wheel size compatible (29 and 27.5 +)


Kona Big Honzo DL


Hardtails are the cockroaches of the mountain bike world: tough as hell; hard to kill. Time and again they get written off as “dead,” but then one comes along that proves their enduring worth. Kona’s Big Honzo DL is one of those hardtails. Sound trail geometry, solid spec (1x11 SRAM drivetrain, KS dropper post, 120mm RockShox Yari, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes) and value start this playful bike’s list of positives, which are elevated even higher by the traction and cushion of the 2.8-inch wide tires. It has the precision, solidity, and durability of a hardtail, but its big tires, geometry, and parts allow the BHDL to plow through terrain—which hardtails don’t usually do—and give it nearly the forgiveness of a suspension bike. If you want to shred trails—without the expense, additional complexity, and service requirements of full suspension—this Kona is reasonably priced and unreasonably fun. —Matt Phillips

What the Editors Said: “Occasionally, I forgot I was on a hardtail which usually doesn’t happen.” “I rode jump lines, pump track stuff, rocky rough stuff, and there was nowhere it wasn’t good.”

Kona Big Honzo DL, $2399.00

At a Glance

  • 1x11 SRAM drivetrain
  • KS dropper post
  • 120mm RockShox Yari
  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakes

Norco Fluid 7.1 HT+


Norco hits a sweet spot with this rowdy plus-compatible hardtail. There’s a clear value and practicality emphasis, with an aluminum frame and Shimano’s excellent SLX drivetrain and brakes. But it also comes with a 125mm dropper post, a 120mm-travel RockShox Reba RL suspension fork, and wide, 2.8-inch WTB Ranger tires, which make it playful and fun. Testers were impressed by how well it was able to hang with more expensive, higher-tech bikes during our test. And they all agreed: It’s the kind of bike that you can forget about while you’re riding—which is the mark of a really good one to us. —Joe Lindsey

What the Editors Said: “You don’t think about this bike; you just think about having fun no matter who you’re riding with.” “I was hitting drops on a $1,700 hardtail!” 

Norco Fluid 7.1 HT+, $1800.00

At a Glance

  • Plus-compatible hardtail
  • Aluminum frame
  • Shimano SLX drivetrain and brakes

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